Pastors' Blog

Blessings Through Our Nation

During July we are reminded of the blessings God gives us through our nation and through good government. We are kept safe and we are able to freely worship the true God without fear of the government interfering with our worship. For these and many other blessings that God gives us through our nation we ought to be thankful to God.

God is clear in his Word that we have a responsibility toward our government:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. (1 Peter 2:13–14 NIV)

This and other Bible passages remind us to respect our leaders. Proper respect will show itself in attitudes and in words. How we talk about our leaders reflects the attitude of our hearts. Let God’s Word set your attitude as you are moved by God’s grace to show respect to our leaders.

At the same time, the Bible warns us not to put our faith in our leaders. They are God’s servants to do good for us, but that doesn’t mean that they have replaced God. The Psalmist says:

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. (Psalm 118:9 NIV)

Or Isaiah was inspired to write:

Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he? (Isaiah 2:22 NIV)

In particular, this reminds us that the right leader is not what will solve all our nation’s problems. God is still God. His grace is what we need, not a “prince” who belongs to the right political party. To trust in people is foolishness.

In Isaiah God said:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord. (Isaiah 31:1 NIV)

What a vivid picture for God’s people. Political alliances don’t lead us to prosper. Trusting in our mighty military is a misplaced trust. Look, instead, to the Holy One, the Lord! He is hope and your Savior. He provides “daily bread” for our earthly needs and his grace for our spiritual needs. Looking at him first, you will see even more blessings in our nation for you will see how he provides you opportunity to grow closer to Jesus. That is a blessing for this life and for eternity.

Pastor Tim Wempner



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A Personal Relationship With God

In the kingdom of God, you have a personal relationship with God. You are not just a number. He is not a remote, abstract deity or energy force. He is the true God who knows you.

God took a personal interest in you. He made you – unique in all of humanity, with gifts that he wanted you to have. He also saved you. He did this by becoming one of us. He personally saved you by dying for you. The gift of forgiveness was given to you personally when he washed you in the water of baptism. You have faith in your Savior because God has worked in your life.

God knows your name. He knows your life. He knows your joys. He knows your challenges. He knows the opportunities that you have to serve him.

Face today and each day with the certainty that comes from knowing that God knows, loves, and has saved YOU! 

Isaiah 43:1
But now, this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”  (NIV)

Pastor Tim Wempner



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Pentecost is the Dessert

So this past weekend I found myself enjoying a dessert. Now, I know that’s not a huge deal for most people - most people like desserts. In fact, many look at dessert as the best part of the meal.

Unfortunately, I do not. I am not a dessert guy. Most of the time I’ll pass on dessert and take a second helping of the main course. Truth be told I’m not a big fan of sugary stuff in general. 

So, ladies and gentlemen, when I say that this past weekend I found myself enjoying a dessert, you can rest assured that this is a big deal. Now the dessert in question was a fruit crisp my sister made. It was amazing. It playfully tickled my taste buds, in fact to me it tasted like summer on a spoon. It also led my family into a drawn out discussion on the differences between a crisp, a crumble, and a cobbler. (Suffice to say I left the conversation more confused than when I entered - apparently cake batter is a big player here). 

But in any case, I found myself enjoying a dessert. Indeed, I even went back for seconds - that dessert became the best part of my meal.

And dear friends, that is what Pentecost is for Christians. It’s dessert. In fact, it’s an amazing dessert - maybe the best part of the meal. There is nothing else during our earthly journey that compares with the gift of the Holy Spirit and all the blessings He brings.

As Christians we focus most of our attention on the ‘meal’ Christmas, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter - and rightfully so, for these are the great events in our Savior's life. They are the events of our salvation, the events by which Jesus won our salvation. They are the nourishment of our souls.

