Improve your life with insight from the Bible - 2011

The message for Sunday, December 18, 2011:

Mary had a baby (what it's like to follow God)

This Sunday we'll look at people's expectations and what it's really like when you're following God's plan. Our key verse will be Luke 2:7:

[Mary] gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Celebrate Christmas with us -- and learn of God's mercy to you -- this Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

We'll also focus on this topic at the Bible Study Wednesday, December 21, at 6:30 p.m.

God, help us follow you and participate in your great plan for creation. And help us to celebrate all our days. Thank you. Amen.

The message for Sunday, December 11, 2011:

Remember Lot's wife

Jesus said it was essential that people remember Lot's wife.

Uh oh. Maybe you've never even heard of her.

This week we'll talk about Lot's wife, and why it's essential to remember her unfortunate story. The key point: Stay focused on where you're headed, and don't look back!

God, help us to stay focused on what you tell us and to not look back at sinful areas we're leaving behind. Thank you. Amen.

The message for Sunday, December 4, 2011:

What the Bible says about Jesus' return

The Bible says Jesus is coming back. Come be encouraged by the good news!

God, help us to be ready for the return of Jesus. And help us to do all we can in the meantime to advance your kingdom. Thank you. Amen.

The message for Sunday, November 27, 2011:

What the Bible says about heaven

The Bible says that there will be justice at the end of time. But Jesus taught that we don't have to wait for the end. He said the kingdom of heaven is near, growing in the mix of regular life.

God, help us to see the many ways your kingdom is already present on earth today. And help us to bring your love, mercy and justice to people who need it. Thank you. Amen.

The message for Sunday, November 20, 2011:

Give thanks with a grateful heart

We're celebrating Thanksgiving by giving thanks to God for this year. That's something you can do any time!

God, thanks for this year and for all the many ways you have shown your love for us. Help us to be aware of your presence in our lives. Thank you. Amen.

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign: What you say sets your courseThe message for Sunday, November 13, 2011:

What you say sets your course

The Bible says that very large ships can be guided by a small rudder, and our tongues can have the same effect on us: they're small, but they can determine where we wind up.

This Sunday we'll look at two important concepts from the Bible related to what we talk about.

The first: sometimes people use their tongues to both bless God and to curse people made in the image of God. The Bible says that shouldn't happen! It's to our advantage to speak blessing about others, even if they don't deserve it.

The second concept related to our speech is even more difficult for some people. The Bible says we need to work hard but give God the credit for the good that comes our way. The Bible records many stories of people and nations who became proud instead of thanking God for their blessings. None of the stories end well.

Taming your tongue and choosing thank God for God's provision are habits worth developing. Come Sunday at 9:30 a.m. to learn more.

God, help us to use our tongues to give you glory and to bless the creation that you have made. Thank you. Amen.

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - God's wisdom is pure and peaceableThe message for Sunday, November 6, 2011:

God's wisdom is pure and peaceable

James also says that some wisdom is "earthly, unspiritual, devilish." Who wants that? That's not good, even around Halloween. James says it comes from bitter envy and selfish ambition, and it brings disorder and wickedness of every kind. Not good!

But James says the wisdom from God "is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy."

We'll also look at the story if Israel on its way to the promised land, complaining about having to eat the same food day after day. They didn't thank God that they had something to eat in the desert, and they missed the miracle of God's provision.

Giving thanks often opens our eyes to the miracles of God all around us.

Join us Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and November 9 at 6:30 p.m. as we talk about these important concepts!

God, thank you for all your amazing provision for us, and for the miracles that surround us every day. Help us to recognize them. And help us to receive your wisdom and follow it. Thank you! Amen.

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - Mercy triumphs over judgmentThe message for Sunday, October 30, 2011:

Mercy triumphs over judgment

This week we'll look at an important concept from the second chapter of James: the value of showing mercy to others. James writes, "Judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment." Join us Sunday at 9:30 to hear more about this important idea. After the service we will pray for anyone who needs to experience mercy.

God, thank you that mercy triumphs over judgment. Help us to be merciful to others, and help us to receive your mercy. Thank you. Amen.

The message for Sunday, October 23, 2011:

Consider your trials nothing but joy

The book of James is full of practical advice and helpful tips for living. The first chapter says something very surprising: "Whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy." That's not an easy perspective to maintain! But it's a very strategic and helpful one, and it's worth the effort.

James says, "The testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing." Mature and complete, lacking in nothing! That might be worth enduring for!

God, help us to realize the good in all we encounter, and help us to endure until we are mature and complete, lacking in nothing. Thank you. Amen.

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - The earth is the Lord's

The message for Sunday, September 25, 2011:

The earth is the Lord's

Psalm 24 says something surprising. It says the earth is the belongs to God.

