This coming week we get to celebrate National Lutheran Schools Week (NLSW), here at Grace. This is always a fun time of the school year, but one thing it isn’t, is consistent! WE don’t do many things the same during this week.
Consistency, is an important part of life. How consistent are you? Do you adhere to the rule you make? Do you expect others to adhere but you don’t? This is a tough concept to teach at the 1st through 4th grade level. I had to have this conversation with one of my students this week. I had to explain, that if I made an exception to the rule for her, I would be breaking the rule; not easy to understand the chain of events.
This year's theme for Lutheran Schools Week is “JOY:FULLY LUTHERAN” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24.
It is a joy to be able to express the love of Christ, but it is also a challenge at times to follow His example. The Bible verse chosen for this year’s theme tells us to rejoice always. This too is often difficult to do sometimes. If we remember that love casts out hate and fear, it makes it easier to rejoice in all things. If we keep in the front of our minds that we are forgiven children of God it is easier to rejoice always.
It doesn’t matter what we do, Jesus loves us and forgives us. Jesus gives us a consistency that is missing in the world; a consistency that has been missing in the world; a consistency that will always be missing in the world, but Jesus will never turn away from us.
Jesus led by example. One example that often comes to mind is when Peter denied Jesus at a time most crucial in Jesus’ life. Peter was questioned three times if he knew the LORD. Three times Peter said NO! Each time he was more emphatic that he did not know the LORD, yet when they were together our LORD took Peter back into the discipleship. He even reinstated Peter and showed Peter how to minister to the sheep (John 21:15-25).
Our LORD knows what He expects from us and when we can’t, and never will measure up, He has made a way for us. He himself has taken our place. This won’t change. The promise was first made to Adam and Eve and it never changed. The promise was fulfilled through Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. The promise is fulfilled as we live out our life in HIM. The promise will be fulfilled when we each enter the kingdom when we take our last breath on earth.
So yes, rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in everything!
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
I first wrote a variation on this message a year ago in remembrance of Dr. King Day.
In today’s world these two words often seem at odds. How can one serve and still be a leader? Next week in reading the children in first through eighth grades will learn about just such a man. This man was someone who served the needs of others. He did this when times were good, he did this when times were tough.
Dr. King was a servant-leader. He was taught how to serve others by his parents. He was taught by his father, a pastor. He was taught by example. The examples were taught at home. The examples were based on what his parents taught him from the Bible.
He was taught by the examples of the greatest servant-leader, our LORD. Jesus came into the world to save us. He came into the world to show us the Good News of Salvation. He showed us how to live. John 3:17 says For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Matthew 20:27-28 tells us that Jesus came not be served but to serve and to give His life up for many.
We know how Dr. King fought for equality for all. We know how Dr. King fought for the rights of all through civil disobedience. We know about Dr. King’s marches. We know a lot about his public person. There is a lot written about this great man. Just one search this morning on Google for “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” turned up over 117 million hits. A year ago, the total was over 108 million hits. That says something about the man!
We consider Dr. King a hero!
Dr. King had heroes as well. Three of his heroes were: Martin Luther (1483-546) Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) and Gandhi (1869-1948). From these three men he learned many things. He learned more about his faith and how to handle events in his life a peaceful manner. Dr. King was no stranger to having to “turn the other cheek”. Dr. King was a man of principles. He held his views high and expected that of those around him. Dr. King inspired a whole generation of people to look at their neighbor differently. He inspired a whole generation in history of people to move out of what we now call a “comfort zone” and do something different. I know he influenced my husband, as a college student to travel to Birmingham, AL during a turbulent time and register voters.
Although Dr. King held these three men in high regard, he didn’t get his beliefs from them or those around him. Ultimately what he believed came from what he was taught by his parents as a child and what they taught him from the Bible.
When Dr. King was questioned about who he was, or what he considered most important in his life his first answers didn’t have to do with what he had accomplished or the changes he made. His first response was that he was a Baptist minister. He was first and foremost a child of the LORD. What he saw in people was that all were equal in the sight of the LORD. We are all equal in our sin and we are all equal in our forgiveness through Christ. Dr. King knew this, believed this, and practiced this.
