Thank God for His Easter Blessings

 

Thank God! Specifically, thank God for His generous gift of joy found in the celebration of Easter this year. Here at The Family of Faith Preschool, we like to play the game “I spy” before we start chapel. “I spy with my eagle-eye something gold,” I will say.  Next, the children point to something in the sanctuary that is gold in color. I then praise the children for being so very observant. The children appear to be very proud of themselves and their ability to find objects in the room. Let’s play a game of Easter “I Spy” right now. However, instead of saying, “I spy,” I will note “I witnessed.”

This Easter I witnessed the Holy Spirit motivating 39 more souls to join us in this year’s Easter celebration than were present in last year’s celebration. In addition, I witnessed the Youth Group volunteer to prepare a fine Easter breakfast for the church. I witnessed the church accept the youth’s invitation, as well as generously donating to the youth’s goal of attending the state youth conference this summer. I witnessed dozens of children skipping across the church-yard to pick up colorful Easter eggs with their parents. I witnessed numerous vocalists and musicians leading our Easter worship celebration with joyous offerings of praise. I witnessed mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, friends and neighbors joining together to come before the Lord’s altar to receive the Lord’s Supper. I witnessed God at work amongst us this Easter Sunday. Thanks be to God!

What did you witness? Was God’s grace and mercy evident to you as the church spoke the Easter cheer “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”? Was the generosity of the Lord obvious to you as the hand-made art work painted in gold surrounded you in our sanctuary? Was Easter joy evident to you and your family this Easter as you gathered to enjoy of meal of celebration? I hope so. I pray so.

If you did not witness such things this Easter, it is not too late. The Easter Gospel is available to you and your family every day. The joy of knowing that Christ Jesus has paid for our sins in full is always free for you to enjoy. The hope of everlasting life in heaven by grace through faith is constantly offered to you by our most loving God. For Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

 

-Pastor Doug

A Year in Review

 

You may have heard of the phrase, “She was smiling EAR TO EAR.” Here at The Family of Faith we might say that we have been so blessed that our ministry is smiling YEAR TO YEAR. Join me in recalling some of our blessings as we prepare to celebrate the greatest blessing of all – the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Day.

On Sunday, April 2, 2017, just a couple of weeks before Easter, many of us gathered to worship God for the first time at our new second location on Fry Road. While there was just dirt at that location, we brought our music, and the American flag, and the flag of the cross, and the processional cross from our established location in Copperfield to our second location next to the Miramesa subdivision. Songs were sung. Prayers were prayed. Pictures were made. All of those gathered then drove down the street and enjoyed a meal of celebration at a local pizza parlor.

Later that same month, on Sunday, April 30, 2017, many of us again gathered to dig the first ceremonial shovels of dirt on our new construction site. For various legal reasons this ceremony was not possible on April 2. Families from both church and preschool took turns digging away at the rock-hard soil. After some effort, the shape of a small cross was made in the top-soil symbolizing that this ground was being set aside to serve the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

On August 21, 2017, the preschool staff was assembled for a training day. During a break, the whole staff went out to look at a wonder of nature in the sky – a solar eclipse. This wonder of nature astounded us. Who knew that just five days later another wonder of nature would visit us – Hurricane Harvey. God motivated The Family of Faith Lutheran Church and Preschool to coordinate relief efforts for our neighbors who were affected by the storm. The gymnasium housed 36 families and 13 dogs during a three-day period. The comfort dogs visited the preschool children when school was able to start. Some preschool teachers and their families received generous grants to help them rebuild their homes.

On October 31, 2017, The Family of Faith celebrated another storm – a religious storm. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther spoke out again the tyranny of his age. He did so as he was inspired by the clear message of Holy Scripture. By Scripture alone, by grace alone, and by faith alone are souls saved. Five Hundred years of Reformation history was celebrated at The Family of Faith and throughout the Houston area.

On April 1, 2018, it will be time to gather for Easter again. The dirt on Fry Road now serves as the foundation for our new second location for ministry. Many new students, teachers, and aids have joined The Family of Faith community. Join us this Sunday as we present our heartfelt thanks to the resurrected Christ at the 10 AM worship service. Join us as we shout “Alleluia!” to the Lord of Life. Take your place in one of the pews as we together sing God’s praises for all of His goodness to us. Join us and experience what it feels like to smile from YEAR TO YEAR.

