Friday, February 2, 2018
This week I ran across an old grocery store bag in the corner of the garage. It was heavier than I expected it to be. That’s because there were a couple rocks in it. (What…you don’t keep a bag of rocks in your garage too!?)
Rocks like the one pictured above. And I was reminded of my shortcomings. You see, five people who weren’t able to attend our VotL groundbreaking ceremony in May of 2015 gave me their “prayer rocks” which I promised I was going to press into the concrete foundation of our ministry center building along with the hundred or so other prayer rocks that people made at the groundbreaking ceremony.
But these five rocks in the grocery store bag didn’t make it. I failed to put them in the foundation. They found their way instead into the corner of the parsonage garage. And I couldn’t help but wonder, How many other things have I failed to do over the years of serving as a pastor here? How many other things have I overlooked or in my weakness failed to say or do? How many people have I forgotten about? I’m sure the list is long… Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.
But then I pulled out a rock from the bag to see what was written on it. And that’s when I saw the words you see above: “THANK YOU LORD 4 PASTOR BENS WORK 4 DA LORD +VOTL”. On the other side it says, “GOD BLESS PASTOR BEN.”
And sure enough, what an incredible, timely reminder (yet again!) of God’s grace smack dab in the midst of my shortcomings. The love of God’s people and their prayers…for me. Yet again…for me. Oh how the LORD has blessed me, so much more than I deserve! How constant his mercy. How steady his love.
And as the message on this prayer rock hit me right where I was at…I was reminded again what a privilege it is to share the good news of a Savior who came to meet us all where we were at—squarely in the middle of our many shortcomings and sins. How wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ!
Friends, this Sunday at Victory of the Lamb, Pastor Bill will be wrapping up our New Year Revolution series with a message of the power of love put into action—God’s love for us and our love for each other. See you there!
ICYMI – be sure and watch my message from this past Sunday. “You have a call! (because of God’s purpose and grace”) Part 4 of our series New Year Revolution.
Bible 101 Class – Pastor Bill began a new class this Wednesday evening. There is still room for you to jump in and participate. Just let Pastor Bill know or register here. Wednesday evenings starting January 31st from 6:30-8pm. There will be no class on February 14th.
Ash Wednesday Worship - On Wednesday, February 14th there will be a brief but meaningful worship service at 6:30 pm at the ministry center.
Celebration of Ministry – We will be having a celebration of ministry for Pastor Ben, Sarah and girls on Feb 11 from 2-4 pm, with a short program at 3pm. The celebration will include hors d’oeuvres, sweet treats, memories and a time to reminisce. We will be collecting donations for a ministry appreciation gift for Pastor Ben, Sarah and girls. You can drop off cards and donations in the box in the lobby on Sunday mornings or mail them to VOTL, c/o Ministry Celebration, 11120 W Loomis Road, Franklin, WI 53132. If you are interested in helping prepare for the Celebration or donating food items, please see your email or contact Cassy Robbert, VOTL Events Coordinator.
2017 Giving Statements – are ready for you to view and print. Details on how to do this were emailed to you earlier this week and can also be found here. In addition, printed copies of how to access your statements can be found in the Welcome area of the lobby. Please note — we will not be mailing out statements this year, unless requested to do so. If you need assistance or have a question, please contact Nancy.
Sharing Christ’s Victory,
Friday, January 5, 2018
Get your hopes up high! That’s the theme of Pastor Bill’s message coming up this weekend as we begin a new series called New Year Revolution.
And I understand if some of you might be thinking, “Yeah, right!” Or, “Sounds like wishful thinking to me.”
But it’s not. Not when our Almighty and Gracious God is involved! Not when we’re talking about the Source of forgiveness, joy, freedom, radical generosity, and audacious faith. Not when God who made our hearts also knows just how to heal them and then even to begin using us to bring his healing to others.
Hope / Identity / Community / Purpose / Love
I need these things. You need these things. The world needs these things. The good news is that the church of Jesus Christ is uniquely able to offer them.
