Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why God?

This is my devotion for the month of may at church, but with all the recent tragedies going on, and quite a few questions that I have gotten recently I figured I should post this now rather than waiting.  Blessing son your day!

Why God? This seems to be a question that I have been hearing quite a bit lately.  It is something that we question through tragedies like the Boston bombing, the plant explosion in Texas, or as we go through the loss of loved one who has been so close to us through the years. 

The short answer is sin, sin is the reason why bad things happen in this world. Humanity used to live in a world where there was no sin, where we walked with God, talked with God, and were able to have a face to face relationship with Him. Sin came into this world through Adam and Eve when they hardened their hearts thinking they could be like God.

It is always obvious when you are talking to someone about a tragedy in their life whether or not they are sure if the person had salvation in Christ or not.  Those who are sure of the faith of the person or people involved in the tragedy that they are mourning for are certainly sad, but in the same sadness comes a  special joy. A joy knowing that the person who has left this world is not in just some place better than here, but they are in heaven! They are seated at God’s right hand worshiping Him  forever and ever Amen.

So when we as Christians start to ask the question why God, I think that we have an obligation to ask    another question; what else can I be doing?

In Luke 13 Christ Himself was posed with the question of why God by some of the people around Him.  Apparently there had been a tower that fell on 18 innocent people and some of the people around Jesus seemed to have trouble accepting it. Jesus response was, “Those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them– do you think they were more guilty than all the other living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:4-5) Jesus does not even waste time on discussing why this tragedy happened, but skips to the most important part, their salvation.

I think one of the biggest reasons we struggle accepting these large tragedies, or deaths of loved ones in our lives is because  sometimes we don't know if we are going to meet that person in heaven one day or not.  This should not lead us to a life of despair , but rather inspire us to spread God’s love and His promise that we now have salvation through His Son’s death on the cross and nothing else. 

We can have an impact around those whom we love and see daily as well as those who we have never even spoken to and simply pass by on the street. God’s Word is universal, often times our simple actions through the day can do much more work than our mouth can. God gave us two hands, two feet, and only one mouth for a reason, to serve.  His Word speaks to us today and says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Through Him Alone,

Ryan Strehlow

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April Devotion

14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be          hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.       Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your  Father in heaven.      Matthew 5:14-16

               Through my short time here in Alaska many of the people here inside and outside of Our Redeemer have told me that this is an odd year for weather in the state. First they say it was a bad summer, then the high winds were extremely abnormal, low amounts of snow, high winter temperatures and the list goes on.  I'm starting to wonder if everyone's predictions about what the weather should be, is just about as   reliable as what the weather forecasters say is going to happen.  There is one thing though that has not differed from last winter by all accounts, and that is the amount of light that we get each day.

This has quite possibly been the most unique thing that I have had to get used to in my time here.  Having light until eleven at night, and sometimes even later through the summer was a great experience.  Of course with the great benefit of summer comes the doldrums of winter and the mass amount of hours of darkness that we have.  It has been amazing over the past few weeks to see the change in my own life mentally and emotionally as we start to get more and more sunlight and how much happier I am about my day to day experiences.  Although it seems like the cold will be around for a bit longer, it is amazing to see how much happier the state of Alaska has become in the last couple of weeks.

The verses above from Matthew really seem to apply on a couple of different levels.  Christ calls us to be a light to those in darkness, and to be the light of the world.  Just as our moods have now been lifted over the last few weeks with the excess amount of light we need to be that light for those who don't know Christ! We have the opportunity to be just like the light at the end of a long winter peaking out through the clouds of this life.

Though the storms of this life may change on us one thing still remains the same; the light of this world is Christ and He has complete control over all.  He is the light at the end of a long and dark winter, the calming of a storm, and the Savior that frees us from the bondage of sin day in and day out, so that we may now be  “the light of the world. And a city on a hill”

Through Him alone,

Ryan Strehlow

Monday, March 4, 2013

March Devotion

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Lent is an amazing time, a time when we focus on Christ more than we normally do, and for good   reason as well. After all He did die on a cross, go to Hell and defeat sin death and the power of the devil so that one day we could all join Him in Heaven.

Sometimes I think that we discount what Christ really did for us, somehow we forget that he was not only the perfect God, but also perfect man. Man being the key word in this phrase here, we forget how much he really struggled with what he was about to do for us through the journey of what is now called Lent.  Take a moment to really meditate on the word shame above in the verse from Hebrews, think about what this word means to you yourself. Think of a time you have felt shame in your life. No really take a moment, ill wait………

The shame that we have felt is nothing compared to what our perfect God and yet perfect man had to experience in the time leading up to His death. The walk to the hill called Golgotha, placing the sign “King of the Jews” above His head, constant mocking spitting and attacking of His perfect Holy self.

