Stay Up to Date

Stay informed of our latest news and resources by signing up for e-mail updates.

Monthly Message

It's Still All About Jesus!

Recently, when Kim and I and our children were all together, Kim pulled out some old slides, and our family sat on the couch and reminisced about the people and places which flashed  on the wall in front of us. There were lots of smiles and a few tears as we rolled back time The Goble children, who are no longer children, giggled when they saw their mother riding a tricycle, or blowing out candles on a cake.  I smiled knowingly when I recognized certain expressions on Kim’s face, like the one when she is unhappy with the hand of cards she had just been dealt by her father: it’s an expression I’ve experienced over the years. I made the wise decision not to speak of it. In another slide, there is a print hanging in someone's home and Kim proudly turned our attention to that same print now hanging in our living room. The sense that something had been passed on within the family, and was now valued as in previous generations, evoked warmth and pride. I am sure your home has a few items that have the same impact. These are living, sacred items where we find our identity.
 
 
This is the 500th anniversary year of the Protestant Reformation. Depending on whom you ask, you’ll get a variety of answers as to its significance. Germany sees dollar signs, and is touting the Reformation as a great travel opportunity. American political pundits talk about how the Reformation was the precursor to democracy and the inalienable right of the individual (Luther) to jettison oppressive institutions. Other historians will say it marked the end of what they label as the Dark Ages (500-1500 AD), propelling mankind into modernity. Compared to these interpretations, our Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is more nearly correct, when they say “It’s Still All About Jesus.” Specifically, it was about the relationship between the individual and God.

 

All people have a relationship with God. For some, it’s an estranged relationship, a truce. For some, God is an enemy, a tyrant. For others, God is an enigma or figment of the imagination. Hopefully, you would not describe your relationship with God as any of these. Hopefully, you would describe God as your heavenly Father, who, despite not doing everything you always like and understand, nevertheless and most importantly loves you and is filled with grace and mercy for you. Hopefully, your relationship with Him is something like that of a grandparent and grandchild. It’s like a welcoming hug when a loved one returns from a long time away. It’s like a Thanksgiving meal with the whole family together; it’s a celebration; it’s a warm fire on a cold night; it’s comfort during tough times. It’s like a trip down memory lane, looking at old slides and seeing something that was part of previous generations, now a part of your family — something that is living, and is sacred, bringing blessings to you and those who come after you. If this describes you, and I pray it does, then you are celebrating the Reformation in the best way.
 

Pastor Mark

 
Posted by Monthly Message at Thursday, June 1, 2017 | 0 comments

HELLO MAY!

 

May…I help you? The month of May, named after the mythological Greek goddess of fertility, blooms with Memphis flowers that have followed Memphis April showers. Over time, May has also become the month most ripe with Spiritual fruit for the picking here at CTK. Far from winding down before the heat of summer comes; the month of May now bursts at its springtime seams with opportunities for commemoration, celebration and service.

 

Baptisms, Confirmation, graduations, Mother’s Day, chapel services, Missionarycommissioning and the always exciting (not kidding) Budget Voter’s Meeting at 7pm on the 24 th of May! Lord, May…we help you? The May Budget Voter’s meeting every year answers yes to that question as our decisions during that important meeting give birth to the other eleven months of ministry in terms of how we prioritize our CTK ministries. There are all kinds of reasons to love the springtime month of May, but our Budget voter’s meeting tops them all for me!  This year’s CTK mission agenda is particularly rich and fruitful for those in our spiritual family and in our surrounding community. As you “May” have heard our congregation has found it necessary to split our caring ministries into two positions on our council because we have become ever more involved in serving the vulnerable among us and around us. Please recognize with me what that says: you CTK are very busy doing unto the least of these as though you are doing unto the Lord Jesus Himself! Memphis is noticing and our Lord is blessing your efforts. Thanks to all who are moving us to put our resources where our Biblical intentions need to be.

“May-be” you remember that this month of May starts in earnest our various 500th Lutheran Reformation celebrations at CTK. Every Sunday morning from May through October 31 st between our worship services we will inject some extra Lutheranization into our Christian faith and walk with God! I have mailed you a solid study agenda focusing on our Lutheran heritage and Biblical foundation for that heritage, and most importantly why it matters today more than ever!  And lest we forget: We continue to pray for God’s wisdom and guidance as we patiently look for the best ways to faithfully and responsibly improve our service to our Savior via building/campus facility improvements this year at 5296 Park Avenue. We’re making progress…and I am beyond thankful to our leadership for their prayerful considerations as we move towards building for future generations of mCTK members and those they will bless with the Gospel.