Some people hearing this might be offended. After all, they've worked long and hard to acquire the property they own. Who is God to claim something they've worked for?

But the surprise of Psalm 24 goes even further than God's claim on physical property. Psalm 24 says that not only does the whole earth belong to God, so do all the people. Even you! You are claimed by God.

This Sunday, we'll look at the encouragement that comes from knowing we are loved and claimed by God.

God, thank you that the whole earth belongs to you. Thank you that you claim us as your own. Be with all the people who don't know they belong to you, and help them discover your great love. Thank you. Amen.

The message for Sunday, September 18, 2011:

You are healed by Jesus

Peter writes about Jesus "by his wounds, you have been healed."

Peter saw many amazing physical healings accomplished in Jesus' name. In one, a man who had been lame from birth (and was 40 years old) began walking and leaping and praising God.

When a crowd assembled, Peter told them that Jesus not only healed the man, Jesus made it possible for people who had died to live again. The temple authorities didn't like Peter saying that, and they jailed Peter for the disturbance.

When Peter was asked to defend the healing the next day, he said about Jesus, "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved."

(You can read the story in Acts 3 and 4.)

God, thank you that you love us. Thank you that we have been healed by the wounds Jesus suffered. Help us to receive that healing. Thank you. Amen.

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - Long may our land be brightThe message for Sunday, September 11, 2011:

Long may our land be bright

On Patriots’ Day, we'll sing patriotic songs, ask God's favor for our nation (and the other nations of the world), and discuss lessons from the ten-year anniversary of September 11.

One of the songs we'll sing has these lines:

Long may our land be bright
with freedom's holy light,
protect us by thy might
Great God, our king.

God, thank you that you have been our protector and defender, and that you have greatly blessed America over the years. Please help America become the nation you created it to be. Thank you. Amen.

The message for Sunday, September 4, 2011

Persist past the point of failure

A lot of times you can reach what looks like the point of failure. And much of the time it is an illusion. If you persist past it, you can often gain victory.

God, help us to give up on things that are not worth our time. And help us to persist on things that are worthwhile, no matter what they look like. Thank you. Amen.

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - Be brave. Ask for what you wantThe message for Sunday, August 28, 2011

Be brave. Ask for what you want.

Sunday we’ll come near the end of our look at Esther’s amazing story. Along the way we’ve learned not to fear what things look like, since you can’t tell how things will wind up by how they appear at the moment.

We’ve learned that it’s worth standing up for justice, no matter what the cost. We’ve learned that sometimes we’re put in particular places so we can take actions outside our comfort zones. This week we’ll hear how helpful it is to be brave and to ask for what you want.

God, the book of James says sometimes we don’t have because we don’t ask. Help us to be clear what’s good for us, and to bravely ask for it. Thank you. Amen.

The message for Sunday, August 21, 2011

Worship with the Silver Beatles

God, thank you for the gift of music. Thank you for creativity. Help us to be the people you called us to be. Thank you. Amen.

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - Your reward is never lostThe message for Sunday, August 14, 2011

Your reward is never lost

Sometimes it seems like people don't get what they deserve. Sometimes the unjust prosper and the righteous suffer. Justice is often slow, if it comes at all. But the Bible promises that even if justice never comes on earth, it will come for sure at the end.

This Sunday we'll look at Esther 6 and the story of how Mordecai's forgotten good deed saved his own life.

If it looks like your good deeds are being forgotten, it may be that God is just saving the reward for the time when it will matter the most.

God, thank you that we can trust you with our lives, no matter how things appear in the moment. Thank you for the promise that you forget the sins we have confessed, but you never forget the good deeds we have done. We praise you. Amen.

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - Haman built a tall gallows

Haman built a tall gallows

Haman was proud of his wealth, his family, his promotions, his position, and his relationship with the ruler of the land. He had 99% of what he wanted.

But, he said, none of it mattered to him. “All this does me no good so long as I see the Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.”

Mordecai worshipped GodMordecai refused to honor Haman by bowing down to him. His courage stood out, because everyone else bowed to Haman and his wishes.

Although Haman had far greater influence on the king than Mordecai, Haman despised Mordecai because of his courage. To solve the problem, Haman built a tall gallows where he could publicly hang Mordecai.

Haman didn’t know what others have discovered: you can’t get enough of something you don’t need.

Haman would never be able to get enough revenge because he didn’t need it.

(The same is true for you!)

Haman would never get enough honor from people because he didn’t need it. (The same is true for you!) You are a beloved child of God. Why would you want people to praise you?

What Haman really needed was to forgive and be humble.

