Mt. Pisgah

Lutheran Church

9379 Hwy 127 North

Hickory, NC  28601

(Bethlehem Community)

Phone:  828-495-8251

Fax:  828-495-8252

Worship:  8:00 and 10:30 AM

(Nursery provided)

Sunday School:  9:15 AM

(For all ages)

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Worship  8 & 10 :30 AM

Nursery provided

Light breakfast 9:00 AM

The Story Program 9:15 AM

for all ages





Prayer Group  7:00-7:30 AM

Bible Study  8:30-9:30 AM

 Dinner  5:30-6:20 PM

Bible Study  6:15-7:30 PM

Confirmation & KIC  6:20-7:30 PM

Adult Choir  7:00-8:00 PM


































A Bittersweet Christmas to All


This morning I was struck with an unmistakable directness sometimes necessary to truly get a needed message across. My morning festive Christmas celebrating with Santa cap on and carol singing was abruptly interrupted by a phone call from a woman who had just become a widow, following her husband's suicide. The fact that I had to move my Santa cap tassel just to put the receiver to my ear, made the contrast between the sweetness and the bitterness of that moment all the more ruthlessly stark.

Perhaps it is because in this precious of seasons, where expectations run high for sweet blessings, that the painfully bitter times seem to loom so large in contrast. Ask any orthodox Jew, though, and they will let you know that THE meal is not complete without the Wilderness bitter herb and the Promised Land honey. One without the other betrays the truthful realities of what it means to be on this journey we call life...regardless of what season it might be.

Just in my morning prayer time today, I...

— Gave thanks to God for the sweetness of marriage and a dear wife, but lifted up in prayer a dear couple who just recently divorced.

— Blessed God for the special little church He has called me to serve, but my attention was diverted to offer prayer for those parishes which are struggling.

— Gave heartfelt gratitude for two sons, but was quickly overtaken by the prayer for a family whose son has been struggling for life since the tragic accident.

— Celebrated the sweet comfort of good health, when my mind swells with thoughts for so many, whose lives are preoccupied with the challenges of illness.

The sweet and the bitter... This time of year?

But what is Christmas REALLY all about?

“And this will be a sign unto you that you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Not exactly the sweet experience of a Messiah we were expecting.

In fact, pretty easy not to find any sweetness in that at all.

Born in a feeding trough, under the indifferent gaze of animals, who probably outnumber the gathered human witnesses, not really sweet, but pretty stinky. And, just about as bitter of birth scene as one could imagine. So, what is the message... the Sign?

Don't try to dress it up too much. Don't get too sophisticated. One does not come in such intentionally banal, earthly simplicity just for us to dress it up and adorn it with heavenly pious niceties. It is, what it is. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else needed, than Emmanuel…God With Us. There is no bitterness of life we can experience that He has not been through, or will not be through with us. Nothing we experience on this side of heaven that He will not be there with us. Is there any news greater than that? The One who is with us, Emmanuel wants us to know that the Heaven which awaits us, is nothing but Sweet... No bitter there. No wonder the early Christians were so fond of saying Maranatha, “Come Lord Jesus.” So may your Christmas be bittersweet—always filled with the faithful presence of Emmanuel, as we eagerly await his second Advent.



(Playlist - Amy Grant "Welcome to Our World





All Saints Day

With All Saints Sunday and Reformation Sunday approaching, I recall that it is said that Martin Luther once said to his dog, “ Growl not little one, for in the resurrection you will have a golden tail”.

It does not surprise any of us with furry angels to entertain that notion that they too will be in the Church Triumphant.

I learned from my dog that it is good to remember; to never forget those who have touched our lives.


An old routine revisited
Nightly I turn on the porch light
And go outside..
a necessary routine before
a remembrance ritual now
reenacting a special time
taken for granted then

But now a hope that there might appear
in the shadows
a little white dog

Who always before
made his presence known
Back thru the door each night
Alone ...accompanied only
by a tear of loss and a smile
of memories

I never want to forget
So will this ritual soon end?
Maybe not
Maybe it should

For it is a blessed remembrance
Of one who
Without a word
Said so much
Reminding each day

That there is nothing
Absolutely ...nothing
that we have in this life
like each other

Relationships are
All that matter
I picture his golden tail
Affirming that
well lived truth


A Life Touched by Trinity


The following story took place on a sunny, cool, Sunday afternoon in January of this year (2018). It may bring back some memories for some of you who have been at Trinity since the 1980s. For the others of you, hopefully you will find it interesting.