But Pentecost, in a very real sense, is the dessert. For it is the Holy Spirit who takes the blessings of eternal life and makes them ours. It is the Holy Spirit who creates faith in our hearts and opens our eyes to see the glory of our Savior. It is the Holy Spirit who, working through the word, shows us the depth of love of Good Friday. It is the Holy Spirit who has convinced us that Easter is not just another Sunday - it is the day of Christ’s indestructible victory over our enemies. Pentecost is our dessert, for it is the day Christ poured out the Holy Spirit on his church. 

So dear friends, as Summer rolls in and the warm weather returns, let us celebrate Pentecost with joy. Let us thank God Most High for the precious gift, the gift of His Spirit. And let us pray that “God would on us bestow, the gifts that from the Spirit flow.”

Pastor Joshua Zarling



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A Major Holiday That Arrives Silently

In May we celebrate one of the major festivals in the Church Year, Pentecost. This important day often slips under the radar. You don’t buy Pentecost gifts or get a new Pentecost outfit. Silently the day arrives – often seeming like any other Sunday of the year.

Perhaps Pentecost is unnoticed because the Holy Spirit, who is true God and a member of the Trinity, does his work silently. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit worked through the disciples. There were outward signs of his presence. But the real work happened, not by pointing to the Holy Spirit, but by pointing to Jesus Christ. Peter’s sermon started with a reading from the prophet Joel. His next words were:

“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:22–24 NIV 1984)

When the Holy Spirit is at work, we hear the message of the good news about Jesus. On Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was actively working to create new believers, the sermon was about Jesus, not about the Holy Spirit.

People get confused about the Holy Spirit when they try to separate him from the message of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is not an “independent contractor” who goes out on his own. His work is always tied to faith in Jesus Christ.

You already have the greatest gift the Holy Spirit gives – faith in Jesus. This gift was given on Pentecost and continues to be showered on the world through the work of the Christian Church. We at Good Shepherd’s Lutheran Church are a “distribution center” for the Spirit. Through the proclamation of the gospel in Word and Sacrament, the Spirit does his work in our hearts and in the hearts of unbelievers who come to know Jesus as their Savior.

You may not get a special outfit for Pentecost and you may not buy gifts to put under your Pentecost tree, but Pentecost is an important celebration. On May 23, we will celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. His special work changes lives and gives eternal hope. The day will not pass silently, but will be a day to praise our saving God for his work in our lives. 

Pastor Tim Wempner



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The Event that Changes Everything

The resurrection of Jesus is a very practical truth. As we live and when we die, knowing that Jesus conquered death gives us great comfort.

Jesus’ resurrection is proof of God’s love and forgiveness. Paul writes in Romans 4, “He was raised to life for our justification.” As justified sinners, we can be sure that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the perfect and complete payment for our sins. His resurrection from the dead shows that our guilt is gone.

Now that we are freed from sin, we don’t have to live as slaves to sin. We belong to Jesus and can serve him. The resurrection is daily power for renewal. We are alive in Christ and can grow in him to form new habits and to overcome temptations.

The resurrection of Jesus is also comforting when we face death. Steven was the first Christian martyr. As he was about to die, we read in Acts, “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” Stephen saw Jesus — who was alive and in heaven — ready to receive Stephen into the glory of heaven.

The resurrection of Jesus is the one event in all the world that changes everything. Your life is a life of service because Jesus rose from the dead. Your death will be the moment you see your Lord in heaven and are welcomed to the eternal joys of heaven.

Continue to celebrate the resurrection with your fellow believers as our congregation continues to celebrate Easter during the season of Easter. The power of the resurrection is power to help and comfort you every day.

Pastor Tim Wempner

Pastor Joshua Zarling



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Hurry Up and Wait

“Hurry up and wait!” Now that’s a saying I’ve heard many times - in fact, I’m betting most of us have heard it many times. It’s a favorite at certain job sites. Times when you have to look busy but there’s not a lot of work to be busy with. You’re stuck in waiting mode, but you can’t take a break either. When you know there will be something to do, but right now there’s not a lot to do, so you have to look like you have something to do, until you will indeed have something to do: that is the very essence of ‘hurry up and wait.’ 

