Thursday, November 29, 2012


One of my favorite recipes that my mom makes is Cauliflower salad. The recipe is so simple and yet beautiful.

Cauliflower in little pieces
Mayo a Cup or so
Shredded cheese the amounts depends on how much you like cheese
Green Onions cut up
And a little salt

Throw that in a bowl, let it rest, and you have created a masterpiece—a masterpiece that goes with almost any summer meal that comes off the grill. It goes great with pizza. (ok, maybe Nurse Nancy, our parish nurse, wouldn’t approve, but change it to light mayo or fat free dressing, and then she would). I have so many fond memories of eating this salad--except for the one instance when I was making it for the first time. I had all the cauliflower cut, the mayo mixed in, the right amount of cheese tossed with the green onions, and then I added salt. I put in a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon--big mistake. I took a bite and the salt crystalized on my tongue. I was alone in my vicarage apartment and I was looking forward to eating this salad all day while I watched TV. So I decided to try and choke it down, refusing to go to the store and get more cauliflower.  But as you may have guessed, there was just no changing it. No matter how much mayo or extra cheese I could add, it was wrecked, and so was my stomach the next day.

It is funny how much one ingredient like salt can affect a recipe. It can be the key missing ingredient or the one that destroys it. A recipe, whether constructed for food or plays, for sports or business plans, can contain some key elements that could make or break it. In almost every plan, recipe, or play you can find someone discussing the key element of break down. This could be for the losing play, the business plan that tanked, or the recipe that just didn’t taste right. We have experts who spend hours analyzing things like this. There are plenty of jobs out there to show breakdowns in all kinds of these plans, plays or recipes.

This weekend we begin the season where we discuss the recipe that completely failed, and the recipe that is the greatest masterpiece of all time. Yes, I am talking about God wanting us to be with Him, and how we messed that up because of sin. Then God completely redeemed us by altering His plan to save us. The thing that makes God’s recipe unique is that He uses the ingredients that mess up His recipe to also be the ones that help complete His masterful formula.

Advent is a season that other denominations recognize, but we are one of the few to place so much focus on it. Recently, it seems, many of our churches have lost the true meaning of Advent, which is to prepare for the coming of Jesus. It is important, because while we may not be preparing for Jesus to come into the world as a baby to alter the broken recipe, we are waiting for Him to come back and fully complete it. This month we will spend time talking about just that. I pray it will be a powerful month for you as you prepare for Jesus. As we begin the last month of 2012, we will hear all kinds of unique ideas about the end of the world, but our job is the same every year: prepare for Jesus to come. What a wonderful thought! Advent is a gentle and beautiful reminder of what God calls us to do every day: to prepare for Jesus’ coming by using our gifts to share His wonderful recipe.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Worn out Thanksgiving

My uncle was only 11 years older than me; he was the cool one. He was the uncle we watched grow up. He was a teenager while we were young kids trying to keep up with him.  I have to admit he shaped a few things in my life. He was the one who first introduced me to R & B music back when I believed rock music was from the devil. Soon that became the music that first graced my cd player. He continued to lead me as he invited me to visit the college he attended.  During my 8th grade year I stayed with him at Concordia, River Forest.  And finally he showed me the art of dressing. Long before I ever became a pastor, he would take me shopping and teach me about clothes. I hit clearance racks and found ways to buy clothes without spending tons of money, but still getting clothes I wanted. And once I had them I would keep them. I did everything to keep them nice. I was so thankful for these blessings. I have clothes that I have had since college. I have shoes that I have had since high school. The problem is--no matter how hard I tried, and no matter how thankful I was, eventually the clothes would wear out. It was almost like a hint of sadness every time one of them had to hit the trash can.

Every year as we celebrate Thanksgiving this odd thing happens. We are reflecting on the end of the church year and preparing for the end of the world. Living in America, we are thanking God for all the blessings He has given us in this life. At the same time we are anticipating when He will come back and completely renew the earth, and change it/destroy it. It is like thanking God for something we know is going to wear out.

This hardly seems something to celebrate. It is hard to thank God for something I know will soon be gone and tossed away like my clothes. I don’t want to thank God for cool clothes or blessings, and at the same time picture them wearing out and needing to be thrown away.

