Mt. Pisgah

Lutheran Church

9379 Hwy 127 North

Hickory, NC  28601

(Bethlehem Community)

Phone:  828-495-8251

Fax:  828-495-8252


Worship:  8:00 and 10:30 AM

(Nursery provided)

Sunday School:  9:15 AM

(For all ages)


Church email

 secretary@mtpisgahelca.org


Website and Media

slgreene@mtpisgahelca.org

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mtpisgahelca

 

 

 

 

Events


 Sundays 

 Worship  8 & 10:30 AM

Nursery provided

Light breakfast 9:00 AM

Sunday School 9:15 AM

for all ages

 

 Wednesdays

 Prayer Group  7:00-7:30 AM

Bible Study  8:30-9:30 AM

 Dinner  5:30-6:20 PM

Bible Study  6:15-7:30 PM

Confirmation & KIC  6:20-7:30 PM

Adult Choir  7:00-8:00 PM 

 

 

 

NC Synod YouthQuake

Click for more info

Saturday, October 19

Mt. Pisgah hosting event

10:00 AM - 3:30 PM

3rd-5th graders  

 

Fall Festival

Click for more info

Saturday, October 26

12:00 to 3:00 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday
Oct042019

Hell, Yes

At the risk of sounding irreligious it is clear from Scripture that despite the most fervent encouragement from the likes of Moses, Elijah and Jesus that people like Pharaoh,  Jezebel and the Pharisees said, “ Hell No” to any and every invitation by God to come home.
Pharaohs hardened heart against God made the worst plagues as seemingly irredeemable possibilities. Despite the death of 850 prophets and 3 and 1/2 years of drought,  Queen Jezebel and her cohort Ahab would rather fight than switch to follow Elijah’s One true God.
On another front, we see the Pharisees relentless refusal  to be awe struck—changed by the resurrection of Lazarus. Their unbelievable rejection of this miracle of new life, is, in reality, just a foretaste of a world that thumbs their nose at the real and ultimate Resurrection of Easter. In the presence of Lazarus, whose raising from 3 days of death is so fresh that he still stinks, the Pharisees, rather than be overcome in amazement and surrender to “ the Resurrection and the life,” plot on how to best to put Lazarus back in his tomb for good this  time.
All three of these examples are painful realities of our potential to say yes to hell in our stubborn obstinance against God’s persistent patient steadfast love. As long as we insist on having life on our  terms, preferring the status quo to any possibility of change, then even a stone moved away from an empty tomb will not even move us.
So that is why when Jesus responds to Zaccheaus, who relinquishes control and surrenders, with the words, “ eternal life begins  this day,” it is just a reminder that heaven, like hell, truly begins this side of the grave. Our intentional clutching on to refusing any resurrecting possibilities of redemption, forgiveness, and reconciliation, make us our own imprisoned victims.
As CS Lewis put it, “The doors of hell are locked from the inside. "So everything  from plagues, to death are nothing more than potential redemptive wake up calls to our indifferent comatose souls. As the Jewish Talmud puts it, “God’s spirit surrounds a hardened heart with His spirit so that at the first sign of cracking He might seep in.”
Jesus, following the crucifixion, showed Himself, with outstretched arms and wounded hands to all those who had preceded Him in death on that  fateful Good Friday. (1 Peter 3:19-20 / 4:5-6)
According to a gracious Christian legend, Judas would have been one whom Jesus would have revealed His unbelievable gracious forgiveness and redemption, potentially transforming all the “prisoners“ including him, in Sheol into the freedom of heaven.
And so He descends into our every daily darkness of Hellish fear in order to reascend with us as His treasured prize into new Heavenly light of news life and hope.
So heaven and hell is in the here and now and has so much to do with what we say and think about Him. We can either bury both our heads and hearts (treasure) in the dark, assuming that the One in charge is a calculating cruel judge, or we can surrender all to Him in the faithful hope that in His love and presence, “even the darkest darkness is as light to Him."
As Elizabeth Browning noted, “Earth is saturated with Heaven and all ground is holy ground,” so our yes to Him in His yes to us is as much Heaven on earth as the opposite is if we insist and persist on living in the no of Hell.
Friday
May032019

