March 2019

Our Lenten journey begins March 6th and the words of Psalm 51 can help us to
prepare. In this Psalm, David is confessing his sin and his need for forgiveness.

He says:
“according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in thy sight, so
that thou art justified in thy sentence and blameless in thy judgment.”

David is saying he deserves punishment for his sin. He knows he is a sinner in the
eyes of God. Can we acknowledge that in the eyes of God we are sinners as well?
We are the reason that Christ died on the cross. Because of our sins, we have this
focus in Lent. The Psalmist says: ”Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin
did my mother conceive me.”

We are born into sin and live our whole lives as sinners. We might be tempted to
say “not I”, I am a good person. I live a life that does not do all those awful sins
like kill, steal, commit adultery. How can I be a sinner. Yet, in God’s eyes we are
sinners. We fall short of what God expects of us all the time. Since God demands
perfection and we cannot achieve it, our sins do mount up.

But listen to what David says next: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a
new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not
thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with
a willing spirit. He asks God to cleanse his heart. Put a new and right spirit within
me God. We first have to understand and acknowledge our position before God.

Then we can turn to God and ask for his cleansing forgiveness. God can change us
from the inside out with his grace and mercy.

This grace of God can be hard to understand for some, but it’s easy for us because
Jesus paid the price of our sinfulness. He paid the cost for all the awful things, and
the little things we have done in our lives.

On Ash Wednesday this year, we need to acknowledge our sinfulness, we need to
come to the table of the Lord with hearts willing to acknowledge our position before
God. We come to the table as sinners and we receive forgiveness in through and
with the body and blood of Christ.

As the ashes are placed on your forehead, reminding you of your sin and the
forgiveness of God through the cross of Christ, acknowledge your sin and repent.
Ask for forgiveness. The ashes are traditionally from the palms used on the previous
Palm Sunday and a reminder of the Holy Week of Christ. The week he gave us his
body and blood as the payment for our sins so that today and everyday we might
receive forgiveness and cleansing. Our Lenten journey begins as we see the
forgiveness God has planned for us through the life of his son Jesus Christ.

In His Name, Amen.
Pastor Manthei

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February 2019

The month of February is probably best known for Valentines. How did this holiday begin? Turns out it is a very, very old tradition, taking its name from a Christian church leader. Bishop Valentine was known for his compassion and love. He was martyred for being a Christian by the Roman Emperor Claudius on February 14, 269 AD. There are many details about his life and activities, some more reliable than others, but ever since his death the name “Valentine” has been associated with love and giving at this time of year.

Throughout the Bible we have the story of God loving people. In the Old Testament the story is often of God passionately calling to a people who are giving their love and worship to many other things than God. In Jeremiah 31 it says The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. “The time is coming,” declares the LORD,” when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, ” declares the LORD.

God loves you and we are to love God. When we give our love to someone or something else, God is jealous. John writes to a church who was doing many things right, they were good people, but God wanted more: In Revelation we read “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Who do you love most?

Who has first place in your heart? Are you the bride of Christ?

Jesus is “The Lamb of God” who was the sacrifice for our sins; all our sins of unfaithfulness that have separated us from God. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and sins of the world. Why? Forgiveness…forgiveness is the means by which we come into an eternal relationship with God. We have been reconciled to God in Christ. May his love overcome us and guide us this month as we love the Lord with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves.

In Jesus name, Amen
Pastor Jonathan Manthei

January 2019

Some Christmas Thoughts

It was a big enough deal that God sent an army of angels to accompany the messenger.

“For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you:

You will find the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12

It is, without a doubt, the most important message of all time!

Now, look a little closer; you’ll notice in the message – a “what” a “who” and a “for.”

Most of the angel-words focus on the “WHAT.”

It’s a boy! Lovingly wrapped. Cocooned in cloth to mimic the womb.
Pretty normal stuff. But oh, how different He was!

Place of birth? It matters. We’re all asked that question. (Check your passport!)

Bethlehem, the City of David – right where the Bible’s prophecies said.

One of over 600 specific promises that would be fulfilled by this Little One.

A nice pediatric hospital for the King of Kings? Not at all.

Just a stable – about as humble and out of the way as you can get.

A simple feeding trough instead of a bed.

So, WHO is this? What’s the fuss?

Who is this one that made the angels sing, the shepherds gather, and the wise men follow?

A few words tell it all: A Savior – Christ the Lord.

Apparently, we needed one – a Savior, that is.

The arrival of the Promised One is the Father’s gift of a Blessed Hope!

. . . the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:13-14)

He’s a Savior who does what we could never do:

Satisfying the righteous demands of God, Imparting His work’s benefits to us,

Qualifying us for “forgiven-child-of-God-status,” And opening the door to eternal life.

