Monday, June 15

“Spiritual Heart Health”

When I was at the fitness center the several months ago, I noticed that it was unusually packed with people. Perched on my usual spot, the treadmill, I saw men and women of all ages exercising; moving, and sweating and absorbing as much water as they could. Every treadmill, stepper, elliptical, and recumbent bicycle was being used. There were a few very large men lifting the free weights and flexing in front of the mirrors. But the vast majority of the people there, including me, were working on the cardio-machines.

A couple years before, I was at GNC buying my omega-three fish oil pills. It took me a while to find the right ones because there was literally an entire wall dedicated to heart-healthy supplements. It’s obvious that a large number of people, including me, are trying to live a heart-healthy lifestyle. But that’s the physical heart; the one that pumps blood through our veins. What about the spiritual heart; the one that Holy Spirit seeks to change by grace through faith in Christ?

We hear all the time about this food or that, or this product or that, or this type of exercise or that, which are supposed to support and strengthen the muscle in our chest and produce a healthy physical heart. Unfortunately, we don’t hear as much today, if any, about the need to engage in practices that produce a healthy spiritual heart.  The world knows little, if anything, about the necessity for such “heart-healthy” behaviors like repentance and confession and forgiveness. But these things are essential to our spiritual heart health as exercise and proper diet are to our physical heart health.

You see, without repentance there is no acknowledging our sin, and therefore no contrition. Without repentance, our spiritual heart begins to die because it is infected with sin that it cannot get rid of. Without confession, there is no ownership of our guilt. We may feel the need to repent, knowing something is wrong in us, like the twinge of pain in the chest and arm at the onset of a heart attack, but we do nothing about it. Without confession, we acknowledge and ignore the signs of our spiritual death. And forgiveness; it’s like the super-duper extra strength DHA omega three fatty acids for our spiritual hearts. Forgiveness goes into our spiritual heart and cleans out all the sludge and gunk that was keeping it from operating properly. Without forgiveness, our spiritual heart clogs to the point where the life sustaining blood, which is the love and Word of God in Christ Jesus, cannot move. The result is spiritual death.

As you move about through the rest of this year, certainly spend time cleaning and strengthening your physical heart with exercise, proper diet and vitamin supplements. But don’t forget to cleanse and strengthen your spiritual heart as well with repentance, confession and forgiveness. Stay in the Word. Our spiritual heart health is just as important as our physical heart health. God bless you all!

The peace of the Lord be with you   -Rev. Brian Dupre, Pastor, SOTC

Wednesday, May 20

“Do Not Be Deceived”

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:7-8 ESV
We live in a crazy world. It’s hard to image it can get any worse than it already is. And maybe that is a good thing; maybe it is a sign that the Last Day is close at hand. You know you can’t call a thing what it is anymore without being labeled as “out of touch,” “intolerant,” “ignorant,” “judgmental,” “incompassionate” or “politically incorrect.” 
Whatever we are called, we who speak the truth are somehow in the wrong. It seems people want to live in a fantasy world where anything goes as long as it doesn’t affect anyone else, and sometimes, even if it does. In other words I can do whatever I want, be whoever I want to be, without having to be responsible for the consequences of my decisions. After all, how dare you judge me!
If you don’t see it, let me make it clearer for you. Men are not women, even if they want to be and have anatomical surgery or hormone therapy to make them appear that way. Likewise, women are not men for the same reasons. Yet many people still fight to change who God made them physically; maybe because the grass appears greener on “the other side”, or maybe because they are not comfortable in their own skin for whatever reason. This has led many of these people to “correct God’s mistake”, and change who they appear to be.
Friends, this is called self-deception and is one of the greatest tricks Satan has put upon us; to be dissatisfied with who God made us. Regardless of what we look like or try to appear to be on the outside, a man is a man and a woman is a woman on the inside; just as God determined. A man cannot think and feel in the same way a woman can and neither can a woman think and feel as a man. God made male and female differently purposefully. You can change the cover, but the book remains the same.
The women in my life have given me many insights that never would have occurred to me had they not shared their thoughts with me. Likewise, I have had the same impact on these very same women. If we are going to be offended by anything, why not be offended by the very idea that we might know ourselves better than God, who created us?
Do not be deceived; God WILL NOT be mocked by our callous love of self and our self-serving desires. He Will Not be mocked by our callous disrespect for whom He made us to be. These are GREAT sins! 
If you are feeling inadequate with yourself, why not call upon the One who created you to bring about understanding or a change of heart, which only the Holy Spirit can do? 
Why rely on the surgeon or the doctor, who are just as sinful and fallible as you and I are to create something better in us? The Truth is, they can’t create anything better in us anyway. They can only help satisfy our vanity. Here is our warning, when we rely on the flesh, from the flesh we will reap corruption. But when we rely on the Spirit, from the Spirit we will reap eternal life. 
We Pray: Dear Lord, remove far from us any desire to be anything more or less than exactly what You have created us to be. We know You do not make mistakes. Instead, You have carefully crafted each and every one of us with intent and purpose. Teach us to be content within ourselves and to flee from temptation to be anything else. In Jesus’ name. Amen
The peace of the Lord be with you   -Rev. Brian Dupre, Pastor, SOTC