What about the Pain? If you look in the next verse in Hebrews it says “in your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood”.  Guess what, Christ did! In Gethsemane Christ so full of stress and anxiety knowing what was going to happen to Him that He literally started to sweat blood. How many of us can say that has ever happened to us. That does not even begin to explain the pain that He must have experienced from the Roman guards and numerous other people who were ordered to beat Him to as close to death as possible.

In the movie “The Passion of the Christ” Mel Gibson gives one of the most realistic pictures I believe, we have ever seen into what Christ’s journey was to Golgotha. It was a journey of blood, sweat, tears, and shame.  Every Good Friday I watch the movie, there are numerous times through it, that I have to shut my eyes, and even leave the room.  It is an extremely powerful picture of what Christ went through to rescue His beloved.

This Lenten journey I would challenge you to really think of what Christ’s Sacrifice was. It was a      journey of blood, sweat, tears and shame. Shame that He took on for us, so that we will join Him one day in an amazing place called Heaven. Blessings on you and your family’s Lenten Journey.

Through Him alone,
Ryan Strehlow

Friday, January 25, 2013

February Devotional

Come let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our   salvation. Come let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. Psalm 95: 1&6

Currently we are caught in the middle of the two biggest church seasons of the year, Advent (Christmas) and Lent (Easter).  These seasons are so big that often we see many families coming out of the wood work to bring praise and worship to the Lord on such significant days, His birth and His death.  These are huge times of the year! Our Lord was born, and about thirty years after, his death is the only reason that we have a hope for the future.  But what about the fifty other Sunday’s of the year?

Now I am not here to convict those who only worship on Christmas and Easter but rather to ask myself, and probably a lot of you who struggle with the same thing as wellwhat are we doing the   other fifty Sundays of the year? I can probably count on both of my hands and maybe a couple toes the amount of church that I have missed in my life. However, I cannot begin to comprehend the amount of times that I have “been” in worship but have only been there and not actually focused on what God is trying to tell me that day.

Why is that? Why do we get so caught up in this two inspirational church seasons and then just drop off for the rest of the Sunday’s of the year, even if we are present in worship? I think a large reason is that we see the Word becoming Flesh. We literally see God’s Word come alive to us in the form of   Jesus. Yes we hear God’s Word and the words that Jesus spoke the rest of the year through the gospel but it becomes familiar to us.

Now of course everything that we do in this life is, or should be form of worship to our God, but I am specifically talking about the gift of community worship that God gave us and we are allowed to  practice in this country.  We have the opportunity around 52 times a year, not counting mid week worship, to come with fellow believers and worship our great and powerful God with all our might and strength. “To kneel before the Lord our Maker”.

There is a reason that God has brought into His house to worship Him, to come before Him with praise and thanksgiving. He comes to us through His Word every time we step through the front doors of wherever you and I worship with other believers to give all praise and glory to Him. Most importantly to hear the Words that He gave to his messengers to tell us. We all would be wise to listen, not just through Advent and Lent, but all year.

Through Him Alone,

Ryan Strehlow

Excited to see you all back in the Midwest this next week!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

NADCE and Call news

Hello everyone. I just returned from a beautiful week in sunny California and wanted to update you on my trip as well as the call process here in Alaska.

The week in California was amazing, the speakers were great, time away from the church for a bit was great, and most of all seeing friends and making new ones was by far the best part of the whole conference.  The conference ran Tuesday night to Thursday around noon, but I was in California from Monday morning to Friday late afternoon.  It gave myself quite a bit of down time, but most importantly to see many of my friends from the program who I missed and Adam and Kyla as well.  The theme of the conference was #connect so I was able to meet many new DCE's and some very respected DCE's in our synod as well.  The worship experience when I was there was absolutely phenomenal.  We were led in worship by Kip Fox who lead the worship at the last national youth gathering that was in Orlando, Florida.  So it felt pretty cool to go from seeing him in front of 25,000 people to now only in front of 150.  We had about 1/4 of the DCE's from synod represented at the conference so there was many connections to be made.

Now to the point im sure you are all waiting for.  Last Sunday Our Redeemer as a congregation voted to officially extend me a call for the position that I currently am serving under now.  So now I basically am praying quite a bit and deciding whether or not I believe that this is where God wants me to be. The date for a decision that I am shooting for is when I come back for midyear in a couple weeks, but it could go quicker, or it could take longer.  I am not one to test God so this answer will only come on His time.

More than anything I hope that you all will pray for me and my understanding of what I believe God's call is for my life.  It is not my will, but His.

Thank you all for the support that you have given me through this year thus far, and the continued support and prayers that I know I will receive.