So you just gotta love the month of May at CTK. Its not just about the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees…its all about love…God’s love fertile with potential to bring new life to CTK, Memphis and the whole world. May..it happen according to your grace dear Lord!

Pastor Chuck
Posted by Monthly Message at Saturday, April 29, 2017 | 0 comments

CROSSROADS

Yet another newspaper article reported a poll demonstrating that mainline churches are in
decline, non-denominational churches are growing shallow Christians, people jump from
one church to another, and more people than ever are declaring themselves to be non-
religious altogether. This trend has been in place for at least the thirty-four years I’ve been a
Lutheran pastor. Though these polls no longer surprise me, they do make me pray ever
harder for Christ’s Church and for our world covered in the darkness of ignorance and sin.
In many ways, the Christian Church is at a crossroad.
 
If you’ve ever tried to change or control the way another person thinks and behaves, you
know how fruitless that effort can be. All we can do is to change ourselves. In other words,
we can only change how we respond or interact with the other person whose thinking and
behavior we disagree with; that alone is what we can control. It is the same with the world
and the church; if we want to change it...all we can do is to change ourselves
.
Mahatma Gandhi said of the Church in his day: “I like your Christ; I do not like your Chris-
tians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I am convinced that there is no church
structure, style, administration, system, strategy, or organizational paradigm that will
change the church in ways which will be winsome to the world in terms of changing it from
darkness to instead seeking the light of Christ. It will take what the church really is in its
essence; it will take each member becoming holy in the true sense of the word as Christ is
holy; being in the world but radically not of it. We will never change the world by telling it
how bad it is; it will take each member becoming holy in the true sense of the word as Christ
is holy; being in the world but radically not of it.
 
And this is the crossroad that we face, not just ecclesiastically but personally as well. Each
one of us as the Church faces crossroads in our daily lives which move us either closer to
God’s plan or further away. How do we decide which road to take? This is our Lenten jour-
ney this season. Many of us like our Christ; we just aren’t sure we want to be like Him when
it comes time to go His way or another.
 
Each Wednesday evening you are encouraged to worship with us to share experiences of
Biblical figures who found themselves at a crossroad. Their stories inspire our own. Each
Sunday morning, during 10AM Bible study, we will gather in small groups to unpackage
those stories and apply them to our own situations. So in a very real way, this Lent is in it-
self a crossroad event for you. Will you just go on as you have always done, or will you begin
to take another road, another way, that just might make all the difference in your life and in
the lives of others who love and need you to be more Christ-like in your decisions?
 
Where will you be and what will you be doing on those days? Lent is a Crossroad gift to you
this year from God Himself. Lent is the Church (its essence being you) seeking to be made
holy that the world would not be condemned by Christ and His Church, but rather be saved
(changed) through Him. Christ has worked faith in us; now it is time for us to work on our
faith.
 
Yours each day at the Crossroad of His Grace,
Pastor Chuck
Posted by Monthly Message at Wednesday, March 1, 2017 | 0 comments

SEASON OF LIGHT

There is an old story of a seaside community that loved its lighthouse for all the lives it had saved from their rocky coast. The details of the story are fuzzy to me, but essentially the community spent more and more time celebrating the beauty and history of the lighthouse, and less and less time actually tending to the light. They finally decided there was not enough time and money to do both, so they shut down the life-saving light and made the place into a museum to celebrate what was no longer happening.
 
 

Epiphany is the season of lights. Isaiah 60 says two things: ARISE, SHINE, FOR YOUR LIGHT HAS COME, AND THE GLORY OF THE LORD HAS RISEN UPON YOU (v.1), and DARKNESS SHALL COVER THE EARTH, AND THICK DARKNESS THE PEOPLE (v.2).

 
So what is it going to be for you and me in 2017? Darkness or light? Celebrating what’s no longer happening or faithfully tending the Light in the world’s darkness so that lives might be saved? Will we be celebrating CTK as a lighthouse or as a museum? All of these questions are well asked by us each New Year as we resolve to do better than the previous year personally and as a congregation.
 
