Principal’s Pen: to the class of 2020

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These are my comments directed to Lakeside’s Class of 2020 at this year’s graduation. I extend my words to all graduates in our federation.

It wasn’t supposed to end this way.

In recent weeks, everyone’s lives were overturned. Many lost their jobs. Busy schedules were vacated and then made busy again in other ways. Pandemic, social distancing, and the new normal are today’s buzzwords. Face masks, shortages, and uncertainty about life are what we face today.

No, it wasn’t supposed to end this way.

Yet, the Class of 2020 is not the first group to think or utter these words. There have been other upheavals throughout history that quickly reshaped society: the 1950s polio scare, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the Great Depression, to name several. In a matter of minutes or days, the fragile flow of life—as we know it—can be overturned or even destroyed. It has happened before. It will likely happen again. No, it wasn’t supposed to end this way.

Nearly 2,000 years ago, a group of bewildered men huddled behind locked doors. Their rabbi had been arrested, tortured, and crucified. They may well have wondered if they were next. All likely felt guilt since they deserted their Master in his hour of need. One, particularly, may well have felt this pain most keenly because his actions fulfilled the very words of his Master’s prophecy. Among them, there was fear, uncertainty, and perhaps even the sentiment, “No, it wasn’t supposed to end this way.”

A17year28gcThen, the risen Savior entered that room. He stood among his disciples with visible nail marks in his hands and a spear slash in his side. He spoke words that were most unexpected. Instead of chastising and berating those who failed him, he said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). These were ordinary words of greeting. Yet, they bear extraordinary meaning.

In John’s gospel, Jesus explained peace. It’s not the peace “as the world gives” (John 14:27). It is peace from the forgiveness of sins that he earned for all. It is the assurance that whatever happens “will [not] be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).

“Peace be with you.” This was the Savior’s greeting to those confused men. It assured them that their sins were forgiven. It gave them courage to meet the challenges, trials, and death threats they would face in the coming years for preaching the gospel. The Savior’s promise of peace was their sure hope in dark and uncertain times.

Jesus’ words of greeting are also for us. Like believers of all times, you and I have the assurance of our Savior’s forgiveness. No matter how unsteady our lives become or how unsure our future appears, we have the same peace that Jesus spoke to his disciples. We know that God loves us, has made us his own through baptism, and will see us through whatever the future brings.

Some might still be tempted to say, “No, it wasn’t supposed to end this way.” The end of senior year of high school should have been a time of fun, celebration, and joy. Yet, it wasn’t this year. The events of the pandemic are so close to us that we cannot see the larger picture. But, God can. He will use all that has happened in the past months to praise and glorify his name and even serve as blessings for all who trust in him.

Congratulations, Class of 2020. You have made it! It did end in the way it was supposed to. You will receive your high school diplomas. Most importantly, you have the certainty of your Savior’s forgiveness with the peace that can never be taken from you.

“Peace be with you.”
God bless you always with Jesus’ peace. Amen.

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran.
Reach him at 920.648.2321 or jgrasby@llhs.org

Principal’s Pen: Action & Reaction

pen_8416c“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

In Science, students learn Newton’s Third Law of Motion. It states that when two separate forces act on two corresponding objects, the size of the force on the first object equals the size of the force on the second.3rd law of motion

Soon after God created humans, the Bible relates what is perhaps the saddest chapter in history: the fall into sin. Adam and Eve had perfection. Without sin, there was no aging, pain, or death. Their relationship with God was perfect. They wanted what God wanted because they were holy. But, that would soon change.

The serpent tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Against God’s clear command not to eat it, Eve succumbed and Adam did the same.

Now, the perfect world plunged headlong into sin. Perfection disappeared. Evil infected every human thought. Yes, holiness was gone as evidenced by Adam and Eve immediately blaming others, vainly attempting to salvage their own sinful pride.

thorns_17324cAt this point, God could have destroyed creation and his creatures. Yet, he did the unthinkable. While cursing the serpent, he announced grace and mercy to Adam and Eve. He said, “And I will put enmity between you (serpent) and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he (the Savior) will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). God showed unimaginable love by promising One who would remove sin’s curse. Years later, in his proclamation from the cross, “It is finished,” (John 19:30), Christ, the serpent crusher, fulfilled this very promise.

Newton’s law explains the traits of objects and motion well. But, when considering the unfathomable grace of God, words can’t explain it. Adapting Newtonian verbiage, one might well say, “For sin’s every action, God’s grace and love respond with an immeasurable reaction.”

Lord, lead us daily to appreciate your great love for humankind as seen in the life, death, and resurrection of your Son, our Savior. Amen.

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran High.
Reach him at 920.648.2321 or jgrasby@llhs.org

Buy one, get one parables

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BOGO. Everyone likes a great deal. Although we may view Jesus’ parables as individual teachings, at least once in Scripture our Savior taught two adjacent parables with complementary messages.

