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)

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Sunday, November 18th

Thanksgiving Feast & Worship

Dinner 5:15 Worship 6:30 pm


Saturday, December 1st

Bethlehem Star Lighting

6:30 PM Dinner

 7:00 PM Star Lighting

Sunday, December 2nd

Deacon Consecration

One service at 10:00 am

Bishop Tim Smith preaching


Sunday, December 9th

Mt. Pisgah Choir Cantata

8:00 and 10:30 am 


Sunday, December 9th

LRU Candlelight Concert 

7:00-8:30 pm


Sunday, December 16th

Children's Christmas Program 

8:00 and 10:30 am


Monday, December 24th

Christmas Eve Worship

5:00 and 7:00 pm


























Leaning and Learning

Each day provides an opportunity to lean on and learn from God. Everyday God asks each of us, “How will you trust Me today?” Some days we have more opportunity than others to answer that question. Recently, I visited a parishioner who had adopted a stray dog. Like most dogs, he took a real liking to me. I love dogs and this little guy came over and laid his head and paws on my lap, tail wagging and licking my face. Then something unforgettable happened when we all began to laugh loudly; this little dog all of a sudden snapped. l mean literally, with a snarl and a growl, he bit my nose!
This dog’s action left me in total shock and also gave me an opportunity to learn some things I never really thought of before. As a stray dog no one knows what he experienced in his first 3 1/2 years of life. Perhaps he had been abused with similar associations of laughter and loud noises, which only seemed to ignite his out of control unpredictable response. 
He went from licking to biting within seconds. It was such a radical change of heart and actions. But, have we not seen that before in others and in ourselves? Some of us have been hurt, maybe even abused in the past and certain memories, thoughts or actions can trigger an almost uncontrollable reflexive response. 
It seems that a negative past history can elicit present unpredictable behavior. 
In truth, physical hurts can cause scars, but emotional hurts can take a lifetime to heal. This nose of mine will heal but it may be years before that little doggie gets over whatever precipitates such a wild response. 
All of us have some baggage which we need help unloading, some of us have heavy baggage which we drag around every day; others of us have hurtful baggage which seems to leak out at the most inappropriate times. All of these hurts, whether they are brought on by others or are self inflicted, may be hard to forget but must be forgivable. They will be always be with us but the question is whether they will have mastery over us or not. 
To stray means to wander from home. Like that stray dog, scripture tells us that we all have strayed. 
Isaiah 53:6   All we like sheep have gone astray; 
we have turned every one to his own way; 
and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: 
He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her
shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
Perhaps the biggest part of us (strays) coming home, is realizing that we have a Wounded Healer. One who has taken on hurt and pain, even to death. All of which has been completely imposed on Him by others, namely us. So He too can understand the hurts imposed on us by others. He has also experienced the fickleness of us all. Like the crowds shouting Hosannas (licking) and then, within less there a week, feeling the vitriolic hatred of the crowds shouting, “Crucify Him!”(biting) 
He does all this without a word or act of retribution. The only One who can save us from our pain, self imposed or imposed upon us, is the One who, by his choice, takes on all pain and brokenness by us on a cross. We can give Him our pain.. .knowing that He can understand in order that we might truly be healed. He will let us know when we come Home to Him that His ever present scars in His hands; His feet and His side are not forgettable but are truly forgiven. 
There is something else, between the licking, wagging tails of Hosanna and the biting nails of the cross we realize how fickle we are. I cannot trust myself until the full revelation of Easter comes, on the other side, to see everything completely. Now it will be only as in a “mirror dimly," but only then “face to face." Such an honest look at myself and others keeps me from planting roots as if I have arrived. The fickleness of our hurts and joys; our emotions and actions, should be enough for us to know that we are still in process and as such cannot make any moment or movement an absolute truth that it does not deserve to be. 
Lately there has been so much biting among people who disagree. Is it possible that such differing opinions are not worth the emotive responses we often witness; especially if the seemingly absolute stances of today might quickly change tomorrow? 
There is a humble Holy hush that comes over us when we truly understand that the accolade Hosanna shouts of blessing today may soon be the accusing Good Friday‘s curses of tomorrow. The reality of Easter that came over the disciples and comes over us is the peaceful wonder and awe of knowing an unchanging God, who is in total control. 
I have decided to give up my right to be right to the only One who is Right. 
If Christ is amongst us, then it is 
necessary that we sometimes yield 
up our own opinion for the sake for peace. 
Who is so wise as to have perfect knowledge of all things? 
Therefore trust not too much to thine own opinion, 
but be ready also to hear the opinion of others. 
Thomas A Kempis 
And of course - His opinion is all that matters.
And of course - Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God.” 
If I am not “still” I may not hear what the still small voice of God has to say. He has said clearly that in the midst of all our broken fickleness He gives us the healing of His constant love. 
We can lean on and learn from One like this forever. Amen 




After my niece, Actress Emma Stone, has shared publicly about her anxiety issues, I thought this devotion might be helpful. We all have some degree of, as she says, "The green demon on our shoulders, whispering bad stuff in our ears." It's a blessing to have faith in our ever constant ever present, loving God.



