Principal’s Pen: Trust our ever-present help

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

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” (Psalm 46:1-2)

2020 has been incredible! Not long ago, COVID-19 was a distant problem. Now, it affects nearly every aspect of our lives. We’ve had to make many changes. Even as we begin to come together again, there’s a sense that life will never be the same.

Will the future bring a resurgence of COVID or more civil strife? We don’t know. If the past few months have taught us anything, it is that we don’t know what the future holds. Things that appear permanent and unchangeable are not. They can be quickly taken.

God tells us this in Psalm 46. The psalmist pictures the earth and its mountains as symbols of endurance. They don’t appear to move or change. The collapse of these durable objects depicts chaos and upheaval.

Yet, the psalmist also reminds us where we find refuge in troubling times. It isn’t in the things of this world or in creature comforts. It’s not in freedom or economic stability. All these may disappear in a moment.

But, God’s promises can’t be taken away. What Christ said on the cross remains true forever: “It is finished!” Our salvation is sure! Our sins are forgiven. Jesus has a place for us in heaven as the inheritance that cannot be taken away. The past few months haven’t changed that. God’s love and grace have not wavered. Though “the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,” God’s promises of grace, mercy, and everlasting life remain true and last forever.

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The coming months may well be challenging. We’ll all have to adjust to a “new normal.”
But “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” That remains true for now and forever.

Lord, lead us to always trust in you as our refuge and strength. Amen.

Principal’s Pen: Take a breath

principal note_19131cWhat is the most useful chapter in the Bible? Some may feel that Genesis 1 (Creation), Psalm 23 (the Good Shepherd), 1 Corinthians 15 (Resurrection), or Revelation 22 (the Bible’s final words) deserve that title. Yet, there is a case that Romans 8 may well earn that distinction. Living in an unsettled world, this chapter bears a timely message: “Take a breath. God says that it will be okay.”

Romans 8 contains several well-known verses.

  • There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (v. 1)
  • I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (v. 18)
  • If God is for us, who can be against us? (v. 31)

Each one clearly states that God is in control. Nothing can separate us from his love.
The past five months have been difficult for everyone. I do not wish to minimize the impact that disease, the loss of livelihood, and restrictions on travel and socializing have had on people. Nor do I claim that there is no inequality in the world. Yet, if you look at all that has recently happened through the lens of Romans 8, you begin to understand that what God does is for our good and it will continue to be for our good even in trying times.

Have you considered the new opportunities for the gospel since mid-March? An avalanche of technology through streaming, YouTube and other social media has shared the saving message of Jesus with a figuratively captive audience. The seed of the Word has been planted. The Holy Spirit will cause it to grow as he sees fit.

Have you considered the new opportunities for personal spiritual growth? Once busy schedules are not as busy. There is more time to read God’s Word, meditate on it, and pray.

Have you considered the new opportunities for godly living? Social isolation creates loneliness. This is a great time to reach out and check on others—especially those who have no one checking on them.

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Romans 8 closes, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“Take a breath. God says that it will be okay.”

Lord, help us to “take a breath” knowing that you are in control.  Amen.

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

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: 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: 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

ACT results well above average

ACT Research Services of Iowa City, Iowa, recently released the ACT results for Lakeside Lutheran High School Class of 2019. 

Of the 110 members of the 2019 class, 87, or 79%, wrote the exam. Based on a 36-point scale, the composite score of these students was 24.1, which is above the state score of 20.3. This composite score keeps Lakeside Lutheran among the top 2% of over 460 high schools in the state, as reported by the Wisconsin Department of Instruction. Once again, Lakeside’s mathematics scores led the four tested areas with a composite score of 25.6.

2019_LLHS_ACT_Composite_Scores

According to ACT Inc., the test is not an aptitude or IQ test, but directly related to what students have learned in high school courses. They use the results to predict college readiness in four areas: English, Math, Reading, and Science. “It is the rigor of coursework—rather than simply the number of core courses—that has the greatest impact on ACT performance and college readiness,” the non-profit organization states. For the class of 2019, 47 percent met that benchmark in all four areas, where the state percentage was 24.