You may have memorized a proverb about this. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

We’ll talk about that this Sunday as well as one other observation from the book of Esther: you can’t tell how things will end up by their present appearances. Things looked very good (for Haman) and very bad (for Mordecai and the people of Israel). But they didn’t wind up that way.

It’s the same for you. Don’t be proud if things look amazing; don’t be afraid if they look awful. Keep working and talk to God about it. You can’t tell how things will turn out by how they look in the moment.

Join us Sunday at 9:30 a.m. for an enlightening conversation. And mark your calendars for August 21, when the Silver Beatles will be with us during the worship service. The Silver Beatles are Southern California’s premier Beatles cover band, and they’ll be helping us remember lots of great Beatles music on August 21. It’ll be a special event you won’t want to miss. To reserve your space, call 858-454-6459. Or you can reserve your space in person this Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

God, thank you that our present circumstances don’t reveal how things will end for us.

Let your kingdom come in our lives. We praise you. Amen.

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - Worship God aloneLa Jolla Lutheran Church sign: Who do you honor?The message for Sunday,
July 24, 2011

Who do you honor?
Worship God alone

Haman liked being the center of attention. He especially liked feeling superior to everyone around. So when the king told everyone to bow in Haman's presence, Haman was especially pleased.

His pleasure ended one day when his servants pointed out that, although everyone else bowed in his presence, Mordecai did not.

Sometimes people can have 99% of things going their way, and 1% can spoil it for them. That's how it was for Haman.

Haman was furious that Mordecai wouldn't bow in his presence. He decided to take action that befitted a tyrant: he decided to kill Mordeci.

We'll hear the story of what happened this Sunday. Join us at 9:30 for an engaging message.

God, thank you for the example of people who refuse to bow to others or to other gods. Help us to be faithful to you and to worship you alone. Thank you. Amen.

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign: Queen Vashti's rebellion. Sunday 9:30 a.m.The message for Sunday, July 10, 2011:

Who's the master of your house?

Queen Vashti had reached her limit. So when her drunken husband summoned her to show off her beauty near the end of a seven-day party, she refused.

The king's advisors recognized immediately that the queen's actions could set a powerful example to all the other women of the kingdom. They advised the king to pass a law that Vashti could never see the king again and that she would be replaced as queen. They didn't want to risk her influencing the king or the culture any further.

The king took their advice. He sent letters to all 127 provinces under his control. Besides banning Vashti, the king declared in the letter that every man should be master in his own house.

This Sunday we'll look at Queen Vashti's story and consider the consequences of taking actions that defy social norms or powerful people. We'll also consider a question provoked by the king's edict: "Who's the master of your house?"

Visit Sunday at 9:30 a.m. for an interesting look at the first chapter of the book of Esther.

God, thank you for examples of courage and bravery. Thank you for people who are willing to take positive action even if it goes against the social norms of the day. Help us to be wise in our choices. Thank you. Amen.

July 4 Celebration at La Jolla Lutheran Church Sunday 9:30 a.m.The message for Sunday, July 3, 2011:

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming

You know the words. But I bet you haven't pondered them lately. They're worth considering: the words of The Star Spangled Banner.

The song asks whether a person can see the flag that has been hidden all night in darkness -- the flag that "so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming."

From time to time we lose sight of something worthwhile. It disappears in the darkness. The next day we may wonder: is it still there? When dawn comes, will we still see it?

This Sunday we'll celebrate the Fourth of July weekend. We'll sing songs of thanks to God for the birth of our nation and we'll consider the worth of fighting for things of value -- and the relief at finding, after dark nights, that they are still there.

Pastor Mark will be back from vacation, and he's looking forward to seeing you as we celebrate the Fourth of July weekend on Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

God, thank you for times of reassurance, when we look out at dawn and find to our joy that the flag still waving. Help us to celebrate all you have done for our country. Glorify your name in America, God. Thank you. Amen.

The message for Sunday, June 19, 2011:

Jesus is always with you

The gospel of Matthew ends with a quote from Jesus that is worth remembering.

Jesus told his disciples, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." Think of that! Jesus has the ALL authority, on both earth or in heaven.

Then Jesus told his followers, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you."

We are charged with a great task -- to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all Jesus commanded. That's a big request! But Jesus followed the command with a great promise: "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

God, thank you that Jesus is always with us, and that he has all authority in heaven and earth. Help us to do our part. Thank you. Amen.

The message for Sunday, June 12, 2011:

Ask for more of God's Spirit

This Sunday is Pentecost, the anniversary of the day the gift of the Holy Spirit was given to Jesus' disciples. When the eleven disciples recieved the Holy Spirit, they all began speaking about God's mighty deeds in foreign languages. A crowd gathered, and by the end of the day, 3,000 people had become followers of Jesus.