Psalm 104—Praising Our Creative Creator

 

This Psalm poignantly describes creation and most importantly points to God as the Artist behind the canvas and the Creator responsible for creation. There is an interesting Hebrew word used in this Psalm (yada ) which delicately mingles confession and praise as flowing from the same heart. This dynamic duo of praise and confession reminds us that this is a worship Psalm and that God is the object of our attention. Confession comes when we know that the One that we pour our hearts out to is the One who is always "faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Praise, particularly in this Psalm of creation, is not just enjoying the quiet simplicity of a Walden Pond, as much as being utterly caught up in the hidden mystery and overwhelming grandeur of creation. To the Psalmist it is impossible not to notice the signature of the Creator written all over creation.

As someone has said, "praise is simply letting off esteem." God is the focus of our highest praise and blessing not because He needs it, but through our humble transparent confession and our awestruck wonder of creation, we are the ones who are fulfilled in our connection with Him. As C.S. Lewis wrote, "I think we delight to praise that which we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment, it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed" It is frustrating to discover a new book or a good joke and have no one to share it with. David is inviting us in this Psalm to enjoy God as Lewis shares elsewhere to praise is to be, "drowned in, dissolved by, that delight which, far from remaining pent up within ourselves... , flows out from us incessantly•in effortless and perfect expression."

So it is no wonder that this Psalm was written by a shepherd who perhaps as he lay on his back at night under the brilliant luminous starlit sky, must have felt that he could reach out and touch one of God's bright mysteries. This is the same shepherd who patiently tended to obstinate sheep and who relentlessly rescued many a run away, who would know firsthand how praise was embedded in confession to a Good Shepherd who time and again rescued him.

David knew what true praise was as he wrote elsewhere, "Bless the Lord O my soul and all that is within me bless His Holy Name." To bless is to surrender ourselves in abject wonder and in so doing to not only find ourselves but to find the heart of the Creator behind it all.

Study Questions

1. Remember when you were so overtaken and awestruck by creation that you could not help but in utter silence, song, or prayer give thanks to the Creator.

2. Remember when the act of confession before God was so freeing and exhilarating that you knew as David did, that our God is, "gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." How is this similar to the speechless beyond expression feeling we can have as we are caught up in the wonder of God's creation? Does it make sense that the Spirit at times needs to intercede for us when at such moments words utterly escape us?

Prayer

Take a moment to simp!y be still and know that He is God. As closing prayer time watch on YouTube the song "So Will I" by Hillsong

 

Sunday
Mar102019

This 'Glorious Season' of Lent

John goes out of his way to let us know that Jesus was not a victim caught up in the strong will of Rome or the debauchery of the Jewish religious hierarchy. Jesus was, from his betrayal, denial, flogging and crucifixion, always in control. He was the Good Shepherd whose life was never taken, but was laid down of His own accord. The way of the cross is the Groom willfully and lovingly coming down the aisle to His Bride, the Church. As a seminary professor was fond of saying, “This was not a shotgun wedding!” 

In John’s Gospel, we miss some of the physical agony of this walk to the cross. There is no mention of the sweating of blood in Gethsemane and other gruesome physical details are left out. John, whose heart was particularly close to His Lord, wants us to know that as awful as the physical pain of those days was for our Lord, it was nothing in comparison to the spiritual pain of the separation of the Son from His Father. The Word, which had been in perfect harmony and unity with the Father before time began, is now to be separated by our sin which He never knew. It is this pain of loss and separation from the Holy Father, as the Son takes on the sins of the world-ours-past, present and future-that deserves our real attention and gratitude. 