Wednesday, May 13

“Two Precious Gifts”

“In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”  John 16:23 ESV
How many of us, if given a brand-new Bentley by our parents, would lock it up and drive it only to church on Sundays? How many of us if our inheritance included a sprawling estate on an island paradise, would reject it or use it sparingly as if we didn’t really appreciate the gift? If I had to guess, probably not many of us, including myself, would treat these things given to us out of love by our parents in such a manner.
The truth is we believers in Christ as our resurrected Lord and Savior have been given a gift more valuable than any Bentley and will inherit mansions greater that all the earthly estates combined. We have been given the gift of prayer and we stand to inherit everlasting life with Christ in the true paradise. Yet how do we treat these two precious gifts? Do we use them and treat them as if they irreplaceable? Or do we put them on the shelf or in the filing cabinet, hiding them from the world, using them sparingly, because we don’t hold them in our hearts as precious and irreplaceable?
I bring these up only so that each of us may examine ourselves. As I will say in my Sunday sermon, God has given every believer in Christ an “Open Invitation” to come and talk with Him through prayer, anytime, anywhere about anything. Do we really take advantage of that great opportunity? God has promised to hear the prayers of those who love and trust in Him and to respond.
The verse above tells us that whatever we ask of the Father in Jesus’ name, will be given to us. Now if we are foolish enough to waste our prayers asking God for mansions and cars, when forgiveness, healing, salvation and fellowship with our Savior are still on the table and have not been requested, then we truly have a misguided concept of who God is and what His promise of fulfilling our prayers means. 
If a car or a house mean more to us than a loving relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and more than our eternal salvation, then I hope we are happy with those temporary things; because they will not last. If you think I’m wrong, see you on the last day…uh no, I won’t! I will go many places with you, but hell is not one of them!
All I am saying to you, my church family, is please stay focused on Christ and keep your priorities straight. The precious gift of prayer should not be locked up in our garages with a sign saying, “Sundays Only”. What a shallow, cavalier, disrespectful and spiteful way to treat something that God has given out of love for our own benefit. God loves us and wants to have a Father-child relationship with us. He is not obligated to love us, He certainly does not owe it to us, and we certainly did nothing to deserve His love. He gives this gift because HE desires to be our Father and our God.
The promise of the precious gift of everlasting life should not be packed away, where it cannot be shared with others, so that they may come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior and share in the gift themselves. But if you are foolish enough to believe that the promise of life everlasting is replaceable; then tell me, with what?
Prayer and Everlasting life. God through Christ Jesus, has provided us with everything we need now and in the world to come with these in these two precious gifts. Pray always and tell everyone of the promise of life everlasting that Jesus won for all believers. This is how we use these two precious gifts and how we show God that we truly appreciate the grace, love, mercy and blessings that comes to us through them. Houses and cars will crumble and rust away and will lose their value. But these two precious gifts of God will never perish and will never be less than precious. 
WE PRAY: Father God, thank You for the two precious gifts of prayer and everlasting life found in Your Son Jesus. Thank You for giving Him to us as our Lord and Savior. Help us to pray in all times for the eternal rather than the temporal, and to share always the Good News of Jesus Christ that leads to life everlasting by grace through faith. In Jesus’ name. Amen
The peace of the Lord be with you   -Rev. Brian Dupre, Pastor, SOTC