Our two different passages in Scripture this week do exactly this. In our reading on Thanksgiving we will talk about being content in all things, and then turn around and hear about Isaiah talking about how the earth will wear out like a garment. The challenge will be to recognize God’s gifts in all of our lives, and yet to know that trusting in Jesus means this is just the beginning. Anything we have in this life is a blessing, but those blessings will be even better when we are in heaven. It is kind of like celebrating the wearing out of old clothes. What does it mean to be content with what you have, but not get so caught up in it that you can’t bear to see it get tossed in the trash?

This is an odd combination of things, but the truth is that God wants us to be thankful and rejoice in how He blesses us in this life. Yet, He also wants us to know that this life will wear out like an old garment, but God will provide an even better life, eternal life. It is about celebrating our seasons and yet looking forward to the next one. It is certainly a hard thing to balance, but we see these kinds of tensions all through our lives. This week is just the moment when they collide. What a blessing to celebrate Thanksgiving with our Creator, Savior, and Sanctifier and yet know that He has something even greater for us to come!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Last Sign

I had this friend in Chattanooga who rented billboards. He was amazing at getting people to see the power of using signs for advertising. In fact, he was so good that he would sell for a while in a town, and then someone would buy him out.  For awhile he would have to stay out of that town; then he would sell them in a new town until the same thing happened. His power to use and show how effective signs were was unbelievable.  He had a unique ability, because often our world seems too busy for signs.

All too often people pass by signs. We may see some that stand out here or there, but think about how many signs you pass on the road and don’t even read them. I couldn’t tell you how many signs I go by in a day and don’t read them.

A few weeks ago we experienced a miscommunication at Mt. Calvary. Somehow some wires had been crossed and so some published materials indicated that Love 1 Serve 1 started at 7pm and some said 6 pm. We realized the majority of our stuff said 7pm, so I sent out a quick Pastor Update email that clarified that the correct  time was 7 pm. But our front sign had been wrong for months saying 6pm, so I thought, “Let’s see what happens.” This is a prime time to see who reads that sign. I made sure I was here before 6pm, and as I waited only one couple showed up at 6pm. A couple which is well known at Mt. Calvary. I thought, “Well, that’s interesting. Do people read our sign? Is this just something they are not interested in? What does this mean?“

Even greater than that is how do we tell if God is giving us a sign? The danger is that we focus on our actions, and look for signs based upon our mistakes or on good things we do, but the reality is how do we recognize a sign from God? It is a hard thing to figure out. Many times in my life I have sat back and asked, “God what are you teaching me?” There were many times in my life when signs happened, and I was asking God, “What does this sign mean?” The honest truth is that for most of us it seems so hard to tell what God is saying and what sign is He giving us.

I think this happens for a lot of reasons, because we see people who see signs in everything. I know people who said that God told them where to buy flowers, CDs and so on. How do they know that?

At the end I know I can rely on what God gives me. 1 John 4 talks about seeing if the spirit (sign) matches up with Jesus’ death and resurrection, and if it does, then it is from God. Hard to do when the sign we might be receiving affects this neither here nor there. So what then? I trust God’s Word, and His peace. I also trust God’s promise of being with us, along with His daily guidance.

Anyway you look at signs it’s tough whether they catch your eye or you ignore them. This week we will discuss understanding the last sign, and what that means. As the church year prepares to wrap up, it is a message that is so important; especially because we are about to celebrate the birth of Jesus, a sign that so many missed and still do today. Yet, it is the only sign we don’t want to miss, and we at Mt. Calvary will do our best to help the world see this sign, whether or not they read the signs in our front yard.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Recently I sat praying with a group of people and a prayer for healing came up. I prayed how I typically do with healing. “Lord, guide the hands of the doctors and nurses and help this person going through this time. Lord, if it be Your will, may they be healed.” I was immediately followed by someone who said, “Lord we boldly ask You for healing and we don’t hide behind words like, ‘If Your will be done.’” I drew back and was caught off guard. We don’t hide behind Your will? You have to be kidding me! First my mind was frustrated, and then it began to race. Am I really hiding behind that when I speak those words? Am I covering my tail if the person is not healed? Is it a lack of faith?

Healing is an odd thing. I know it is God’s will to do things. I know it is good to stay connected in prayer to Him, and to voice my concerns. I know that He has foreknowledge. How do I make sense of all those things and know how He heals?