It’s no wonder the angels sang! But, there’s still one little part to go.

“FOR!” For whom? For all! Not for those who are “good, for goodness sake.”

But for every Tom, Dick, and Harry, Sally, Jane, and Kathy known to man – and to God.

Every one of us that falls short.

No one left out. He’s a gift given for all. It’s just like the angels said . . . Unto YOU!

This baby . . . born in time, to fulfill the promises, in a certain city, for a very definite purpose.

He is God’s gift to YOU. So draw near – get really close. It’s still a big deal.

Merry Christmas,
Dr. Mike Gibson
PSD President

DECEMBER 2018

This month marks the beginning of Advent, the start of the church year. The season when we begin the preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ. We begin to light the candles, we sing the Advent hymns – and we wait – we prepare. Advent seeks to take us back to simpler times, without the frantic pace that is the signature of so many lives today. We celebrate how Jesus comes to us in three ways. We celebrate the first coming at his birth some 2000 years ago, and we re-enact the birth in the pageant and the carols.

We also celebrate his coming amongst us now – most notably in Word and Sacrament. We celebrate how Jesus comes among us in one another, in the least of our brothers and sisters. And we celebrate Jesus’ Second coming, when he will come again to judge creation bringing in a time of peace and joy.

The end is coming, of that we can be certain. But when? The desire to know the end is very much a part of our society. If we know when the end will come, we can do pretty much as we like now. If we know the end, then we can make a final rush preparation and do whatever we want in the meantime. But when we stop trying to figure out when, we have energy to listen to what God is calling us to do today. Advent preparation is about removing the noise from our lives so that we can hear and see the coming of Jesus Christ among us today.

We need to make time for getting together, for worship. We need to take our time together seriously, but in hope and joy. Our hope is in the one who came, who is among us, and who will come again. We are to heighten our awareness of his coming. We are to “Live in the light of that day even before it appears,” as Paul said today in Romans. Yes, we are to live with uncertainty, but an uncertainty about those things that really do not matter, if our certainty is in the one who is with us and will continue to be with us, Jesus Christ.

Advent is a time to refocus and regroup. Christ came as a baby and we celebrate. Christ will come again, of that we are assured. Christ comes into our midst today and that is where the living is today. And so we begin Advent this month, preparing for the revelation of just how much God loves us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In his name, Amen.

God loved YOU so much
that he gave his one and only Son,
that if YOU believe in him,
YOU will not perish
but YOU will have eternal life.
– John 3:16 Paraphrased

Pastor Jonathan Manthei

October 2018

October 24th is United Nations Day. Not only is this a day for us to pray for our nation and seek ways to support governments around the world working together to promote peace, we also see in scripture how Jesus is praying for the unity of the church which will come out of the lives of his disciples. There is a definite obligation for us as followers of Christ to uphold, to pull-together, to encourage, to comfort, to be there for another member of the community with comfort, cheer and love as we bind ourselves together in this community of Christ, known as the church.

Each part of the church is important, each member is important as the church unites together for one common purpose, to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. In this unity, this togetherness we find meaning and purpose to lives. We are together as the church, we are together with Christ and we are together with the Holy Spirit. In this togetherness, we draw strength for our Christian journey. None of us can stand alone. As Solomon also said, “If two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Our roots need to be strong as we journey through this life. Our roots need to be strong in Christ, and they need to be strong in each other. We need to reach out to each other to secure our faith. As we grow stronger together, we grow stronger in our individual faith life. As our faith grows stronger, we can reach out to others and help their faith to mature. Not only as individuals, but the church as a whole needs to reach out to other churches so that our faith will mature and grow strong.

The modern Christian martyr, Dietrick Bonhoeffer, says in his book, “Life Together” these words about the importance of Christian fellowship and “rubbing elbows” with one another as we share ourselves in the community of faith. He says: “God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother/sister, in the mouth of a man/ woman. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother, his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.”

The Bible pictures the church of Jesus Christ as a building, and each believer is a block in that building. Peter said that we, “as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). And Paul said that we are “being joined together” (Ephesians 2:21) and “are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (v.22).

People with a variety of backgrounds, abilities, interests, and needs make up Christ’s church, so uniting in a common purpose is not an easy process. Yet when we let the Lord do His work among us, shaping us and assigning our place in the structure, we become part of a strong, solid edifice.

