Category Archives: WELS

From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

A Christmas Eve Worship Service by Pastor Michael Zarling
Excerpt of the Worship Service:

A Christmas service based on Martin Luther’s Christmas hymn for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation

Processional Hymn: #55 — “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful” (brass accompaniment)

As the hymn is introduced, please stand and face the processional cross in the back of the church, and turn to the front of the church as the cross passes you.


Minister: We worship in the name of the Father who gave us His Son, in the name of Jesus Christ, who came as the perfect Gift, and in the name of the Holy Spirit who brought us to faith in this Christ child.

Congregation: Amen.

 Introduction by Pastor

Pastor: This year, we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. There are many blessings that we enjoy today because the Lord of the Church allowed Martin Luther to rediscover for God’s people. Blessings such as the truth of Scripture alone, the Bible translated into the language of the people, the doctrine of vocation, the power of congregational singing, etc. The greatest blessing is the grace of God found in the person of Jesus Christ – the Son of God born of the Virgin Mary to be the Savior of all humankind.

Martin Luther’s writings and hymns focus on this doctrine of grace. His Christmas hymn “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come” is all about the grace of God found in this Christchild, young and fair. Luther wrote this hymn for his children. It is recorded that “Luther was accustomed every year to prepare for his family a happy Christmas Eve’s entertainment … and for this festival of his children he wrote this Christmas hymn.”

“From Heaven Above to Earth I Come” is based on Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth in the second chapter of his Gospel.

Before we focus on Jesus being born to Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem, we hear from Luke how the promise of the Savior was first given to Mary.

Luke 1:26-38

Here is the link to download the entire worship service program (it’s free!): From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

Thank you Pastor Zarling for sharing!

Saint Michael and All the Angels

Prayer of the Church
St. Michael and All Angels
The following prayers were written by a friend, Pastor Michael Zarling, for use on Sunday September 25.
Almighty God, in the beginning you made the earth and created mankind upon it. With your own hands you stretched out the heavens. You marshaled their starry hosts. You created humanity to have dominion upon the earth. You created the angels to guard the crown of your creation in all their ways.
For the works of your creation and our salvation, we join with the archangels, the cherubim, and seraphim in praising you, Lord. We gather around your throne to sing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord almighty. Heaven and earth is full of your glory.” We thank you that you send the angels as your servants to do you will. Your angels were present at the conception, birth, temptation, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus. We join with the angels in worshiping you for the work of your Son in winning salvation for the world and we sing with them, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to those on whom his favor rests.” We rejoice with the angels in heaven over every sinner who repents. We are grateful for the angels you send to carry the souls of your departed saints to Abraham’s side in heaven. We await the trumpet call on the Last when you will send your angels to gather your elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
Prayers of intercession.
Gracious God and Father, we thank you for the gifts of forgiveness in Absolution, of cleansing from sin in Baptism, of Christ’s body and blood in Holy Communion, and of a peace that surpasses all understanding in the Benediction. We thank you for the message of the angels that announced Christ’s arrival, who proclaimed Christ’s resurrection, testified to Christ’s ascension and will trumpet Christ’s second coming. We are grateful for the holy angels you send to minister to us as they ministered to Christ in the wilderness. For all this, we thank you. And we ask that you hear our humble prayers, so that we might praise your holy name with one voice with the cherubim and seraphim, the apostles and prophets, the martyrs and your Holy Church, all through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Thank you Pastor Zarling for sharing.

Songs We Carry


Songs We Carry
Songs We Carry
A review of the latest CD release by Contemporary Christian recording artist Mike Westendorf.
by Steve Brown

What Songs Do You Carry?
Isn’t it true that we all carry a bag of songs along with us throughout our lives?  I know that I do.  I still remember the song that my wife and I danced to at our wedding – it happened to be “If” by Bread.  I can hear it in my mind right now as we tried our best to gently foxtrot across the floor.  I remember songs from certain funerals that I have attended, I remember songs from my youth, and I certainly have my favorite hymns and other Christian songs that help to carry me through the roughest times.  I recall hiking with my wife once on some high mountaintops (she is afraid of heights) and after the hike she told me that during the highest lookouts, while standing as near to the edge as she dared, she would sing to herself “Right Here” by Jeremy Camp because it’s in those fearful moments that she wanted to know that God was nearby and she made the connection using a song that she carries.   Songs that we carry have a special meaning to us, they comfort us, and they remind us of fond memories.  I believe that Mike’s CD contains some of the songs that he carries in his heart and that it gives him overwhelming joy to share these songs, which are a piece of his soul, with the church.  Some of Mike’s songs are a bit more personal than you might be accustomed to in church, but they show a very comfortable side of the relationship between Mike and his Savior.  It’s a heart-felt relationship that many of us long to have.

Where Inspiration is Birthed
When I first listened to Mike’s CD, I thought to myself, “Mike is a storyteller more than a lyricist.”  After listening to his CD several times, I took out the liner notes and read that he refers to himself as a storyteller as well.  This is evident as you listen to his music.  What’s interesting is that Mike states that some of his songs “were written just for me” and that these songs “will be a sort of refrain to a larger story that God is working out in our lives.”  These quotes ring true with me and echo my very thoughts.

