We all follow or are influenced by different peoples' words. It might be a blogger, an author or a reporter that we like to read. It might be a preacher or a radio personality or podcaster we like to listen to. It might be a youtuber or a late night talk show host or a reality TV host that we like to watch. We are all influenced by different peoples' words.
In a new study by Pew Research, Americans are reading a mean average of 12 books per year, and the typical (median) American has read four books in the past 12 months. And this has largely been the case since 2011, proving that Americans aren't dropping their reading habits. And since 2012, a total of 74 percent of Americans have read at least one book in the past 12 months — not exactly bookworm levels, but much less scary than most stats would have us believe.
Many people love to read. Many of us read, listen to and follow all kinds of different thinkers. My question for you is: Are you reading and following the words of Jesus? You know, the RED LETTERS in your Bible. Last week we started the RED LETTER CHALLENGE at church. We’re spending 40 Days consuming the Words of Jesus. We are spending 40 Days studying, focusing on and putting into action in our lives the Words of Jesus.
We read books, articles and magazines but do we, as Christians, read the Words of Jesus? Do we know the Words of Jesus? We say we believe the Bible but many Christians have never read the whole Bible or even close to the whole Bible.
Psalm 119:115 says “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” God’s word is to be our guide as Christians.
When our kids were little we often told them to “use their words” if they were getting frustrated with a sibling so they wouldn’t just hit each other. Words are powerful. Words are important. The Words of Jesus are the most important words ever for us to know and follow.
May we be people who know and follow the Words of Jesus.
I’m leading five weddings this summer. Every single one of the couples are convinced they have found true love. I really, really hope they have. Everyone wants someone who will love them “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”
Today people try to find TRUE LOVE through things like The Bachelor or the Bachelorette TV shows, through dating websites and apps and through social media. Those systems can work but the truth is TRUE LOVE is more of a choice than it is a feeling. When we decide to get married to someone we are called to love our spouse through whatever situations come. We are to love them as Christ loves us. We are to cherish them as Christ cherishes us. (God’s Word does allow for divorce in situations of marital unfaithfulness. Matthew 19:8-9)
The most used passage for weddings is 1 Corinthians 13 even though it is really describing God’s love for us, not love between a husband and a wife. Anyway, one part of it says “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." (1 Corinthians 13:4-5) Notice how this passage describes a decision to love with kindness, without envy, without being self-centered. It doesn’t describe love as a feeling but rather as something we commit to doing.
There is no doubt that marriage can be hard. People can really hurt each other. We can really hurt our spouse and vice versa. But the end goal for marriage is mutual support, not happiness. Every day you have a decision whether your marriage is going to be great or not. Every day you have a decision of whether you are going to love as you desire to be loved. Every day you have a decision whether you will forgive or not. Every day you can commit to loving your spouse for better or worse or try to force them to be what you want them to be.
It’s not easy. It’s not modeled well in our culture. It’s kind of traditional. It’s kind of old fashioned but I encourage you to decided to have a great marriage by doing your part to make your marriage full of TRUE LOVE.
Pastor Chad Starfeldt
Ever feel like escaping the stress? Ever feel like buying a cabin up north and just getting a simple job and escaping the stress of life in the cabin in the woods? Or maybe buying a simple house in Jamaica and spending most of your days on the beach?
The stress around Shepherd of the Hills seems to continue to rise. First, our contemporary worship leader left. Secondly, our DCE, Hannah, took a call to Missouri. Third, our beloved lay minister, Mark Peters, went to be in the presence of the Lord. Fourth, we voted to tear down a third of our building and rebuild, bigger and better. A good thing but still stressful. Then, our Director of Worship Arts resigned. As of Monday, June 17, it will be down to Pastor Steve and I as full-time ministry workers at Shepherd of the Hills and we started with 6 at the beginning of the year. All the transition. All the change.
Maybe there’s a lot of stress in your life too. Maybe things haven’t gone as you planned this year. Maybe your dealing with a difficult marriage or a difficult child. Maybe you have unexpected health issues or unforeseen expenses. Maybe things are imploding at work or in your relationships. God never promised life to be easy but he did promise to always be present with us.
It can be tempting to escape when the stress mounts. Stress can cripple us and even leave us with emotional scars at times. We can become more fearful, anxious, depressed and even angry. It can really hurt us, and it’s no different with a church.
But stress can also cause us to rely more on each other as a church. It can cause a church to step up and support each other through the stress, through the changes, through the transitions. Just like a family can become closer as they go through stressful times so can a church.
I am choosing not to let stress, anxiety or worry win. I am choosing the joy of the Lord.
