By Graham Glover

Wait, what? Protestants reject grace?

Huh? Isn’t it the other way around? Aren’t Protestants all about grace?

The popular narrative says that Protestantism was born to combat the false doctrines of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches who teach that we are forgiven and made right with God not by grace alone, but by grace and works. Protestantism claims that its intent was to “reform” the Christian faith back to its original and true teaching – a teaching that proclaims salvation is found only and exclusively in God’s grace.

By Paul Koch

There is a certain and definite uneasiness that comes with the sound of silence. When no one is speaking, when all distractions are removed, when you are left with just your own thoughts and feelings, you will find a desire to fill the silence with something. Almost anything. TV’s become background noise though no one is watching, people play music on the radio or busy themselves with some activity that takes their minds away from the silence. We may long to get away from it all, to escape to the mountains or a warm beach, to be away from the distractions and noise.

By Paul Koch

So here we are once again standing at that strange moment in the year when we are going to turn the page on the calendar. Tonight, at the ringing of midnight we will welcome in the year 2018 and say goodbye to 2017. There will be celebrations around the globe as different cultures mark the passing of time in their own way. Some will be at late night parties with friends and family, some will gather in big cities and countdown the final moments with total strangers. I, for one, look forward to a champagne toast and a kiss from my bride as we ring in the new year. One of the great things about New Year’s Eve is it’s a rare moment when we stop and consider the passing of time. We turn our attention to the years that have already gone by and the pondering of how many years we may have left. Amid the parties and the celebrations there is a real attempt on this night to reflect on our use of time.

By Bob Hiller

What is the image that comes to mind when you think of judgment? Think of our justice system where we say that justice is blind. The idea here is that you have lady justice holding up the scale. She weighs everything to see if she needs to execute with the sword. She is blind to persons or excuses. She simply weighs the evidence on the scale, feels the weight of the law, and executes justice properly.

By Jeff Pulse

The Old Testament text for this Sunday, November 12, 2017, comes from the prophet Amos in the Book of the Twelve. The text is Amos 5:18-24, which illustrates the common theme in Amos of a complete reversal of what is expected. Thus, The Day of the LORD will not be a bright day, but rather a dark one. This is a result of Israel turning “eschatology into escapism” (R. Lessing; Amos Commentary). Note that this is not unlike the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day. They had specific expectations concerning the coming of the Messiah which would support and allow them to “escape” their current situation, but Jesus turns these expectations on their head, reversing them. Amos’ “Day of the LORD” language (also found in other prophets) is eschatological language which looks beyond the idea of the restoration of Israel. Finally, we see in this text metaphors that link us intimately into the New Testament and the Messiah. The “darkness” of the Day of the LORD can be connected to the Good Friday darkness that descends at Jesus’ death on the cross, and the water motif in verse 24 connected to justice and righteousness points us to the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.

By Bob Hiller

Last Sunday was amazing! My congregation in beautiful Escondido, CA hosted our circuit’s Reformation service, and it was epic! (A “circuit,” for those of you outside of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, is a group of congregations close in proximity to each other). A massive, multi-congregational choir, an orchestra, a guest preacher from Concordia University (who totally delivered the “goods” of Christ for us), the Sacrament, and, afterwards, an outstanding Octoberfest celebration all worked together for the good of the church! If this incredible service and celebration wasn’t enough, I came home that night to listen to one of the greatest World Series games in recent memory (though, last year’s Game 7 is hard to top). Game 5 of the Astros/Dodgers series was an epic, extra-inning, home-run heavy 13-12 victory for the Astros. I’ve never experienced a game that incredible on a stage that big. Sunday was amazing!

By Cindy Koch

From the outside, you may think it’s not easy to be a Christian. From what you hear, there are a lot of rules and righteous stuff to do. You have to love your neighbor and turn the other cheek. You have to be honest and spend a chunk of your weekend at church. People from this church place will flood into our life whether you like it or not. You are now accountable to a whole bunch of other strange people who call themselves Christians. For someone who is doing just fine on your own, this certainly doesn’t sound easy.

By Jeff Pulse

The Old Testament text for this Sunday, October 15, 2017, comes from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 25:6-9 and is a portion of one of the few EXPLICIT resurrection texts in the Old Testament. This is not to say or to indicate that the Hebrews had an undeveloped understanding or concept of resurrection. There are many implicit indications in the Old Testament Scriptures of their resurrection theology. However, the EXPLICIT references are few: Job 19, Isaiah 25 and 26, Ezekiel 37, and Daniel 12. Because this is true, our text for today is of extreme significance to the Old and New Testament people.

By Paul Koch

What we do here in this place seems, at times, to be disjointed from the world in which we live. I suppose it has always been so: the rhythm and focus of the church is not governed by the cares and fears of our world. It offers something more, something unmovable in the shifting sands of our age. So, there is something of an expected difference that comes from a church. But there are times, and I think this is one of them, where the casual observer of our fellowship might find what we are doing here a bit naive, and perhaps even a little offensive considering what is happening all around us.