Then there is that recurring word of glory, which particularly surfaces in these latter chapters of our Lord’s passion; so what is glorious about this time? John, who, compared to the other Gospel writers, seems to have a monopoly on the understanding of love, wants us to know that behind every step to the Cross is a heartbeat of our Savior's love. When Jesus “sets His face” to Jerusalem it is you and me He is really focused on. It is perhaps those who have lost loved ones and have been at their bedside in those difficult hours that know His love best. The love and compassion given by them is not done begrudgingly or with hesitation. But rather, it is done in a love that has its own special glory that appears in those last tender moments. So it is with our Lord; it is not His obligation or duty to go to the cross, as much as His loving joy and glory. No one else could do it and He would not want anyone else to.

It is the Groom gloriously making His way down the aisle to literally rescue and save His Bride (us), The Church. John wants to make sure that in the blood and sweat of the cross we do not hear so much a heavy sigh with the thought that, “...some one has to do this for these sinners” as much as a smile and an unrelenting drive forward, as Hebrews 12:12 says, because of “...the joy that was set before Him.” Whenever and however we begin to realize that you and I are that very joy that was set before Him, is when the cross makes life changing sense.

His love for us would never let us go, and it is that great love that captures our hearts and will never let us let go of Him. It is that love that makes us say with the hymnist, Bernard Clairvaux:

“What language shall I borrow to thank thee dearest friend, for this Thy dying sorrow, 

Thy pity without end?

O make me thine Forever and should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never, outlive my love for Thee.” 

 

It is on the cross where the Groom, Jesus,

Lets His Bride, the Church, know that 

He would rather die than live without us."

Wednesday
Mar062019

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. In this season, we intentionally take time to reflect on the greatest love ever known through the greatest sacrifice ever given. God’s great love for us evidenced in the death of His only Son—for us. This is a time when we often speak of giving up something, as a way of acknowledging God giving Himself up for us in Christ. From a spiritual standpoint, what God invites and encourages us to give up, more than anything else is ourselves, to relinquish control of our lives so He truly can be Lord. 
 
The following devotion is one I have found quite meaningful: 
 
When I met Christ it seemed as though life were rather like a bike ride, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Christ was in the back helping me pedal.
 
I don’t know just when it was that He suggested we change places, but life has not been the same since. When I had control, I knew the way, it was rather boring, but predictable... IT was the shortest distance between two points. 

But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places at breakneck speeds; it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it looked like madness, He said, “Pedal!” 

I worried and was anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer, and I started to learn to trust. 

I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure. And when I’d say, “I’m scared, ” He’d lean back and touch my hand.
 
He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance, and joy. He said, “Give the gifts away. ” So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving, I received, and still our burden was light. I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it; but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, knows how to jump to clear high rocks, knows how to fly to shorten scary passages. 

And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strongest places, and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus Christ. 

And when I’m sure I just can’t do anymore, He just smiles and says... ”Pedal.”
 
Welcome to a journey of surrender...
 
— Author Unknown

 

Wednesday
Feb272019

Lent and Giving Up Something

I have tried to give up my need to share my opinion regardless of how right or well informed I may be.  This is in contrast to the many opinions we hear from so many, inspired by countless news pundits and talk radio folks, on all sides. They seem to have switched from reporting news to sharing their, often emotive, opinions.  I have tried to refrain, with God’s help.  It is NOT easy for preachers.

I have taken Swiss Theologian Karl Barth’s admonition, that, as a Christian I should be well informed.  As he wrote, “We should have a newspaper in in one  hand and a Bible in the other,” so I read a lot. Recently, two articles I have read confirmed my assertion of the humble reality, that the more we know, the less we know. So quiet, is often best.

Dr. Jonathan Feng, Professor of Physics, at U.C. Irvine, California, titled his article, “Wonder and the Gift of Not Knowing Things.”  He shared the reality, as a scientist, that the more we learn, the more, we realize, there is to know. He shared some humbling cosmological truths about the Universe.  For example, 5 % of the Universe consists of known particles.  The remaining 95% is made up of dark matter, at 27%, and the remaining 68% is dark energy. This means, as he shares, that 95% of the universe is a mystery we do NOT understand.  That statement is enough to quiet the most intellectual among us.