Yes, we are all different. But God is building an enduring church. May we continue to be strong and secure, enduring in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

September 2018

September 17th is Citizenship Day. Although we may be thankful for all the privileges we enjoy as United States citizens, ultimately we realize our citizenship is in heaven. We realize at times the world around us can seem to be a very strange and difficult place in which to live. Earthly thinking mankind has little in common with heavenly-minded believers. The people of the world seldom agree with the children of God. In our lives of faith in an unbelieving world we wage war against everything that opposes God.

Even though we strive for everything heavenly the earthly still creeps into our thoughts and lives. As selfish and prideful human beings we find a certain sense of satisfaction in getting credit or even praise for things that we do. Jesus sent out his disciples with power to do great things. Of course, they came back boasting of the great things they had done. Yet there was something far more important than what they had done. “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (LUKE 10:20). Have you thought about the great joy that is yours because your name is written in heaven? There are millions who are lost. By grace we are saved.

By faith through grace God has forgiven all of our sins. Rather than being locked out of heaven the gates of heaven are open to each and every one of us. During our time of grace here on earth we daily strive for everything heavenly. To have our name written in heaven moves us to focus on eternity. “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 CORINTHIANS 9:25). God’s crown for us is eternal. We strive for everything heavenly.

This life can be filled with heartache and sorrow, trials and temptations, disasters and difficulties. But again and again the Lord reminds us to keep focused on that which is heavenly. Focusing our thoughts on the sure certainty of eternity is a great and glorious comfort for us every day. Our present is much more pleasant knowing that heaven is our home. This takes work and diligent efforts to not let the attractions of this earth become distractions from heaven. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (HEBREWS 12:1). Sin can easily entangle. Scripture describes sin like a net that catches some unaware. Strive for everything heavenly.

Our citizenship is in heaven. These are words that need to constantly echo in our minds. Then they will become part of our joyful Christian lives. We live in a world that could cause us to stumble and fall. We battle against Satan who seeks our souls. Even our own sinful flesh causes doubts to enter our minds and lives. Rejoice that we are not alone. Our Savior, Christ Jesus, is with us. Even more, our Savior prays for us. Christ, God’s Son, and as God himself prays for us. Who will stand against his prayers?!? “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (JOHN 15:15-17). God’s word is the truth. In faith we can put behind us everything earthly. With God’s strength we daily strive for everything heavenly. In Jesus name, Amen.

Pastor Jonathan Manthei

God loved YOU so much
that he gave his one and only Son,
that if YOU believe in him,
YOU will not perish
but YOU will have eternal life.
– John 3:16 Paraphrased

August 2018

With record high temperatures in our area at this time some people may be having a little trouble staying cool. We all enjoy the sun and the warm weather that it brings but it does seem there are times when the sun can be too much. Its heat too intense, That’s why we need shade.

We have a shade of sorts. We’re told it by name. It is the Most High, the Almighty. Those names describe God as the Supreme Being; he is the pinnacle of all power, glory, wisdom, and grace. No one is greater than the Almighty Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is also the God of promise. He is the one who promises to love, protect, and prosper his people.

The Lord tells us what his own name means and how his shadow is extended: “The Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin.” (Exodus 34:6)

The psalm writer says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.”

All who dwell – who sit down and settle – in the Lord’s shadow have shelter and rest. God’s shadow is still cast over us, proving that he is in control, guiding and protecting.

This is a shadow of love in the form of the cross. This is the shadow of Christ our Savior. This shadow encompasses all who call on the name of the Most High for salvation.

God is our shelter from the heat of this evil, wicked world. His shadow is still over us. And it’s the proof of his presence. God is with us. He will not forsake his people. By his grace, we are able to stand in his presence. The proof is his shadow. God is over us. And in his presence we find refuge and strength. In the shadow of his cross we find forgiveness, rest, and salvation.

In Jesus name, Amen

Pastor Jonathan Manthei

June 2018

As we celebrate Father’s day this month, let’s consider some things about the best Father of all.

As we come to the last chapter of the gospel of Luke, we are reminded that God’s love wins. We have a Father in heaven who gave us His Son, Jesus Christ as a gift of love, a gift of life.

Our Father’s gift conquers sin, it conquers death, it conquers brokenness and separation… Our Father’s gift overcomes the world and brings life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Jesus, God’s gift, was crucified for our sins. He obeyed his Father and died a terrible, cruel, excruciatingly painful death on the cross. All the sins of all humanity were all laid on him as he suffered on that cross, and he was punished for each and every one of our sins as if he had been guilty of them all. He was crushed for our iniquities, he was wounded for our transgressions, he was punished for our sins; the chastisement that brought us peace fell on him. He was despised and afflicted, for our sakes. He, the innocent, suffered so that we, the guilty, might be set free. What a gift! What a work of heaven for humanity!