When Dr. King faced the hard times in his life it was to the Word that he went, it was to other ministers of different denominations that he went – to whom he reached out.
As we celebrate or remember Dr. King this Monday, January 20, 2020, in whatever way(s) take the time to thank the LORD for placing Dr. King in a time in history when he could speak out. Christ said,” There is no greater love, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13). Dr. King did this. He laid down his life for what he believed.
Take a moment and read his “I Have A Dream” speech. Take a moment and look closely to see how much Dr. King referred to words from the Bible. Dr. King’s words are as important and needed today as they were in 1963.
Jesus’ words and forgiveness are just as needed today as they were over 2000 years.
I really enjoy going into Ms. Laurie’s classroom and observing her children at play. I really enjoy listening to them play. This year is a little extra special for me as the son of a special “niece” has enrolled. I love watching him play and seeing how much of his family is in him.
As I watch the children play and interact with each other I am reminded of the words from a children’s song “Be careful little eyes what you see…” This song was recently made into a popular Christian song by Casting Crowns. This is based upon Luke 11:33-35.
We as parents, teachers, and watchers of these young ones are given a great task of watching them. We are the guardians of their precious “eyes”. We need to be careful what they see. We are the guardians of their precious “ears”. We must guard what they are hearing.
When I was younger there was a saying my grandmother used frequently, “Little pitchers have big ears”, meaning a child is always listening.
Are we careful what we are saying, doing or watching around our children? They are quick to pick up on our saying one thing and doing something different.
C. S. Lewis, the writer of the Chronicles of Narnia once said of his conversion (he had been an Atheist), “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading” (Surprised by Joy). This is true in reverse; a person who wishes to remain a sound Christian cannot be too careful of his reading. This also can apply to one’s environment.
In today’s world, we must be the ones on guard as to what is out there. In recent years, there has been more and more in the media that can easily water down our children’s faith.
The children need to know what to believe. They need to know there is the belief that the LORD, being in control, is often downplayed, completely ignored, or written about in such as way as to say He is not real.
Research has shown how children can be easily convinced to follow what others are doing, saying, and seeing.
We are warned in Romans to watch what we do – Romans 12.2 says, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will, or the book.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, Paul tell us that we are to test everything and to hold on to what is good and to reject every kind of evil. This is not an easy task! Evil is sneaky and often comes in many disguises.
When we do reject evil, we must be ready to give an answer to defend our faith. Paul writes in 1 Peter 3:15 that we should be ready to answer to everyone who asks with an honest answer for the hope we have. He also says we should do so with gentleness and respect.
It is hard, but we must at all times be on guard. But our fight is not alone. We have the Holy Spirit to give us the strength that we need. We have been outfitted with the Armor of God, Ephesians 6:10-18
We must be on watch at all times. Let our eyes be the lamp of our body and shine the Light of Christ so our children may see Him through us.
Taste & See
A common phrase from my childhood was “your eyes are bigger than your stomach!” Often when we saw all that was laid out for us at our family Thanksgiving meal there were so many wonderful foods to choose from that we were tempted to take more than we could eat.
When we were old enough to fix our own plates the adults in our family cautioned us to take only what we could eat. Along the same lines we also had to taste the foods which didn’t look appetizing. We had to “taste & see” before judging the food. Very often it took a number of tastings before we liked a specific food.
Imagine if you turned up your nose at the foods at the first Thanksgiving because of how some of them looked, not only might you have gone hungry you might have offended your Native neighbors who had helped you through the very rough year.
Here are of the unusual choices the Pilgrims faced:
Eels – flint corn (multi-colored corn) – lobster – venison – mussels --
Popcorn (a first for them)
Some strange sounding food items – would you eat them? What about if you were starving? What would you choose if you and your family were starving? Would you pick some and not others? These are some of the foods the Pilgrims & the Wampanoag Native Americans ate on the First Thanksgiving.
We also have to “taste and see” what the LORD has in store for us. While this might not refer to the food, we eat but rather the life experiences we face each day. We have to let the LORD, who knows what we need in our Spiritual diet, feed us through His word. This means we need to be in His word daily and worship with Him weekly. We need to be feed through both word and sacrament.
We also have to wait on Him in His time to see what it is He is doing in our lives.
