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Vol. 78 - No. 1
JANUARY 2007

WORD FROM THE PASTOR:             

"A Better 2007"

        A recent issue of U.S. News and World Report lists 50 ways to improve your life in 2007.
Most of these are fairly obvious (but hard to achieve!) prescriptions for a better life-like "be happy", 
"lose weight", "learn a musical instrument", "unplug your television". Some of the suggestions made
me wonder if U.S. News knows something about America's future that they're not telling the rest of
us-like "Learn Arabic" and "Learn About Islam."  But others are very practical, commonsense 
suggestions-like "vote" and "get tested for pre-diabetes" and "take care of your Ěcontact lenses" and 
"drink more white tea". (I didn't even know there was such a thing as white tea until I read this 
article!) 
            The suggestions are a little light on the spiritual. Even "Learn About Islam" is more a 
political/cultural project. There are some valuable humanitarian suggestions-addressing the genocide 
in Darfur, reaching out to disabled veterans-but specifically religious ideas are pretty much absent 
from the list. So I thought I'd share six (I don't have room for 50!) of my own suggestions about 
HOW TO MAKE 2007 A BETTER YEAR: 
            1. Cultivate relationships with other believers. When God saves us, He makes us part of 
a community-the holy Christian church. The Christian life is more joyful when it's lived in the 
company of others. So do some things that increase your connection with other believers. If your 
church attendance is hit and miss, try to make it more consistent, so that you see your family in Christ 
on a regular basis. If you're already doing pretty well with worship attendance, then become part of 
a small group-one of our Bible studies, or even the Alpha group that's beginning Jan. 9. If you're 
already part of a group, then make an effort to connect with other believers outside of church 
settings-have lunch, or just chat a bit on the phone. There is an incredible power in Christian 
community: Scripture says: "Two are better than one, for they have a good reward for their toil. 
If one falls, the other can help him up again... (Ecclesiastes 4:9). We need one another! 
            2. Spend time with God's Word. When I was a kid, I was gripped by a movie called "The 
Next Voice You Hear"-in which the voice of God suddenly, unexpectedly began sounding forth over 
the radio. Naturally, people tuned in to hear the Almighty-and their lives were blessed. Well, we 
have the chance to "tune in" to God's frequency anytime we want-by opening the Bible. This book 
is divinely-inspired...and it was written with you in mind. (As Paul says in Romans 15:4: "For 
whatever was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness 
and by the encouragement of the Scriptures, we may have hope."
). Can you say that about any 
other book-that the author wrote it with you in mind? Pastor Kern every year prepares a guide to 
regular Bible reading. Getting it and using it could change your life this year! 
            3. Meditate. "Meditating" means putting everything else aside and concentrating on God. 
Sit and close your eyes. Empty your mind of thoughts. Let the worries about bills and work go for 
a moment. Empty your mind and simply sit in God's presence. When a random thought comes 
scurrying along, softly say the name "Jesus"-which will gently push that thought aside. Practice this 
kind of meditation on a regular basis and you will feel closer to God and much less stressed out! 
            4. Put a cross in your car. Not long ago I ventured into Manhattan to deliver some gifts we 
had gathered for the Seafarers' International House. The driving was, as usual, pretty madcap. A few 
weeks earlier, my son had hung a small wooden cross from the rearview mirror. Whenever I stopped 
at a light, I lightly fingered the cross. It gave me a great deal of confidence as I swerved through a 
sea of rampaging taxicabs! I actually felt peace as I drove through Manhattan! The little cross 
reminded me that Christ was with me m the car-it reminded me of the magnitude of His crucified 
love. There are lots of interesting car ornaments, from fuzzy dice to little dogs with bobbing 
heads-but the simple wooden cross is the most powerful of all. 
            5. Get in touch with Johann Sebastian. The most famous Lutheran who ever lived was
undoubtedly Johann Sebastian Bach, the great 18th century German composer. A deeply devout 
church musician, Each filled his personal Bible with handwritten notes that show what a keen student 
of God's word he was. Whenever he set about to write a composition, he inscribed the letters "J.J." 
at the top of the page-for "Jesu, juva!", "Jesus, help! " At the end of every piece of music, he wrote 
"SDG"-"Soli Deo gloria", "to God alone be the glory." This is some of the greatest music ever 
written, and his entire output is now available in one superbudget package-155 CD's for $130 (less 
than $1 per CD!) The words are in German, but translations are provided. Exploring the central
figure in Lutheran musical history is a great spiritual and cultural journey. It helps plant love of Jesus
and of the Gospel deeper in your heart.
            6. Do "something beautiful for God". Share God's love with others in some way.
Volunteer for our upcoming trip to New Orleans. (Even U.S. News suggested a work trip to New
Orleans as one of their 50 life-improving steps). Give some time to a homebound person. Offer
someone a ride to church. Organize a fundraiser for a charity. Stand against genocide in Darfur.
Don't leave your faith in the garage-take it out on the road!
            So there's my six suggestions. Interestingly, the very first U.S. News suggestion for
improving one's life was "be happy"-because happy people live longer. Surveys also show that
people with a living, vibrant faith are happier than the general population. So I have a feeling that if
you and I carried out all six of my suggestions, the amount of happiness in our lives would skyrocket.
Shall we try it?
            God loves you and so do I!

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