God, fill us with more of your Holy Spirit. And let the message about Jesus spread around the world. Thank you. Amen.

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign: Stay focused. Do your workThe message for Sunday, June 5, 2011:

Stay focused
Do your work

Steven Pressfield says, "The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight."

That's not to minimize the danger at other times. Some people never get started on their life's work. Others start, but give up along the way. Only a few make it to where the finish line is in sight. And then. . . And then, with victory within view, some of these precious few don't make it the last few feet.

It's hard to believe someone would get so close and then give up. But you probably have evidence of it in your own life. Some people lose the weight they want -- for a week or two. Some people pay off all their debt -- and then take on more. Some people get projects within hours of completion and then abandon them. College degrees. Novels. Musical compositions. Inventions. Millions of great ideas are stuck in closets and basements, 99% finished.

Nehemiah 6 tells about Nehemiah's temptation to quit when he was near the finish line. Nehemiah was in charge of building a wall around Jerusalem. The only thing left to make the wall secure was to put the doors in the gates. Two enemies called to Nehemiah to meet them in a distant village (where they could get him to stop work). Nehemiah said something worth repeating if you're ever tempted to leave work God has given you to do: "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it to come down to you?"

God, thank you for the privilege of doing great work. Help us to finish all the work you call us to do. Amen.

The message for Sunday, May 29, 2011:

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it - Goethe / AnsterWhatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it

In 1835, John Anster created a paraphrase of Goethe's Faust, which had been written in German.

It's difficult to translate anything accurately. But to translate poetry, you face two choices. You can abandon meter and rhyme in the translation. Or you can produce a new work that follows the sense of the original but isn't very accurate in details. Anster chose to do the latter.

Probably the most famous portion of Anster's epic poem is this:

Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute;
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it,
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

This week we'll encourage people to act on their great dreams, and we'll take a realistic look at what it's like to be in the middle of a big project.

Nehemiah 4 is one example of someone in the middle of a project. Nehemiah wanted to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. But he was facing opposition. You might think everyone in Jerusalem would be in favor of such a thing. Enemies regularly plundered the people, since they had no protective barrier around them. Rebuilding the walls only made sense.

But Nehemiah had opposition from the start. When the project was half done, and the gaps in the wall were beginning to be filled, the opponents grew violent. Nehemiah's enemies planned to kill the workers.

At that point, Nehemiah did two great things. First he prayed, asking for God's protection. Then he set a guard. (Don't do one without the other!) From that point on, construction continued, but the workers were armed for battle.

Hearing the story of Nehemiah will encourage you as you face challenges while working on your own great projects. (And if you're not working on a great project yet, it's time to get started!) Come be encouraged this Sunday at 9:30 a.m. As John Anster wrote:

Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute; Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.

God, help us to quickly begin work on the great ideas you give us. And help us to finish the work. Thank you. Amen.

The message for Sunday, May 22, 2011:

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign: Come celebrate our 66th birthdayFollow God's lead

When Nehemiah heard the state of Jerusalem, he broke down and wept. For days. There had been decades of work going on to restore Jerusalem, and Nehemiah was expecting a good report. Instead, Nehemiah heard that, because the wall surrounding the city was broken down, the people were in constant danger and disgrace.

As Nehemiah was grieving, he confessed the sins of his family and his people that lead to the present state. Then he began claiming a promise of God.

The pattern he established is a great one for us: compare our actions to God's word, confess our shortcomings, and claim God's promises. This Sunday we'll examine this pattern and discuss what happens when people begin to change.

After worship we'll celebrate our 66th birthday with cake and ice cream. This would be a great week to visit!

God, thank you for your word, and for telling us both the things that will help us and the things that will hurt us. Help us to pay attention and follow your lead. Thank you. Amen.

The message for Sunday, May 15, 2011:

Give thanks and talk about GodLa Jolla Lutheran Church sign: Give thanks and talk about God

There is a song of David recorded in 1 Chronicles 16. The song begins:

O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him, tell of all his wonderful works. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered.

It's good to remember the wonderful works God has done.

This Sunday we'll continue our series on Ezra and Nehemiah with some reflections on the importance of working when you are able.

God, thank you for all you have done in history and in creation. Help us to recognize both what you have already done and what you are doing today. Thank you. Amen.

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign: if you're going through hell, pick up the pace La Jolla Lutheran Church sign: Jesus saves. Details inside. Pressfield quote

The message for Sunday, May 8, 2011:

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - You are God's templeYou are God's temple;
God's Spirit dwells in you

The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed when Nebuchadnezzar invaded.

After several decades, Ezra, one of the captives taken to Babylon, received permission from a new king to rebuild the temple.

