Pastors' Blog

You Have It All!

You Have It All! "The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure." Isaiah 33:5–6 (NIV)

Who wouldn’t want what Isaiah describes? We can be filled “with justice and righteousness.” We can have a “sure foundation for our times.” God offers a “rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge.”

In these evil times, when sin controls our culture, “justice and righteousness” sound pretty appealing. With the economic uncertainty–that is about the only certainty these days–a “sure foundation” is just what we need. Faced with a multitude of difficult choices and decisions, “a rich store of . . . wisdom and knowledge” would be most welcome. Add in some guilt for problems that are clearly of our own making, bad habits (that we know we should break), situations in life that we cannot control and do not like, and people around us who are equally as sinful as we are. This toxic mess that surrounds us makes what Isaiah speaks of seem like an impossibly idealistic dream.

But Isaiah was not speaking about idealism. “The fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” Faith in your Savior-God connects you to these treasures. You have been set free from the grip of sin. Jesus’ death on the cross isn’t just a Sunday School story, but it is the source of your hope and the “sure foundation” of your life. God is fully appeased. Your sin is gone. Now, by faith in Jesus, all that God does for you is for your eternal good–punishment from God is impossible for those who trust in Jesus.

Why are worship, Bible Class, and reading your Bible so important? Why remember your Baptism and receive the Lord’s Supper? These connect you to God’s treasures. These build you up in your faith so that the evil of this world doesn’t control you, but you are made strong to do and endure God’s will. The message of the gospel, that fills the Bible and is the source of strength for the sacraments, is what we need to grow in faith.

God provides what all Christians want! He freely pours out treasures into the lives of his people. These spiritual treasures are of far greater value than anything we could own. Grow in the treasures that God gives as you hear his Word and receive the Sacrament. Let these treasures control your thinking and life, not the fears you have of the future. You have hope because you have access to the greatest treasure the world has ever known.

 

Pastor Timothy Wempner



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Let Your Spirit Be Refreshed

It often seems like our lives are too busy; work, school, athletic practices, events at church, events with family, meetings, the list could go on and on. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of life and lose sight of the fact that we need rest. Summer is often a time when people are able to take a little bit of time off for rest and relaxation. The long evenings are a time to unwind and enjoy life.

Jesus faced the same daily rush during his earthly ministry. There were crowds of people who heard of the miracles he was performing and wanted to see him. Everywhere he went, it seemed like the crowds of people were right there as well. Jesus felt the need to take some time with his close friends to rest. This summer, try to take some time to go to a quiet place and rest with your Savior. Enjoy the beauty of God’s glorious creation. Read, study, and meditate on the Word of God. Let your spirits be refreshed by the love that our God showers on us.

"He said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'” Mark 6:31 (NIV)

 

Pastor Wempner

Pastor Zarling



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Our Identity as God's Children

The year is 1755.
In North America, the French and Indian war is at full boil. A member of the British army, surgeon Richard Shuckburgh, watches annoyingly as contingents of Colonial militia show up to aid the Crown. In his eyes these ‘Yankees’ aren’t worth very much - they are disorderly, disheveled, lacking in military training and etiquette. In fact, Dr. Shuckburgh sees them as a joke - especially when compared to their British counterparts. The joke is so funny, that he decides to write a song about it.
And thus, Yankee Doodle Dandy is born.
Today we think of Yankee Doodle as the quintessential American song (it’s certainly the oldest American song). But we often forget that it was originally written to make fun of us. A ‘doodle’ means an idiot. A ‘dandy’ is a man who spends too much time and attention on his clothes. So the phrase ‘Yankee doodle dandy’ means ‘stupid, low class American who sticks a feather in his cap and thinks it high class fashion.” And the joke stuck - the British loved the song and sang it throughout the French and Indian War.
But then something changed.
The Yankees had had enough. The Yankees wanted a country of their own. The Yankees embraced their identity and stood together. And then, the funniest thing happened: we started singing the song back to them. We sang it in defiance. We sang it as a badge of honor of who we were. And so Yankee Doodle Dandy became the fight song of the Revolutionary War.
I’ll bet Dr. Shuckburgh didn’t see that coming.
Brothers and sisters, we live in a world that doesn’t like us very much. It persecutes us, mocks us, belittles us. Which is what Jesus told us would happen “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) They’ve always called us names. From calling us “God eaters” in ancient Rome to labeling us insensitive “Bible heads” today.
But by the grace of God we know who we are. We embrace our identity as God’s children. We stand together ready to hold out the Word of Life. And we look forward to a country of our own, the heavenly home that Jesus has won for us. We are the people of God, and we delight in serving HIM - no matter what persecutions come our way.
The year is 2022, and the Gospel still marches forth, unstoppable as ever.

Pastor Joshua Zarling



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Aim High

The Bible encourages Christians to “aim high.” Baptized into Christ, you are connected to his death and resurrection. You are set free from sin’s control. Already today, God considers you his eternal child who is prepared to live in heaven.