Wednesday, May 6

“Only the Strong Survive”“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 ESV
You may have heard it said that only the strong survive. Well it is certainly true when it comes to health, wealth and business. But it is not a physical or financial strength that God is speaking of when he speaks to Joshua in the passage above. It is a spiritual strength, not of body but of faith, and character. You see it is just as true that only those strong in faith and character will be able to survive the tribulation that the book of Revelation warns has arrived and will get continually worse until the Last day when Jesus returns.
God tells Joshua to be strong in faith and courageous in character so that he may lead the Israelites in conquering their enemies that occupied the promised land. By doing these things that God commands of him, Joshua will not only survive, but prosper. If survival and longevity are the measure of strength and courage, then my friends,Shadow of the Cross has been very strong and very courageous, doing things few other congregations have even attempted. We have crossed racial divides and it has made us stronger. What we didn’t know was that we would grow to love each other within our congregation.
We are still here when just two years ago everyone outside had this merger of cultures dead and buried. Apparently God had other plans. It would have been very easy to listen to the naysayers and give up, just as it would have been easy for Joshua to heed the report of his scouts that there were giants in the land they were commanded to conquer, and give up. Instead, just like Joshua, we chose to listen to the words of the Lord in Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” and trust in His promise in Joshua 1:5 – “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.”
Yes, we are still here, but by the grace of God who has enabled us to withstand trials and tribulations. And by His grace we are growing and prospering! But understand, it is God who has strengthened us, we did not do it ourselves! He has blessed us so that we could and would trust that He would keep Shadow of the Cross Lutheran Church the faithful house of God it had always been, and continue to do the work He has given us to do. 
God did not bring about this merger “just because”. He has plans according to His will for us. And so we first need to recognized the tremendous and immeasurable blessings He has given us over these past few years and then fall on our knees in thanksgiving …..because we could be suffering the same trials and tribulations some  of our sister churches in the LCMS are suffering through. And we pray that God would quickly restore them also.
The second thing we need to do is be an example, a living witness to the blessings, grace and goodness of the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And in doing so, we should be strong and very courageous, just as He instructs and enables His people to be. Amen.  May God Bless you and keep you! 
WE PRAY: Father God, thank you for the MANY blessings You have bestowed on Shadow of the Cross. We are grateful that You have brought us together. Show us Your purpose and we will respond with whatever You would have us do. Keep us strong in faith that we trust whatever direction You lead us in. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of the Lord be with you   -Rev. Brian Dupre, Pastor, SOTC

Wednesday, April 29

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. -Romans 12:12

Okay, now what? I’ve read books, including the Bible. I’ve tried every new recipe from the Food Network to Rachel Ray. I know every Columbo episode by heart. I’ve ruined 2 remotes flipping through channels. The pool table needs new bumpers. We’ve cleaned the home from top to bottom…11 times. I’ve worn out my eyes on jigsaw puzzles and painting pictures. My fingers are numb from playing guitar. I’ve danced, exercised, and know all the dogs in the area by name, having walked the neighborhood so often. Okay, now what?

If you haven’t noticed, I’m bored. I’m going stir crazy with this stay home-stay safe mandate. I’ve got a severe case of cabin fever. I know you know what I’m talking about because I’m sure some of you are feeling the same way. And I know all of us are itching for things to get back to “normal”, especially when it comes to our worship services and practices.