I contrast Mike’s words to mine:
“In Ephesians 2:10, God’s word states that we are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Some pretty powerful words indeed! That word “handiwork” is actually translated from the Greek word “poiema” from which we get the English word “poem.”  The Bible is filled with poetry. The traditional church’s music overflows with rhyme and meter.  In a very real way, my life is unfolding God’s poem for me.  I am the poem, the thing being written and so are you.  God is the poet.” – Steve (excerpted from the book “Lifestyle Worship”)


What’s Your Story?
God is crafting a marvelous story for each of our lives.  Both Mike and I are actively pursuing our stories, we are in fact all in pursuit of God’s story for our individual lives.  Mike’s music is making a statement and this statement is part of the ongoing story that God has planned for him.  What is your story?  What poems are in your heart?  What is God doing in your life?  What songs do you carry?

Ephesians 2!
But the similarities between Mike and I go even deeper.  Mike and I write about poems and lyrics written that are just waiting for a melody and we each claim Ephesians 2 as playing a significant role in inspiring our work (as does my brother who is a writer as well!).  I quote Eph 2:10, my brother quotes Eph 2:6 and Mike quotes Eph 2:1.  The strange thing is that I have never met Mike in person.  We are FaceBook friends and we are brothers in faith, but one day, our great Creator will introduce us to one another, of this I am sure.  At that point we can talk about the colorful songs we have carried throughout our earthly lives.  I encourage you to read Ephesians 2 yourself and see if God inspires your story through it.

The Sharp Keys
The CD is well produced, sounding beautiful to my ear and uplifting to my soul.  I would say that all of the music except one song is guitar-driven as opposed to piano-driven and my guess is that Mike likes the sharp keys – G, D, A and E.  Some of the harmonies are so tight and sonorous that you might think they were sung by a brother and sister team.

Mike with Guitar
Mike Westendorf leading worship
Every Picture Tells a Story
The CD cover artwork is humble and introspective, using brownstone muddied tones that depict a man who loves worshipping his Savior, enjoys life and family, holds music in high regard, and as a fellow guitarist I can appreciate the fact that Mike is holding and playing his instrument in all six photos.  Included with the CD are all the lyrics and a special message from Mike.  I listened to all the music first, a few times, then read the lyrics and finally Mike’s message.  After doing this, I was compelled to listen again and in more detail because his music just seems to invite the listener into his world and to appreciate all of God’s graces and majesty.

Mike’s lyrics are bit unusual, but I mean this in a good way.  There are so many Christian songs coming out today that all seem to be saying the same thing – one giant amalgamation of praise.  But Mike avoids the rote cliches with his unique phrases that will engage the listener and pull you into his message; which is a good thing for a song to do.

The Songs that Mike Carries

Here is a quick rundown of the songs:

  1. I Will Sing – The bridge will surprise you.  Suffice it to say that John Newton’s most famous hymn fits in with the story of this song.  Excellent electric guitar work as well; I loved the intro, the outro, the power chords, the riffs – the whole enchilada.  This song was inspired by Psalm 89.
  2. My Own Best Friend – A very warm and heartfelt message that I think Mike is singing to one of his sons.  Not a song that you would probably use in worship but priceless nonetheless.  The bridge contains a particularly endearing plea.  Thanks Mike!  You blessed me through this piece.
  3. You Are – A good song to sing in corporate worship.  The bridge uses a portion of Psalm 23 which is the kind of nice surprise that Mike tucks into his songs.  The CD also includes a performance track of this arrangement for use in worship.
  4. Coming Soon – This song is epic!  The lyrics portray a conversation between us in worship and Jesus.  The chorus is bombastic and the vocals soar.
  5. In the Garden – Is Mike talking about Eden, or Gethsemane, or something entirely different?  You must listen for a fresh take on “The Garden.”
  6. Worthy (All Glory to Your Name) – Another great song to sing in worship along with the provided accompaniment track.  The inspiration for this piece was Revelation chapters 4 and 5.
  7. Climb the Mountain – This is Mike’s motto.  He usually signs his name with it.  When I first saw this I had no idea what he was referring to.  I think that I now finally get it.  The mountain is the pinnacle of our worship experience and we climb the mountain as we grow closer to God.  Mike’s heart is to help to give you the best worship experience possible, and he does this through his music and the work of the Spirit.  You can watch Mike tell the story behind this song here:
  8. Safely Home – Another touching arrangement from Father to son or daughter  beautifully embellished by cello.   This piece would be an amazing song to have a soloist sing at a Confirmation service.  The Holy Spirit, I am quite sure, would see to it that there would not be a dry eye in the house.  I just love the lyric where Mike turns things over to his child by saying “You’re older now, the pen is yours, you’ll write all new pages, the story now becomes your own new chapters without end.
  9. At a Time – The only piano-driven arrangement in the collection.  It’s a simple yet beautiful song encouraging us not to lean on our own understanding but to rely on our God for strength to get through those tough days.  Talk about a sign from Heaven! – watch this –

It is obvious from this CD that Mike has a passion for sharing God’s word through music to children, teens and young adults that is fed by his own love for Christ and the work of the Spirit who is working powerfully in and through him. The Church is blessed to have a man, a musician, an artist, and a worshiper with this amount of passion towards this age group. I pray for much success to Mike in his efforts to reach the weak, the wavering and the lost through his music and that he continues to climb the mountain to see his unique story unfold.