This extraordinary grace of God does not inspire the Christian fit in with the world. While we are not perfect, we are not satisfied with letting our sinful nature control how we speak, act, or think.

As Paul states in the verse below, we have been called to noble, right, pure, lovely, and excellent things. We serve the true and living God – the God who died to save us. Our lives witness to his love for us.

Brothers and sisters, grow into Christ as you hear his Word and receive the Lord’s Supper. Remember the blessings of your baptism – even if you do not remember actual event of your baptism. As that grace of God lives in your heart and gives you the peace of knowing that you are saved, make it your goal to live as God’s holy child in all you do.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8–9

Pastor Wempner

Pastor Zarling



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Waiting Out the Storms of Life

To this day I can almost taste the most memorable slice of carrot cake I've ever had. It was delicious - the frosting was everything you'd want to be. The cake was moist yet firm, with just the right amount of sweetness. Delicious.

But I'd be lying to you if I now claimed that what made this piece of carrot cake so memorable was how it tasted. It actually had nothing to do with taste. It had to do with where I was eating it and what was going on. You see this memorable piece of cake had not been served to me at a birthday party, it was not handed to me on our fine Christmas china. I was not eating it at a church potluck surrounded by friends and cheerful grown-ups. This particular piece of carrot cake (which I can still almost taste) was served to me in our basement, while my entire family, plus my Aunt and Uncle, sat on the cold pavement. No one was particularly happy - in fact, no one paid much attention to the cake at all. Everyone was listening to the radio and wind.

Now you see dear friends, what made this piece of carrot cake so memorable to me - it was not the taste, it was the fact that I ate it on the night the Tornado came.

A tornado had touched down in our area, and we were downstairs waiting it out, praying it wouldn't come near the house (it didn't). So we sat. Waiting and listening. As we listened the storm seemed to ebb and flow in its intensity - sometimes it seemed to be over, hissing out its last breath, only to roar up anew with greater energy. So I sat there munching my carrot cake, waiting for the storm to end.

And sometimes we all feel the same way. The phrase 'storms of life' is popular for a reason. Not necessarily tornadoes, but all the things that happen around us and to us, all the things we see when we turn on our TVs or when we listen to the radio can sure feel like a storm. A huge storm, swirling up around us, dwarfing us. And sometimes life just becomes us trying to wait it out.

But brothers and sisters, all I had to occupy my time that night of the Tornado was a piece of carrot cake. However, God in his love has given us something much better to chew on during our current storms. He's given us his precious Word and unstoppable promises. He has reminded us time and again that though the storms of life seem strong, they are nowhere near as strong as Him. And more than anything, in His Word He has assured us again and again that nothing - no physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, national, or international danger can take us out His hands. He is stronger than all and he loves us dearly.

So we wait out the storms, knowing that our God will get us through. That's not such a bad place to be after all.

Pastor Joshua Zarling



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What Does the Resurrection Mean?

1 Corinthians 15 is known as the “Great Resurrection Chapter.” The Apostle Paul gives a deep and insightful look at what the resurrection of Jesus means for our faith. We often focus on the resurrection as our assurance of life after death, but Paul reveals that the resurrection is our assurance that Christ has defeated the power of sin once and for all. In these verses Paul draws a comparison between Adam and Christ. Through the Fall, Adam brought the curse of sin into the lives of all people. This hereditary sin cursed all mankind to suffer the ravages of death and the anger of God. On our own, we could do nothing to free ourselves from the curse. God in his love sent Jesus Christ to suffer and die in our place and make full atonement for all of our sins.

The resurrection of Jesus is a clear and visible sign that God accepted Christ’s sacrifice as full and complete payment for our sins. Because of his death and resurrection, we know with complete confidence that our sins have been forgiven. The resurrection also assures us that death is not the end, but only the beginning for Christians. Just as God raised Christ victorious from the grave, he will also raise us on the Last Day, and we will be gathered with all believers into the eternal bliss of heaven. So, rejoice this Easter season! The sacrifice of Christ has completely paid for all your sins and removed the stain of original sin. We are free from the curse of sin and death and look forward to that Last Day when our risen Lord will return in glory!

1 Corinthians 15:20-22 "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." (NIV)

 

Pastor Wempner

Pastor Zarling



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New Life

We will soon be celebrating Jesus’ resurrection! Actually, the entire Christian life is an on-going celebration of Easter. It is true that we await the fulfillment of Jesus’ victory over death that will come on the Last Day. At the same time, we get a taste of his victory in the new life that is ours through faith in him. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2: "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved (vs. 4-5)."

God . . . made us alive. This new life we live is only because of God’s grace, but this new life is real. During the repentant season of Lent the Church thinks of sins we can “give up for Lent.” Repentance is more than just saying “I’m sorry,” but includes a desire to turn from the sin. Easter gives the Christian the power to turn from the old ways to follow God’s will. You are connected to Jesus’ resurrection through your baptism (Read Romans 6 to see how closely God views your connection to Jesus). You are made alive in Christ and set free from slavery to sin. This is the grace of God! This grace of God is what leads us to want to live as God’s people.

