Pastors' Blog

Ready to Collapse

Do you ever feel like a “leaning wall” or a “tottering fence”? That is how David described himself in these Psalm verses: My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
How long will you assault a man?
Would all of you throw him down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence? Psalm 62:1–3 (NIV)

Just a little push, and the leaning wall will collapse. Maybe the wall is leaning because the years have worn it down; the wall’s strength has faded over the course of time. Perhaps the wall is leaning because of an accident that damaged it when something unexpected hit it. Or maybe the wall has suffered abuse as others have hatefully tried to damage the wall.

“I will never be shaken,” David, a “leaning wall,” would boast in this Psalm. Why? Not because time stopped and age no longer mattered. Not because he was immune from sudden troubles or even from attacks from sinners. David’s confidence was that the Lord was his “rock and salvation.”

David knew that God’s love was without limit. Even when his eyes saw enemies and weakness, his faith saw God’s promises. That faith allowed him to remain strong, knowing that the Lord had good intentions in his life.

By faith, you see the same love of God. In fact, you see it even more clearly than David did because you see Jesus Christ as your Savior! You know the love that led him to the cross. You know of his victory over death by his resurrection. By faith, his death and resurrection are your death and resurrection! You are forgiven and alive in Christ!

When you feel worn down, remember the strength the Lord who has promised to never leave you. Trust in his goodness to carry you through your trials and to sustain you until the end!

Pastor Tim Wempner

Pastor Joshua Zarling



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The Promise of Victory

You are racing toward a glorious victory in heaven. As you continue to trust in Jesus as your Savior, nothing can change this inevitability. God’s promise cannot be changed!

Romans 13:10–14 says: "Love is the fulfillment of the law. And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature." (NIV) Paul was inspired to remind you that since you are God’s child because of Jesus, live like God’s child. Since you are closer today to being heaven than you were yesterday, act like it. Don’t let the ways of the world control you. Instead, “put on the armor of light” and live a life that reflects who you are.

You won’t do that perfectly. But your Savior’s forgiveness covers you as you trust in him. You remain God’s child because of Jesus. So struggle to grow in faith and godly living. Struggle against sin as you grow in God’s Word and give careful thought to how God’s will applies to your life.

The verses above warn us against living a thoughtless life in which we mindlessly indulge ourselves. At the same time, we hear the encouragement of our final victory and the promise that the Lord Jesus is with us during our struggle in this sinful world.

So race toward your promised victory in heaven with the strength and comfort of knowing that the Lord Jesus is with you and is using your service for the good of his kingdom.

 

Pastor Tim Wempner

Pastor Joshua Zarling



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Things Change - But God's Love for You Does Not

August is upon us - which means it’s "back to school" time. Now whether you’re excited for this time of year or dreading it doesn’t matter. Whether you’re actually in school or your school days lie far in the past doesn’t matter. What matters is that this time has been turned into one of the sharpest divisions in our year. The change is as palpable as the seasons, it’s as abrupt as the day after Christmas. “Back to school” is a phrase everyone readily understands because it's so indelibly marked on us. It’s part of how our culture now marks the passing of time. 

To this day I get wistful when I listen to “A Summer Song” and think of my first dorm room at Prep. 

And the change can be difficult. For kids it means saying goodbye to the freedom and promise of summer afternoons in the backyard. For adults it means saying hello to the freedom and promise of not having kids in the house all day. For everyone it means sports start up, shopping needs to be done, schedules need to be adjusted. Even the Holidays seem like they are starting to peek into view.

So we fire up our grills and plan one more weekend of fun to tenaciously hold on to whatever Summer we have left (which is why Labor Day was invented in the first place). But it doesn’t work. The change comes.

But God does not mark the passing of time like that. Instead, he marks the passing of days through his love for you. He notes the changing of the seasons by reaffirming his grace for you. He sees the "back to school" season as just another opportunity to embrace you in his righteousness and mercy. And all of these things he continues to hold out to you in his Word. Though days pass and things change for us, He does not. 

So it’s "back to school" time. The year goes on, things change. But God’s love for you does not. It never will.

Pastor Joshua Zarling



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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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For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works... ~ EPHESIANS 2:8-9