“In addition to having higher average ACT scores than many local schools, the College Board stated that our composite percentage of students who are ‘college ready’ in four core subjects is almost double the state’s composite,” says Principal James Grasby. “This means a majority of Lakeside graduates are very likely to earn a “B” or above in college-level English Composition, Algebra, Social Science and Biology courses. This is a great testimony to God’s blessing on our students’ work.”

2019_LLHS_ACT_College-ready_Percentages

The ACT is a national college admission and placement examination that is used by more colleges than any other examination. Begun in 1959, more than 1.8 million students wrote the ACT last school year, including almost 67,000 students in Wisconsin. The ACT is a standard assessment for all 11th-graders in Wisconsin public high schools.

Lakeside Lutheran High School in Lake Mills is a ministry operated by a federation of 32 Lutheran congregations who are affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod or the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. The school holds accreditation from the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI), a division of AdvancED. For more information, contact Principal James Grasby at (920) 648-2321.

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: I don’t deserve this

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Someone—feeling that life is unfair—may say or think these words. Christians could also utter them. However, by faith, they convey a completely different meaning.

Jesus and his disciples left Judea for Galilee. Unlike their countrymen, they traveled through Samaria. Eventually, they arrived at Sychar, the location of Jacob’s well. Jesus sent his disciples to town to buy food while he waited at the well.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus asked her for a drink. Immediately, her defenses went up. “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (John 4:9). She knew that Jews did not associate with Samaritans or even share their cups. However, Jesus would not be dissuaded. He said, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (v. 10).

water4cThis woman did not realize that the long-awaited Messiah sat before her. After further conversation, Jesus revealed, “I am he” (v. 26). This woman did not deserve this. Jesus could have avoided Samaria. He could have said nothing when she approached the well. He could have ended the conversation after her rebuttal. Yet, by grace, he revealed himself to her as well as to “many of the Samaritans from that town [who] believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” (v. 39).

Those in Sychar did not deserve this. Neither do we.

We are “enemies of God” (Hebrews 10:27) through unbelief. We have “turned from following him and [have] no regard for any of his ways” (Job 34:27). This alone is grounds for God’s rejection.

Yet, by grace, he reveals Christ to us through his Word. Scripture provides the gospel’s “living water” (John 4:10) to identify Jesus as “that Messiah called Christ … [who] will explain everything” (v. 25).

“I don’t deserve this!” No. It should be, “I don’t deserve this”—“the incomparable riches of [God’s] grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:7).

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

Principal’s Pen: Bad news, good news

It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

John authored Revelation while exiled on Patmos. It was a dangerous time for Christians. Most faced persecution. Many were imprisoned. Some were being tortured and killed.

John’s Spirit-inspired book accurately depicted his world. The Christian Church was under attack. It appeared that evil would soon gain the upper hand.

Repeatedly, John urged the saints to be faithful to God during this tribulation.

But, it would get worse before it got better. He cautioned, “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution” [Revelation 2:10a]. But, immediately, he exhorted, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown” [v.10b]. There was hope. Even if death was imminent, the Lord promised the “victor’s crown” to all who persevered.

The Lord of the Church would not desert the faithful. Eventually, the institutions seeking to destroy Christianity would themselves end. No longer would the saints be persecuted, and the Church would actually become society’s foundation.

Today, Christianity is again under attack. But, unlike John’s time, the attack is not necessarily physical. Today’s attack seeks to undermine the Church through fear and apathy. We feel alone and isolated because Scripture’s views are no longer valued by society. At times, we are lulled into complacency thinking that attacks on Christians are distant, sporadic, and without effect.

In reality, those attacks are drawing closer and intensifying. Christians are identified in politics, the media, and entertainment as intolerant hatemongers. Some view us as the troublers of society for defending Scripture’s truths on life, marriage, and sexuality.

We would all do well to read John’s words and remind ourselves that we, too, live in a perilous age. At the same time, we can find comfort in God’s Word. Even if persecution and death threaten us, God promises, “I will give you life as your victor’s crown.”

May God give us a strong faith to clings to him for he promises us “the victor’s crown.”

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