As Spring arrives, I very much find myself in a ‘hurry up and wait’ mood. The weather’s nice, but it’s not quite that nice yet. (As every native Wisconsinite knows, we’ve got at least two weeks of dismal, drizzly rain to look forward to at some point here). I’m in a hurry to get out, to mow the lawn, to see dandelions, to watch baseball - but I still have to wait.

As the vaccine arrives, the country finds itself very much in a ‘hurry up and wait’ mood.   This is a very simple matter of basic observation. People want to get out, they want to go to sports games, they want to plan a wedding for hundreds of friends and family. Many others simply want to get out of the fear and anxiety Covid has placed on them. Our country, indeed the world, is very much in a hurry - but we still have to wait a little longer. 

Now in all these situations having to ‘hurry up and wait’ is a matter of annoyance. It builds frustration. And the truth is that it can be exactly the same for us Christians.

Soon it will be Holy Week, when we once again celebrate the great acts of Christ that won our salvation. We see His bitter sufferings and death, we listen with joy as the proclamation rings out, ‘He is risen!’ We know that by these things Jesus has won for us an eternity of blessings. But we don’t see them. We don’t see heaven, we shake hands with angels….yet. 

Oh, but we want to!

We want to be in perfection now, we want to stand in triumph and look down contemptuously at death’s (our death’s) beaten form. And the more we connect ourselves to God’s Word, ever brighter burns the fire of desire in our hearts to hold eternal life in our hands, to see our Jesus face to face. We are in a hurry!!! But we still have to wait. 

But it is all OK dear friends. 

Because for a Christian having to ‘hurry up and wait’ is not a source of frustration but a source of strength. God will bring us all the blessings he won for us on Calvary. But until he does it’s not like we have to stand around pretending to be busy. We have plenty of good things to do. To love one another, to learn ever anew the way of patience, to walk humbly with our God, to share the Word of life to a dying world. Yes, we have plenty of good things to do as we wait for Jesus. 

When it comes to Jesus, it is OK for a Christian to hurry up and wait.

No, it’s GOOD to hurry up and wait.

So this Holy week, let’s do just that.

Pastor Joshua Zarling

 



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Quiet Joy

What are you giving up for Lent this year? The practice can be useful. It can serve to remind us of the sacrifice that Jesus made—he gave up his life! Of course, the custom is entirely optional. One Christian may give something up; another may do nothing. Both can please God!

The heart of the Lenten season isn’t that we give up something, but that we give up someone. That someone is ourselves! Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:23-25 NIV 1984). You lose your life when you turn to Jesus as your Savior. Instead of trusting your own works or goodness, trust in Jesus!

The gospel is at the center of the Lenten season. Some mistakenly think that in Lent we focus on ourselves and our sins. While we do confess our sins, we still focus on the gospel, just with a different tone and mood. Giving up your life means that you focus on Jesus during Lent. Ultimately, looking to Jesus’ forgiveness will renew our faith, not giving something like coffee up for six weeks.

The Old Testament prophet Hosea put it this way, “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds” (6:1). During Lent, our focus remains on how God heals us. His law tears us up by reminding us that we don’t deserve anything from him. But the same God offers forgiveness to those who trust in him. Lenten renewal doesn’t come from what we give up, but from the Savior whose love renews us.

And a quick warning about Lent: It isn’t a time for “poor Jesus” thoughts: “Oh, look what he suffered!” The book of Hebrews tells us, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:2). Jesus knew what he was getting into when he came to earth. He considered it a joy to be your Savior! 

Yes, our sins cause us to grieve. But let us not miss the joy of this season. It is a quiet joy — the joy of forgiveness, new life, and renewed hope. Our spiritual well-being is based on the events we celebrate in Lent. Be sure you see the joy of what Jesus willingly did for you.

Giving something up for Lent? If you’d like to, go for it! But be sure that you take something up for Lent — Jesus! Renew your faith by focusing your attention on his healing and forgiving work as your Savior.

Pastor Tim Wempner



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Amazing

When we understand God’s grace, we cannot help but be amazed. It is free! We receive eternal treasures! We live at peace with God! All these gifts come to us through Jesus Christ our Savior!