Pastor Doug

 

 

Holy Week: 2% of Your Time Will Make a 100% Difference

There is a special name for this next week, Sunday, March 25, to Sunday, April 1. The special name is “Holy Week.” Since there are 52 weeks in a year, this next week makes-up only 2% of the time God provides to us each year. How can a mere 2% of a year make a difference?

During Holy Week, we join Jesus of Nazareth as he comes to the end of his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On Sunday, March 25, we will recall how Jesus was welcomed into the ancient city named for peace. At first sight, Jerusalem does look like a peaceful place as Jesus enters the city to what we might call today a “fan-base.” These fans literally fanned Jesus with palm branches as the shouted cheers of joy. Joy was the feeling since Jesus seemed to be the Savior.

If I had written the Bible, I would have stopped the Bible at this point. Like the Astros’ victory parade last fall, a parade is a great place to end the story. Please be clear, I did not write the Bible. Rather, the Lord himself inspired many throughout the centuries to write the holy text. In God’s wisdom, the story of salvation is continued on Thursday, March 29, as Jesus gifted his church a sacred meal called the Lord’s Supper, or the Holy Eucharist, or Holy Communion. Miraculously, in this meal Jesus presented his disciples in, with, and under the bread and the wine, his body and blood for the forgiveness of their sins. For close to 2,000 years Christ Jesus has been present in this holy meal so that all those who partake of it may be assured that God forgives them and goes with them into the challenges of life.

The next day, Good Friday, we journey in our worship service all the way to the cross. All people die – many in terrible ways. What is the big deal about Jesus of Nazareth dying? The big deal is that Jesus is a people and at the same time he is God. Therefore, while Jesus’ death looked like a big loss, it really was a victory over the three biggest enemies of all people: sin, death, and the devil. Because the one, true God is a gracious God, Jesus’ death was accepted as satisfaction for our debt of sin –  your sin and my sin.

Easter Sunday, Jesus’ victory is no longer hidden under the pain and suffering of the cross. Instead, Jesus was physically raised from the dead – an act that demonstrated that he did in fact pay in full humanity’s debt of sin with his once and for all sacrifice. Jesus physically interacted with hundreds of eye-witnesses. He ate and drank with them. He physically embraced many. They touched Jesus wounds. All this interaction proved that the Gospel is not a sci-fi movie and Jesus is not a zombie. Instead Jesus is the Messiah, the world’s Savior and Lord. He was then, and he still is today.

With so much joy, love, and peace to be found in Jesus, why not take a little time (just 2%) to celebrate the 100% salvation the Lord offers you this Easter?

[Palm Sunday, 3/25. 10 AM worship; Maundy Thursday, 3/29, 7 PM; Good Friday, 3/30, 7 PM; Easter Sunday, 4/1, 10 AM worship with breakfast starting at 8 AM]

At The Family of Faith Preschool, we have been blessed with a beautiful blue awning that welcomes the children to school every day. In addition to greeting our guests, the big blue awning provides us cover from the rain, as well as shade on sunny days. While the children certainly do enjoy playing on a fine playground, and in an air-conditioned full-size gym, at times they also play under the big blue awning.

Hopscotch is one of the activities the children enjoy when playing under the awning. It gives me joy to see numerous hopscotch game boards drawn in colorful chalk. While today’s children are very familiar with the virtual world as they interact with cell-phones, computers, video games and on-demand television shows, I am pleased to see that children still enjoy games in the real-world. Hopscotch invites our children to interact with their friends face-to-face while also developing their physical coordination and their number sense (and perhaps also their ability to draw and to write).

Because of the children’s developmental level, the children do not see the symbolism behind this simple game. However, parents, grandparents, teachers, aids, and even pastors, can see that hopscotch also teaches life-skills. Can we agree that as adults we are regularly called upon to navigate numerous different areas of life? Adults face the challenges of jumping from private life into public life, from one’s neighborhood into one’s work-world, from the regulations of privately-owned operations and into governmental agencies and back again. As we jump about in life it is difficult to avoid stepping on the lines. It is a challenge not to trip over the numerous social boundaries that carve up our daily lives. We may, at times, loose our balance, or even fall so far as to need to start over again.