To purchase the CD:  ITunes or

For concerts and booking information:

Well that’s my review!  Now you can hear Mike talk about the CD in his own words here:


CD Artwork
CD Artwork

Climbing the mountain, carrying my songs & pursuing my story,
Steven Brown
Author of “Lifestyle Worship”  &
the voice behind the “Worship Ideas You Can Use” BLOG

WELS – Indie Authors!

These are all books that were written and self-published by members of the WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod):

A children’s book, illustrated by a Pastor and written by his son:


From writer, blogger and poet; Adam Nitz:


Poems, Prayers, Ministry Resources and more:


First Person Sermons, now in Audio and Book formats:


How to Start Webcasting for Churches:
Christ’s Love is Our Calling!

The Golden Chain of Blessing

The Golden Chain of Blessings

Most churches in my denomination who follow the Lectionary will be listening to the reading of Romans 5:1-11 this Sunday as it is our Epistle reading for the day. I am giving permission for anyone who wants to reprint my poem based on Romans 5:3-4 in their bulletin or as an insert for your people to contemplate during the pre-service time. Pastors, also feel free to use this in your sermon if applicable.

“We glory in our sufferings, Because suffering produces perseverance; Perseverance, character; And character, hope.”  – Romans 5:3, 4

We struggle through our sufferings, 
we drown in currents of woe, 
We all have stories of distress, 
whose origin we may not know. 

But determination will build slowly over time,
A glowing perseverance among our earthly grime. 
It builds to a point we really do not deserve, 
A city on a hill, a light, for all to observe. 

Then finally, a promise catches us by surprise, 
Blessings flow and gush right before our very eyes. 
It’s a golden chain of blessings after all, 
Suffering – perseverance – character – hope 
Designed by the Master to help us cope. 

It’s for our own good and in the end, 
it will be understood. 
Suffering was shared by Jesus, 
the One who also once withstood. 
So fear not, for the Holy Spirit is with you all the time, 
Hang onto the hope and use it to get through the daily grind. 

©2015, Steven Brown, Used with Permission

An Interview with Author and Pastor, Rob Guenther

An Interview with the Author of the book “In Their Sandals” and Pastor, Rob Guenther

Q: Pastor Guenther, can you start by telling us about yourself?Family, hobbies, your ministry, etc.

A: Sure. I’ve been blessed to be a pastor in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod for a little over 10 years now. I grew up in the WELS going to Calvary Lutheran School in Bellevue, WA, then on to Evergreen Lutheran High School in Des Moines, WA, then Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. I was assigned to serve at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Raleigh, NC (cf. and was there from 2004 to 2010. For the last four years I’ve been serving at Grace Lutheran in Kenai, Alaska (cf.

I’ve been married to my beautiful wife for 12 years. We have four sons: Josiah (10), Jacob (8), Judah (4), and Joel (1). As you can imagine, Alaska is a great place to bring up four boys. I enjoy the Alaskan adventures of camping, hiking, hunting, and of course, fishing. I’m an avid reader and average a little better than a book a week (which I think helps my preaching style tremendously as I pick up different styles and literary devices).

I’m also a bit of nerd and love tech. I’m a big fan of WELS Tech (cf. and try to be a regular contributor. (You can listen to my interview with them on this same subject here:  I’m also passionate about personal, professional, and spiritual growth and am always striving to improve my skills and foster the gifts God’s given to me and to help others, especially pastors, to do the same. I’m a fan especially of marrying the two and am currently working on a new website that gives productivity tips and life hacks to pastors to help them serve better. (But I’m not quite ready to roll it out yet. It’s a big project and won’t be ready for a while. But I think that once it’s complete, it would make a good book too.)

The Interviewer: Steve Brown – Outdoor Worship Service at Messiah Lutheran Church, South Windsor, CT (May 2014)

Q: What inspired you to self-publish a book?

A: Well, as a pastor, I have an ardent desire to share the message of the Gospel with as many as I possibly can. Pastors are natural authors as we’re constantly writing new sermons each week. I’ve always thought that publishing a book would be a great way to reach a broader audience and to leave a legacy of Gospel proclamation that will outlive me. So my personal mission statement includes the goal: “I will strive to leave behind a digital and print record of my Gospel proclamation for future generations.”

I started writing a book maybe the 3rd or 4th year of my ministry. But it got challenging to schedule time to work on it with a busy ministry and family life. It was one of those projects I really wanted to do and thought was important, but wasn’t urgent and so it kind of just sat on the back burner. (To this day that book sits unfinished about 3 or 4 chapters in, but with an outline for 12 or 13 chapters. I hate to say it, but it’s become a “someday” project.)

But then I got thinking: “Do I really need to write brand new content? I have all these sermons (let’s say 500, give or take after 10 years of preaching just about every week, not counting special mid-week services). Why not just rework some of them a bit and reformat into a published book?” And thus, the idea of “In Their Sandals” was born. I took the first person sermons I’d already written and gathered them together into a book.

Q: Are the sermons contained in this book, sermons that you have preached? How did you come up with the idea of putting yourself (and the listener I might add) into the biblical story? Have you heard others preach in this style?