Is faith 
Best measured 
By those doubt free days
When all goes so well 
That to believe in a Sovereign 
Makes good and easy sense 
Or is it better seen in those 
Chaotic, senseless times when any sort of order or control seems 
Elusive and persistently nonexistent? 

Or is faith 
Best displayed 
By those 
Who contrary to the most adverse of circumstances, cling on 
For life 
To that One alone worth hoping in? 

For is it not the comfortably smug who alone can afford to disbelieve 
Or who have the luxury of finally surrendering to their persistent doubt?

Perhaps God is not as moved by those light exuberant times when we effortlessly bound out of bed to greet a new day. 
As those despairing mornings when shakily peering above the sheets  
With only scary, threatening possibilities. 
Yet in greater but hesitant faith 
we cautiously step out into the unknown. 

Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” 

When Jesus says “to whom much is given much is expected” (Luke 12:48) What does He mean? 

Does our heredity and circumstance play a part in how “much” we have to offer? So perhaps God does grade “on the curve?” Thankfully our faith is a gift from God as referred in Luther’ small catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me ...” Besides and thankfully so, what we have faith in ultimately is not our own faithfulness but in His. And only One keeps covenant, but that is all together another subject called grace. 

CS. Lewis put it this way: 
“Some of us who seem quite nice people may, in fact, have made so little use of a good heredity and a good upbringing that we are really worse than those whom we regard as fiends. Can we be quite certain how we should have behaved if we had been saddled with the psychological outfit, and then with the bad upbringing, and then with the power, say, of Himmler? That is why Christians are told not to judge. We see only the results which a man's choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it. Most of the man’s psychological makeup is probably due to his body: when his body dies all that will fall off him, and the real central man, the thing that chose, that made the best or the worst out of this material, will stand naked. All sorts of nice things which we thought our own, but which were really due to a good digestion, will fall off some of us: all sorts of nasty things which were due to complexes or bad health will fall off other. We shall then, for the first time, see every one as they really are. There will be surprises.” Matthew 25: 31-46 

Is it possible that all of our difference in both life circumstances and heredity/biology are only a small part of the whole picture. If one really believed that, could we ever judge one another? Would such an approach even change how we treat and see each other and how we understand ourselves? Is it possible that God made us uniquely “different” and even “difficult” not finally to get our opinions about each other but rather, in the end, to see how we treat each other: namely as He has so graciously treated us? 

From John Newton—slave owner and later convert, who also wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace” 

“When I get to heaven, I shall see three wonders there. The first wonder will be to see any there whom I did not expect to see; the second wonder will be to miss many people who I did expect to see; the third and greatest of all will be to find myself there.” 

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater, 
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase; 
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy, 
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace. 

When we have exhausted our store of endurance, 
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done, 
When we reach the end of our boarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun. 

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision, 
Our God ever yearns His resources to share; 
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing; 
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear. 

His love has no Iimits, His grace has no measure, 
His power no boundary known unto men; 
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus  
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.


Epiphany - January 2017


“To wonder as we wander” is at the heart of our Epiphany Journey.

We too, ponder in wonder with Mary, as to how such Good News of her giving birth to the Savior, can be both the greatest joy and the greatest heartbreak and sorrow known to Woman.

We too, Journey in our wanderings with the Magi, as we know that life is now different. Nothing will be the same. We are wise as they were, to take heed, knowing that after seeing him we too must leave a different way.

This new kingdom ushered in by the Holy child of life: love and light, is even this day being hunted down by the old world of Kingly pride: darkness and death.

So flee as they, but do so quietly, so you too can ponder this Wonder and go slowly, so as not to miss a thing. For your journey is now a Holy Wonderful Wondering.

Playlist - Julie Andrews “I Wonder as I Wander.”