The God of grace we celebrate at The Family of Faith is with us as we attempt to “hop the scotch” of life. The God of grace is with us when we step on the line and when we lose our balance in life. The God of grace is with us even when we fall and need to start over again. In the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) we are invited to make seven requests (i.e. seven petitions) to God. In the Fifth Petition Jesus coaches us to pray “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Social science has demonstrated that the number one indicator of marital success is “conflict resolution skills”. This skill is needed marriage and when we step on one of life’s boundaries or fall-down in one of our key relationships. The Bible also teaches us that Jesus Christ forgives us freely out of unconditional love. This free forgiveness in turn empowers us to share forgiveness with our spouse, our children, our coworkers, and our neighbors.

Celebrating forgiveness is what the Christian church is all about. Especially during the season of Lent and the festival of Easter, the church rejoices in the truth that God choses to freely forgive because Jesus has paid for our sins not with gold, or silver, but with His life-blood shed on the cross.

Easter is April 1 this year.  The Youth Group will provide breakfast before the 10 AM worship service. There will be an Easter egg hunt – even more fun than hopscotch. You and your family are invited to join us in receiving and sharing the forgiveness of sins as we all “jump” into the challenges our daily lives bring

Power Wash

As spring begins to arrive in Houston, many of us have spring projects on our agendas. At the parsonage, one such project was to power wash the drive way.

After years of traffic, the driveway color was something akin to lungs tarred from too many cigarettes. This discoloration had to be pointed out to me since when I arrive home after a busy day I am thinking more about food and rest than about the color of the driveway.

Recently, a high school young man from our neighborhood stopped by the parsonage. He was trying to raise some money for a spring break trip. In order to earn some money he offered to power wash our driveway, porch, and sidewalk. I quickly agreed. He had his own power washer. When he was done treating the surfaces the concrete looked like it was newly poured.

The driveway at the parsonage is not the only item that needs to be cleaned. Actually, our souls need to be cleansed from the stain of sin. God has generously provided a power wash for our sin stained souls. Is called Holy Baptism. “Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…” is how one of Jesus’ disciples put it.

As some of you know, my wife and I recently became grandparents for the first time. Our grandson’s name is Isaiah Jacob Krengel. Over Spring Break we will be meeting Isaiah for the first time. Since I am a pastor, I will also be baptizing baby Isaiah. Isaiah will receive God’s power wash for the forgiveness of his sins.

Of course, baptism is not just for Pastor’s grandson. Baptism is also for you and your children. God’s power wash is for all people. If we at The Family of Faith can help you with you baptismal needs, please feel free to contact me at pastordoug@TFOF.org. Blessings.

– Pastor Doug

The Honor of the Apron

At The Family of Faith Preschool, our staff members wear a blue apron with a large white cross printed on the front. These aprons have convenient pockets so that our ministry team members can have tissues, etc. ready at hand for various needs the children regularly present. In other words, the aprons have a very functional purpose.

However, the aprons also serve a symbolic purpose. As our professional church workers dawn their aprons, they also identify themselves as a single group, as a team, with a common purpose – namely, to share the love of God in Christ as they nurture children and their family members.

Numerous professions use a uniform to show common purpose: the military, the police, medical personnel, and sports teams. In the church there is a long tradition of using clothing to represent Christian values.  For example, the pastor in a Lutheran church may wear vestments during a worship service. I wear vestments when I serve as the celebrant for Holy Communion.

My vestments include a white robe, or Alb, that represents the forgiveness of sins provided freely by the Lord. I also wear a cross to remind worshipers that life in the church is all about Jesus. In addition, The Family of Faith Lutheran Church vested me with authority to be a public steward of the Word of God, and the Sacraments (e.g. Holy Baptism and Holy Communion). This authority is represented by a colorful scarf-like cloth that hangs off my neck and over my shoulders. This part of my vestments is called a “stole.” The pastoral authority these vestments represent was conferred on me in two special worship services called “the service of installation” and “the service of ordination.” It has been a blessing to be allowed to serve in the Office of the Holy Ministry over these last 27 years.

I would like to think that the aprons my coworkers wear are a form of a vestment. The professionals who daily care for children at The Family of Faith Preschool serve in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ just as I do. Their apron, like my Alb, cross, and stole, serve to identify them as individuals who have been entrusted to be public stewards of our children. While we have not as yet developed a special ritual in which we vest our workers with their aprons, it may be something we should do in order to make it clear to all our families that this person has been recognized as especially suited to serve God, God’s children and their families.

– Pastor Doug

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing

Purple or Pink? Cross or Heart?