Darkness is no surprise. It is all around us in terms of sin, death, and both personal and world events that continue to bring fear, frustration, and confusion. What surprises people is when Light shows up in the midst of it. Doctors say that older people who still have a sense of purpose to their lives stay healthier physically and mentally. Young people who have hopes and dreams of making a difference in the world are the same way.  Instead of just remembering the “good old days” or waiting around for better days, wake up each morning charged up to surprise the people living in darkness by shattering it by reflecting God’s light coming from within you. You are called to the light. Luther said, “The Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, ENLIGHTENED me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” You are enlightened to be enlightening!
 
Arise! Shine! You are CTK, a lighthouse to the world not in a general, theoretical way, but in purposeful, practical ways each day you walk around in this world of darkness. Do you work in a specific place, to go school in a particular classroom, keep a home or apartment at an address that is yours? There you go: reasons to wake up in the morning filled with light for those sometimes dark places. Remember what you were baptized from and for, from darkness into light! Stay recharged each Sunday morning. As your light is tended to by the Sacrament of the body and blood of Him who is the light of salvation, the Lord presents youeach day before the dark-fearing world as light!  Celebrate not what you have done yesterday or what you will do someday later. Celebrate the light God generates in the darkness today manifested in wherever you happen to show up. Surprise! Think: Here I am, folks, reflecting the reason I was given the grace to wake up one more day. I’m a walking-around epiphany; God is my light and in Him there is no darkness at all!

 

Pastor Chuck

Posted by Monthly Message at Wednesday, January 4, 2017 | 0 comments

VOTE, PLEDGE, GIVE THANKS

We vote on the first Tuesday of November because the first Monday would have caused people to have to travel on the Sabbath in the early 19th century to get from their farms to the big city on time to vote. That was back in the day when Sunday was still sacred in terms of pausing to give thanks to our Lord for all that we had received the other six days by God’s grace. Sadly, many people are so disappointed at our presidential candidate choices that many aren’t even going to travel across the street to vote this November...and frankly, most people don’t feel the need to pause on the Sabbath to give thanks anymore, either. 

Lutheran Christians are happy to celebrate Thanksgiving with the rest of our nation, but faithful Lutheran Christians really don’t need that day. Every Sunday Sabbath liturgy has a remarkable amount of proper good thanksgiving and praise being offered to our Lord from start to finish. Every Sabbath day we rest from receiving from God to remember where all in life comes from and where it is all going back to. Yet even within that Sabbath rest of worship, God continues to give us the most precious priceless gifts that exist in His Word and Sacraments...gifts of salvation too wonderful for the world to comprehend without faith. 

It is also appropriate for us to pledge a portion of our income back to God each November in thanksgiving for what He has first given us. We are not owners but stewards, caretakers of all that God has given us...it is all His to be used to His glory by us for a very short time so that we can bless others in our blessings great and small. When it comes to God’s grace, mercy, and peace, we who seriously worship, study, serve, love, and seek the Lord Jesus are not just drinking from the cup, we’re drinking from the saucer, because our cups are overflowing with His special kind of love and compassion. No matter what our health, no matter what our financial situations, the Holy Spirit makes us fully aware of God’s greater everlasting gifts, so we by faith swim in spiritual gravy of thanksgiving and pass it on to our loved ones around the table of our existence. 

Each Sunday Sabbath rest, imperfect as we are at CTK, we as a church family remind ourselves through our thanksgiving liturgy that God not only gives us the material things we need, but also the much more important eternal blessings that will last forever. Phil. 4 says it clearly: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to  God and you will have peace that only God can give.” 

So as disappointed as many of us are at our presidential choices this year, we should still vote even if we can’t celebrate that vote. It is our patriotic duty. But here’s an action and duty as a Christian you can really celebrate: Lutheran CTK family members who pledge their first fruits to the Lord are voting with confidence in a tangible way that our church’s mission to share the Gospel in such a world and nation as ours ultimately matters most. By pledging an honorable portion of our income we are filled with thanksgiving and peace all year long that our nation’s issues are not the center of the universe. This November, I am more grateful than ever that God is that center, and your life and mine are secure in God’s great, loving, and perfect hands. So when you pass the gravy around the table this Thanksgiving, even if it’s a little lumpy, remember that God has given you life, and even if your life is a little lumpy sometimes, it’s best lived in, with, and under God’s amazing grace and shared with others.