Friday, January 4, 2013

January Devotion

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Don’t worry.” How many times has someone told you this, or have you find yourself telling someone these wise words? It’s such an easy thing to say to someone else, however when we find ourselves in a similar situation it is so hard for us to take our own advice.

I consider myself a very easy going person, and able to roll with the punches that this sinful world throws my way on a day-to-day basis, however I was not always this way.  After my father had passed at such an early age I worried about everything you could possibly imagine. If my mother was five minutes late from picking me up from basketball practice, if there was a tornado warning, even crawling into bed every night was a challenge for me (probably the biggest), and an even bigger one for my extremely patient mother.

I found myself attending Christian counseling often, and finally one thing got through to me, and that was prayer.  My counselor, Doug, wrote out a prayer for me on a small sheet of paper to keep in those awful Velcro wallets that we used to have growing up.  I was to read this prayer every time that I was worried. This task was a little bit more difficult than one would think since I did not have much of a reason to carry around a wallet with on $1 and few quarters, but that stuck with me. That prayer still rests in my top drawer in Milwaukee with that awful wallet, but I still remember what Doug taught me, prayer is powerful.

So often we overlook prayer in our daily lives because we don't trust it. Which can only mean one thing, that we do not trust God.  In addition when we actually do slow down and have some prayer time it is just us telling God what we think (key word) we need.  God wants to have a conversation with us, not  just have us throw requests at His feet like he is a magic Jeanie who will give us three wishes, if that was the case I hope you all would wish for a million more wishes, I’m not sure how that got overlooked in all these movies. God rather wants to have a relationship with us, that is why we were created!

This month in Sunday Night Life we are going to talk about prayer. Different types of prayer, how to go deeper in our prayer lives as a family, as individuals, and how to make that relationship with God deeper.  Two very simple adjustments can be made to your prayer life to make this phase of your walk with Christ a conversation. The first is for every prayer request you have, thank God for something that He has done for you, is doing for you, or something of that nature. The second is to just stop, be silent, it’s a conversation for a reason. Quiet your heart and soul and see what God has to say back at you.  You may be surprised by what you have been missing.

Through Him Alone,
Ryan Strehlow– DCE Intern

Christmas Madness

Well I once again have failed at informing you all of my life more than once every couple of months. I apologize.  I have no excuses apart from the fact that I was busy, and lazy, also watching Illinois lose to Mizzou seems like a better past time than writing a blog, but here we go!

So Christmas time in the Church is crazy busy! Who would have thought? It seriously was crazy though, we had our Children's Christmas service the weekend before Christmas on December the 16th which was nice to spread out the mass chaos that seemed to run about everywhere. All of the Advent services, and also where the date of Christmas fell this year we had Sunday service on the 23rd, two services on the 24th and also a service Christmas morning.  It was an awesome experience though and many families took me in for the days before and after Christmas, which made me feel as though I was not as far away from home as I thought I was.  Christmas eve I was over at two different church families houses for dinner, and Christmas day I spent with one family for almost the whole day. The day after Christmas  I went to "boxing day party" at one of the church families houses as well. Needless to say I had enough food to eat, and enough company to share.  Alaskan's do these crazy things called hikes before your allowed to eat dinner as well, something about staying healthy was their reasoning. I wasnt really listening but for some reason this Christmas I didnt gain my classic 10 pounds.

Honestly though I cant begin to describe how amazing people are in the church, and how well they take care of church workers around Christmas, and of course through the rest of the year as well.  I received so many gift cards that will help me out with grocery's and also getting some fun stuff for myself as well.  It was way above and beyond what I ever expected to receive from anyone, and I was not expecting to get anything from anyone. It seriously was unreal.

Sunday is a pretty big day. The church votes on whether they are going to issue a call or whether they are going to continue forward with two part time workers for the congregation.  Depending on what their choice is, and possibly what my choice is after that It could have huge implications on my life for awhile.  More than anything I am praying that God's will is done on Sunday and I hope that is what all of your prayers are as well please.

On Sunday night I also head to California for the NADCE conference! which is a huge gathering of DCE's that happens once every three years which is a pretty big deal! Im very excited to see some friends from the DCE program and Adam and Kyla will be in attendance as well which is pretty exciting, I miss the the two of them very much.

After Christmas and between New Years I took a bit of break from work and hung out with my good buddy Trent up here and his Fiance Shawna.  It was nice to take a breather from work and just hang out for a bit.  I have been working well into February due to the fact that I am going to be gone so much in January around here.

I look forward to coming home to see you all in less than a month! I also am going to start posting the devotions that I write for our monthly newsletter on here, now that I actually write them myself so I hope that you all enjoy them as well!

I hope that all is well in the lower 48 and I cant wait to see you all very very soon! Thank you for continued prayers that you send all the way up here, I can tell you they are reaching God continues to bless in ways that shock me every day that I am up here.