Please join me and Pastor Bill the next five Sundays as God produces in our hearts and lives what we could never produce on our own. We’re going to marvel at the revolutionary truth of the gospel and how the message of God’s gracious love in Christ changes our hearts, our church and our world.
(ICYMI – Here’s the video of my call announcement followed by the sermon from this past Sunday – “There’s No Dwelling Place Like the Lord.”)
Christmas Take Down - It’s time to take down and safely pack away our beautiful Christmas decorations. Can you help for a short while after the late service this Sunday? Meet up by the big tree in the sanctuary and Andrea will let you know how you can help.
My Plans – My family and I will be at VotL through February 11. That will be my final Sunday and sermon here. After that we’ll begin our transition to Divine Savior Church in Doral, FL to begin there sometime in early March. Thank you for your expressions of faith, love, encouragement, sadness, excitement, compassion and prayer over this past week since I announced my decision to accept the call to Divine Savior last Sunday. I also understand there are lots of maybe different emotions that you’re processing, and maybe even they change by the day. Yet through it all God is faithful. He knows the conflicting feelings of our hearts. Through the gospel he keeps on refreshing us. And his love will keep us all from falling. That’s why we look forward to worshiping Jesus with you, our church family, over the next couple weeks that remain!
VotL: Past, Present, Future – Our church’s president, Jeff Guenther, took the initiative to put together what I thought was a great email this week. If you didn’t read it, please take a minute or two to read it online. And as Jeff mentioned, the Leadership Team will be meeting this coming Monday night to discuss timing and plans for calling another pastor. They welcome and seek your input in this process so please feel free to contact anyone on the Leadership Team. Their individual contact info is available here on our church website. To send an email to everyone on the Leadership Team simply use this email.
Bible 101 “Plus” - This new format class is the first step at our church for anyone who has questions about God or wants to learn what we believe. It also prepares you to receive Communion by studying the foundational teachings of the Christian faith. The teaching combines elements from the former Bible 101 and 201 classes. The group will meet at Victory of the Lamb ministry center on seven Wednesday evenings starting January 24th from 6:30-8pm. There will be no class on February 14th. Register here
St Paul’s Franklin School Open House - St. Paul's Lutheran School has been an educational tradition in Franklin for 150 years and we will be showing off our school Sunday, January 28th from 11:30AM until 2PM. We are committed to sharing our quality, Christ-centered school with you, our brothers and sisters down the road. Come and see why our families love being a part of our school, grab a snack (a light lunch is provided), meet the teachers, see the classrooms, and learn about the great education available to students from 3k up to 8th grade. If that doesn't work for your schedule, you can always call and set up a different time to visit (414-421-1930). We look forward to seeing you!
Sharing Christ’s Victory,
Thursday, December 21, 2017
What’s on your Christmas wish list? If I were asking the kids I got to hang out with Tuesday as part of Operation Jesus Cares, I would hear answers like legos, a particular video game, or a basketball signed by Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. If I were asking their parents I would hear things like having a permanent place to live, having enough money to fix the car, or wishing to be able to take a trip to see a loved one who lives far away.
How about you? Perhaps you realize that what you really wish for isn’t the kind of gift you can find wrapped up under the tree anymore. And that’s ok. Because that’s exactly why Jesus Christ came into this world for you and me—to give us the intangible, greater gifts of things like a clear conscience, credited righteousness, a justification that stands firm in the face of Satan’s accusations, a baptismal identity strong enough to overcome the world, a victorious hope that conquers the grave, and finally…lasting joy with our forever family in heaven!
What a wonderful opportunity we have on Christmas Eve this coming Sunday to unpack the gift of our Savior Jesus together! Join me at Victory of the Lamb at either 9 am or 4 pm to celebrate God’s love come down for us all. Invite a friend! It’s what the world needs. It’s what we all need! Then if you’re able please join us again on Christmas Day at 9 am for a different service where Pastor Bill will be preaching, our teen band will be playing, and we will have an opportunity to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together as a church family.