In Matthew 11:28 we are reminded “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus reminds us to come to Him, not to do it all on our own. He reminds us to trade our stresses for his joy, our worries for his strength, our fear for his assurance, our anger for his peace.
I am praying more. I am sharing my burdens with friends more. I am leaning on others for support and help more. I think that’s what God wants me to do and I think that’s what God wants us to do as a congregation also.
One of the most stress-free and peaceful scenes in my mind is a person fly fishing by a stream. He or she is enjoying the trickle of the stream, the chirp of the birds, the swish of the fishing line. But even someone fly fishing on a beautiful July day can be dealing with mosquito bites, fish not biting, stress from work or depression from a difficult marriage. There is no where to escape the stresses of life ACCEPT in the arms of Jesus for His yoke is easy and his burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)
During this stressful time at Shepherd of the Hills and maybe in your own life too, let us hold on to Jesus.
The majority of American Christians say they believe the Bible but they have not read the whole thing. Only 11% of Americans say they have read the whole Bible and yet 75% of Americans say they are Christians.
Why is it that Christians don’t read the Bible more? Well, a survey from Life Way Publishing says there are seven main reasons people don’t read the Bible more:
Don’t you think we should at least read the whole book at least once that we say we follow? Psalm 119:105 says “The Word is a light to my feet and a guide to my path.”
If you need help with reading the Bible download the Bible App (YouVersion App) and follow one of the Reading Plans). With this App you can even invite a friend or family member to follow the same reading plan with you.
Let’s be people who READ and FOLLOW the Word of God.
Pastor Chad Starfeldt
Last summer I had a leak in my roof at our house. I knew it because when it rained hard, I was getting water coming through the light in my bathroom ceiling upstairs. I crawled up in the attic and found not only a leak but also mold. Lots and lots of mold. It turns out that my roof was not only leaking but I also didn’t have enough ventilation in my attic so it was growing mold too.
Ever get mold in your basement or mold in a cottage that is closed up too long? Mold grows in dark wet places. Sin grows in dark places too. Sin grows best in the dark. When we are hiding something, when we are doing something we know is wrong we often do it in the dark. We don’t do it out in the open. We don’t do it in the sun. We do it alone, in a dark, quiet place.
Paul said in Romans 13:12 “Let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Our hidden sin is best addressed when it is brought into the brightness of the light of Christ.
Jesus said in John 3:19 “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”
Do you love darkness? Do you love the sin you hide in the darkness from your spouse, from your kids, from your work? The sin we hide in the darkness can eat away at us. It can grow more and more, like mold in an attic, entangling our heart and soul. Expose it to the light. Let the light of Christ purge the sin from your heart.
Jesus assures us with this promise. John 12:46 “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”
We are not meant to stay in darkness, not when we have the light of Christ. May you bring any darkness out in the light today so that you may be healed.
“These Christians honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8)
Most people in the U.S. still want to be labeled Christian. They want grandma and grandpa or mom and dad to be happy that they consider themselves a Christian. They want to be able to think they are going to heaven because they are “Christian.” Yet, Jesus says that many will “honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
Most people don’t pretend to be Green Bay Packer fans. They either are or they are not. Most people don’t pretend to like liver. They either do or they don’t. Most people don’t claim to be Republicans when they are really Democrats. Yet, so many say they are Christian but really aren’t in their heart or mind.
A person who is a Christian follows Christ. They seek to follow Christ in all aspects of their life. They seek to follow His word. They seek to reflect His will. A Christian is not, simply some who says they believe that Jesus died for them and rose again so they can go to heaven. A Christian is a person who desires to follow Christ and honor Christ with their life.
How about you? Do you honor Christ with your lips only or your life?
On Thursday (Aug. 23) we will be taking our oldest daughter, Sarai, to her first year of college at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon (near Milwaukee). She plans to study social work. She’s nervous. We’re nervous. She’s excited. We’re excited for her. I’m sure we will all shed a tear or two.
This is what we are supposed to do though, isn’t it? We are to train them up the best we can and then let them go, send them off into the big, wide world. Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Am I worried about the choices Sarai will make in college? Not really. I’m sure she’ll do some things that she won’t tell me about until I’m 60 or 70 years old but for the most part I’m not worried. Schawn and I have trained her up in the way she should go. We have trained her up in the Word of God. We have trained her up to love the things of God. She loves God and loves living her life, to the best of her ability, according to the Word of God.
Everyone is tempted. Everyone is pulled away from God’s ways by peers, by media and even by those in authority over us at times. Everyone makes mistakes but when we train up our children to love God, love and know His Word, spend time in His Word and show a commitment to worship then our children have a greater chance of following in our footsteps.
