by Pastor Benjamin Dolby
All Saints Lutheran Church
Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45
God provides us an excellent opportunity to grow in our faith in February. We will experience the concluding weeks of the Season after the Epiphany and the beginning of the Season of Lent. I pray that the days after the Epiphany have been a blessing for us remembering how Jesus is the Light of the World who brings the light of Truth to scatter the spiritual darkness from our lives.
The Season of Lent will be another opportunity for us to experience God’s Holy Spirit spilling God’s light into our lives. The Word of God gives us joyful purpose much like we experience joy as the sun pours over the distant mountains to greet us with the morning of a new day.
The passage above from Saint Mark’s gospel is the concluding verse from a passage that begins with James and John, the sons of Zebedee, coming up to Jesus and asking him for a decision before they reveal what their request of him is. Jesus prepares and adjusts their approach to life over the course of this eleven-verse lesson.
First and foremost, Jesus is preparing his followers for the purpose of his life and mission on earth: He will soon bear the cross and lay down his life as the sacrifice for their sins and the sins of the whole world.
Jesus calls James, John, and you to do the same. Jesus puts our welfare and needs ahead of his own as he lives out his ministry. What does this mean for us? We are called by our Savior to put others before ourselves in a call to serve. I do not have the authority to tell you exactly how to live this out in the painstaking details of your everyday life; I will express to you my strong desire for you to not miss out on the excellent opportunity you have to follow Jesus in utilizing the Serving Challenge for your Lenten journey this year.
Your Lenten journey will certainly be unique and not look exactly like mine. Yet, I would like to share the plan I have prepared for Lent as husband, father, pastor, and friend in response to Jesus’ lesson in Mark 10:35-45.
The welfare and needs of my household are to be put ahead of my own. What does this look like in practice? I will be putting aside several of my recreational and work duties each day of Lent to give my wife and children time devoted to leading them in some devotional tools alongside our Serving Challenge. I will be introducing my children to the Table of Psalms for Daily Prayer (on page 304 in our Lutheran Service Book hymnal). I anticipate we’ll all grumble quietly at the “extra” minutes we spend with a morning and evening psalm each day. But I am excited to serve my children in this time of equipping them with another devotional tool they can hone as they grow and mature.
The welfare and needs of my church family are to be put ahead of my own as well. What does this look like in practice? I will be supporting your daily walk in the Serving Challenge through my weekly check-ins over a Facebook Livestream as we’ve done in prior years. I will also be challenging myself to “stretch” a bit and provide a different approach to our midweek Lent services. Ash Wednesday and Holy Week services will be as in past years. But February 21 through March 20 will be a brief time of devotional prayer and meditation followed by the beginning of a Bible Study on the Revelation of Jesus Christ to Saint John.
I am so much like James and John, the sons of Zebedee, looking for a way for Jesus to serve my self-determined (selfish?) path for Lent. I would very much like to be left alone according to my introverted leanings. While being introverted is not sinful, my unspoken desire to use this as a shield to be left alone rather than look to how I can mature in my faith this Lent is challenged by the light of Truth which Jesus is casting on my life too.
I share my plan of action to serve rather than seeking to be served in the hope and prayer that you will receive the invitation of the Holy Spirit, to be challenged to apply the Serving Challenge devotions and serve in ways unique to you and your walk with our Saving God. In Jesus’ Name, may it be so!
Jesus said, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. – Mark 10:42b-44
by Pastor Benjamin Dolby
All Saints Lutheran Church
My heart is steadfast, O God! I will sing and make melody with all my being! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. – Psalm 108:1-3
Blessed new year to you all, brothers and sisters in Christ! When I read these opening verses of Psalm 108 I can’t help but hear it in the earnest voice of one who is in the first week of their new year’s resolutions. It is that time of year where so many have the sincere desire to begin the year with good habits and strive for better physical, emotional, and mental health with better sleep habits, walking or running more, and making better choices on our daily food selections. How incredibly challenging this can be in the wake of the feasts and celebrations of the Christmas season!