There was this guy in my life who was struggling with cancer, but he believed with all of his heart that God would heal him. He told all of his family that he would be healed. One day I got to see in a letter where he wrote the top 10 reasons he believed God would heal him. On the top of his list it said, “So I can stand on a stage and proclaim what the Lord has done.” Eventually he passed and I was left to make my own assessment of why that was, with my own questions of proper reasoning.

I had a friend in college who was deeply ill with cancer. He was an amazing dude who loved Jesus. He had an awesome girlfriend who stood by his side. He had wanted to be a teacher his whole life, and he finally watched that dream become a reality. God healed him of his cancer, and in turn he started a great ministry called Phil’s Friends, which helped others who were sick with cancer. Phil and his friends have blessed thousands of people.

It would be easy from these two stories to look for my own understanding of those whom Jesus heals. Yet, I must rely on what I know from Scripture. Jesus often says, “Your faith has healed you.” I know that Jesus is the true healer. I know that I can talk and pray with Him any time I want. I believe in His healing and know His power. He has healed me from sin, death, and the devil.

This weekend we are going to talk about healing and what it means. We will also offer the opportunity to receive prayer and anointing for healing. Sometimes this subject can difficult because many of us have had experiences like the ones above. Healing in our minds seems so confusing. Yet, we know that the elders of the church are authorized to lay hands on those who need healing. (James 5:14). We also read about the disciples healing many. And we know that Jesus is the ultimate healer.

The key is to trust the things you know about Jesus, and have faith for the things that you cannot understand. While I may have wanted to figure out these healing stories in my life, I have just trusted who God is and had faith in Him.  Faith is a powerful tool in healing, and it has nothing to do with figuring it out. It has one point: to trust in the God who created you, saved you, and directs our days and our lives.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Horse bites! You know those tricks where you take two knuckles and pinch them on someone’s skin or leg or arm?  That is what I remember about Karl William Hanke.  Yes, the first Karl Hanke, from whose line I am the 4th. I remember getting pinched by him with horse bites. He was a funny man. He had come over from Germany and my favorite memory of him was how he would greet me in his native accent, “Villiam--good German name.” Since I was born I’ve used my middle name, and he chose to call me that too. Had I been older I might have said, “Great Grandpa, you realize I have your name, right? “ Nicknames for the various Karl William Hankes are a story for another day, but today is all about thinking about Grandpa’s death and the memories I have about him: every Thanksgiving eating in Big Boy, staying in pink motels, and knowing who my great grandparents were. But then when I was between 8 and10 years old, they all passed away. Grandpa was the first to go. I remember seeing him in the casket, and for the first time experiencing death. The words spoken in my ears that day were: “He is with Jesus.’’ My dad brought us each to the casket and talked about seeing Jesus.

After that, death became a natural part of life to me; not to mention something that scripture also addressed. Soon Great Grandma Hanke, Great Grandma Favory, and Grandpa Schubkegel all died. I watched so many lives pass who have meant so many things to me and my family. They each left a legacy and something to share, and at the end they showed me what death meant and the certainty we have in Jesus.

This week at Mt. Calvary we celebrate All Saints’ Day. There is nothing special about the physical date, but there is something important about taking a moment to celebrate the saints that have come and gone before us. Now is just the time of year we set aside to celebrate it. It is a great time to reflect that while we will face death someday, we also celebrate the life we have in Jesus. The saints are celebrating that life with Jesus now, while we are living in an unique tension. That tension of being sinner as well as saint reaffirms that while we are certain of the promise of eternity with Jesus, we still face sin and the prospect of death every day.

This week we also remember the love the saints have had for us, and have shown to our world, it helps us to Love 1, to love others. The saints grew in their love for Jesus, and that inspired them to love others. That love is something we get to carry on from their example and the Love we know in Jesus. It presents us with a great opportunity to think about the people we love. The saints before us didn’t realize how much their love would impact us.  The names of loved ones run through my head as I remember the blessings and beliefs they have taught me. This week, while we do not specifically mention the B1 disciple of Jesus, we do want to consider how the Love 1 person theme is projected through the message of All Saints’ Day. This continuing emphasis impacts us as we have seen God’s love in others, and helps us think of the ways we can share God’s love with people today.