Pastor Rob Guenther & Family
Pastor Rob Guenther & Family

A: Yes, I’ve preached every one of these sermons. I’m always looking for fresh ways of preaching and like to stir things up from time to time. I really enjoyed the book “Called to Testify” by Ken Kremer (Northwestern Publishing House, 2003) and loved that NPH put it into an audiobook. I’ve probably listened to it 3 or 4 times already. If you haven’t read it, check it out. Kremer does an outstanding job of doing first-person sermons. That book was kind of my inspiration.

One Lenten season a few pastors in my circuit and I decided that instead of purchasing a kit with a sermon series in it, we’d write our own. We used the theme: “Were You There, When They Crucified My Lord?” and all wrote our sermons in the first person from the perspective of the historical characters of Holy Week. (That’s where 6 of the 12 sermons in the book originated.) The series was very well received and I’ve tried to use that style every once in a while ever since (where the other 6 came from).

Q: How has the book been selling; in both E-Book and paperback formats?  Have you found it to be an effective way to spread God’s word?

 A: I don’t follow the sales reports too closely. I just kind of launched it and leave it out there for people to find. That’s what’s so cool about the Amazon affiliate, CreateSpace (cf. It’s totally free to me since it’s “print on demand.” I paid nothing to do this. CreateSpace doesn’t print the book until someone orders it. Then they print and ship. So I kind of get to (in the words of Ron Popeil) “set it and forget it.”

When it first came out I did some promotions on Facebook and gave the Kindle edition away for free. My goal was to give away 500 copies and I came close. I think I distributed 492 copies that week. But since, I’ve sold another 150 or so of the Kindle version and about 90 or so of the print edition (though to be fair, I think my parents bought a dozen of those to give away to people).  So, in all, I’ve sold or given away a little more than 700 copies.

But here’s how I look at it. How ecstatic would I be if I had 700 people visit my church and stay for 12 weeks? Well, through this book I’ve had a chance to share 12 sermons with at least 700 people and, with no more effort on my part, may still reach thousands more.

Not too long ago I got this message from a pastor thousands of miles away:

“Had an elderly member pass away today. His granddaughter was with him in his last hours. She told me she was reading this nice little book she got for free on her Kindle called “In Their Sandals.” If your book does nothing else in this life, it was worth all your effort just for today. Praise God!”

How cool is that?! So I would say, “Yes, absolutely! This is an effective way to spread God’s Word.”


Q: As I read these sermons, all I can say is that they “work” for me. And what I mean by this is that I can relate to them on a personal level. I see these old stories in a new light. I can sense what is going on better if I am “in” the story. I once had a Pastor whose sermons were faithful to God’s word and nicely delivered, but I asked him to do a word search in his sermons to find the words “I”, “me” and “you” because I sensed that these were missing. And to me, these words help to personalize and internalize the sermons for us sitting in the pew. In this book, your sermons have gone to the other extreme – “I am pulled into the story because it feels like you are talking to me with first-hand experience.” Was this your intent; to get your listeners involved in the sermons or did you want to personalize the biblical stories and characters – or both?


A: My intent was really just to make people stop and consider that these aren’t just stories out of a storybook. They’re real, historical, events that happened to real people who were just like you and me. I think the result is that it does bring the characters to life in a way that we can relate to them and so it also pulls the listener (or in this case, the reader) into the sermon as well. I can relate with Peter, with David, with the Emmaus disciple, because they were sinners, just like I am, and they were recipients of God’s amazing grace to them in Jesus, just like I am. My goal was to make the characters seem real, because well, they were and still are. And I’ve been very pleased with the response. Most people have really enjoyed the style.

Q: I think that pastors would benefit by this book simply in seeing a different approach and style to preaching. When you preach in this style, do you first offer a few words of explanation about how you will be preaching or do you just dive in? Have you gotten any feedback from your congregation on this style of preaching?

A: I haven’t given any explanation first when I preach these. I just launch right into it. I think that can be a bit jarring, but in a good way. It makes people sit up and go “Oh! He’s going to play a role this morning. This will be interesting.” They’re always a bit more difficult to write because I, of course, want to always stay true to the text and maintain textual integrity. But when preaching biblical stories with historical fiction, it’s necessary to add some filler. But it has always been well received. I think the one I got the most positive feedback on was the Good Friday sermon written from the perspective of the Roman Centurion. It’s a moving and emotional day to begin with, but the first person sermon made it even more moving. It was an emotional sermon to preach and I think the congregation really appreciated it.

Q: How often do you preach in the first person versus in a more standard format?

A: I maybe preach first person sermons once a year. It’s not too often. It’s obviously easier to preach these from a Bible story rather than an epistle or piece of poetry. But obviously, I’ve preached from the books of Psalms and Job and Ephesians and not just from the Gospels. I’d like to do it more and think a series written from the perspective of the Apostle John based on the visions he saw in Revelation would be a cool one to write and listen to. But I guess the biggest setbacks are that 1) they take quite a bit more time and creativity to write, and 2) it’s a device I don’t want to overuse. I think the novelty and interest would wear off if I preached first person sermons too often. I’m not sure how often is too often, but so far, it’s been very well received and I don’t want to overdo it.

Q: I notice a lot of explanation marks in your text! Even after a few question marks?! These must be “animation” points when you preach these sermons. I would love to hear you preach someday. No answer required unless you care to. This is just an observation of mine.