We have been blessed to be given everything we need with His book, the Bible, and while it might not be possible to memorize the entire book our LORD has provided us with the ability to hold onto key verses to get us through our trying times.
We too, have many choices to make as we face the unknown with our KNOWN God.
Very often what the LORD calls us to do sounds just as strange to us as the foods that were eaten at the first Thanksgiving.
If we remember that He knows what is best for us and we taste and see we will be able to take our refuge in Him. He will be the one to give us comfort in our times of trouble and our times of joy.
This Thanksgiving remember to give thanks for all the LORD has given to you and your family as your see what He is doing for you.
Psalm 34:8 (NIV)
Taste and see that the LORD is good, blessed is the one who takes refuge in him
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
This week we finished our three-week unit on Martin Luther and his contribution to the LORD’s work.
The students learned how Martin discovered the great gift we have from the LORD. They learned that in Martin Luther’s time most people were taught that although Christ died for us, we were still not guaranteed a place in heaven, as a Christian. They learned that people in Martin’s time believed you had to work to earn your way into Heaven.
We spent three weeks learning about his life and how he tried to live up to being perfect and how he could never be good enough for God.
They learned about the amazing discovery Martin made when he truly began to read the Bible. They learned that once Martin learn salvation is a gift and we can do absolutely nothing for this gift, he had to tell everyone. (Ephesians 2:8)
With the older class we discussed this at length. We discussed that we have been given two special gifts from our God.
We are given the gift of the LAW and the gift of the GOSPEL.
They learned that the law is not simply a series of “do nots”, but rather a way to help us.
They learned that the Gospel is a gift as well.
They learned that when we are given a gift, we do nothing for that gift. During the course of our study we came across the phrase “free gift”. After much discussion we came to the conclusion that all true gifts are free and that we do nothing to get them. We discussed that if they are given a “free gift” with purchase, it really isn’t a gift because they must do something to get the item, make the purchase, and the cost of the item is built into the purchase.
Our salvation is completely free to us! Christ did the purchasing with His Holy precious blood and His innocent suffering death.
They also learned that while this gift is ours and there is nothing, we can do to enter Heaven, we do have the power to reject the gift and spend eternity away from God. This took some time on their part to understand.
I went around with a box of candy I gave each a piece of candy; some wanted the candy and some refused (yes, there were a couple). I explained that those who refused the candy were like those people who refused the gift of salvation. They knew it was there, but they made the choice not to eat it. Since I did this with my older grades, they understood, that salvation is entirely God’s choice and eternity without God is entirely our choice.
It was a pleasure to see those who had thought they had to be good enough start to understand.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--
For what are you known?
I recently had a student show for what he is known. He showed that he has some amazing qualities. We always knew he had these qualities but they really appeared on Thursday.
I had an interesting discussion after school on Thursday with our Title I teacher. It seems he was missing one of his work folders for an older student. This student insisted that he had turned in his folder on Tuesday as was expected of him. His next Title I class on Thursday; the folder was not in the correct place.
Our Title I teacher is the only person to access his classroom. Our Title I teacher spent a good deal of his time on Thursday searching his room for the missing folder. The folder was nowhere to be found. Since the student in question is quite honest, we believed him when he said he turned in his folder.
It was decided that come Friday morning our upper grade teacher would search the lockers and bookbags to see if another student was pulling a prank.
But, like the lost coin, the folder was found! When our Title I teacher walked up the stairs he could see the folder had slipped behind the shelving in his classroom.
He and I then went down to the gym to let our student know the folder had been found. We explained that if the folder hadn’t been found it would have reflected poorly on the Title I teacher with his supervisors.
We also explained that because of this student’s reputation we were able to so easily believe he had turned the folder in and would not be in any trouble for it not being where it belonged.
He exhibited what we teach here at Grace, what can be seen in 2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV) - Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
This student has been with us since he was four years old and we look forward to seeing where the LORD will lead him as he goes off to high school next year.
1 John 3:18 - Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
Last week we did not send out a Connection Newsletter. This was due to my being tied up with Identity Theft Issues. It seems that someone was able to get hold of some of my basic information and gain access to an email account, bank account, and shopping account.