Verse one has me particularly cynical after countless years of losing inspiration and energy to keep up with my own new year’s resolutions. Is my heart really steadfast? I can count on one hand how many years I kept a resolution through October of that year, it was 2021. I have lost count how many years I’ve faltered in my new year’s resolutions within the first handful of weeks.
Here is the uncomfortable truth: My heart is reliably unreliable. This is no surprise to us as we’ve learned from a variety of Bible passages that we are unable to save ourselves from our sinful nature. Romans 3:10-13 comes to mind, “As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’”
So…how do we reconcile this with Psalm 108:1-3?! Look to verse 4 for the context and the teaching God wants to bless us with at the start of another new calendar year. “For your (God’s) steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.” – Psalm 108:4.
You see, we can be steadfast after all, because of God’s provision, strength, mercy, and grace towards us! His work of forgiveness and salvation by making his dwelling among us is how we are miraculously transformed. We can rejoice every day because even when our hearts fail to be steadfast, the King of Kings, the God of the Universe washes us clean and makes us new: This is a daily gift! Remember your baptism! Praise God for this Gospel that is our gift of hope as we look to the new year ahead of us. We can look forward in the midst of this truly broken world with the Light of Truth, Jesus Christ, who has set us free.
God bless you as you sing and make melody with all your being this year – to God’s glory and for the purpose of the unbelieving world seeing his Light reflected in us…especially when we stumble, fail, and turn to him for forgiveness, mercy, and grace.
Blessed new year to you all. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
by Pastor Benjamin Dolby
All Saints Lutheran Church
I believe most of you are familiar with the phrase, “nothing is certain but Death and taxes.” Any of us who worked in retail know the certainty of Christmas decorations arriving at the warehouse in August and being put out no later than November 1st…sometimes even before Halloween!
While there are silly and trivial reminders of things that become cultural “staples” that can bring us laughter or annoyance, we can be confident about the broader culture consistently missing the purpose of the days leading up to the season of Christmas.
The majority of December is dominated by the beautiful season of Advent. This season of expectation is not about the earthly toys, riches, etc. that we may stumble over and dream about, equally as children and adults. Advent is the confident expectation and eager anticipation of the Good News: The Messiah has come! We are invited by the Lord to focus on his coming to us in three ways – past, present, and future.
In the past, the first Advent was Jesus’ birth for the purpose of dying in our place and rescue us from death. Jesus conquered the grave to replace our certain hopelessness with certain hope and eternal joy!
In the present, this Advent, Jesus comes to us as the Word of the Father, delivered to us by the powerful activity of the Holy Spirit. This is a time to reflect on the certainty of God’s Word given to Eve in Genesis 3:15 about him. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
This is a time to reflect on the certainty of God’s presence that Joshua saw with his own eyes and worshiped him. When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. – Joshua 5:13-15
In the future, at Jesus’ Second Advent, he will certainly bring us home when he ushers in the 8th Day of Creation, the Resurrection, your Resurrection in Christ Jesus alone! And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. – Isaiah 25:7-8
Whether you have been a Christian for some time, a recent convert, or someone with absolutely no certainty about where you stand with the Creator who loves you: Will you take this Advent season to prepare a place in your life, to honestly ponder in your heart, to honestly assess with your mind, and spend sincere time with your entire being – to make room for the Messiah in your life as the Holy Spirit invites you to do?
I would like to offer a word much more important than my own as my final invitation to you at the start of this beautiful season of Advent.
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention to as a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. – 2 Peter 1:16-21
Perhaps there is nothing certain but Death and taxes for so many around us. I am thankful to have this Advent season to eagerly await the One who defeated Death itself for our sake, because of his love for you, for me, and his love for the entire world. God bless your preparations as we anticipate the arrival of our King, the only One who brings us the certain and everlasting joy of Life when Death is finally no more. Yes, his name is Jesus and we have waited for him.
Alleluia and Amen!
by Pastor Benjamin Dolby
All Saints Lutheran Church
I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint. And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by faith. – Habakkuk 2:1-4
October and Reformation, what is this time of year all about? I love this time of year for the incredible variety of colors amongst the leaves, trees, and all of God’s good green earth. I appreciate this time of year because it is a reminder that seasons are changing and the time of slumber for many animals during winter causes for a time of urgent preparation now, during Autumn.