(ICYMI – This past Sunday was our Victory Kids Christmas program followed by Pastor Bill’s comforting message about the “Christmas letter” that Jesus wrote to you and me.)
Take Note: Special Christmas Worship Schedule – On Sunday Dec 24, Christmas Eve, we will have two identical services: 9:00 am and 4:00 pm. The 9:00 am service will feature a coffee and breakfast bar. Our Victory Kids program will offered during the 9:00 am service. The 4:00 pm service will have Christmas Cookies and a Hot Cocoa Bar. There will be no Victory Kids program during the 4:00 pm service. On Christmas Day we will have one service at 9:00 am with communion. There will be no Victory Kids program during the Christmas Day service.
Operation Jesus Cares Recap – Tuesday morning God blessed us with fantastic, sunny December weather as we got to help 140+ kids show the love of Jesus to their neighbors by going door to door giving gifts. In each care package was food for a spaghetti dinner, personal care items, winter hats and gloves, Christmas coloring books, and a bilingual invitation to the Christ-St Peter Kids Christmas Eve service. Thank you to everyone who volunteered and donated. And of special note…thank you for swiftly and generously kicking in the final $1,000 needed this week to cover in full all the costs for making this event successful once again!
Prayers for Peace – It’s fitting this week as we celebrate Christmas that we also lift up our brothers and sisters in Nepal who are experiencing increased levels of persecution the last couple months. One dear family in particular has been under extreme pressures. Lord Jesus, watch over your people there and everywhere and give them courage to keep sharing the message of your victory. Your kingdom come. Grant them…and us…your peace. Amen.
Christmas Witnessing Tips – During Christmas worship services at your church, remember that it’s not about the numbers that come, but the connections that are made. // Mighty Warriors in Christ step out in faith to share their faith with others. Engage Christmas visitors who arrive to hear Good News. Invite neighbors… and bring a plate of Christmas cookies with you. We can say, “Christmas reminds me that God is with us... and with you. That brings me true joy and peace because it rests on what God has already done for all of us through Jesus. I would like to invite you to come and celebrate that message and what it means for us.” (From our friend Dave Malnes of Praise and Proclaim Ministries)
Sharing Christ’s Victory,
Friday, December 15, 2017
The Grinch is a bitter, grouchy, cave-dwelling creature with a heart “two sizes too small” that tries to steal the Christmas joy from Whoville—home of the merry and warm-hearted Whos.
What’s trying to steal your Christmas joy… Stress? Worry? Fear? Bitterness? Anger? Grief?
For the people that the prophet Isaiah was writing to long ago, all these things were threatening to rob them of “Christmas” joy too. Would they ever find deliverance from being exiled in Babylon? Would they ever experience joy again? Would the promised Savior ever come?
Of course the answer to those questions was Yes!
Even more, it’s a resounding Yes for us as well because Christ has come! God has kept his promise of sending us a Deliverer—a stress, worry, fear, bitterness, anger, grief, SIN and DEATH deliverer! And because of what Jesus accomplished for us… “No matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Take Note: Special Christmas Worship Schedule -- On Sunday Dec 24, Christmas Eve, we will have two identical services: 9:00 am and 4:00 pm. The 9:00 am service will feature a coffee and breakfast bar. Our Victory Kids program will offered during the 9:00 am service. The 4:00 pm service will have Christmas Cookies and a Hot Cocoa Bar. There will be no Victory Kids program during the 4:00 pm service. On Christmas Day we will have one service at 9:00 am with communion. There will be no Victory Kids program during the Christmas Day service.
Take Note: This Sunday there will be no Victory Kids program during the 8:30 service. That’s because the 10:15 service will include our annual 20 minute Victory Kids Christmas program. Pastor Bill will be preaching a sermon at each service.