This last week has been one of my having to prove who I am to a number of sources. Fortunately, I had enough security in place that this was a little easier for me than some people, still I am dealing with a lot of headache and much heartache. I may lose some money if any of my claims can’t be proven and my credit rating may take a hit for a while. I now have extra layers of security on everything I do online and it is a bit more time consuming to do many of the things I took for granted before with the internet.
This now leads me to the question of where does our identity truly lie?
I can safely say that I take my true identity from three sources
First – I identify as a child of God. I have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. This is a free gift and there is nothing I have to do for this gift or identity (Ephesians 2:8) Nothing can separate me from the Love of Christ (Romans 8:31-39). This is truly unconditional love.
Second – I identify as a child of my parents. One of my greatest joys through my life has been when I meet someone who says, “oh, you’re Dorothy’s or Ralph’s daughter.” I can honestly say I have always taken joy in being recognized as their daughter. They are the ones that first brought me to church. They are the ones that brought me to be Baptized and did not hinder the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. When I chose to become a Lutheran School teacher these are the two that took joy in my choice. They truly lived Proverbs 22:6. My parents showed each of their children unconditional love. My mother continues this with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to this day.
Third – I identify as the spouse of an amazing man. I truly believe the LORD chose him for me. When I look back at the road I traveled, the LORD was slowly leading me to Gerry. There were at least four times in my life that our paths almost crossed before they did. Gerry was a man after God’s own heart. When I was discouraged, he knew how to lift me up. This was evident even when we were just friends. Gerry was called home to the LORD just over seven years ago and I still identify as his spouse. When I look at choices and decisions that I need to make I still look as how we would handle it together as a couple in the LORD. My husband truly followed the example of a Godly husband as found in Galatians 5:25-33. My husband showed me the unconditional love that Christ shows His church.
These are the identities that can never be taken from me!
Most importantly my identity as a child of Christ can NEVER be taken from me. For I know that according to Romans 8:38-39 nothing can separate me from the love of Christ. This is an identity that can never be stolen!
(C) Vicki Helmling
In my apartment I have a wall of crosses. Among this wall of crosses is one cross made up of many crosses. It reminds me of a cross my husband, Gerry, bought me for our home many years ago; a cross I lost in the fire that destroyed our home three years ago.
Each of the crosses on the larger cross are different. All of the smaller crosses are decorative. They hang on a very rustic larger cross.
As I sit looking at this wall hanging, I realized there are various ways of looking at this piece of art in relation to our relationship to our LORD.
As I look at the cross, I see all of us as smaller versions of Christ, being attached to Him. Each of us are unique and different – yet each of us is the same in that we are each part of His family, individual Christians; no one more important than the other.
I look at the larger rustic cross as Christ and the way He lived His life. He gave up the riches of Heaven to live an earthly life. He lived the life of a poor person, a human so that He could take our place. So that he could pay the price for our sins, since we could not do this. He paid with His perfect life since we could not pay the price for our salvation.
Yet, in the center of the rustic cross is a large ornate cross which helps me remember Jesus’ divine nature. I remember that Jesus had to be fully God in order to give Himself as a sacrifice for us to have eternal life.
As I look at this cross, I see all the different children and people we here at Grace come into contact with and are sharing the Good News of salvation with; again, each with unique gifts and talents for His work here on earth.
I see an example of Matthew 16:24 – 26 where Christ told us to take up our cross and follow Him. I see each of us having various events in our lives that make us who we are. These events can be pleasant or unpleasant and they make and mold us into the people we are called to be. We can let these events make us beautiful and reflect the Light of Christ and follow Him, or we can put out His light and not follow Him.
It is up to us to if we let ourselves become lights that allow the Light of Christ shine out of us as 2 Corinthians 4:6 says. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
We have routines in our classroom.
We have ways of doing things. We have ways of getting ready for the day’s beginning.
Four mornings a week we start our day with the rest of the school with morning devotions. We have a routine for this. First we open, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. We then say the pledge to first the American Flag, and then the Christian flag. It is then time to start our walk with God. This prepares our children to start the day in the “right” mind-set.