What the Bible shows us is that God not only had a plan for Jesus, God the heavenly Father has a plan for every one of us! God, the heavenly Father, wants every one of us to become His children and follow His plan for our lives. As fathers here on earth, we need to know God and read his plan for our lives and walk in it first, so that we can help our children come to know the plan for their lives and walk in it too.

Our heavenly Father gave us the perfect gift! He gave us Jesus. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life! He reveals the Father’s plan for us! If we father our children as God demonstrates for us, we will teach our children his plan for their lives and help them follow in it. We will show them how to walk in the plan by walking in it ourselves and calling on them to follow. We follow faithfully in Jesus name, Amen.

Pastor Jonathan Manthei

MAY 2018

Jesus had promised the disciples before the ascension that the spirit would come to them, the counselor would come to give them power. It has been 10 days since the ascension and the disciples were waiting in the upper room. Can you imagine the conversations which were going on? Some probably wanted to leave, others were going to wait to see what would happen. Some might have doubted anything would happen, others remembering Jesus’ appearance before had the faith to wait.

Then the great moment arrived. The Spirit of the master, Jesus rested upon the disciples and filled them with the gifts of the Spirit, just as Jesus had promised. The Holy Spirit came of its own free will and empowered the disciples to spread the word of God through out the lands.

Think about this. The Spirit of the Master, the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit came and entered the souls of those people on Pentecost and collided with their own spirits. We all have our own spirit within us, it is the spirit in us which drives us, empowers us, embarrasses us, frighten us, causes trouble for us, a spirit which wants only what is good for me, myself and I. We have a spirit which is defiant, which takes pride in itself, which wants to be in control, which wants to be independent, which wants to control the self.
It is the Spirit within us that the Holy Spirit comes to and wants to change.

It is God’s Spirit which came to those people that day of Pentecost and collided with their own Spirit. It is the same Spirit which comes to us on our Baptism and collides with our Spirit for control of our lives. It is that same Spirit which comes through the word and the sacraments and collides with our spirit day in and day out.

Because of our fallen nature, we are filled with pride, pride in ourselves, pride which says we don’t need a God in our lives. And it is with that spirit in us that the Holy Spirit comes to replace each day.

You and I are filled with pride, a pride which says we do not need a God, or anything in our lives. But God comes to us with His Spirit to replace our spirit of pride with His Spirit of love and kindness.

God does not want us to “fall” but to live in Him and His Holy Spirit. Through Jesus, the work of salvation was begun and now through the Holy Spirit that work of salvation will continue in our lives. God wants us to live in Him and through Him.

An unknown pastor wrote:

“Once in a while the Spirit comes. Sometimes he stings the soul, sometimes he shakes it, sometimes he troubles our conscious, sometimes he soothes it, sometimes he heals our pain, sometimes he just helps us to endure it. He lifts the clouds just long enough for us to glimpse the City that was not made with hands in order that we can go back and take up our cross and follow him.”

The Spirit has been with the Church since the first Pentecost, so that it could enter our spirit and enable us to be the kind of people God intended for us to be. Each day we need to renew ourselves and allow God’s Holy Spirit to replace our pride full spirit so that we can bear His cross in this world.

The Holy Spirit works constantly with our spirit so that our lives may be transformed, be made new and rewarding.

Pastor Jonathan Manthei

April 2018

Jesus said that he would rise on the third day and did exactly what he said. As
impossible and hopeless as it may have seemed to those who saw his lifeless body
taken off the cross and placed in the tomb, Jesus still did it. And no matter how
impossible and hopeless the situation may seem to us, he will absolutely do what
he has promised – Easter assures it to you! Look to what the Lord promises you
in the Bible and know that God will do what he says. That is the living hope that
allows you to even stand in a cemetery at the graveside of a fellow Christian, and
stand with hope-filled grief, that while the separation is hard, it is only temporary.
Jesus has transformed death, to be the doorway to life eternal for all those who
believe in him.
This world holds out a lot of promises. A promise to provide hope – relationships,
careers, recreational activities, new car, bigger home, more money, optimism based
on optimism. While the things of this world may bring some temporary satisfaction
and joy, they are hollow, inevitably leaving a person looking for something more.
The risen Christ has given you a solid and living hope, a hope that is not based
upon the ever changing things of this world, but a hope that is based upon a
powerful and faithful Savior-God, a Savior who gave his life for you, a Savior
that not even death could prevent him from doing what he promised. That is the
living hope that is yours because, Christ has risen! He has risen indeed! Amen.

God loved YOU so much
that he gave his one and only Son,
that if YOU believe in him,
YOU will not perish
but YOU will have eternal life.
– John 3:16 Paraphrased

Pastor Jonathan Manthei