A Bittersweet Christmas to All

This morning I was struck with an unmistakable directness sometimes necessary to truly get a needed message across. My morning festive Christmas celebrating with Santa cap on and carol singing was abruptly interrupted by a phone call from a woman who had just become a widow, following her husband's suicide. The fact that I had to move my Santa cap tassel just to put the receiver to my ear, made the contrast between the sweetness and the bitterness of that moment all the more ruthlessly stark.

Perhaps it is because in this precious of seasons, where expectations run high for sweet blessings, that the painfully bitter times seem to loom so large in contrast. Ask any orthodox Jew, though, and they will let you know that THE meal is not complete without the Wilderness bitter herb and the Promised Land honey. One without the other betrays the truthful realities of what it means to be on this journey we call life...regardless of what season it might be.

Just in my morning prayer time today, I...

— Gave thanks to God for the sweetness of marriage and a dear wife, but lifted up in prayer a dear couple who just recently divorced.

— Blessed God for the special little church He has called me to serve, but my attention was diverted to offer prayer for those parishes which are struggling.

— Gave heartfelt gratitude for two sons, but was quickly overtaken by the prayer for a family whose son has been struggling for life since the tragic accident.

— Celebrated the sweet comfort of good health, when my mind swells with thoughts for so many, whose lives are preoccupied with the challenges of illness.

The sweet and the bitter... This time of year?

But what is Christmas REALLY all about?

“And this will be a sign unto you that you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Not exactly the sweet experience of a Messiah we were expecting.

In fact, pretty easy not to find any sweetness in that at all.

Born in a feeding trough, under the indifferent gaze of animals, who probably outnumber the gathered human witnesses, not really sweet, but pretty stinky. And, just about as bitter of birth scene as one could imagine. So, what is the message... the Sign?

Don't try to dress it up too much. Don't get too sophisticated. One does not come in such intentionally banal, earthly simplicity just for us to dress it up and adorn it with heavenly pious niceties. It is, what it is. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else needed, than Emmanuel…God With Us. There is no bitterness of life we can experience that He has not been through, or will not be through with us. Nothing we experience on this side of heaven that He will not be there with us. Is there any news greater than that? The One who is with us, Emmanuel wants us to know that the Heaven which awaits us, is nothing but Sweet... No bitter there. No wonder the early Christians were so fond of saying Maranatha, “Come Lord Jesus.” So may your Christmas be bittersweet—always filled with the faithful presence of Emmanuel, as we eagerly await his second Advent.



(Playlist - Amy Grant "Welcome to Our World")

Image result for image of mary joseph and baby jesus



It was an amazing day when the Holy Spirit came to those first Christians.  It touched their lives and made them speak in languages unfamiliar to them, but understandable to those around.  It was a memorable and potentially life changing day for all involved.

I have always wondered about the day after Pentecost.  After the wind died down and the flames of fire ceased, surely not everyone’s life was changed by the event.  There were probably some who went on, business as usual, even in the aftermath of such an extraordinary event.

It is an interesting thing about the Holy Spirit that is often referred to as the “Silent Partner” of the Trinity.  The dramatic action on Pentecost was an uncharacteristic display of power, namely to mark a new beginning—The Birthday of the Church.  As Jesus said, the Spirit is like the Wind that you cannot see but can always notice the effects of its presence.

The Spirit is most often behind the scenes.  The Spirit blows through our lives fill us with a restlessness and a void that only God can satisfy and fill.  The Spirit does not force itself on us anymore than the Father or the Son do, they simply try to win us over by their love and grace.

Every encounter with our Lord is marked by this gentle loving Spirit at work.  He gives total freedom of acceptance or denial to the individuals involved, whether it is Nicodemus or the rich young ruler.  Without exception there is not one encounter in which Jesus does not invite change, but it is not always well received.  You cannot make someone love you or graciously accept a gift.  The Jewish Talmud puts it this way.  “The Spirit of God gently surrounds a hardened heart so that when it does crack, the Spirit will seep in.”


Take my hard heart and soften it by your Spirit.  Make me always open to your Spirit of gentleness and love.  Fill me up with Yourself so that I may be an overflowing vessel spilling grace and love to all those around me.  Amen

“God has made it a rule for Himself that He won’t alter people’s character by force.  He can and will alter them—but only if the people will let Him.  In that way He has really and truly limited His power.  Sometimes we wonder why He has done so, or even wish that He hadn’t.  But apparently He thinks it worth doing.  He would rather have a world of free beings; with all its risks, than a world of people who did right like machines because they couldn’t do anything else.  The more we succeed in imagining what a world of perfect, automatic beings would be like, the more, I think, we shall see His wisdom”

--C.S. Lewis—“The Trouble with ‘X’  God in the Dock”