Help Needed – After the 4:00 pm service on Christmas Eve our Victory Café needs additional people to help serve at the Hot Cocoa Bar. Please let Cindy know if you can help serve. We also need a group of at least ten people to help clean up the café area, take out trash, and clean the lobby from about 5:15-6:00 pm on Christmas Eve. If you’re able, please consider staying to help us prepare the Lord’s house for Christmas Day worship and to enable us all to go home and spend Christmas Eve with our families instead of spending the evening cleaning the ministry center by ourselves.
Operation Jesus Cares – Dec 19 – This Coming Tuesday! To volunteer or donate, please visit the website for more information.
Just for Fun – If you still feel like something is threatening to steal your Christmas joy, watch this video for a smile :)
Hiring for Ministry Positions at Victory – In order to better support our pastors and ministry leaders in our core mission of reaching unchurched people, the Leadership Team has approved two part-time positions — Office Manager and Communications Coordinator. The Office Manager will provide administrative support. The Communications Coordinator will develop and implement effective marketing/communications strategies for both our church and community audiences.
- Resumes should be submitted to Jeff Guenther by December 31, 2017. Those interviewing for the communications position and have a portfolio of work, please submit that as well.
- Interviews will begin early in January, 2018 so that a qualified candidate might be chosen by January 31st.
- If there is a candidate that is interested and has the skill set to perform both positions, we would entertain that possibility.
- If there is a candidate that would like to volunteer their time and meets the criteria of either of these positions, then we would love to talk with you.
Sharing Christ’s Victory,
Thursday, November 30, 2017
I’m going to coin a new word. Ready for it?
Generosity + Your Story = Your Generostory.
What’s yours? What’s your generostory #BecauseofJesus?
During our Thanksgiving Eve service we didn’t collect an offering. Instead we gave out 100 envelopes filled with over $2,300 cash for all of you to be able to generously bless someone else #BecauseofJesus. I hope you’ve been having fun with it and experiencing the joy of giving!
It’s certainly been pure joy this week for Pastor Bill and me as we’ve heard and seen some of your generostories (it’s got a plural!). Keep ‘em coming! So far we’ve received from you via email or seen on Facebook a number of your generestories and they’re spectacular! For example, here’s one where Linda received $5 and parlayed it into $55 to make an even bigger impact…
“I received 5.00 and thought about how I could grow that amount. During our small family Thanksgiving dinner I shared the assignment and asked each family to match the $5. A couple gave me 20s and another $10...so I had $55 to spend on hats scarves mittens and socks. Delivering to homeless shelter on Milwaukee's South Side after school today. I think we will make this an annual tradition at Thanksgiving.”
Watch the messages from our Generosity series on our website and let God transform your whole life’s perspective! And ICYMI here’s my series finale from this past Sunday, “Who can? You too can! (Give generously that is).”
Serve Generously by Volunteering – Truthfully, December is a busy month for everyone. We understand it is for you too. Because of that though what better way to show others the love of Jesus than by generously sharing your time, giving of yourself! Therefore, please consider volunteering to help with our Christmas For Kids outreach event coming up next Saturday, Dec 9. See the next paragraph about Christmas for Kids for more info and follow the link to our website to register. Also take note of the needs request email that was sent on Tue for many other opportunities you can help set up for Christmas For Kids.
Christmas For Kids – Saturday Dec 9, 11:30am-3pm. Drop your kids off to experience the Bethlehem Marketplace while you catch up on your holiday to-do list. Please let your friends know too! This free and fun event is open to kids ages 3-11. Kids are invited to join us the next day at 10:15am to sing their song during the service. Go to the website to register kids or to sign up to help. If you have any questions, please contact Cassy, the Christmas for Kids Director. And share the Facebook event online with your unchurched friends. Let them know their kids are welcome!