It must be November: Vote, Pledge, and Give thanks! 

Pastor Chuck

Posted by Monthly Message at Tuesday, November 1, 2016 | 0 comments

LENT

No figure in history has had more written about them than Jesus Christ. You could probably fill the Benjamin Hooks Central Library 10 times over with material devoted exclusively to Jesus Christ - amazing when you consider it. Now...think about this: The basis for all the material written about Jesus Christ, the primary resource, amounts to four Gospels totaling a mere 89 chapters, a little more than 200 pages in my Bible. If you eliminate all the commentary and footnotes, it could be condensed even further, probably by an additional third. The daily paper contains more words than the most influential book written about history’s most influential figure.

It might sound odd but the gospels, especially Mark’s, are the forerunners to Twitter and Facebook. In a quick amount of time, with a succinct economy of words, the central message is conveyed, and in all of the gospels the central message is the Passion of Christ. Out of a total of 89 chapters, no less than fifty focus on the events of Holy Week. What does this tell us?

It tells us, in no uncertain circumstances, that God loved the world so much that He sent His only-begotten Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life. It is nothing less than a miraculous working of the Holy Spirit, that the message of the cross and resurrection are so prominently featured despite the diversity of the writers. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were as different from each other as one could imagine. In age, education, work experience, cultural upbringing, and worldly perspective, the only single thing shared by them is they communicated, as of first importance, the message of mankind’s redemption through Jesus.

St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Paul, like Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, knew a whole lot more than Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and yet the message of the cross was able to supplant all the other information and knowledge in their lives and become the foundation, the epicenter. How about you?

You lead a busy life, with lots of demands. You have a family and friends. You have goals and aspirations, along with hobbies and other interests. You’re well-educated and have many experiences. Were you to write a book about your life, what would you write? Would Jesus Christ be front and center, would you devote a chapter to Him, would you even mention Him? Remember...there’s a book with your name in it; it’s called the Book of Life and Jesus is the author. He wrote your name in that book. One day He’ll open it and call your name at the heavenly roll call. The rest of your life is your opportunity to write something in response.

A blessed Lent to you and your family.

Pastor Mark

Posted by Monthly Message at Monday, February 1, 2016 | 0 comments

NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS ...

People tell me all the time: “I never make New Year’s resolutions, because I never keep them anyway.” I can remember all too many resolutions I’ve made and let slip away, too, but this year, I am making several new ones anyway. I think everyone should. Here’s why:

 

1. We all need to change something about ourselves. Some changes we find very hard to admit to ourselves. I’ve heard people proudly say: “I have no regrets about my life. If I had it to do over again, I’d do it all just the same way.” But that attitude is way too blind and self-serving as far as the Bible sees it. Other than Jesus, no one in Scripture is with-out fault, so how could we possibly be? There is great power in confession to ourselves, to God, to others. Owning up to our failures is the first, painful step on the road to something better.

2. When we change calendars, it’s a good time for reassessment. How did last year go? What do I want to do differently this year? This time of year always reminds me of a pas-sage of Scripture better understood by farmers than suburbanites: BREAK UP YOUR UNPLOWED GROUND, AND DO NOT SOW AMONG THORNS. (Jeremiah 4:3).   It makes sense. The more land you put into production, the more prosperous you’ll be. But some of us are dumb enough to try to sow seeds in land overrun by thistles without breaking up the soil and taking care to root out the thorns as they come up. If we keep sowing in the same way in the same bad ground, what do we expect to sow but what we’ve always sown? What percentage of your life is producing something of value to God?  How much unplowed ground do you have that ought to be broken up in this coming year and made useful? Reassessment: the brink of a new year is a good time to plow new ground in new ways.

3. New Year’s is an excellent time for mid-course corrections. Sure we might fail in what we set out to do, but if we fail to plan at all, then we plan to fail. If you’re so fearful of failure that you never set up your row of tin cans to shoot at, you're not very likely to hit any at all. Failure is not the end. For the person who determines to learn from it, failure is a friend to forgiven children of God. Consider St. Paul. Talk about failure! Throughout his life, he was opposed, persecuted, shipwrecked, stoned and left for dead, deserted by trusted coworkers, slandered, and scorned. Many projects and churches to which he had devoted years were turning into dust before his eyes. But he didn’t quit; he made corrections...and from prison wrote these words: “Forgetting what is behind, and straining to-ward what is ahead, I PRESS ON toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14).