A: A wise pastor once told me that you can make a mediocre sermon good with a great delivery. Of course, the opposite is also true: You can also make a good sermon just mediocre with a flat delivery. Of course my goal is to make a great sermon even greater with a great delivery and I try to be a dynamic preacher. (By which, I don’t mean charismatic.) I don’t want my delivery to become cheesy and then to take away from the message, and I know I can never add to it. But I want to remove any barriers that might keep people from hearing it. So I try to use lots of inflection. I use intentional pauses. I try to show the emotion of the thoughts on my face. But I’m glad you could pick up on the style even in written form.

Incidentally, I’m trying to get my book produced in audio format. I’m using another Amazon affiliate called ACX. (cf. Their voice actors audition to read my book and convert it into an audio book. Then ACX puts it in the Audible and iTunes stores. It works the same way that there’s no up front cost to me. I just share any proceeds with the voice actor and ACX. Hopefully I’ll have that done soon and can reach even more people through another medium.

But if you want to listen to me preach, you can hear everything I’ve done at Grace at our website:

But I think I’ve only done two first person sermons here:
Tychicus of Ephesus:

My Hope Will Not Change (Job):

Q: It is my opinion that this preaching style would be most effective on children and teens. Have you tried it before this demographic?

A: Well, I have teens and children in the pews when I preach, but I think everyone loves a good story. Adults easily watch more movies than they read books these days and a touch of “edutainment” (educational entertainment) is well received by everyone. I think the touch of the dramatic certainly does reach all ages, including the kids. I think I have more young people hang with my sermons when I preach in first person to be sure. But I think I have everyone’s attention captured a little more.

Q: I see that you have another book titled Webcasting 101. The title says it all but would you like to share any comments on this book?

A: A pastor asked me if I would be willing to write-up a step-by-step guide of what I do to run the webcast at our church. I did, including images and links and figured, “Hey, I already wrote it. Why not add it to my Kindle books as well.” I’ve sold a few dozen copies of that one. But it’s kind of dated since I wrote it as I’ve changed some equipment around and now use a new live streaming service. But maybe it’s still helpful to some. I wish I could make the books permanently free since my goal isn’t to make money but to distribute the material and get the message out. But Amazon’s a for-profit company and they get to set the minimum price. So it’s a $.99 book.

Q: Is there yet another book in the making?

A: Always.  I still have those 3 or 4 chapters written waiting for me to come back to them and finish that original book from 6 or 7 years ago. The premise of that book is that God gives us countless visual reminders of his grace to us in Christ anywhere that two lines intersect to make a cross. So it’s kind of a day in the life of Rob, wrestling with my selfishness and sin, but being constantly reminded of Jesus’ grace when I see the intersecting lines in the tile on the floor, in the lattice in the window, in the intersection on the street corner, etc. which all create a “cross” and remind me of what’s most important.

Someone also recently asked me to create a step-by-step guide to show how I use Google Sheets for my prospect management system. It took me a few weeks to complete it, but now that I have, I think it only makes sense to add it to Amazon too. I did the work already. Why not try to reach a broader audience?

And to that end, I’ve been meaning to take more sermons and do the same. In particular, I’ve written series on the The Apostles’ Creed, the 10 Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer to review Luther’s Small Catechism as three separate sermon series for the last three summers. I’ve been meaning to carve out some time to compile and edit and reformat them all for Amazon. Maybe I’d call it “What Does This Mean?” It would be a bit longer with 20+ sermons in it, but who knows who I might reach with another book.

And I do have a lot of ideas for when I retire from parish ministry to just write books. I have a file full of them in Evernote.

One is a devotional on the three parts of faith: knowledge, agreement, and trust. I think it’s a concept we don’t ponder enough, but is so important to understanding what we mean by “by faith alone,” how we are justified “by faith,” and how faith and works cannot be separated.

One is a historical fiction of the life of Jesus as told by the thief on the cross (who I’d have an orphan struggling to survive, taken in by a den of thieves, then picking pockets wherever the crowds gather around Jesus). The climax of the story, of course, would be the interactions with Jesus during Holy Week (mostly fictional, but obviously including the real interaction on the cross). He would move from atheist angry at a god who would take his parents, from finding a sense of restless belonging with a life of crime, to skeptic, hearing what Jesus says but scoffing at it, to believer in the final moments of his life (since we find him initially taunting Jesus with the other thief, even on the cross).

Another would be a fictional account of God’s plan of salvation as told by an angel (who I’d call “Oariel,” which means “Light of God”). Since angels are immortal I could have him witness the fall of satan, visit with Abraham in his tent, be in the choir of angels at Bethlehem, sit in the empty tomb of Jesus, and talk to the apostle John in Revelation. This one might have to be a series of books. (Can you call it first person if the narrator isn’t a person?)

Another I’d title “Pastor Exposed,” which would deal with our fear of being exposed in our sin. But how we can be exposed, as embarrassing and uncomfortable as it is, because we have the Gospel. It would be an application of 1 John 1:8-9 to the life of a pastor. The safety net of the Gospel allows me to fail (and fail big) and still get back up again and serve Jesus. It allows me to be open and honest in my confession to God and even to others. (Think David and Nathan and how much better off David was having his sin exposed. Then he could be free of it and move on, even while still suffering the consequences.)