Christmas Toy Outreach – Help provide toys for needy children in the Milwaukee area. New, wrapped toys can be dropped off in designated bins in the lobby by Dec. 10. Pick up an information sheet with specific details in the Welcome area and sign-up to bring a toy through our needs list.
Operation Jesus Cares – Dec 19 Once again we are partnering with Christ St. Peters School in Milwaukee for assembly and delivery of care packages. This is our opportunity to have a positive impact on a struggling community. You can help provide items for the care packages by donating online. Volunteers are needed on Dec 19 at the school from 8am-12:30pm. To volunteer, sign-up online. Visit the website for more information.
New Series Starting Sunday—What the World Needs Now. Why is Christmas so loved and so dear? There is something about Christmas that draws us in, something about what it brings us, something about its message that we all need. The answer, as the theme suggests, is love. We all need love, but we also need to understand what the love we really need is. This is a love that helps us see our situation for what it really is and then not only prescribes the solution, but actually provides it.
I look forward to worshiping with you on Sunday!
Sharing Christ’s Victory,
Friday, November 10, 2017
“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25).
Generous people are happier people! This isn’t mumbo jumbo. It’s a fact supported by modern research. The commitment to be generous actually increases both generosity and happiness.
Why is this? I believe it’s because God has wonderfully designed us as his creatures to reflect his own nature and character. The Bible reveals to us a God who is generous. He is the greatest giver. He gave his own Son for the world and provides us with everything we need. And when we reflect his character in our lives by being generous with our time and money to help others, we discover a little more of the happy heart of God who once made humanity in his own image.
Friends, how’s your heart doing? Are you happy? This Sunday we’re going to begin a new series this Thanksgiving season that will lead us to become happier people as we learn to reflect God’s generous heart. Pastor Bill will begin this weekend by exploring what Jesus meant when he said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).
ICYMI - watch my message from last Sunday where I wrapped up our Seeking Certainty series and we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation!
Connection Cards – We now have over 425 baptized members. God be praised! Because we care about each and every person in our church family it’s important to us that we stay in tune with your church attendance. So if you miss a couple weeks in a row we want to be able to check in to make sure everything’s ok and see if there’s anything we can be praying about for you. In order to help us do this it’s important for you to fill out a connection card each Sunday when you attend a worship service. Please help us pastors out and write the names of all everyone who attends so we can use our time wisely to be able to reach out to those in our church family who could use our encouragement and prayers. Thank you!
Continuous Flow Communion – This Sunday we’re going to try something new for the distribution of the Lord’s Supper. Instead of having you walk around the entire perimeter of the sanctuary and then lining up long groups of 25 people side by side, we’re going to invite you to come directly up the aisles from either side to receive the bread from either Pastor Bill or myself depending on which side you or on. Then you will be able to walk over to receive the wine from an assistant. And then you will be able to go directly back to your seat. I will then speak one blessing at the end of the distribution for everyone in attendance. This type of continuous flow communion is common in other churches. We are going to give it a try in our church so that we can better maintain a consistent service length of 70 minutes. That expectation of service length is important when inviting first time guests. It’s also important for our Victory Kids program. Thanks for your willingness to try a new approach!
Thanksgiving Service – Our Thanksgiving service will be held on Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday, Nov 22, at 6:30. Following our time of thanks we will celebrate with a pie social!
Christmas For Kids – Saturday Dec 9, 11:30am-3pm. Drop your kids off to experience the Bethlehem Marketplace while you catch up on your holiday to-do list. Please let your friends know too! This free and fun event is open to kids ages 3-11. Kids are invited to join us the next day at 10:15am to sing their song during the service. Go to the website to register kids or to sign up to help.
Christmas Toy Outreach – bring toys starting Nov 19. We are partnering with the Friends of Jesus organization again this year to provide toys to needy children in the Milwaukee area. New, wrapped toys can be dropped off in designated bins in the lobby by Dec. 10. Pick up an information sheet with specific details in the Welcome area and sign-up to bring a toy through our needs list.