Luke 13 records the parables of The Mustard Seed and The Yeast. Although separate in content, the two dovetail nicely to illustrate truths about the kingdom of God.
“Then Jesus asked, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches’” (Luke 13:18-19).

Jesus wanted his hearers to picture outward growth. A small mustard seed was planted and grew into a tree capable of supporting birds. It visibly grew over time. The same may be said of the Church. It, too, had humble beginnings. Yet, over time, the Lord blessed it through his Word to grow into the most enduring institution of human history.

“Again he asked, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough’” (v. 20-21).

One may almost picture Jesus transitioning to his next parable. Again, using a common item—yeast—he illustrates a different type of growth in the Church—inner growth. He notes that “it worked all through the dough.” Although yeast’s outward effect is observable, it works inwardly through the dough, causing it to rise.

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God’s Word causes outward growth in the Church as those who hear it believe and come to faith by the Spirit. At the same time, it creates inner growth as believers hear God’s Word, growing stronger in faith as individuals and congregations. Growth in the Church may not always be measurable. Yet, it happens because our Lord promises us that “my word … will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

“What is the kingdom of God like?” Although the Church may be compared to many things, it is the living body of believers that grows through “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Lord, help us to grow in and through your Word. Amen.

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran High. Reach him at 920.648.2321
or jgrasby@llhs.org

Principal’s Pen: How to practice the Resurrection

principals-message-1   “He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:6)

The message that our Savior rose and conquered death was proclaimed today in Christian churches worldwide. Christ’s resurrection is Christianity’s core. With its importance, should resurrection not be merely a noun, but actually a verb? What would it mean to “practice” the resurrection in our faith lives?

bouquet_17337cpIn his “resurrection” chapter, 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (v. 17). Some Corinthians denied the resurrection. Their culture and their upbringing before hearing of Jesus led them to reject Scripture’s clear teaching that Christ rose and that “the dead will be raised to live forever” (v. 52). So, Paul first establishes proof of Christ’s resurrection, tying it to the truth that all will someday arise. He also asserts that believers’ bodies will be glorified at the resurrection. This chapter is the capstone of Christ’s victory over death and the grave.

In these verses, Paul sets forth a believer’s action plan to daily “practice” the truth of Christ’s resurrection:

  • Believed: (v. 2 and 11): The Holy Spirit leads believers to trust God’s Word—including his promise of the resurrection;
  • Stop sinning” (v. 34): As Paul held the law before those Corinthians who denied the resurrection, he extols us to turn from our sin and stop doubting God’s promises;
  • Changed” (v. 52): Our resurrected bodies will change from perishable to imperishable. By God’s grace, our earthly lives will also change from sinful self-centeredness to grace-filled lives of love for God and others; and
  • Give thanks”(v. 57): In response to “the unlimited riches that Christ gives” (Ephesians 3:8), we can daily “remain strong in the faith … [and] give [ourselves] completely to the work of the Lord” [1 Cor. 15:58].

Viewing Christ’s resurrection this way leads us—by faith—to daily put it into practice.

Lord, strengthen our faith and guide us to live in the sure hope of our resurrection in Christ. Amen.

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran High.
Reach him at 920.648.2321 or jgrasby@llhs.org

Principal’s Pen: Your faith DNA

rectorcGenealogy is “all the rage.” In recent years, millions have taken DNA tests, performed online research, and searched family Bibles and letters, all to find out about themselves through their ancestors. Perhaps they feel their past will also reveal their future. As God’s people, we have a “faith-genealogy.” It tells us about ourselves by looking at the lives of believers who preceded us. It also gives us the sure hope of our future life to come.
The Apostle Paul warned the Galatian churches about “a different gospel” [Galatians 1:6] that some of them embraced. As an “apostle to the Gentiles” [Galatians 2:8], the Holy Spirit led him to explain how Christ perfectly fulfilled the law of Moses.  As such, the law’s requirements —particularly circumcision—no longer bound believers. Unfortunately, some Galatians believed the false teachers’ lies that they were obligated to live by the law.
Near the letter’s midpoint, Paul states, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” [Galatians 3:28]. In God’s eyes, we “are all one.” When God views us, he does not see us as we are. He sees us as Christ has made us.
Without Christ’s righteousness, a holy and righteous God sees all humans as sinners. He views us “like one who is unclean.” In this state, even our attempts to fulfill the law by  “righteous acts are like filthy rags” [Is. 64:6]. For this, we deserve only God’s wrath and eternal punishment.

heart_15698cpThrough Christ’s atoning work, God sees us in a wholly different way. We are not “Jew nor Gentile … slave nor free … male and female.” Rather, we “are all one in Christ Jesus.” Through him, we are also “without blemish and free from accusation” [Colossians 1:22].