On this beautiful afternoon, Glenda (Garnell) and I decided to take a drive on Highway 50 towards Orlando.  As we approached East Orlando on Colonial Drive, we decided to stop at a couple of furniture stores to check out some chairs to replace my somewhat worn recliner. At one of the stores, as we entered we were met by a very nice saleslady who introduced herself as Ava. She had a very distinct Polish accent. After we explained what we were looking for, she proceeded to show us a wide assortment of recliners.  We had described several specific requirements that we were looking for, including a chair that would be comfortable for my long frame. After sitting in numerous chairs of various sizes, colors, fabrics, and reclining features, I had failed to find anything that suited my tastes or supported my legs comfortably. So, we decided to move on to explore other stores.

As we were leaving the store, Ava asked where we were from. We told her we lived in Titusville. Immediately, she looked somewhat surprised, and exclaimed, “That’s where we first lived when my family and I came to America!!”  She proceeded to explain that she and her family had escaped from Warsaw, Poland, before the communist Iron Curtain came down and were placed in a refugee center in Athens, Greece, for some period of time. Eventually, they were brought to America by a refugee agency in the late 1980’s and were sponsored by a church in Titusville.

We told her that we belonged to Trinity Lutheran Church and that we had helped settle several refugee families in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s.

Ava excitedly said, with tears in her eyes, “YES! That’s it! It was Trinity!” And we further explained that Pastor Mike Stone was our pastor at that time. She said, “And I remember Pastor Mike!” 

Ava went on to explain many of the difficulties she experienced in getting settled in a strange land. Among the difficulties was that she had always lived in large cities. She found life in the (to her) small town of Titusville to be an overwhelming adjustment.  After spending some amount of time in Titusville, she and her family eventually moved to the Orlando area, where life took on a whole new adventure. Ava went on to graduate from the University of Central Florida and raised two daughters who are now married and have children.

It was obvious that Ava was overwhelmed to see someone, after so many years, who had helped give her and her family a totally new and fulfilling life in a new world.

Finally, after Ava’s big hugs, we headed back towards Titusville, thinking of the many other refugee lives that have been touched by Trinity over the many years. And even though we didn’t find the chair we were seeking, we found something much more rewarding!   

Submitted by Joel and Glenda Shealy



Celebrating a Faithful God in a Fickle World 

CS Lewis, who arguably was the greatest Classics scholar the world has ever known, was an avowed atheist for most of his life.

One day on a walk with his dear Christian friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis explained that he had a hard time believing in the uniqueness of Christianity, as so many mythologies had similar themes of dying and rising, love and sacrifice. Lewis said, “We know that these are not true.” Tolkien put his hand on Lewis’ shoulder and said, “Yes, but what if God decided to use mythic stories in order to share the greatest real story in real life of a God who enters our story.” It was that revelation that totally changed Lewis’ life and his ensuing faith and writings have influenced countless others since. I, for one, am a beneficiary of his new found faith.

I minored in the Classics at Miami University. Enjoy is not the word that comes to mind as I recall my study of the language of the philosophers in Ancient Classical Greek. My seminary study of Koine, fisherman Greek, proved to be much more satisfying. The mythological stories of the gods and goddesses were interesting, but my sociologist side mistakenly made me quickly write off any notion that these sophisticated Hellenistic and Latin civilizations really believed in these anthropomorphic fairy tales. Though these very creative stories helped to create some order in explaining life around them, they also did have a religious inclination towards believing in these anthropomorphic supernatural beings.

This has helped me understand that their relationship to these gods and goddesses was mostly based on the desire to have some bargaining potential against the rather wild and reckless world around them. Their offerings to the gods, as well as their devotion to them, were to attempt a favorable influence on their fate or what they called “Moira”. Their relationship to these gods in their religious obligations and duties was simply to appease, in order to hope for the most favorable outcome.

The Pax Romana assumed that the blessings of Roman culture would ensure peace for all cultures and benefit all. It also had a built–in notion that all must play in this religious placating of the gods or else the delicate apple cart would be upset, and ruin might come to all. Judaism and Christianity, in their complete resistance to paying obeisance to anything but the one true God, upset the Roman balance of power. 