Operation Jesus Cares – Dec 19 Once again we will partner with Christ St. Peters School in Milwaukee for assembly and delivery of care packages. This is our opportunity to have a positive impact on a struggling community. You can help provide items for the care packages by donating online. Volunteers are needed on Dec 19 at the school from 8am-12:30pm. To volunteer, sign-up online. Visit the website for more information.
Sharing Christ’s Victory,
Thursday, October 26, 2017
“We believe in Jesus too…. I’m a Muslim” said the friendly young father as we talked a couple Saturdays ago at his front door. We weren’t able to ask any clarifying questions like, “What exactly do you believe about Jesus?” But we were able to mention that because of Jesus we can be sure of God’s love and certain that we are fully forgiven right now because of what Jesus has already done for us all. From the look on that young father’s face, this simple gospel message at the very least resonated with him as being different from what he believes about Jesus. So we planted a gospel seed. And we made sure he knew that he was always welcome to come and visit our church anytime.
How about you? What do you believe about Jesus? Does it matter? It does if you seek to be certain of where you stand with God. That’s why this Sunday as we continue our Seeking Certainty series, we’ll see how only the completed work of Jesus Christ can lead us to have such confidence. And yet we’ll talk about this with humility, exploring some of the ways we too can be tricked into taking our eyes off of what Jesus has done. We’ll see what happens when we end up making too little of Jesus and too much of ourselves; or when we end up comparing ourselves to other people to find assurance instead of looking to what Jesus has already accomplished on our behalf. In short, we’ll learn another essential, ultimately comforting Reformation truth—that we are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Please join us this Sunday as Pastor Bill shares a message based on a powerful story from Acts 4:1-12 about how only the victory of Jesus leads us to have certainty!
Have you been using your gospel fear swatter this week? I hope so! ICYMI Make sure you get yours by watching my message from last Sunday. Part 2 of Seeking Certainty. “Shoo, fear...don’t bother me!”
Special Guest Musician – This Sunday at Victory of the Lamb we’ll be welcoming Stephen Bautista and his family who will be leading music during worship. We will gather a free-will door offering to support them. A merchandise table will also be set up in the lobby with their Christian music CD’s for sale. Check out this promo video introducing their music ministry.
Country Dale Says Thanks – Wanted to share this encouraging email: I'm the gym teacher at Country Dale and have received the shoes you have donated. I just want to say how appreciative I am and more importantly how appreciative the kids are going to be. I have a few tubs of shoes that kids can borrow if they forgot their gym shoes (or don't have any at all). These shoes get used SO often, especially by students who don't have very much and can't afford gym shoes. Wearing these brand new shoes will make them feel like kings and queens when they come to gym.
Praise and Proclaim – Our friend Dave Malnes posted a really nice recap on his blog about our Praise and Proclaim initiative this month. Check it out for some great stories, pics, and encouragement to keep reaching out to our community with the gospel.
Tenth Avenue North Concert – Tomorrow evening, Friday, October 27 at 7:30 pm Wisconsin Lutheran College is hosting Tenth Avenue North’s “I Have This Hope” concert with Brandon Heath and Jon McLaughlin. General Admission Tickets are $17. For Tickets go to www.itickets.com or contact the college at 414-443-8800.
Taste of Ministry – This week Sarah and I were privileged to host two High School seniors from Luther Prep School in Watertown as part of their “Taste of Ministry” experience. The two young men who stayed with us are both considering being pastors one day. They were able to shadow me and Pastor Bill for two days. God-willing they both found encouragement to continue their studies at Martin Luther College next year before going on to Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.
Reformation 500 Festival Service – Sunday, Nov 5, 3:30 pm. Celebrate the Lutheran Reformation at a special Festival Service along with thousands of other WELS Christians from all around Southeastern WI. The service will be held at the Miller High Life Theater, 500 West Kilbourn Avenue, Milwaukee.
Sharing Christ’s Victory,