The project to rebuild was started with enthusiasm. But after a couple years, it hit a snag. Building permits were withdrawn. There was so much opposition to the project that work stopped for ten years.

If you've been involved with a building project, you may have a lot of sympathy for Ezra. One of the most beautiful houses in La Jolla, a project so interesting that it was featured in Architectural Digest, couldn't get permits for more than five years. It makes you wonder how many other great designs have been abandoned since people didn't have that much time to waste.

Sometimes you're working on something good and worthwhile and it's opposed so fiercely you wonder if you should keep going.

This week we'll talk about working on long-term projects. And while we're looking at Ezra's attempts to rebuild Jerusalem's temple, we'll discover that God's working on a long-term building project, too. The Bible says that we are God's temple, and God's Spirit dwells in us. So how is that building project going?

God, thank you that we are your temple. When you want to do some rebuilding in our lives, help us to give you quick permission. Thank you. Amen.

The message for Sunday, May 1, 2011:

What to do when a
task seems impossible

This week we're starting a series on big, worthwhile (and therefore frustrating) challenges. Should you get involved with one? If you're working on a project, should you keep going when it gets hard?

Dr. Martin Luther King mosaic made of Rubiks Cubes by Pete FecteauLast year, Pete Fecteau volunteered to create a mosaic of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The mosaic was 8 1/2 feet by 22 feet. Big.

The size would have made it hard enough to complete. But Pete's mosaic was made out of Rubik's Cubes, all perfectly rotated to the right positions to form three faces of Dr. King.

Two weeks before Pete's mosaic had to be finished, he was only 40 percent done. Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood, an artist working on her own massive project, saw Pete unloading 2,500 rented Rubik’s Cubes from the back of a delivery truck. He told her, “In the inside, I’m screaming a little.”

Maybe you know the feeling. Working as hard and as fast as you can. Smiling on the outside. But inside? Screaming, just a little.

During the month of May, we'll look at Seth Godin's ideas from The Dip and Linchpin, as well the lives and ideas of a number of Biblical writers, all talking about great projects that got frustrating.

Mostly we'll focus on Nehemiah, who wept when he heard that the wall around Jerusalem was broken down, its gates destroyed by fire. Because of the wall's condition, the survivors in Jerusalem were in constant danger from attack.

Many people who heard about Jerusalem thought, "That's really too bad." A few people thought, "Someone should do something about that." Nehemiah thought, "I have got to do something about that." But once he started, it became very difficult to complete his project.

Nehemiah's story will encourage you if you're in the middle of a big project that seems impossible. Maybe your project is your marriage. Or your latest business endeavor. Or something else worthwhile. Whatever it is, come be encouraged Sundays in May at 9:30 a.m.

God, thank you that you give us great ideas we can work on. Help us to choose the ones that would be best, and to persevere to completion. Thank you. Amen.

The message for Easter Sunday, April 24, 2011:

It's hard to keep
a good man down

When Jesus was crucified, many people assumed that his influence would quickly be over. Instead, it has grown every year since.

Join us Easter Sunday at 9:30 a.m. to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and the impact Christianity has had on our culture.

Romans 8:28 says, "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." All things. Even something as horrible as a crucifixion.

Sometimes, in the middle of a terrible situation, the promise that all things work together for good is hard to believe, especially if the situation lasts a long time or is especially painful. But it's comforting to know that every bad event, no matter how tragic or prolonged, can be redeemed by God and made into something good.

Tonight at 7 p.m. we will hear the story from the Bible of Jesus' death. On Easter Sunday we will hear the story of his resurrection. The Bible reports that when the disciples first heard from the women that Jesus was alive they thought it was an idle tale. Perhaps you agree with them. Or perhaps you've discovered in your own life that very painful things can be transformed by God. Whatever your situation, you'll benefit from hearing this Sunday's message.

Good Friday, April 22, 7 p.m.
Easter Sunday, April 24, 9:30 a.m.

God, thank you for the promise that all things work together for good. Restore people to greatness this year. Help everyone to realize the depth of their callings. Thank you. Amen.

The message for Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011:

Appearances are
deceiving you

People are being fooled by appearances all the time. Some things that people think are great turn out to be worthless. (You may have owned some stocks like this.) Other items are ignored by people even though they have tremendous value (like Vincent Van Gogh's paintings during his lifetime).

One of the surprising consequences of people trusting appearances is that they react opposite to what makes sense. When a serious problem is discovered, admitted and corrected at a place, people leave (but they stay when the problem is going on and hidden). Similarly, people flood into an investment bubble when they should avoid it like the plague.

