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


































He's here in Plain View

What were they thinking? As a recent seminary graduate who had just turned twenty-eight, I was asked to be the interim Pastor at my home congregation. It was a daunting task to serve the nearly 3,000 member church, along with the twelve older and more experienced staff. Nevertheless, this unique opportunity constantly reminded me that God does not call the equipped, but equips those whom He calls. Our Lord reminds us that we should, "have eyes to see and ears to hear," because it is easy, if we are not looking and listening, to miss what God is up to. With His help and a gracious staff and church family, it was an amazing learning experience.

Within the first nine weeks, along with other ministry responsibilities, I had eight funerals and was utterly exhausted. Late one night my sleep was interrupted by a phone call from the church, "Vicar Mike, we need you here right now!" The caller's voice sounded desperate and I became immediately aware of the hauntingly hushed voices in the background, especially since there were over one hundred teenagers gathered that evening. The distraught person revealed that Scott, the church's twenty-nine year old youth director, was in serious trouble. The youth group had just finished their recreation time and Scott, who had a heart condition, suffered a massive heart attack during the activities. 

Arriving at the church that night, the darkness of the parking lot was illuminated by the intermittent bright flashing red and white lights of the emergency vehicles. Painstakingly working my way through the church's crowded youth room, it became evident that the EMT's were working to revive Scott. His pregnant wife, Julia's, form silhouetted a doorway she leaned against, to support her in her weakened state of disbelief and shock. By the time I reached Scott, the paramedics were lifting his limp body onto the gurney to transport him to the hospital.There was nothing more to do, but to stay with the teenagers—waiting and praying. Fervent prayers were sent heavenward asking God to please take care of this young youth leader. We found ourselves praying with heartfelt pleas such as, "God, you know how Scott gave himself, despite health concerns, to do the youth work you called him to. Remember his faithfulness, his wife and their child on the way!"

Waiting for what seemed to be an eternity, we finally got the word. Scott had died shortly after arriving at the hospital, "Lord, you can't be serious! How can this happen?" Never had I spoken to God with such frankness and honesty. For the first time, David's Psalms before seemed irreverent and often sacrilegious, now seemed so appropriate. This is how you speak to your closest friend when you really need help. I wrestled with God much of the night over this senseless tragedy. If I could not make sense of this, what word would I have for those teenagers?

The next day something happened that will be forever etched in my memory. Early in the morning, I went back to church and walked into that same room, which just hours before, had been the scene of such disappointment and grief. This time I was angrily muttering under my breath, but loud enough for God to hear. "Lord, how could this happen? Someone who was following you, doing your will. If this is how you treat those whom you call—I am out of here! This whole ministry stuff is already too much, so if you can't even take care of your own—I quit!"

When I reached the back of the room, I fell to my knees and my eyes welled over with tears. The previous feelings of anger had dissipated into utter loneliness. Remaining on my knees I looked up at the wall right above where the paramedics had so frantically tried to resuscitate Scott.Then it happened. On the wall was a huge orange banner with the figure of Jesus, with arms outstretched and the words, "Peace be with you." It had always been there, but I was too blinded by pain and doubt to see what was right in front of me.  Sometimes we need numerous signs or reminders from God before we get it, but this was in plain view, and as I looked up the tears began to roll. Suddenly, it all made sense. Even in the midst of our struggles and fears, the  Risen Lord is always present, with outstretched arms saying, "Peace be with you."

It was so amazingly clear that His love is even bigger than death. He was and is always there, even in the worst chaos and loss. This is a gift that I continue to unpack, even thirty plus years into  ministry—that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God.

As the youth met to make preparations for Scott's service, they insisted that we call it a celebration of the Resurrection. After sharing my experience with them, they wanted the entire youth group to stand in front of the congregation and sing the song, "Have you seen Jesus my Lord, He's here in plain view." It was a healing reminder of how much we can and often miss in this life.

Who wouldn't want to have eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to know that each moment is saturated with God's loving presence?

Pastor Mike



Searched and Known, and Still Loved.

Psalm 139 is a favorite scripture of so many. Its appeal may be the refreshing realization that we were a twinkle in our Heavenly Father’s eyes — even before we were born. As the Psalm shares, He keeps meticulous track of our every move, knowing before we sit down or rise  up; who even discerns our every thought and is acquainted with our ways. He even knows what is coming from our lips before we speak.