During the month of September, I have been blessed to lead the children through devotions. In order to spend this time with the children leading them in the WORD, I must first prepare myself. I must pray and then research what I will be speaking to them about. I must have knowledge of the topic.
The same is true when we gather in the classroom. When I lead the children in the subject I teach, I must not only have the knowledge of the subject matter, but I must be prepared. I must have the proper supplies for the children as well as the knowledge.
When God told Adam and Eve that He would send a Redeemer He did not do this right after they sinned. He took His time and prepared the world.
The timing had to be just right. The world had to be ready to not only receive Jesus, but also ready for Jesus to spread His Gospel. The world had to be ready for the Gospel to be easily spread.
God’s timing is always perfect, even if we don’t think it is right.
Sometimes we have to wait for God’s timing. Sometimes, it’s difficult to wait and we want to hurry the LORD along. Sometimes we aren’t prepared for God as we tire of waiting.
God always gives us what we need when we must wait. He has given us a book of instructions. He has given us the Bible.
All throughout the Old Testament God gave His people hints or insights into what His plans were for the birth of His Son and they often missed or ignored the clues. We now look back and ask how could they have missed the obvious? WE do this in our daily lives as we miss the clues the LORD is giving us. How do we know what He wants from us? We find His messages as we weekly attend worship and hear His Word and partake of the sacrament of His Supper.
You have this chance this Sunday to hear His word when you come to Grace Lutheran Church to hear the children of Grace sing praises to the LORD and see the dedicated teachers being installed for yet another year.
Come and join us as we worship and lift praises to the LORD!
Matthew 18:20 – “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
This past week it has been quite warm in our classrooms. We know we are in the season of summer still, however; Monday is the official start of fall. This might be a bit hard for some to believe since we are expected to have warm weather through the next few days.
Our calendar seasons don’t always follow the weather seasons. It was our God who created the seasons as He placed the sun & moon in the sky on the fourth day. We know when He created the seasons, they were PERFECT. We also know, that sin entered the world and this messed everything up.
We are told in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, “To everything there is a season.” We don’t always want to wait for the season. I’m already hearing in my room, “I can’t wait for the leaves to change color” or “I want for my birthday” or “I can’t wait for Christmas” and my favorite, “When do we get out of school?”
When the children tell me, they can’t wait for certain events, I explain, they have no choice but to wait as we can’t speed up time.
What season are you in?
To everything there is a season. Ecclesiastes 3:1 “
“Patience” “Wait your turn” “That’s for the older kiddos” “Trust me, you’ll understand when you’re older” It seems that many children want to do things before it is time to do them. The younger ones in Ms. Laurie’s room want to do the things the children in Mrs. Helmling’s room do and those in Mrs. Helmling’s room would like to have the privileges of the children in Mr. Jurica’s room. Of course, those in Mr. Jurica’s room…. (well, I’ll let you fill this in).
Aren’t we as adults also guilty of this as well? When we are expecting a new little one in the family, we are very excited and hope the child will be like everyone else. Parents count the fingers and toes, reflexes are tested. From that point on the comparisons begin and the race begins the be “THE BEST” - Not necessarily the child’s best but to be better than everyone else’s child. There’s the push to get things done in a hurry. We expect our little ones to walk early, talk early, learn to read early, learn their colors, numbers, and letters early. When they do, we are often in a hurry for them to slow down. We often wish we had the time to do over with them. We spend our time comparing ourselves and our children to others. Why do we do this? We do this because of sin and temptation. The very temptation the evil one used in the Garden with Eve, when he said the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil would make Eve like GOD.
When we rush ourselves and our children to do better than everyone else, are we teaching them to do their best for the LORD - to be their best for the LORD or are we doing it out of pride to show off to others?
In Ecclesiastes we are told there is a season for everything. We are in the growing season here at Grace. I know, it is fall, but we are growing your children to be the best the LORD has created them to be.
As we watch the children reaching up towards the nurturing that comes from their teachers not one of these children is going to be learning at the same rate. None of us would think to force a flower to grow. Help us grow your children in grace, knowledge, and wisdom as we teach them the ways of the LORD and the knowledge to be successful in their lives. Remember – we are all fearfully and wonderfully made – Psalm 139:14
Vicki Helmling is a teacher at Grace English Lutheran School