But in my reading, I came across the above scripture passage from Romans, and it reminded me that everything happens in God’s time, not mine…or yours. It reminded me that we have a glorious Lord who told us that His grace is sufficient. It reminded me that even though I may feel like I’m “suffering” through boredom, it pales in comparison to the suffering Jesus endured for us. I am still amazingly blessed; so are you. It made me rethink how I am feeling and count my blessings rather all the things I am unable to do right now.

Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:25, “Do not be anxious about your life…”. Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:11, “…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Even so, I know these things are hard to do, especially right now. But if you think about it, what really has changed? Are you still a child of God? Do you still have faith in Jesus Christ? Do you still believe in the forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body and the life everlasting?

Then child of God, stand on the promises made to you in His Word. And He has promised to take care of all of His children. Fear not. Be steadfast and immovable in your faith. Boredom, anxiousness, impatience; these things will pass if we do not dwell on them. Jesus tells us there will be a time when all trials and tribulations will be erased forever. Count your blessings because the Lord is blessing you even at this very moment. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and be constant in prayer.

We Pray: Father in heaven, transform us by the renewal of our minds, so that we do not dwell on our condition, situation, or circumstances; but on the higher heavenly things; on Jesus our Lord, in whom our joy and hope relies; and on our neighbors rather than ourselves. Give us by Your Holy Spirit, peace of heart and mind so that we may live content, but in joyful expectation of our Lord’s return. In Jesus’ name. Amen

The peace of the Lord be with you   -Rev. Brian Dupre, Pastor, SOTC

Tuesday, April 21: The Answer to the Why Question

Proverbs 3:3-8 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones”

 Matthew 5:4 – “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

A 5-year-old child dies of coronavirus. A mother of two young children is stricken with cancer and dies 6 months later. A father of four dies in a car crash leaving his wife and kids without insurance and without income. A 3-year old child is killed by a stray bullet in a drive-by shooting. How do you begin to comfort those that suffer such a loss? And where is the love of God that Christians speak of at these times? Why do such things happen?
It’s not easy finding an answer to the question “why” when tragedy strikes and there are no simple answers. The truth is we don’t know why tragedy strikes when and where it does. But we are keenly aware that this statement provides no comfort to those that mourn in loss. The temptation is to either blame God or attempt to explain the apparent absence of His grace and mercy in these events.  In the latter, we say, “God needed mom more than we did” or “Something good will come out of this.”
My friends, this type of self-medication may make us feel better in the short run, but never provides us with lasting comfort. When tragedy strikes, we may feel the need to “justify our loss” by rationalizing it. But it is just not that simple. Neither blaming God nor rationalizing our loss satisfies the “why”. One pushes us away from our Lord and creator while the other is merely a mask for our inability to understand and accept what has happened.
The sad truth is that tragic events happen because sin has come into this world and distorted all that God once called ‘Good.” This is the only answer to the “why” question. And not even the most God-fearing Christian is exempt from the effects of this sin-sick world. The sad truth is that bad things are going to happen to all of us. It is here that I must remind you that God did not promise any of us a life without hurt, sorrow, illness or affliction.
But the glorious truth is that He has promised us that come what may, He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deut. 31:6, Joshua 1:5, Heb. 13:5) and will be with us always, even to the very end of the age (Mt. 28:20). He has also promised that for those of us who endure (remain faithful) and perseveres under trial, even unto death shall be given the crown of life (Jas. 1:12, Rev. 2:10).
Our hope and our joy can be found in these promises. Our joy is that regardless of what happens to us in this life, we will not endure it alone. Our joy is in the fact the Jesus Christ has conquered death so that we may have everlasting life. Our joy is that the death of those we love is not the end of the story, for all who believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, who died for our sins and was resurrected so that we may no longer be a slave to death, shall be saved from death and shall be resurrected to eternal life with our King, He who created us.
What do you say to those grieving the loss of a loved one? What do you say when they ask “why”? Take them back to the cross. Remind them of these truths and promises that God has given us in His Word. And remind them that, “God so loved the world that He gave up His Son, so that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). 
We Pray: Heavenly Father, Your grace is sufficient. Help us to remember this truth when we are grieving, suffering, and searching for an answer to the “why” question. Help us to find comfort from the Holy Spirit that dwells within us and to be strengthened by the promises made to Your children in Christ Jesus, Your Son, our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen
The peace of the Lord be with you   -Rev. Brian Dupre, Pastor, SOTC