4. New Year’s is a time to learn to better trust in the grace of God. Resolve to live fully aware of God’s grace, then everything else will be added unto you in terms of the ability ...continued from previous page to actually fulfill the resolutions you make. When Jesus died on the cross for your sins, when He rose for your justification before our heavenly Father...our final destiny was “finished.” Sins forgiven and your heavenly home prepared and waiting for your arrival; you can live in the meantime with bold confidence as you witness, love, and serve Jesus our Savior. You can want to change -- not to be loved by God -- but because you have been so loved, and you will change for good rather than to avoid the bad.

If you didn’t practice relying on the Lord as much as you should have this past year, there is no time like the present to make a 2016 New Year’s resolution. In fact, why don’t you pray a short prayer right now...use these simple words, if you like: “Dear Father in heaven, I want 2016 to be different for me.” (Now spell out in prayer some of the changes you’d like to happen within you and through you.) And then close this way: “Lord Jesus, I thank you for the forgiveness You have won for me by grace alone. I know that I am going to need a lot of help to respond to Your love in ways that honor Your great sacrifice on my behalf. So right now I place myself in Your generous, gracious hands. Help me to receive Your strength, and to make the changes which will bless me and benefit others You place into my life all through the year. For Jesus’ sake. Amen!”

Happy New Year to you and your family!

Pastor Chuck

Posted by Monthly Message at Thursday, December 31, 2015 | 0 comments

IS THIS ADVENT REALLY DIFFERENT?

Advent 2015 has a different feel about it than Advents past;

how could it not? The terrorist bombings in Paris have shaken all of us.

   

We believe, because Jesus repeatedly insisted, that He will return one day and while this is a tenant of our faith, if we’re honest, it’s probably a weaker tenant, but not because we don’t believe it. Rather, it’s because we are aware of just how much time has passed since Jesus left earth, and what’s happened in the meantime. Things have not gotten better. You might be surprised, as I was, to learn that God’s people were experiencing much the same thing during the first Advent of Jesus.

 Jesus was born during the rule of Caesar Augustus, during a time known as the Pax Ro-mana, “The Peace of Rome.” A Roman citizen might use this title, a Jew wouldn’t, and many didn’t. A Jew would call it “Roman Occupation.” We all know what happens during times of occupation (see the West Bank) and in Jesus’ day, things were no different. Josephus writes about extremist groups called “Zealots.” He even uses the familiar term “terrorists” to refer to groups who were rampant carrying out any number of atrocities during the very time when Jesus’ ministry was in full gear. Mere coincidence? Highly doubt it.

You’ll remember when Jesus’ disciples were ready for a fight (Gethsemane), asking when Jesus would restore the kingdom to Israel (overthrowing Rome). These moments underscore the volatile and violent environment into which the Prince of Peace entered, but something far more important is going on than a repetition of history.What did Jesus teach His disciples when they wanted blood? He taught them that instead of returning evil for evil, they were to turn the other cheek. Vengeance was God’s, not theirs. Blood would be shed, certainly, but it would be blood shed not just to get even, only perpetuating more violence, it would be blood of the New Covenant, shed on the cross. The disciples were to be people of forgiveness and mercy. Where there was hatred, they were to sow love. Where there was strife, they were agents of peace. In short, they were to be people different from the non-believing, angry, hateful, blood-thirsty mob.

 We all want so badly for our world to be peaceful, for Satan’s grip to be loosened. We want senseless killing and terrorist attacks to end. Now. We’re fed up with it. There’s a strong tendency in us, just like the disciples, to fight back. We let our government fight the earthly battle; the battle we need to fight, with the Spirit’s help, is the battle within us, the one that seeks to destroy the teachings of Christ, seeks to tell us that things like love, forgiveness, faith and hope don’t matter and don’t make a difference in this life. Wrong. They most certainly matter in this life! God became a man, who came to earth to teach other men how to live this life on earth.

I pray earnestly for Christ’s second Advent, and I know you do, too. Jesus is coming back. I wish He would come back today. We are more than ready. Until then, we do as Christ bids us do, devote ourselves to His teachings, not losing hope, but fighting the good fight of faith, confident that the cross and the resurrection are not in vain.

Pastor Mark

Posted by Monthly Message at Tuesday, November 24, 2015 | 0 comments