An unusual intersection of annual celebrations is about to visit us. This year Lent and Valentine’s Day are on the same day. In the traditional church, the color for the season of Lent is purple – a season that begins with Ash Wednesday, which is February 14 this year. The same day on the secular calendar is Valentine’s Day and is often associated with pink and the shape of a heart. What will this February 14th look like at The Family of Faith? Might it look like purple and hearts? Or pink crosses?

God is certainly a God of love. The Lord is glad to see children being raised in his love. The Creator planned for romantic love to precede the birth of children. For example, Isaac loved Rebekah romantically before the couple was blessed with twin boys (see Genesis 24).

However, the word “love” in the Bible is used in more than just the romantic sense. For example, we read, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God’s love for all people is often represented by the shape of the cross, instead of the shape of a heart, or purple, or pink.

To properly begin preparing for Easter, we at The Family of Faith will begin the season of Lent by forming a cross on our foreheads out of ashes. This ritual act of repentance is not in any way required of any of the children, families, staff, or the congregants. However, I will be present both at the beginning of the preschool day, and at the 7 PM worship service, on February 14, to offer you and your family the imposition of ashes as one way to remember the great love with which God has provided us.

Whether February 14 finds you surrounded by  pink, or  purple, or the shape of a heart, or the shape of the cross, may the love of God be yours in Christ next Wednesday, and every day.

Pastor Doug.

Doughnuts with Dads and the Blessings of Fatherhood

This Wednesday morning, February 7, the fathers of the children at The Family of Faith Preschool are invited to join their children in enjoying a doughnut together at school.

While this is a fun and delicious activity, being a father is more involved than just eating a doughnut. The Bible has a very high regard for the calling of parents. There is even a commandment (the fourth) that is dedicated to honoring one’s father and mother.

The Bible records numerous father-child relationships: Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, David and Solomon are but a few examples.

But there is no greater father-child relationship than the one shared between God-the-Father and God-the-Son. This Sunday we will read Mark 9:7, where the Father says of His Son, Jesus, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

May the unconditional love shared between the Father and the Son be likewise shared between the fathers and their children at The Family of Faith Preschool.

Pastor Doug

Dear parents at The Family,
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thank you for allowing us at The Family of Faith Preschool to partner with you in providing care and education to your child. We consider this opportunity a high and holy calling from the Lord.
As part of this calling, our ministry staff shares the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ with your child. This sharing is accomplished in numerous ways: daily chapel time; a faith-based curriculum; as well as, through informal exchanges throughout the day.
In addition to sharing the joy of Jesus in all the above noted ways, we also celebrate the opportunity to share Holy Baptism. By the time we are done January we will have witnessed the baptisms of two of our students. Thank be to God!
The Bible teaches us that baptism is for “all nations” (Matthew 28:18). The Holy Scriptures also teach us that baptism is “for you and for your children” (Acts 2:39). We learn from the Word of God that baptism provides children the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).
If your family would like to baptize your child, please contact me at pastordoug@TFOF.org, or just share your interest with your child’s teacher, or with one of the directors. If you are curious about what is involved in having your child baptized why not join us on Sunday, January 28, at our 10 AM worship service as Dylan Ulomi is baptized? By being present you will be able to gain a better understanding of this good and gracious gift of God.
Blessings to you,
Pastor Doug

TFOF VBS 2017
From July 17 to July 21, The Family of Faith Lutheran Church sponsored a special Vacation Bible School. The VBS was called “A Mighty Fortress.” It was a special VBS because its theme served a double purpose. Primarily, the phrase “A Mighty Fortress,” educated the participants of God’s goodness and grace as found in the person of Jesus Christ. Pslam 46:1 reads, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” This same psalm was also used 500 years ago by Martin Luther in his hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” This year, on October 31, 2017, the church throughout the world will take time to remember how the Lord provided for his church through Martin Luther’s actions on October 31, 1517. More specifically, on that date Martin Luther posted 95 concerns (theses) that he had with the church of his day. What Luther intended to be an inner-office memo for the professors at the local university where he worked became instead a movement to reform the church – a movement that continues to this day in churches such as The Family of Faith Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas.
The VBS student in the picture very much enjoyed taking her place on the royal throne provided at VBS. The crown and sceptre reminded her of one of the biblical truths Luther celebrated, namely, that all the baptized believers are royal priests (see 1 Peter 2:5). We pray that all of you reading this blog will join this VBS student in celebrating your baptismal identify each day as you serve the greatest royal of all – King Jesus.