Sunday we'll talk about appearances that deceive people while we celebrate Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is a day remembering Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem, five days before he was crucified. Many people at the original Palm Sunday celebration thought it marked the beginning of Jesus' political career. They were fooled by appearances, and they were stunned five days later when Jesus died. At the crucifixion, many thought it was the end of Jesus' influence. They were fooled by appearances, and they were stunned three days later at reports that Jesus was resurrected.

Join us Sunday for the first of four Holy Week services telling the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.

Palm Sunday April 17, 9:30 a.m.
Maundy Thursday, April 21, 7 p.m.
Good Friday, April 22, 7 p.m.
Easter Sunday, April 24, 9:30 a.m.

God, we thank you that Jesus is not deceived by appearances. Help us to value what is truely worthwhile and to ignore things that appear dazzling but have no substance. Thank you. Amen.

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - Lessons from the life of a Russian JewThe message for April 10, 2011:

Lessons from the life
of a Russian Jew

Many parts of the Bible talk about how helpful (and necessary) it is to endure to the end.

This week we'll conclude our look at virtues endorsed by Napoleon Hill in his book Think and Grow Rich. This week's topic: persistence and endurance.

Along the way we'll see what we can learn from a Russian immigrant who fled persecution, coming to America by way of China. She established a store with prices so low that vendors refused to supply goods to her -- so she went around the vendors, finding new ways to purchase goods for her customers. Hopefully on hearing her story, you'll decide to persevere and endure in your own life challenges.

God, we thank you for Jesus' promise that "those who endure to the end will be saved." Help us to rejoice and endure to the end. Thank you. Amen.

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - Rejoice Always. Pray without ceasing.The message for April 3, 2011:

Rejoice always.
Pray without ceasing.

Paul writes that we should "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

In general, it's good advice. Napoleon Hill said people with a positive mental attitude did better in business. But should you really rejoice always?

One of the best ways to interpret sayings like that in the Bible is to look to see what Jesus did. In Gethsemane, Jesus was facing the prospect of dying on the cross the next day. Jesus told God honestly what he thought. There was no rejoicing. In its place was trust.

This Sunday we'll talk about the benefits of rejoicing and praying without ceasing. Join us for an interesting conversation Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

God, we have lots to rejoice about. Thank you. Many places in the world are in distress and need your kingdom to come. Reign over all the earth, God, and let your will be done. Thank you. Amen.

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - Ask God for great business partnersThe message for March 27, 2011:

Ask God for great business partners

One of the recommendations Napoleon Hill makes in his book Think and Grow Rich is that you have a Mastermind Group, a group of people to help you think about the best ways to achieve your goals.

This Sunday we'll consider Hill's advice and what the Bible says about business partners. Join us for an interesting conversation Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

God, help us to have your insight and wisdom for the people we should have as advisors, as business partners, and as friends. Thank you for your great mercy for us, and thank you for the inspiration of your Holy Spirit. Amen.




The message for March 20, 2011:

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - Have faith and persistHave faith and persist

Throughout Napoleon Hill's book Think and Grow Rich, Hill emphasizes the importance of persisting. He says it's helpful to know your goal precisely, to make plans for how you'll bring it about, and to implement the plans. But at some point along the way -- or perhaps at many points along the way -- he says you'll be tempted to quit, no matter how good your goal and your plan.

Hill writes, "More than five hundred of the most successful men this country has ever known told the author their greatest success came just one step beyond the point at which defeat had overtaken them. Failure is a trickster with a keen sense of irony and cunning. It takes great delight in tripping one when success is almost within reach."

This week we'll look at having faith and persisting, two qualities Hill said were common to the leaders he interviewed. We hope you can join us for this interesting conversation Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

God, thank you that you do not give up on us. Help us to persist on things that are worthwhile. Thank you. Amen.

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - Achieve your goalsThe message for March 13, 2011:

Achieve your goals

All March we'll be looking at how you can make faster progress on your goals and dreams. This week we'll look at the importance of taking action, even if you don't know exactly how things will work out. But the action you take has to be in line with God's values, or you may regret the results. The title of this week's message is "Noble people plan noble things."

God, help us to know what would be best in your eyes and to accomplish it. Thank you. Amen.

The message for March 6, 2011:

It helps to know
where you are headed

Napoleon Hill says one of the first things to accomplishing your goals is to be specific what you want. People who say they want "more money" are not being specific enough -- a dime is more, and that probably isn't what they want. So what is it that you want, exactly? Until you know your true goal, it's hard to head there.

This Sunday we're starting a new series on accomplishing your goals and dreams. This week's topic is "It helps to know where you are headed." The Bible says Jesus was able to endure the cross "for the sake of the joy before him." Because Jesus knew what would result from his sacrifice, he was able to accomplish his purpose, even though it was costly and painful. Where are you headed? What do you want to do?