As the Easter season continues, the Christian can focus on the new life. What new habits can you form? What selfless actions can you take? What kind words can you speak? How can you support the work of your church? How can you be a better parent, spouse, friend, or employee?

The new life that is ours through faith in Jesus leads us to seriously consider these questions. We are not called to complacency, but to growth as God’s people.

Let the season of Easter be about the new life that is yours because God made you alive through the resurrection of Jesus. Cling to the hope that yours for a future in heaven. Cling also to the power of Jesus’ resurrection to change your heart. In your new life of service you are celebrating the power of the resurrection.

Christ is alive! Because of him, so are you!

 

Pastor Tim Wempner



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Fruits of Faith

You have the Spirit through faith in Jesus! These fruits are yours because Jesus has renewed your heart and set you free from sin. During this season of Lent, give conscious thought to how you can better show these fruits in your life. “Keep in step with the Spirit” means that we live and act like the people of God that we are. Put your faith into practice as you show these fruits to the people in your life.

In Galatians 5:22–25 we read, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (NIV)

Pastor Wempner

Pastor Zarling



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Lent - An Abundance of God's Word

According to the weatherman, we’re still in a drought. It surprised me a little to hear that, since there’s either snow on the ground or melted runoff gathering in puddles. There’s plenty of water in either frozen or liquid form all over the place right now. And yet - according to the weatherman - we’re still in a drought.

This drought actually stretches back to last year. Last summer and fall we didn’t get as much rain as we normally do - but to be fair it was obvious then. I remember walking through the woods all last year (hunting for mushrooms) and leaves that were supposed to be green and vibrant were instead wilty and drooping. The evidence of the drought was obvious then, I could see it all over nature. But it’s not so obvious right now - what with the snow piles, ice patches and freezing rain. 

We are, apparently, still in a drought. We don’t have the snow accumulations we normally have by this time. That means less melted water for the spring, which in turn means less groundwater for the plants to start blooming. That lack of water can turn into a famine.

A drought or a famine can be unpleasant - in fact, it can be downright dangerous. 

But a lack of water is nothing compared to a different kind of drought. This kind of famine is the absolute worst - it’s a drought of God’s Word. God threatened this kind of drought to Israel in Amos 8:11-12. 

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord,

    “when I will send a famine through the land—

not a famine of food or a thirst for water,

    but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.

People will stagger from sea to sea

    and wander from north to east,

searching for the word of the Lord,

    but they will not find it. (NIV)

The worst kind of drought possible -  a famine of God’s Word! To be cut off from the life giving Word of the Lord. No one - and I mean NO ONE can survive that. 

And yet dear friends, we are able to rejoice because that’s not happening to us. We aren’t experiencing that horrible kind of drought. In fact, as we begin the season of Lent we realize that we don’t have a famine of God’s Word - we have an abundance! In his grace God has lavished us with His Word. During this Lenten season, rejoice in the truth that every time you go to Church, every time you have devotions with your family, everytime you look over and reach your Bible sitting on the nightstand - God is giving you his precious Word. He’s reminding you of his eternal love. During this Lenten season we are being lavished in riches - we are enjoying the abundance of God’s precious Word. 

We may still be in a drought of water, but we are not in a drought of God’s Word.

Pastor Joshua Zarling



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No Perfection in This Life

We will not achieve perfection in this life. Neither will the people around us.

However, our faith in Jesus does not motivate us to accept sin. We do not want evil to influence us. We want to serve God is a way that is pleasing to him and according to his will.

Below is Psalm 101. It is a section of God’s Word that makes you think about what and who you allow to influence you. David wrote this Psalm and expressed strong desire to avoid sinful influences. Our faith in Jesus motivates us to seek purity as well. Of course, our confidence must never be in our own efforts; Jesus saved us by his death on the cross. Read this Psalm and pray for God to fill your heart with the same desire that David had to avoid sin.

I will sing of your love and justice;
to you, O Lord, I will sing praise.
I will be careful to lead a blameless life—
when will you come to me?
I will walk in my house
with blameless heart.
I will set before my eyes no vile thing.

The deeds of faithless men I hate;
they will not cling to me.
Men of perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will have nothing to do with evil.
Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret,
him will I put to silence;
whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart,
him will I not endure.
My eyes will be on the faithful in the land,
that they may dwell with me;
he whose walk is blameless
will minister to me.
No one who practices deceit
will dwell in my house;
no one who speaks falsely
will stand in my presence.
Every morning I will put to silence
all the wicked in the land;
I will cut off every evildoer
from the city of the Lord.  (Psalm 101:1-8 NIV)

Pastor Tim Wempner

Pastor Joshua Zarling

 



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My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. ~ PSALM 62:1