This is not some Facebook stalker, who wants all the dirt on us, but an endeared Father, who is intimately involved in every detail of His kids. It is humbling and affirming to think that He knows more about me then I know about myself.

Even my limited knowledge about me, can sometimes leave me less than a fan of me, but His intimate interest persists. The One who knows all about us, and insists on loving us with a reckless abandon, is such a contrast to our world, where so many who comparatively know so little about others and themselves, still persist to use harmful labels and prejudices.

God, alone, has the knowledge and right to use such labels and boundaries, but, instead treats us as the dynamic, individually nuanced, children He created us to be. With a word though, we can label each other, and with a phrase, can minimize and marginalize the precious children God has so lovingly and uniquely made. As Danish philosopher and theologian, Soren Kierkegaard wrote, "Once you label me, you negate me." Thank God, He refuses to play by our rules.

We can so easily let a negative experience define a whole culture or race. The short-sightedness of such an action was recently confirmed for me. I am a dog lover but recently had a traumatic incident, when a dog bit my nose. Prejudice would inform me to now consider all dogs a dangerous threat. Such a narrow approach would rob me of the many future joys that only dogs can give.

Aren't we so grateful that God does not let one bad action of ours define how He might treat us? Easter would not have happened after the cross, if He did. God models for us and to us, the grace we should share with one another. Years ago, I was Pastor to a family and husband who had lost a mother and wife. There were 5 children from ages 8-16. The children had a question of dad. "Will we recognize Mom and will she us, when we get to heaven?" I was in an adjacent room, but was soon tapped on the shoulder when the father informed me that the kids had a question for me.

When he shared with me what it was, after a quick prayer, I asked the dad a question. "Rich, I know your 5 children very well. They are each very different and unique. Now, if you could make them all identical, would life be predictable and probably easier for you?" He responded with a smile, "Yes, I suppose life would be much less complicated." I replied, "No doubt It would be, but how long before you would miss the uniqueness of little Anna and the energy of your Adam?" He agreed that it he would quickly miss who they really were. Then, with the kids we began by reading Psalm 139 which guarantees our Heavenly Father's passionate interest in each of his special children.

I shared with them the Greek word ‘somos’ as the word used for the body we will have in heaven. Assumed in this new heavenly body, is the reality that our Heavenly Father will retain our individual personalities; idiosyncrasies and all those things which make us uniquely us. A young budding theologian in the room quipped, "Wow! I don't even like everything about me!" Exactly. The One who created you totally and completely as just you, will retain this you into eternity. Even on the other side, you will be easily recognized because there has never been, nor ever will be, anyone just like you.

We cannot give a gift we have not first opened. Psalm 139, when opened, reveals what Abba says about us and all of His children. John so often reminded us that we are all children of God. In 1John 3:1 the last four words are an exclamation mark of how God insists on seeing us. It is a gift, not because we deserve it, or have earned it, or even want it. We are His because He has said so, and so we are.

"See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God, and so we are."

And all is changed...for everyone



The message of Easter is the exclamation mark of love, which God made for us on the cross. Both Scriptures and Christian tradition are clear in reiterating that Jesus “shared with us” His victory over sin and death. I believe the reason for such an emphasis, is in large part due to the fact that quite frankly, He did not have to share at all.

Our natural inclination towards revenge, retribution and justice were denied by Him on the cross. We, who put Him on the cross, should not take this act of generous, forgiving love for granted, anymore than we should take His setting His face towards Jerusalem lightly. 

Both were premeditated acts of love against all human compulsion to do the opposite. Can you imagine having all the power in the world at your fingertips and not using it before or during the ordeal of the cross? Or can you imagine death on a cross, then descending to the dead, then rising again to pleasantly share the peace with those who left you in the dust to save their own skin? Easter, like Good Friday, exemplifies a love this world has never known. After being betrayed, denied, left in the Garden, and left at the cross utterly abandoned by those closest to Him, is it any wonder that the Risen Lord’s triune question to Peter stung to the heart when Jesus justifiably asked, “Peter, do you love me?” 

At the end of this season of Lent that question, I suppose, is our Lord’s question to each of us. If we truly have been touched by His amazing love, we too responsively break out in sharing. Perhaps Isaac Watts in the hymn, “WhenI Survey the Wondrous Cross,” says it best. “Were the whole realm of glory mine, that were a present far too small, Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” 


“God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing. . .the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a “host” who deliberately creates His own parasites, causes us to be that we may exploit and “take advantage of” Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.” 