In the verses below, David was marveling at God’s grace. David was a shepherd who, by God’s grace, became a king!

We may not be kings, but we too know God’s grace in our lives. These words of David are fitting for all God’s people — his words of praise should be on our lips as well.

2 Samuel 7:18–22

18 Then King David went in, sat in the Lord’s presence, and said, “Who am I, Lord God, and what is my house that you have brought me this far? 19 What you have done so far was a little thing to you, Lord God, for you have also spoken about your servant’s house in the distant future. And this is a revelation for mankind, Lord God. 20 What more can David say to you? You know your servant, Lord God. 21 Because of your word and according to your will, you have revealed all these great things to your servant. 22 This is why you are great, Lord God. There is no one like you, and there is no God besides you, as all we have heard confirms.”  (NIV)

 

Pastor Tim Wempner

Pastor Joshua Zarling



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A Peace Which the World Cannot Give

As I sit here writing this, a new person is being sworn in as President of the United States.

Thus is capped off one of the most divisive elections in American history. A divisive election after a divisive campaign - which in turn took place during a divisive and brutal year. It is a sad but instantly recognizable fact that division more aptly describes our country than almost any other word right now.

Now whether you're happy for the new incumbent to begin his term of office or you're furious about it isn't the point. The point is that division has always been part of this sinful world. It is implicit in everything it does, it is inherent in that deep rooted selfishness that every human being shares.

God himself makes this point clearly in Jeremiah 6: "They say 'peace, peace,' when there is no peace." How could there be? In a world fallen into sin any unity people find with each other is doomed to be temporary.

But that is why our Savior has promised to give his peace - a peace which the world cannot give. That is why he reminds us that he is constantly at our side to protect us and watch over us. That is why he has brought us true, lasting unity as his people; a unity that he bought with his own blood. We, indeed, have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now in our national landscape we see division - and may God grant that it is healed. But because we see division so often at a national level we're tempted to see it everywhere else too.

But let's not do that.

In fact, let's especially not do that here at Good Shepherd's.

Brothers and sisters, as we discuss the possible merger over the next month and a half, as we engage in the information, as we have frank and honest conversations with each other - there are going to be differences of opinion. There are going to be some strongly held opinions and some deep feelings. That is ok. In fact, it's more than Ok, it's good.

But we must not let these things turn into divisions here at Good Shepherd's. For we do not follow the pattern of behavior shown to us by the world - no, we follow our Savior and we make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit and the bonds of Christian peace.

We, indeed, have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. May he bless us always!

Pastor Joshua Zarling

 



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Self-control

God created us with emotions. It is not a sin to have emotions. Sadly however, even our emotions are corrupted by sin and do not always give witness to our faith.

The proverb found in the Bible at Proverbs 29:11, "A fool gives full vent to his anger, a wise man keeps himself under control" is a reminder that although we may be emotional people, there is great wisdom when we keep ourselves under control. This does not mean we just pretend we are not angry or that we bottle up our anger, only to explode at a later date.

Self-control is a listed as a "fruit of the spirit" in Galatians 5:22-23. The fruit of the spirit flow from a heart of faith. Faith connects us to Jesus as the Savior. In him we find forgiveness for all our sins - including the times we lost control of our emotions. In Jesus, we also find a new perspective on life. As we have been forgiven, we are willing to forgive. As God has been patient with us, we are willing to be patient with others. True wisdom comes as we grow knowledge of God's will for our lives and as we put that knowledge into practice. One of the ways we can show Godly wisdom is to grow in our self-control. 

Wise King Solomon offered useful and inspired advice in this proverb. As the world is trapped in an endless cycle of sin and as the events of your own life do not always go as you would like, do not let anger get the best of you. Trust in the Lord who is guiding all history, including your life. Trust in the Lord who saved you!

 

Pastor Tim Wempner

Pastor Joshua Zarling



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he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. ~ TITUS 3:5