Reflection on the change of seasons can bring about very real struggles for many as we’d love to have longer days not shorter. There is also a very real struggle we encounter when reflecting upon one’s mortal life and it’s seemingly countless struggles, tribulations, and burdens.
The prophet Habakkuk’s divinely inspired writing had a tremendous impact the apostle Paul and Martin Luther. A portion of Habakkuk 2:4 is found in Romans 1:17. The Reformation started with God giving the comfort of his Holy Word to Luther as he struggled with the heavy weight of his sin. We can confidently assert that Paul needed assurance from the Lord as he reflected on his past actions in persecuting Christians before his conversion.
Here is our Reformation Heritage alongside both of these men of God: When it is overwhelming to consider just how much we “owe” God because of his sacrifice for our sake, God gives us his righteousness! Instead of righteousness coming out of ourselves, it is God’s righteousness given to believers freely as a gift.
Do we take this for granted? On the other side, do we struggle to believe we have been truly forgiven in Christ Jesus?
Wherever you fall in this, I challenge you to take your struggle to the Lord, confident that he will hear you and answer you. We are able to confidently engage our God and King because he has restored our relationship to him through Jesus. We can trust (believe) that he will receive us. We can trust that if we are missing the mark with our prayers, he will lovingly correct us.
Our Christian Heritage is to know and live in the truth that we are indeed God’s redeemed children.
I urge you to behave like Habakkuk. When Habakkuk received word from God that “the righteous shall live by faith,” the prophet decided to speak boldly and in trust to the one true God. In his book, Habakkuk asks God when he will punish his wayward people of Israel. God describes how his answer will come in the form of the Chaldeans and their conquering of Israel.
You know what Habakkuk does next? He tells God that he doesn’t think it’s fair for any enemy nation to be victorious. God answers him with the assurance (promise) of a plan by God for the Chaldeans to eventually overthrow them too, because of their rejection of the one True God.
It is incredible how we can be just like Habakkuk: 1) rely on God rather than my own strength, 2) receive God’s free gift and put it to good use, including communing with God – knowing (trusting) that he will receive your outcry.
The seasons change. Fall will give way to winter, and that season reminds me of our own impending mortality…the slumber of death that we are hopeless to escape is undone by Christ alone. Praise the Lord we have such an incredible Reformation Heritage to celebrate: God’s gifts of forgiveness, of hope, and of eternal life are given freely…not because of me or you, but because of Christ Jesus alone. I am so thankful we are set free, declared forgiven by God. “…the righteous will live by his faith.” – Habakkuk 2:4
I pray that we begin this month with prayers of thanksgiving. It can be challenging to be appreciative as we welcome a new academic year. There is so much to add to the calendar as the fall begins, and thus, the temptation to push back that devotional time becomes increasingly strong. May we put on that armor of God (Ephesians 6) that many All Saints volunteers dedicated an entire week to impress upon the hearts of children and their families.
Here is the opening verses of 2 Timothy chapter 3 as I invite us to be working on our September memory work alongside our confirmation students. God’s Holy Word is not merely a benefit when you’re in 7th or 8th grade, it is something we desperately need and cannot afford to take for granted in every other stage of life.
What does it look like when God’s Word is taken for granted?
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. – 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
This is an incredibly comprehensive and deflating list. While Saint Paul was writing this to encourage a young pastor, Saint Timothy, it bears as much truth in our day. I challenge us to look hard at this grocery list of sinfulness as if we are holding it up as a mirror rather than lamenting the reality this certainly is for the world around us.
If we are this way or have been this way in the recent past, how can we learn from those egregious mistakes? How can we apply the invitation of God’s Word here and not take him for granted?
Look again to the first verse: “…that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.” Is this not how the downfall into sinfulness begins for all of us, including you and me?!
It was terrifying to read through this and as I honestly assessed my less than perfect life, I recognized how I can so easily and quickly fall into the appearance of godliness as a pastor but in reality, I cannot fool God. So then the question arises: What can I learn from my sin, my errors, and allowing the difficulty of life to have me take God for granted (e.g. leave his Word for another day after I’ve gotten through my drama, my to-do list, and all my stressors)?