I will say that I am also very, very thankful that she is going to a Christian University. I know there are lots of great things about state schools. They have great programs. They have highly acclaimed professors. They have great sports teams. They usually are cheaper than a Christian university but it really is a joy to hear the faculty at Concordia talk about teaching everything from a Christian perspective and bringing Christ into all they do. It’s really amazing to hear the faculty and staff talk about praying for the freshman class and wanting the best for each and every one of them. It’s wonderful to hear them speak about their door always being open for the students and knowing that Sarai has a good chance of getting advice based on the Word of God from anyone on staff that she chooses to speak to there.
The bottom line is that God calls us to train up our children and then let them go. We do all we can to teach them how to be successful in life but even more important how to love and honor God with their life and then when it comes that time we let them go.
May each one of us take seriously God’s call on our lives to train up our children to love and honor Him. (And say a prayer for the Starfeldt family on Thursday).
I heard about a study recently that said couples who experience something new on a date have a closer connection after that date than if they do what they normally do on a date. One couple had decided to go on a flying trapeze experience instead of doing the typical dinner and a movie. Yes. They actually tried out swinging on some flying trapeze swings. The wife thought her husband was crazy at first but decided to go along with it. They talked about how amazing the experience was and how they were laughing all the way home about this crazy experience they had together.
I think this could apply well to our faith also. It might be time to try a new thing in order to go deeper in your faith. If the only thing a person does to grow their faith is go to church for year after year then their faith is going to be limited by that one faith growth experience. I know that as I think over my adult life many of the times my faith really grew were times I tried new things such as a small group bible study experience or a Christian retreat or a Christian book everyone was talking about. We have lots of new programs starting this fall (Financial Peace, ReEngage Marriage Ministry, Rooted Discipleship Experience, Divorce Care, Grief Care). Click here to sign up. Lots of ways for you to try something new. A new faith enriching experience can grow your faith in ways it has not grown for years.
In August, my oldest daughter, Sarai, heads off to college at Concordia Wisconsin in Mequon, WI. Talk about trying something new. As her father, I am nervous for her and I am sure it will be a very difficult day when we drop her off. But at the same time, I am very excited for her, she is ready, we have grounded her well and she is ready to take that next step. She is going to experience many new things. Some of the new things at college will challenge her faith and some of the new things will grow her faith. I am thankful she is going to this wonderful Lutheran University and has an opportunity to grow in her faith in all kinds of new ways.
So try something new this fall. Engage with your faith in a new way and watch it grow.
Pastor Chad Starfeldt
Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran
Someone recently asked me, “Is it good to pray for the recovery of a person who is sick with an incurable disease?” My question back: “Is there a disease that is incurable for the Almighty God?” It says in Luke 1:37 “With God nothing is impossible.”
We hear in God’s Word about the “incurable” leper who asked for help in Mark 1:40 and Jesus healed him. Blind Bartimaeus at Jericho’s gate asked for help and was cured. (Mark 10:46) These situations and may others from God’s Word are historical evidence of God curing what humans thought were incurable situations.
Our Almighty God is still powerful, still active, still healing. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
It is very appropriate to pray with all confidence: “Lord, please heal ______ if it be according to your will.” There are many, many miraculous stories of people being healed when it seemed all that all hope was gone. We never know if God is going to heal a person for more time yet on earth or for their eternity in heaven.
Put down your smart phone or ipad! I have spoken with so many couples who are struggling with their marriage and often times one of them will say “I wish he would put down his phone and talk to me instead of checking the latest sports stats all the time.” “I wish she would put her phone away while we’re watching a show together instead of being more interested in what’s on Facebook than what’s going on in the show.”
When we are on our phone when our spouse is trying to talk with us or spend time with us, what is that communicating? It is communicating that “What I am looking at on this phone is more important than you.” That is not a good message to send to your spouse. That is a message that will wear cracks in your marriage over time.
A recent study said that the more you use your phone the less secure your spouse will feel in the relationship. Be a blessing to your spouse and put down the phone when they are talking with you or want to spend time with you. [http://time.com/4311202/smartphone-relationship-cell-phone/]
The bottom line is God tells us to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” in Ephesians 5:21. Part of submitting to one another is putting away our own selfishness during a conversation and giving our spouse 100% of our attention. Part of loving your spouse is giving them the attention they desire.
Your spouse doesn’t want to talk to the top of your head. Your spouse doesn’t want to watch a show or movie with you and every time something funny happens you lift up your head from your phone and say ”What? What happened? What’s so funny?” Improve your marriage today by putting away the smart phone and talk to your spouse.
Pastor Chad Starfeldt
Pastor Chad Starfeldt was installed at Shepherd of the Hills in June of 2012.