Another would be a comparative theology between different denominations where I would actually interview local pastors and ask them about salvation, faith, sacraments, good works, etc. and then write about our key differences comparing them to the Word. It wouldn’t be hard to write once the “research” of interviews was done and I think it would be an interesting perspective since it would be based on what actual parish pastors say and not on stereotypes of what we’re all taught other denominations believe. (Too many other protestants assume I’m pretty liberal and unbiblical in my theology because of what they know about Lutherans from other Lutheran denominations. I’m sure I have made some stereotypes of Baptists and Catholics too.)

Anyway, I have lots of ideas, just not lots of time. I hope to buy an RV and travel the country with my wife and my laptop in retirement. Just write and write and write and self-publish. Until I get a paid sabbatical, I’m going to have to put most of it off until retirement and just do a few things here and there, piece by piece.

Q: Any advice for other Pastors interested in writing their own books?

A: As Nike says: “Just do it.” You already write 2,000+ words each week. Why not take some of that content and compile it into a book of your sermons? It’s really easy to do at You simply upload a Word document and they walk you through every step of the way, even helping you design your cover. And when you’re done they automatically make your book available at Amazon in print and in Kindle formats. What do you have to lose? Sure there may be critics. But remember this email:

“Had an elderly member pass away today. His granddaughter was with him in his last hours. She told me she was reading this nice little book she got for free on her Kindle called “In Their Sandals.” If your book does nothing else in this life, it was worth all your effort just for today. Praise God!”

Your efforts to share the Gospel in one more format will reach more souls. You may never see the benefits this side of glory, but who knows who will greet you on the other side and say “Thank you. I’m here by God’s grace. But I’m here by God’s grace working through your efforts to reach someone like me.” That will make whatever effort you put in worth it… just for that day. Praise God!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

PS – Want help getting started? Don’t hesitate to drop an email to pastorguenther “at” gmail “dot” com. I’m happy to do what I can to get you started!

Lot’s of great resources and advice mentioned for our Pastors here! New resources to check out – Amazon Kindle, Self Publishing, CreateSpace, ACX, Evernote, Webcasting, the WELSTech Podcast, preaching advice…! Thank you very much Pastor Guenther for taking the time to share your ministry with the readers. May God continue to bless your efforts! – Steve

You can purchase or read more about Rob’s books here:

In Their Sandals

Webcasting 101

Four Contemporary Song Choices for Good Shepherd Sunday

Four Contemporary Song Choices for Good Shepherd Sunday

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. – John 10:11

Good Shepherd Sunday is celebrated on Easter 4 which is May 11, 2014.

“You Never Let Go” by Matt Redman:

“Dwell” by Aaron Keys:

“Good Shepherd of My Soul” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend:

“The Lord is My Shepherd (Angel of The Lord)” by Miriam Webster:

For WELS & ELS Churches only – The sheet music for one of these songs will be shared within our group of churches that use Contemporary music.  There are twenty churches so far from all over the US that have already joined the group.  You can see the group members here: link

You can join the group here: link

There is no obligation on your part to join. You will receive about an email a month containing helpful resources, links and information for churches within our fellowship.

WELS – Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

ELS – Evangelical Lutheran Synod

A Better Savior

Lenten & Holy Week Resources from the book of HebrewsA Better Savior

By: Michael Zarling
with a few Contemporary song choices by Steve Brown (marked in red)

Throughout the book of Hebrews, the author uses the word “better” as he portrays Christianity as the one true religion, and Jesus Christ as the one true Savior from sin (Heb 6:9; 7:19; 7:22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:4; 11:16; 11:35; 11:40; 12:24). The author uses similar comparative words like “greater” (Heb 3:3; 6:13; 6:16; 7:7; 9:11; 11:26) and “superior” (Heb 1:4; 8:6) to demonstrate the supremacy of Christ to anything in the Old Testament.

The book of Hebrews is full of allusions to the Old Testament which will allow the preacher to explain some of the factors that were important to Old Testament believers, but may be relatively unknown to our people today (i.e., the tabernacle, the covenant, the sacrificial work of the priests, the work of mediating done by Moses and the priests, etc.). Preachers have the opportunity to take their people back in time so that they might learn to deeply appreciate the Old Testament. Then preachers can lead their people to reflect on the great changes Jesus brought about when He fulfilled the Old Testament laws and the promises of the old covenant.

The theme of A Better Savior allows the preacher to make a comparison each week to something special from the Old Testament that was a picture of forgiveness for God’s people. But God did not work forgiveness through these means, because it was impossible for animal blood or the observance of rules and regulations to remove the stain of sin from people (Heb 10:4). Rather, everything in the Old Testament pointed ahead to Christ whose perfect sacrifice would remove all sin. That’s because He is the better covenant, the better sacrifice, the better mediator, etc.

With this Lenten theme, it would be easy to overlap ideas in order to bring other pictures from Hebrews into the sermon. However, each sermon theme almost demands that the preacher stay focused on that specific theme and carry it throughout the sermon.

Each service resource contains a sermon theme, text, suggested Psalm, Psalm prayer, and suggested hymns (from “Christian Worship – A Lutheran Hymnal” and the “Christian Worship Supplement.”).