The answer lies within the Word God graciously gives us to feast upon, especially, when we are in the sorrowful throes of the day of difficulty.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
I pray I have made it clear that these verses are not just for the benefit of our Confirmation Students, they are an incredible treasure we would be foolish (my preferred translation: stupid) to not utilize and take God for granted.
May we not take it for granted that God loves us too much to leave us to our destructive devices. He loves us so much that he not only desires to teach us, he wants to correct us, discipline us, hold us accountable … so that we will not go down the path of destruction. God bless you as you walk with God in his Holy Word this September. May we not take him for granted, not even for a day. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Beloved All Saints family, I pray your summer has been full of blessings in the form of rest alongside taking Sabbath rests in God’s Holy Word.
I have been sifting through the Vacation Bible School material in preparation for the first week of August. Once again, I am seeing how my intention to prepare to bless others with encouraging insight with the biblical themes is being used by God to minister to my heart, mind, and entire being too.
What I mean is this: I have not had a summer break just yet (I will later in August, so rest assured this is not a pity or complaint!). Several times in June and July I have felt tired in mental, emotional, and spiritual ways. The VBS material has its foundation on Saint Paul’s letter to the Christians at Ephesus.
As I was exhausted, trying to “salvage” some ideas of how I can be challenging and encouraging to the children and volunteers as the game master, the passages from Ephesians 6 have been a blessing in the strength it gives me. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” – Ephesians 6:10-11.
No matter how many times I try to plug this into my sermons, my bible studies, and encouragement to my own children, I am so thankful that God speaks through his Word to me too. I, alongside every one of you, need to be reassured that my strength and my ability to navigate through times where a sabbath rest feels so far away despite the truth of it being very soon. It is magnificent experience to consistently receive what only God’s Holy Spirit can give: hope, joy, and refreshment (and how desperately I needed refreshment leading up to VBS).
I am thankful that what began as “one more thing on my to-do list” has become my treasured possession through the final days of July and the dawn of August.
“Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. – Ephesians 6:17-18.
Thanks be to God that his Holy Word prevents me from focusing inward on myself only, and through this time of him refreshing my spirit, he is surprising me with strength to remember you in my prayers and my daily devotions. I am thankful the Holy Spirit helps me struggle against the daily temptation to be selfish, self-centered, and instead, through the Light of his Gospel, transforms me into a pastor who is still maturing, growing, and learning how to better serve others while also resting in the Lord’s strength.
I am praying you are blessed and surprised by God stretching and growing you throughout this summer as well. God bless as he places his spiritual armor on you, in Jesus’ Name. Amen!
The month of July can be an incredibly relaxing month. As your pastor and brother in Christ, I challenge you to find to rest, rejuvenate, and rejoice in all sorts of vacation, near or far. However, please be on guard, spiritually, as you take a well-earned break from the September to June “grind” without taking a vacation from God’s Word.
I realize that I am sounding like a broken record on this challenge as I find myself writing summer newsletter articles as a pastor for my fifteenth consecutive summer! I will not apologize for sounding a bit repetitive with this message to not take the summer off from God’s Word. Our summer sermon series is informally known as “a summer with the prophets.” They repeated God’s Word of promise, warning, and sincere love to his people on many occasions…so it sounds like I’m in good company by being a bit repetitive on this subject.
You and I are invited by the Holy Spirit to soberly think about what we have at our fingertips: an embarrassment of riches! Consider two of the greatest signs of wealth in your life, 1) time and 2) access to God’s Word in your native tongue.
What have we learned from the prophets covered in June: Hosea, Moses, and Jeremiah? God’s people of Israel were provided an incredible amount of time to learn to trust him more and trust their own failing strength less. How are you putting that godly lesson into practice this summer? Truly, there is no time for “dog days” of summer to ignore, sincerely forget, or intentionally despise time walking with God in daily devotions.
I have a sneaking suspicion the prophets of July will repeat this same message. We will hear from Jeremiah and Moses again; alongside them we will also hear God speak to us through Zechariah and Isaiah.