Wednesday, April 15: Walking Away From Jesus

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?”  After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” – John 6:60-61, 66-69 ESV

The truth is always hard to hear, especially when we know we’ve done something wrong, or it goes against what we have chosen to believe. Jesus had been teaching His disciples scriptural truths that these Jews found hard to accept. He told them how Moses had given their fathers bread from heaven, referring to manna that God gave to the Israelites in the wilderness. Jesus also said that His Father gave these Jews the true bread from heaven. Jesus then said “I am the bread of life; I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and this bread that I give is my flesh. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
That truth had to be hard to hear, believe and understand. But instead of asking Jesus for clarification, for deeper explanation; instead of trusting that the words Jesus said were true, even if they didn’t understand them, they grumbled among themselves; they leaned on their own understanding and reason; they doubted and finally they turned back and walked away from Jesus.
The problem these Jews struggled with is the same problem we struggle with today; a problem that prevents us from fully trusting the Word of God; a problem that has some of us walking away from Jesus like these disciples. 
The problem is that we hold ourselves so self-important that we believe if we cannot understand something or are unable to explain it scientifically; it cannot and must not be true. After all, we are intelligent, reasonable, rational people, aren’t we?
Maybe in our own eyes, but not in God’s. Consider Psalm 110:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.” Consider 1 Corinthians 1:22-25, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Consider Proverbs 3:5-7, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.”
All of these scriptural verses warn against the very problem the disciples and we alike struggle with; leaning on our own understanding and not trusting in the Lord with all our heart. But as Peter wisely said, walking away from Jesus is the stupidest thing a person can do in this life. Truly, where are you going to go and who are you going to follow if not Jesus? What other path is there to salvation and eternal life? The message here is that God’s Word doesn’t rely on whether we understand it or believe to be true. It is true and infallible whether we believe it or not. And not because I say so; but because God does. There is NOTHING in this life that is worth walking away from Jesus.
WE PRAY: Father in heaven, help us to not lean on our own understanding, but to read, study, and inwardly digest Your Word. We know that it will strengthen our faith and trust in Your Son, our Lord Jesus. Help us to rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us and to pray for all things needful and for enlightenment for that which we cannot understand.  In Jesus’ name. Amen
The peace of the Lord be with you   -Rev. Brian Dupre, Pastor, SOTC

rienced them in the same way that we do. Then He took His suffering to an enormously greater level; one that we can never know. He took upon Himself the sins of the world; a task only He could have done. He was forsaken by the Father on the cross; He was crucified with all the hatred of man and in the awesome wrath of God.. There is no suffering greater than that which Jesus faced and experienced, and even in relative terms, our suffering was nothing compared to His. Unless we lose our faith, we will never know that kind suffering, thank God!

Even more than that, St. Paul reminds us that the sufferings we face and we experience aren’t even worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us. Paul is speaking of the joys of the heavenly kingdom; of being in the presence of God forever. These sufferings we face are less than zero compared to the joys that await those who endure in faith through all sufferings, trials and tribulations. St. Paul says all creation eagerly awaits with longing for the revealing of the sons of God; meaning the events of the Last Day when the wheat and chaff are separated and believers will face no more suffering forever, and unbelievers will face indescribable suffering for all eternity. In facing the cross, suffering and persecution will come. When it does, cling to God’s words of blessed assurance to us, “But the one that endures to the end will be saved. Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.” 

We Pray: Father God, help us endure whatever manner of suffering we may be experiencing. Comfort us with Your Holy Spirit and with the knowledge that our Lord and Savior is with us through it all. Strengthen us so that we remain faithful unto death, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen

The peace of the Lord be with you   -Rev. Brian Dupre, Pastor, SOTC