God, help us to know what would be best and to pursue it with all we've got. Thank you. Amen.

The message for February 27, 2011:

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - Learn to discern good advice from badLearn to discern
good advice from bad

In a decisive battle recorded in the Bible, a king got conflicting advice from two men. They both claimed to be giving good insight. But one of the men gave advice prompted by lying spirits, and the other gave advice directly from God. Unfortunately, the king went with the advice he liked rather than the advice that came from God. His bad choice lead to his death on the battlefield.

Most of the time, the consequences of the choices we make not so perilous. But many of us have decisions made decades ago that we would undo if we could. When we face competing ideas, how can we make good choices?

The message this Sunday is "Learn to discern good advice from bad." It will likely be one of the most helpful you ever hear. Pastor Mark will lay out practical tips for how to evaluate the ideas that come to you -- how to tell ideas that are divinely inspired from ideas that should be avoided at all costs.

You'll want to be present in person for this message, Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

The message for February 20, 2011:

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - Speak the words God gives youSpeak the words God gives you

Jesus told his followers they would face persecution. He said, however, that they didn't need to plan their defense in advance. “When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.”

That sounds great! No need to plan; go with what the Holy Spirit prompts you to say.

Some people might assume that the Holy Spirit would give people words that would get them out of trouble, that would help them to escape from danger. But that's not always the case. The Holy Spirit will give you words that are strategic.

Imagine yourself a soldier. Sometimes the orders that come are essential to the overall operation but are costly to the individuals who carry them out. Sometimes soldiers die in pursuit of a strategic objective.

Stephen is an example of this. When he faced persecution, he did as Jesus said: he spoke out what the Holy Spirit gave him to say. It cost him his life; he was stoned to death. But a young man who watched the stoning approvingly later became one of the biggest advocates for Christianity in the Western world.

This week we'll look at the costs and joys of speaking out the words given you by the Holy Spirit. Join us for an interesting conversation.

The message for February 13, 2011:

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign. Speak words that build up, encourage, and consoleSpeak words that build up,
encourage and console

Some people think that prophecy helps people know what to do in the future. But prophecy is often weak on details. It's helpful as encouragement, but usually it won't give you a blueprint of what to do when. At most, it lets you know the direction to head. The details get worked out on the journey.

When Joseph dreamed that his brothers would bow down to him, there was no mention that he might want to start learning Egyptian, since they were going to sell him into slavery in Egypt first. The prophecy was helpful in that it encouraged Joseph that his present circumstances weren't where he would eventually wind up. But it didn't give him any clues for how to get to the promise.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians that the gift of prophecy is given to the contemporary church so people can be built up, encouraged and consoled.

This Sunday, we'll talk about prophecy and how it helps people today. Join us at 9:30 a.m. for an interesting conversation.

If you can't make it in person, perhaps you'd still like to do our homework assignment: once each day this week, speak words to someone that build up, encourage or console.

God, thanks that prophets speak words that build up, encourage and console. Help us to do the same when we talk to people. Thank you. Amen.

The message for February 6, 2011:

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign.  Be encouraged. Remember God's promises.Be encouraged
Remember God's promises

God has made dozens of promises to you. Many of them are recorded in the Bible. They are promises that God has made to everyone. But God has also made some promises just to you. When you hear the promises of God, it's worth remembering them.

When Joseph was 17, he had a dream. In the dream, he was tying up grain with his eleven brothers. "Suddenly," he said, "my sheaf rose and stood upright, then your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf." His brothers didn't like the inference that they would bow to their younger brother.

That didn't stop Joseph. Joseph had a second dream. In it, the sun, moon and eleven stars were bowing down to him. This time it wasn't just his eleven brothers who objected. His father objected, too.

For the next 13 years, there was little sign that Joseph's dreams would come true. Jacob was sold into slavery, falsely accused, and thrown into prison. It would have been easy to be discouraged. Perhaps he was. But Joseph had the promise of God to remember. In his dream, when his sheaf rose, it happened suddenly. In life, that's how it happened, also. Joseph went from prisoner to Vice President of Egypt in a day.

This Sunday we'll talk about how helpful it is to remember God's promises, no matter what your circumstances look like. This is the second message in a four-part series on Hearing God's Voice.

God, help us to remember your many mighty promises to us. Thank you. Amen.

The message for January 30, 2011:

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - Learn to hear God's voiceLearn to hear God's voice

God is speaking to you constantly -- about big, life-changing opportunities and about small things you care about.

Unfortunately, God rarely shouts. God often whispers. And sometimes it’s hard to recognize God’s voice in the mix of all the people trying to get your attention.

Learning to recognize God’s voice is very worthwhile. And it’s possible. For you.