This article was quickly followed in my readings, by a contribution in Foreign Affairs magazine in which the title, “How America lost faith in expertise,” explains it all. The author, Dr. Tom Nichols, Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College, shares that, recently, listening to experts or even sharing in intellectual conversations or disccussions has denigrated  into “shouting matches.” In other words, we have lost the art of polite and eloquent conversation, in the tone of a past voice like a William Buckley. Instead, we seem to have a vociferous lack of tolerance and respect for anyone with different views than ourselves. 

So perhaps, as we defer to the true Expert of all, a humble quiet wins over the proud and loud.  I have never regretted something I have NOT said, especially in the throes of emotion. It is the kind of humble awe we hear from Psalm 8:4, “What is man that you are mindful of him.” All of our knowledge is nothing in comparison to the One who knows All. This is the only way to make and sense out of what seems to be the audacious claim of Moses, to be the most humble man on earth (Numbers 12:3). What else could he mean, but that the more he got to know the largesse of God’s, “I Am,” the smaller, “He was”  So, quiet is fitting, in light of my puny lack of what I know, in comparision to the Creator who knows all. 

Also, a  hushed silence comes over us, in the shared presence of his Holiness and our sin.  Martin Luther, who followed in a long history of writing catechetical study, was the first to put the 10 commandents first. He did this, realizing, that of first priority in our learning, is to be cognizant of our sin.  To Luther particularly, the first commandment, “You shall have no other god's before me,” was tantamount in ensuring that we focus on the only One that matters. God is the great Iconoclast, who, through our personal experiences and history itself, demostrates, time and time again, the vacuous emptiness of our idolatrous pursuits.  So we are left holding nothing... but him. When the Word takes on flesh, there are truly no words...silence prevails. 

There is another fear I have, of too much “talk,” as Atheist, Bertrand Russell once claimed, ”The advent of intolerance that spread over the world with the advent of Christianity is one of its most curious features.”

The millennial generation has an unprecedented absence from the life of the Church. They make up a  huge portion of the ‘nones,' who claim no religious affiliation whatsoever.  For them, the church too often mirrors the insensitive and divisive world, rather than reflecting a Jesus, who ushered in the radical inbreaking of a new Kingdom and new order, that challenges the values of the secular culture. This generation has a deep understanding of, and has witnessed, world values which seem to leave one empty and void.  They realize how futile such pursuits are, and long for people generating light in their lives, rather than fire in their words.  So I am quiet.  Living more, talking less. 

Scripture also has a way of quieting my spirit. As a two edged sword, it tends to cut me down to size, rather than provide a proud bully pulpit to wave around. If I have eyes to see and ears to hear, it is a sword that slices and dices.  In an objective, undeniable way, it shows how someone as amazing as the Apostle Paul can write to his young understudy, Timothy, that the great Apostle was the best sinner he knew (1 Timothy 1:15 ).  I haven't shared that personal truth with my confirmands lately.

So quietly, I meditate on what that means, and I realize, that the Word speaks to our recent political climate as a two-edged sword. With two-edged dialetic, it reminds me what James writes, that what we say, really does matter. And, on the other edge, in Romans from Paul, I hear the admonition to pray for all leaders, which would include the likes of Nero, who, very well, was responsible for Paul's death, as well as an  Emperor  Hadrian, known as the wall builder.

So I am undone. Cut to my knees.  Probably where I need to be. I cannot get emotive about any thing except for  the only One worthy of such feelings.  In the scripture, I meet a Jesus, whose truthful encounter with a  Rich young ruler  in the middle of the day, or Pharisee Nicodemus at night, sends them off in silence...pondering.  They, like me, realize that they have been gently, but purposefully, kicked in the butt by a Lord who loves us too much not to redirect us back to Him.

I have a lot of learning to do. So I am listening. Perhaps it is only as the tax collector quietly on my knees, rather than the Pharisee proudly beating his chest, that I can truly learn from the only One worth knowing anyway.

I guess to be still, and know that he is God, is the only way I can hear the still, small voice of the only One worthy of my loyalty and my listening anyway. 

Shalom,

Pastor Mike

 

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