  --from C. S. Lewis “The Four Loves”

Music - Stuart Townsend “How Deep The Fathers Love For Us”

Photo Credit: Aaron Burden

This “Glorious Season” of Lent 

John goes out of his way to let us know that Jesus was not a victim caught up in the strong will of Rome or the debauchery of the Jewish religious hierarchy. Jesus was, from his betrayal, denial, flogging and crucifixion, always in control. He was the Good Shepherd whose life was never taken, but was laid down of His own accord. The way of the cross is the Groom willfully and lovingly coming down the aisle to His Bride, the Church. As a seminary professor was fond of saying, “This was not a shotgun wedding!” 

In John’s Gospel, we miss some of the physical agony of this walk to the cross. There is no mention of the sweating of blood in Gethsemane and other gruesome physical details are left out. John, whose heart was particularly close to His Lord, wants us to know that as awful as the physical pain of those days was for our Lord, it was nothing in comparison to the spiritual pain of the separation of the Son from His Father. The Word, which had been in perfect harmony and unity with the Father before time began, is now to be separated by our sin which He never knew. It is this pain of loss and separation from the Holy Father, as the Son takes on the sins of the world-ours-past, present and future-that deserves our real attention and gratitude. 

Then there is that recurring word of glory, which particularly surfaces in these latter chapters of our Lord’s passion; so what is glorious about this time? John, who, compared to the other Gospel writers, seems to have a monopoly on the understanding of love, wants us to know that behind every step to the Cross is a heartbeat of our Savior's love. When Jesus “sets His face” to Jerusalem it is you and me He is really focused on. It is perhaps those who have lost loved ones and have been at their bedside in those difficult hours that know His love best. The love and compassion given by them is not done begrudgingly or with hesitation. But rather, it is done in a love that has its own special glory that appears in those last tender moments. So it is with our Lord; it is not His obligation or duty to go to the cross, as much as His loving joy and glory. No one else could do it and He would not want anyone else to.

It is the Groom gloriously making His way down the aisle to literally rescue and save His Bride (us), The Church. John wants to make sure that in the blood and sweat of the cross we do not hear so much a heavy sigh with the thought that, “...some one has to do this for these sinners” as much as a smile and an unrelenting drive forward, as Hebrews 12:12 says, because of “...the joy that was set before Him.” Whenever and however we begin to realize that you and I are that very joy that was set before Him, is when the cross makes life changing sense.

His love for us would never let us go, and it is that great love that captures our hearts and will never let us let go of Him. It is that love that makes us say with the hymnist, Bernard Clairvaux:

“What language shall I borrow to thank thee dearest friend, for this Thy dying sorrow, 

Thy pity without end?

O make me thine Forever and should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never, outlive my love for Thee.” 

It is on the cross where the Groom, Jesus, 

Lets His Bride, the Church, know that 

He would rather die than live without us." 


Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. In this season, we intentionally take time to reflect on the greatest love ever known through the greatest sacrifice ever given. God’s great love for us evidenced in the death of His only Son—for us. This is a time when we often speak of giving up something, as a way of acknowledging God giving Himself up for us in Christ. From a spiritual standpoint, what God invites and encourages us to give up, more than anything else is ourselves, to relinquish control of our lives so He truly can be Lord. 
The following devotion is one I have found quite meaningful: 
When I met Christ it seemed as though life were rather like a bike ride, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Christ was in the back helping me pedal.
I don’t know just when it was that He suggested we change places, but life has not been the same since. When I had control, I knew the way, it was rather boring, but predictable... IT was the shortest distance between two points. 

But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places at breakneck speeds; it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it looked like madness, He said, “Pedal!” 

I worried and was anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer, and I started to learn to trust. 

I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure. And when I’d say, “I’m scared, ” He’d lean back and touch my hand.
He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance, and joy. He said, “Give the gifts away. ” So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving, I received, and still our burden was light. I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it; but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, knows how to jump to clear high rocks, knows how to fly to shorten scary passages. 

And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strongest places, and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus Christ. 

And when I’m sure I just can’t do anymore, He just smiles and says... ”Pedal.”
Welcome to a journey of surrender...
— Author Unknown