If you researched your ancestry, you may have made interesting discoveries. Some of them may even have provided you with personal insights. Never forget your greater ancestry with all believers by faith in Christ. Through him alone, we “are all one.”
Lord, as your family members by faith, lead us to thank you daily with our words and actions.

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran High.
Reach him at 920.648.2321 or jgrasby@llhs.org

Principal’s Pen: Break my heart

principal_8939c5_printFebruary is sometimes labeled the “month of love.”

Human love is imperfect. Often, its affections are unilateral. Even if two people are in love, it may not last. February could also be called the “month of broken hearts.”

A broken heart “hurts”—not physically, but emotionally. It sometimes takes months or years for people to recover from one. Yet, as devastating as it may humanly be, God tells us that we should come to him regularly with a broken heart.

2 Samuel 11 and 12 is the lurid account of David’s affair with Bathsheba, his death decree for Uriah, and his cover-up attempt. Although he thought that he had gotten away with it, the Lord was not fooled. Through Nathan, the Lord told David, “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7). Although sin blinded David, God’s Word worked and eventually David sought forgiveness.

broken heart.pngNear this time, the Holy Spirit moved David to write Psalm 51 with its words of penitence and humility. It begins, “Have mercy on me, O God” (v. 1). A bit further are words of trust and joy for forgiveness. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (v. 12). Further yet David writes, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (v. 17).

When we seek God’s forgiveness, he wants us to have a broken heart. This is not a broken heart from imperfect human love. It is a broken heart knowing that we have offended a holy God. We deserve only his wrath and punishment.

Psalm 51 illustrates confession’s two parts: penitence, knowing that all sin transgresses God’s holy will, and confidence, trusting that we are forgiven through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Phrases like “create in me a pure heart” (v. 10) and “restore to me the joy of your salvation” (v. 12) are David’s expression of that trust and confidence. All who repent in faith may believe that God “heals” their broken hearts and removes their guilt forever.

God, give us a broken heart every day to humbly seek your forgiveness knowing that— for Jesus’ sake—we are forgiven.

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran High.
Reach him at 920.648.2321 or jgrasby@llhs.org

Principal’s Pen: Paying it forward

Print“Paying it forward.” It’s the practice of paying a stranger’s bill with no expectations. You may have “paid it forward” for someone—or someone may have “paid it forward” for you.

By grace, we have experienced “paying it forward” in our lives.

In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul wrote to believers who were under fire. The times were perilous. The persecutions had begun. Nevertheless, Paul encouraged the Ephesians and believers of all times to walk with Christ and serve him in unity and love.

b12year17ecEarly in the epistle, Paul writes, “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7). Jesus made payment “through his blood.” These words refer to Christ’s death on the cross as sin’s complete payment. His payment releases us from the eternal penalty of sin. Furthermore, it helps us manage sin’s earthly consequences—guilt, hopelessness, and despair.

However, our freedom through Christ is not free. It cost him everything when he died to pay for our sins. What Christ did clearly illustrates grace—God’s undeserved love. By faith, we have the privilege of being God’s children with no strings attached. It is his free gift.

In a sense, Jesus “paid it forward” for our sins. Before we believed, “even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5, ESV). The reason is humanly inexplicable: “for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast”(Ephesians 2:8-9).

By grace, Christ “paid it forward” so that all believers may enjoy “the riches of God’s grace.

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran High.
Reach him at 920.648.2321 or jgrasby@llhs.org

Principal’s Pen: Rich at Christmas

rectorc“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich”
(2 Corinthians 8:9).

By nature, humans are not giving. Often, we keep for ourselves what we have. The first words of many children—“no” and “mine”—easily fly out especially during fits of self-centeredness.

Each year, the media reports on Christmas spending. For 2018, the average American supposedly spent $1,000 for Christmas gifts, decorations, food, and related non-gift items. Perhaps these reports amaze us—considering that we are not, by nature, giving.

At Christmas, however, we all would do well to ponder Paul’s words to the Corinthians, noting Christ’s giving nature and his reason for it.

Paul reminds us of Jesus’ grace, God’s unconditional gift. It is “unasked, unforced, unearned” (Where Shepherds Lately Knelt, stanza 4). “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” is God’s gift to all sinners.

B15year31ecPaul then illustrates grace. “That though [Christ] was rich, yet for your sake he became poor” (2 Corinthians 8:9) Christ set aside heaven’s glories to become human. Although he is true God, Jesus took “the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” [Philippians 2:7]. He experienced pain, sorrow, and temptation firsthand. Yet, through it all, “he committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” [1 Peter 2:22].