It was perceived that the Christian’s resistance would bring potential doom to the Empire. Thus, even the deadly sacrificing of Christians by the Romans was an act to appease these capricious gods. To these pagans, it became an act of worship and an act to further keep the peace.

The threat of Christianity had both political and religious implications for Rome.

If you play all this out from a Christian perspective, you can see how God might simply be rearranging the furniture on that stage of life in order to give Christianity a grand entrance. Or, as Paul alluded in Galatians, that at the perfect time God sent His Son into the world. Besides the outward physical realities of one common language, relative peace and efficient levels of transportation as the world had never before seen, God was working on the spiritual side of preparing their hearts. He could simply play their same religious game but change both the actors and the rules. The notion of sacrifice, in order to keep the peace, could be changed from a sacrifice not of people and animals, to appease otherwise jealous and fickle gods, but rather a God who sacrifices Himself on behalf of His fickle creation. Such a notion would be so radical it could not be made up, and yet, so appealing it could not be ignored. This explains one of the reasons Christianity took off like wildfire among even the Roman elite population. In a culture so used to dying for one’s gods and country, the idea of a God who would die on our behalf was incredibly unsophisticated yet impossible to completely dismiss.

The idea of constantly offering, in order to appease the fickle and often selfish gods, was now replaced with a God who offers Himself totally and selflessly, in order to make a statement of His unchangeable, constant, steadfast compassion. The early disciples fascinated fixation with reminding everyone that God so loved this world that He Gave His Son not to condemn but to save the world, was a huge contrast to the mythological self–serving gods of the day. This new Word would never get old, as it reverberated a truth that was so radically unique and counter cultural. The unpredictable, whimsical mood of the gods, who might like you today and forget your name tomorrow, was now replaced by a God who had decided before time and forever to claim you for His own.


Regardless of our faithlessness, He was faithful, and regardless of our decision for or against Him, this God had decided for us on a cross signed in blood. The Greek words Jesus shouted from the cross—Tetelestai—was what was written across every Roman legal document meaning literally “paid–in–full.’ With all of this back drop, it is clear to see why the early church called this good news!

This was not a god who randomly acted upon the players on the stage of life but one who literally got on the stage and was instead acted upon in a undeniable sacrificial act of love. One could decide to be apathetic and uninvolved about this news this but it would now be impossible to label this God as detached and uninterested. Life would be and could never be the same again.

What a great God we have who has changed everything about life; how we see Him and ourselves. As Lewis said after his conversion, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else differently”



Keeping Track

It seems that the scriptures which are most pertinent and of most value to us are the ones that seem to both affirmingly pat us on the back and also kick us in the behind.

In the census—taking by David it is clear that he gets a real whooping for taking things into his own hands and then at the same time gets a gentle affirming reminder that he’s not in charge and never was, even of the numbers.

For me personally, as a Pastor, this passage is both haunting and refreshing. It haunts me with the truth that numbers can matter so much that they can take precedence over everything else. As a Pastor I can become like a spiritualized bean counter who can easily mistake large numbers of participants in pews and elsewhere and generous budgets as sole signs of God’s good favor, forgetting that the One we serve is always concerned for one of us at a time. Like the Shepherd who foolishly, from a numbers vantage point, leaves the 99 to go after the one stray. Even if that stray on once being found, may not even be in a mood to come home.

Picture a kicking bleating sheep on the shoulders of the Shepherd… But that is the risk and reach of the Shepherd who, as St Augustine put it, “if you were the only One on this sinful planet the Shepherd we know would have laid down His life just for you.”

So it is even in the stewardship realm that He reminds us that the Bread of Heaven, both manna and Jesus, who did not safely hoard but give themselves a way for the sake of the world

I am probably not even a passing student in this lesson of our Lord, and all the more reason why I am so refreshed He’s not into numbers. On those rare occasions when we get so caught up in the compassion of following our Shepherd that we do uncalculated generous acts of kindness, or as the scriptures put it “The right hand not knowing what the left is doing” or at the end we are counted among those who say, ‘Lord when did we do this for You?” Then it is we who who are doing Kingdom work and close to the very heart of our Good Shepherd.