There was a brief YouTube short about the life of dogs that was striking. Someone was clearly going through the journey my family went through a few years ago. Their family dog was preparing for his fourteenth summer and by all appearances, final summer (we were blessed to get thirteen with our awesome chocolate lab, Miles). The gentleman made a statement as he shared a montage of his dog through past summers and this current summer, “Remember, your dog only gets so many summers. Make every one of them count.” Truly, there is no time to waste when it comes to appreciating the gift of the present God has bestowed upon each of us. May we appreciate it by actively enjoying it, taking advantage of it, and taking time to thank God for providing it in prayer and daily devotions.
It is also clear that most of my family’s summers with our children at home are already behind us…now that is sobering. Again, I wilI say, there is no time for the “dog days” of summer.
What an embarrassment of riches we are provided by God! It is true that there is much difficult and painful about this earthly pilgrimage we call life. But it is incredible to see how many good things we receive from Almighty God: seasons, stewardship of beloved creation, family, and friends, and most importantly – time to walk with God as he repeats his promises through his Holy Word. We are afforded such wealth at the repeated assurances God desires to give us concerning the truth of his love for us and for all.
God bless you with the wisdom of his Holy Spirit as you take advantage of every day to its fullest, beginning and ending with a walk with the Lord your God in prayer and daily devotions. It is all a gift from him, after all!
Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any. – Isaiah 44:8.
June is that glorious month of the year where graduation celebrations and end of the year work parties give way to summer. Vacation dreams and well-deserved time off become the norm of society all around us, within our own homes, and a “lean time” pastors become accustomed to when it comes to “summer numbers” attendance wise.
You know I have great disdain for passive aggressive tactics, so let me be clear: I will miss you when you are on a well-deserved vacation throughout the summer, but do not take a vacation from God. I encourage you to enjoy the blessings of some rest, relaxation, and time off from the “grind” of life duties we undertake from September through May (and half of June).
I challenge you in the same way my family is challenging ourselves for this summer. Our children have finished their current grade level with their home school coop community, and we are currently taking on the challenge of staying sharp over the summer. Both will be taking on more difficult topics, assignments, and approaches in the Fall. We all can appreciate this challenge at the start of the new school year from our time as students. Their summer challenge, and ours alongside them as their parents, is to help them stay sharp this summer. It is quite a challenge to help them rest without losing their educational sharpness. Our family is trying to avoid burning out on one extreme and setting ourselves up for a frustrating Fall from too much “vacation slack” in June, July, and August.
How can we all stay sharp over the summer, as Christians? It begins with how we value our time in June, July, and August. Are we seeing it as a Sabbath Rest where we literally “rest in the Lord” by continually growing in our knowledge, understanding, and practice of his Holy Word? It is possible to grow in his Word while enjoying the summer months!
Or…are we seeing this summer as a vacation stagnation? Stagnation is the state of not flowing or moving. It is perfectly understandable to take a summer break from the hustle and bustle of many aspects of our lives. But it is unacceptable, and even ungodly to stagnate in our faith walk any day or month or three-month stretch of the year.
So, what is your plan to stay sharp in God’s Word this summer? I am confident you have great plans with details and dates of when you’ll be taking a well-deserved vacation. As your brother in Christ and your pastor, I charge you to take the same care in planning the details of how you are going to walk closely with your King and Savior in this three month stretch of June, July, and August.
If you’re unsure where to begin, why don’t you build a daily walking schedule with God’s Word with our June memory work?
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. – Genesis 1:1-3
Here is another challenge and invitation to help you stay sharp this summer. I will be leading a summer Bible Study on particular Sundays (dates below) after worship from June through July. When you are in town, please join us as this is an intentional effort to help me and all who join to stay sharp as Sunday School and Bible Study groups take a well-deserved break this summer.
June is indeed a glorious month that welcomes a three month stretch of well-deserved breaks. May God bless you as you avoid vacation stagnation and instead be filled with his Holy Word as he intends with a Sabbath Rest, daily, this summer. In Jesus’ Name. Amen!
To help you stay sharp and in the Word over the sumer I will have a summer Bible study series. See below for the schedule.
Pastor’s Summer Bible Study
*all these will take place after our summer worship service