Sermon Themes

Hebrews 3:3               A better leader

Hebrews 5:5-10          A better high priest

Hebrews 7:27             A better sacrifice

Hebrews 8:6               A better covenant

Hebrews 9:11             A better tabernacle

Hebrews 12:24           A better mediator

Hebrews 12:1-3          A better focus                         Palm Sunday

Hebrews 10:15-25      A better covenant                   Maundy Thursday

Hebrews 4:14-16        A better sympathizer              Good Friday

Hebrews 11:32-40      A better resurrection             Easter

Service Resources

Hebrews 3:3               A better leader

Sermon thoughts: The preacher may want to change the theme to “Better than Moses.” The writer to the Hebrews steadily makes the argument through his epistle that Jesus is superior to anyone and anything. He turns his attention to the Israelites’ leader, Moses. It would have been difficult for a Jew to think of anyone greater than Moses, their great leader who led their nation out of slavery in Egypt, who led the Israelites through 40 years of desert wandering, and who brought their nation to the edge of the Promised Land. Jesus’ superiority to Moses was not a matter of faithfulness, but position. Moses was only part of and servant to the house of Israel. Christ (the first time the author uses that title is in chapter 3) is greater because He is the “Son over God’s house.” He owns the house and rules over it – not in the distant past, but in the present reality and into the eternal future.

Supplement Psalm: 143

Contemporary Song: “Marvelous Light” by Charlie Hall

Psalm Prayer for 143:

Lord Jesus, you bring light to those who dwell in darkness and make your love known to them. Enter not into judgment with your servants, but strengthen us in the saving faith and guide us into the land of perfect peace where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and forever.

Supplement Psalm: 69

Psalm Prayer for 69:

O most merciful Lord, hear us in the truth of your salvation, that, delivered from the filth of sin, we may be written in the Book of Life by your heavenly finger; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Lesson: The Passion History according to Luke

Sermon Text: Hebrews 3:1-6


121: “Jesus, Grant that Balm and Healing”
123: “Lord Jesus Christ, You Set Us Free”

Contemporary Song: “How Great is Our God” by Chris Tomlin

Sermon Hymn:

126: “Lord Jesus, You Are Going Forth”

Service Resources

Hebrews 5:5-10          A better high priest

Sermon thoughts: Though the phrase “a better high priest” is not specifically mentioned in Hebrews, throughout the book, the writer makes the comparison between Jesus and the high priest. He specifically makes a comparison between the mysterious Melchizedek and Jesus Christ. The preacher may even want to focus on that comparison with the theme of “Better than Melchizedek.” In Hebrews 5:6, the writer references Psalm 2. Jesus is a high priest who is far greater than Melchizedek or Aaron or any other high priest, for He was appointed forever. He combines both a king’s power and the priest’s sacrifice, just as Melchizedek did in the days of Abraham.

Psalm: 2

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 2:

Lord God, you anointed your Son to be king for the sake of your Church. Help us, as members of his kingdom, to serve him faithfully and to come to the full knowledge of his grace and glory, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Lesson: The Passion History according to Luke

Sermon Text: Hebrews 5:5-10 or 5:1-10


121: “Jesus, Grant that Balm and Healing”
713: “In Silent Pain the Eternal Son”

Contemporary Song: “The Greatness of Our God” by Jason Ingram, Reuben Morgan and Stu Garrard

Sermon Hymn:

126: “Lord Jesus, You Are Going Forth”

Service Resources

Hebrews 7:27                         A better sacrifice

Sermon thoughts: How inadequate the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was. No matter how much animals’ blood was spilt, it could not erase the sinner’s guilt. Only one perfect sacrifice could do that – the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God. This sacrifice was made once and for all. Christ was both the priest and the sacrifice. Here the preacher will want to focus on the sacrifice, since another preacher will focus on the priestly aspect of Christ. 

Psalm: 22

Supplement Psalm: 22

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 22:

Father, when your Son hung on the cross, he cried out to you in agony and grief. You gave him the strength to endure so that death might be destroyed and life restored. Have mercy on us all our days and preserve us in true faith unto life everlasting; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lesson: The Passion History according to Luke

Sermon Text: Hebrews 7:27; 10:1-10


100: “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth”
101: “Behold the Lamb of God”
714: “The Lamb”

Contemporary Song: “Beautiful Sacrifice” by Tammi Rhoton and Elizabeth Foster”

Sermon Hymn:

128: “Not All the Blood of Beasts”

Service Resources

Hebrews 8:6               A better covenant

Sermon thoughts: The preacher may also reference Hebrews 7:22. The old covenant was replaced, not because it was imperfect or flawed, but because it was inadequate and incomplete. God’s covenant through Moses was a two-sided covenant. God told the Israelites that if they obeyed Him, then certain blessings would follow. But the covenant did not give the people the power to keep God’s Laws. Jesus Christ came to fulfill and complete the old covenant when He pronounced from the cross, “It is finished!” Jesus then replaced the old, conditional covenant with a new, unconditional covenant.