His reason for doing this was “so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Jesus lived to save sinners. Earlier in Corinthians, Paul states how Christ bore the world’s sin on the cross “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Unlike anyone else could, Christ humbled himself to offer forgiveness, peace, and eternal life—the most precious Christmas gifts of all.

There is nothing wrong with giving Christmas gifts. It is great to see Christmas decorations. Celebrating Christmas with family and friends can be joyful. But, for us, these simply point to the One who surrendered his riches “so that [we] through his poverty might become rich.”

God bless your Advent meditations and your joyous Christmas celebration.
May he also bless your New Year.

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran High. Reach him at 920.648.2321 or jgrasby@llhs.org

Principal’s Pen: ‘Give careful thought to your ways’

“Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: PPen talk bubbles Nov19
‘Give careful thought to your ways’ (Haggai 1:5).

At times, someone may ask us to stop and consider our actions. This was the case in Haggai’s day.

Haggai authored one of the final Old Testament books. He wrote the above words 15 years after the exiles returned from Babylon. Upon their return, Jerusalem and its Temple lay in ruins. Almost immediately, the people rebuilt the city walls and other structures. The Lord blessed their work. Within seven months, they set up the altar of burnt offering. Soon, the Temple’s foundation would be laid.

Then, the work stopped. For 15 years, nothing more happened. This is when the Lord addressed the people through Haggai. The Lord took the people to task for reversing their priorities. Instead of first rebuilding his house, they feathered their own nests by building themselves fine homes. As a result, the work on the Temple was neglected.

Twice, the Lord states, “Give careful thought to your ways” (Haggai 1:5 and 1:7). This repetition is for emphasis. The Lord wanted his people to stop and carefully consider their actions. He had a reason for insisting that the Temple be immediately completed: “That I may take pleasure in it” (1:8). He wanted his house to be built now with the finest materials as a fitting place for him.

In the phrase “that I may take pleasure in it,” the key word is pleasure. The Lord “take[s] no pleasure in the death of anyone” (Ezekiel 18:32) or even “in the death of the wicked” (Ezk. 33:11). Rather, he finds pleasure when sinners humble themselves before him. His desire is for everyone to “repent and live” (18:32). The Lord wanted his house completed with no further delay so that repentant sinners could come before him to “turn from their [evil] ways and live” (33:11).

The Lord still offers grace and mercy to repentant sinners in his house. After his law reveals our sin and hopelessness, he shares the gospel. Then, by faith, we may turn from our evil ways, trusting confidently in Christ’s forgiveness.

The Lord redirected greed and laziness to become repentance and forgiveness. He did it with six simple words: “Give careful thought to your ways,” that called a nation to repent. Eventually, it led his people to trust in his full forgiveness through Christ.

Lord, lead us to “give careful thought to your ways.”
You love us and you want us to share eternal life with you
through your Son, our Savior.

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran High.
Reach him at 920.648.2321 or jgrasby@llhs.org

Principal’s Pen: “The righteous will live by faith”

PPen_Luther_SealThe righteous will live by faith.

This passage occurs in Romans and Galatians. With slight wording variations, it appears twice more in the Bible.

The first is in Habakkuk, who likely wrote his book shortly before the Babylonian invasion. The godly Habakkuk’s concern was evil. Daily, he observed violence, injustice, and wickedness in Judah. In a dialogue with the Lord, Habakkuk asked why he allowed this.

The Lord revealed that he would use the Babylonians to severely discipline Judah for its sins. Yet, he described the Babylonians as greedy and violent idolaters. This confused Habakkuk. It seemed inconsistent with the Lord’s character.

The Lord went on to reveal that someday he would also deal with the Babylonians. By contrast, he stated, “The righteous person will live by his faithfulness” [2:4].

There are three key words in this passage. The first is righteous. Bible characters—like Noah, Job, and Simeon—are labeled righteous. They are not perfect, but upright. Habbakuk used righteous to denote those who follow a standard like God’s holy law.

The second word is live, a word with multiple meanings depending on context. Hababbuk’s use denotes deliverance and living in a holy relationship with the Lord.

The final word is faithfulness. Note the preceding word: his faithfulness. This points to the Lord’s faithfulness to his promises.

In short, this passage from Habakkuk states that believers live—by faith—according to the Word of God. As such, they enjoy a special relationship with the Lord and they may fully rely on his promises.

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Habakkuk may not have immediately understood the Lord’s words, but neither have we. At times, we look about in disbelief. We want to “throw in the towel” thinking that God has lost control of this world. When this occurs, may he lead us to this passage and remind us of faithfulness. He controls history for the good of his people and guides everything to glorify his name.

Habakkuk eventually understood this and—by God’s grace—so may we.

Lord, give us eyes of faith to view your faithfulness through Jesus’ cross. You have made us “the righteous [who] live by faith.”

Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran.
Contact him at jgrasby@llhs.org