This Sunday we'll talk about hearing God's voice. We'll discover the many ways God speaks to people, and you'll learn some unexpected ways God is communicating with you.

This will be a very practical and helpful series, and we hope you can join us for it, Sundays at 9:30 a.m.

God, thank you that you are constantly speaking to us, warning us of danger, encouraging us to do great things, and letting us know when we are near the desires of our heart. Help us to hear your voice and recognize that it's you. Thank you. Amen.

The message for January 23, 2011:

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign - Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God AlmightySeeing God's glory

Isaiah had a vision of God's throne, where he saw creatures crying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of God's glory." If you look closely at creation, you'll quickly conclude that Isaiah was right -- the whole earth is filled with God's glory. But it's surprisingly easy to miss if you don't pay attention.

Centuries later, John saw a vision where he saw creatures crying, "Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come." John's vision was dramatic in its details and might get someone to think that God's glory was overwhelming. But John writes that "The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth." In spite of this, John says, "the world did not know him." In other words, it's possible to see God's glory and completely miss it.

God, when we see your glory, help us to recognize it! Thank you! Amen!

La Jolla Lutheran Church sign for 1/16/11 - Be doers who actThe message for January 16, 2011:

Be doers who act

The apostle James writes that Christians need to act on what they know. If you know the stock market is going to tumble but don't adjust your portfolio, your knowledge won't help. Knowledge without action is useless.

In a story Jesus told, a servant was given five bags of gold by his master, who then left on a journey. Jesus says the servant went off at once and traded with them until he had doubled his stake. When the master came back, he praised the servant, "Well done!" The servant was promoted and was told to "enter into the joy of your master."

In the story, it's clear that God expects a return on God's investment in us, and that God is pleased when we produce things of value. We're to creatively use the gifts and talents we have so that God can tell us, "Well done!" You're expected to produce something with the abilities you have.

This week we'll talk about the virtue of being what James calls "doers who act," and we'll look at an amazing example from the book of 1 Samuel. Jonathan, out on the battlefield, got tired of waiting for something to happen. He decided to take action. He told his armor bearer, "Let's go down to the enemy's garrison, just the two of us." Jonathan believed God could win a battle with many or with few. He thought winning battles wasn't based on numbers, and that two people could win as easily as an entire army.

God, when our days are over, we want to hear you say, "Well done!" Help us to be doers who act, even when our resources seem few. Thank you. Amen.

La Jolla Lutheran Church Sign - Love God with all you've got - Sunday 9:30 a.m.The message for January 9, 2011:

Love God with
all you've got

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he said it was to "Love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength." He said the second commandment was like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Then he said something astounding: "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Prophets, priests and leaders up to the time of Jesus had dictated hundreds of pages of commentary, and Jesus said their centuries of writing could all be summed up simply: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; love your neighbor; love yourself.

This week our banner on La Jolla Boulevard says, "Love God with all you've got." What we mean by that is to love God with your whole being: with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. But we also know that in our community, some people will read it the sign and get a different idea. They'll think "all you've got" refers not to their being, but to their possessions. And here some people balk.

Jesus was visited once by a young man who asked him, "What good deed must I do to have eternal life?"

Jesus told him, "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." Jesus hadn't yet reduced all those hundreds of pages of commentary into something easy to remember, so perhaps understandably the young man asked, "Which ones?"

Jesus said, "You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

The man had kept all those. He couldn't believe it was that simple. "What do I still lack?" he asked.

Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."

The Bible reports, "When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions."

Some of our neighbors, seeing our sign this week to "Love God with all you've got" will think we're talking about their possessions -- and they'll think that the cost is too high.

Ironically, Jesus is interested in something far greater than all their possessions: he wants all of them, all their being.

God, thank you that you want us to love you with all our heart, soul and mind. Thank you that you call us to love our neighbors as ourselves. We praise you. Amen.

La Jolla Lutheran Church - Ask God's blessing for your new yearThe message for January 2, 2011:

Bring your New Year resolutions to church Sunday, and we'll pray for them and for you, asking God's blessing for you in 2011.

During a special part of our worship service, we'll bless your dreams, hopes, goals, and plans for 2011.

You can enhance your experience by writing out a list of your top goals for 2011, for the next five years, and for your lifetime.

For some people creating that list will be easy. If you're not sure what your top goals are, think about your goals for various categories, then choose the ones that have the most energy for you.

Categories you could think about include these:

What do you want your job to be like? Your family? Your friends? Your hobbies? Your social activities? Your free time? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want your relationship with God to be like? What ideas do you keep thinking about, even though you've never taken action on them? What ideas come to you after you ask God to help you with your list?

God, thank you that you direct our paths. We praise you. Amen.