Psalm: 118

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 118:

Lord Jesus, when you rose victorious from death, you gave us a day of great rejoicing. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone of our faith. Let cries of joy and exultation ring out to celebrate the good news of your resurrection, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Contemporary Song: “In Christ Alone” by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty

Lesson: The Passion History according to Luke

Sermon Text: Hebrews 8:6-13


98: “Jesus, I Will Ponder Now”
99: “Oh, Come, My Soul”

Sermon Hymn:

106: “Come to Calvary’s Holy Mountain”

Service Resources

Hebrews 9:11             A better tabernacle

Sermon thoughts: The preacher can demonstrate the sharp contrast between the superiority of the tabernacle in which Christ serves as high priest and the “man-made” tabernacle used by the Jews. Though the tabernacle was an inanimate object, God still considered it tainted by sin. Therefore the high priest had to sprinkle blood both on the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. Plus, the high priest had to enter the tabernacle every year. Christ came from a more superior tabernacle from heaven. Plus, he offered one sacrifice of His blood to purify everything.

Psalm: 84

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 84:

Almighty God, grant that during our earthly pilgrimage we may so treasure your Word and sacraments that being nourished in faith we may one day dwell in the courts of heaven to praise you forever; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Contemporary Song: “Better is One Day” by Matt and Beth Redman

Supplement Psalm: 122

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 122:

Almighty God, bestow your peace on those who walk in the courts of your house, and pour out your blessing upon those who dwell in the house of the Lord; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lesson: The Passion History according to Luke

Sermon Text: Hebrews 9:11-12, 21-28


112: “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood”
715: “What Grace is This”

Contemporary Song: “The Wonder of the Cross” by Vicky Beeching

Sermon Hymn:

114: “Christ, the Life of All the Living”

 Service Resources

Hebrews 12:24                       A better mediator

Sermon thoughts: The themes of covenant, priest, Moses and sacrifice are already covered by other preachers. The focus of this comparison is that Jesus is a better mediator. As the mediator, Christ was the go-between of two parties – the holy and righteous God and sinful mankind. Moses and the priests often acted as mediators between God and man. They would take the blood of the animals to bind the people to the regulations of the covenant. As mediators, Moses and the priests would ask God to soften His anger. They would also give God’s people the Lord’s message. Jesus is the perfect mediator of Hebrews 8:6, 9:15-22 and 12:24. He is the arbiter between us and God with His perfect sacrifice on the cross. He continues to intercede for us in heaven. He was once and always will be our advocate.

Psalm: 130

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 130

God of might and compassion, open your ears to the prayers of your people, who wait for you. Do not leave us in the depths of our sins, but listen to your Church pleading for the fullness of your redemption; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Contemporary Song: “Psalm 130” by Luke Dowler

Supplement Psalm: 116

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 116

God of mercy and might, through the resurrection of your Son you have freed us from the anguish of guilt and the bonds of death. Be with us on our pilgrimage and help us glorify you in the presence of all your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lesson: The Passion History according to Luke

Sermon Text: Hebrews 12:24; 9:15-22


115: “He Stood before the Court”
118: “O Dearest Lord, Thy Sacred Head”
129: “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed”

Contemporary Song: “Jesus Messiah” by Chris Tomlin

Sermon Hymn:

116: “In the Hour of Trial”


Holy Week Resources for 2013

Palm Sunday – Hebrews 12:1-3 – A better focus

The Christian life is an endurance race. We run with continued preparation and proper focus. The saints who have gone before us and have already finished their race are an encouragement to us. But most of all, we look to Jesus and His cross. He is the author and perfecter of our faith. In Him, our race is already won. This lesson also helps us keep our focus as we anticipate the celebration of the Three Holy Days (the Triduum).

Contemporary Song: “O Church Arise” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend


Maundy Thursday – Hebrews 10:15-25 – A better access

Under the old covenant, sinners dared not come through the curtain to enter into God’s presence in the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle. But Jesus has torn that curtain in two, thus giving us sinners access to God’s holy presence. This access comes not by blood sprinkled on a door – like the blood of the Passover lamb sprinkled on the doorframes – but by Christ, the perfect Passover Lamb, sprinkling His blood on our hearts and sprinkling His baptismal waters on our bodies. All the barriers have been removed so that we may approach the God of the Covenant in the full confidence of forgiveness.

Contemporary Song: “The Power of the Cross” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend


Good Friday – Hebrews 4:14-16 – A better sympathizer

The theme of the better high priest has already been proclaimed in the Lenten series from Hebrews 5:1-10. These three verses of Hebrews 4:14-16 give the preacher the opportunity to preach how Jesus Christ is not only true God, but also true man. Jesus knows what we face on a daily basis because He was repeatedly tempted, yet He remained without sin. From experience He knows what we are going through and we receive comfort from the fact that He is able to sympathize with us in our weakness. We also find our confidence in Him because He is not only able to sympathize with us, but He is also able to help us in every need.

Contemporary Song: “The Compassion Hymn” by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend
– and  –
“Better than a Hallelujah” by Chapin Hartford and Sarah Hart (made popular by Amy Grant)


Easter – Hebrews 11:32-40 – A better resurrection

Women like the widow of Zarephath, the Shunamite woman and the widow of Nain, all received their children back from the dead. Lazarus, Eutychus and the daughter of Jairus all came back to life, but they were all subject to death. Christ promises a better resurrection. The list of martyrs in Hebrews 11 prized the resurrection to come as far greater in value than their earthly lives.

Contemporary Song: “By Faith” by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend

I would like to thank Pastor Zarling for sharing his work. He truly has a generous servant’s heart.

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