Pastor's Blog

Doubts and Fears

In a sermon on John 20:24-31 about “Doubting Thomas”, Martin Luther addressed the doubts and fears that we may have. His answer was this:

"When the Law comes and accuses you of not having kept it, direct it to Christ, and say: 'There is the Man who has done it; to Him I cling; He has fulfilled it for me and has given me His fulfillment.' When sin comes and would kill you, direct it to Christ, and say: 'As much as you can do to Him, you can do to me, too, for I am in Him, and He is in me.' When death comes and would devour you, say: 'Dear Death, do you know that Man over there? Go, bite out one of His teeth. Once upon a time He made biting sour enough for you. If you long for a fight, then rub yourself against Him again. You thought you should also have a share in Him when He hung between two murderers and died a shameful death, this Man, condemned before God and before the world. But what good did it do you? You took a bite at that time which did not turn out well for you. To this Man I belong. I am His, and He is mine; and where He stays, I, too, stay. You were not able to do anything to Him and will nicely leave me undisturbed too.' When the devil comes and would also have a share in you, and hell would devour you, direct them to Christ, then you will silence them." (What Luther Says, pages 202-203)

Psalm 108:4 (NIV)  "For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies."

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The LORD Surrounds His People

The imagery of Psalm 125 is not difficult to understand. Mountains don’t move. Clouds or storms may hide them from sight, but that does not mean that the mountains went somewhere. You just can’t see them because your view is blocked. Psalm 125:2 - "The mountains surround Jerusalem and the LORD surrounds his people, both now and forever."

"The Lord surrounds his people" like the mountains that surround Jerusalem. He is always with us. In his faithful love, he never leaves his people. At times we may not see him because our view is blocked. Troubles can keep us from seeing God. Our sins can make us close our eyes so we don't see God. But our weaknesses and sins don't change God.

We are at the doorstep to Holy Week. The love of God surrounds us in every moment of Holy Week. Christ went to Jerusalem to die for our sins. He was fully committed to the work of being the Savior of the world. His forgiveness is freely given to all who believe.

Holy Week is the mountain of God's love that surrounds you! There are a number of special worship services next week. Make time to attend. This love of God will comfort and strengthen you; it will prepare you for a life of service and for eternal life.

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Trusting the Lord

In the verses before Jeremiah 20:7-13, the prophet was beaten and put in the stock because he preached about the coming judgment of God against Jerusalem. The leaders did not want to hear that God was angry with them. As you read the following verses, notice his faith and resolve. The troubles he faced were difficult, but Jeremiah could not stop speaking the truth or trusting the Lord.

"7 O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived;
you overpowered me and prevailed.
I am ridiculed all day long;
everyone mocks me.
8 Whenever I speak, I cry out
proclaiming violence and destruction.
So the word of the LORD has brought me
insult and reproach all day long.
9 But if I say, “I will not mention him
or speak any more in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.
10 I hear many whispering,
“Terror on every side!
Report him! Let’s report him!”
All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying,
“Perhaps he will be deceived;
then we will prevail over him and take our revenge on him.”
11 But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior;
so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.
They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced;
their dishonor will never be forgotten.
12 O LORD Almighty, you who examine the righteous
and probe the heart and mind,
let me see your vengeance upon them,
for to you I have committed my cause.
13 Sing to the LORD!
Give praise to the LORD!
He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked." (NIV)

Through faith in Jesus, you see more than just the latest problems you face or the uncertain future. You see God's perfect love that has set you free from sin and made you his child. The God who watched over and saved Jeremiah is watching over and has saved you! You are safe in his arms, today and forever. Continue to trust in his grace!

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Well Done

A word of encouragement from a friend is powerful, isn’t it? “Well done,” sounds nice. Imagine hearing words of praise from God!

In 1 Corinthians 4:5 we read, “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” The day is coming when you will receive praise from God! It won’t be because you were so good; but for your faith! Through faith in Jesus, your sins are removed. As God’s child you are eager to do good.

Martin Luther once commented that there is “nothing more beautiful in the eyes of God than a soul that loves to hear His Word.” Hearing means that we are eager to believe, to learn and to live according to God’s Word. Make it a priority to hear God’s Word — for comfort and for strength. In the place where God has placed you, serve the people around you. Be the child of God that he has made you to be. And wait. The day will come when you’ll hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” as your faith in Christ sets you free from sin to be God’s servant.

 

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Finding New Strength

The on-going work of faithfully serving our Lord — at home, church, school, job, or anywhere — is a heavy burden. The devil never allows us rest, but constantly attacks. He brings frustration, sorrow, failure, and apathy to our efforts.

Where will we find new strength? Isaiah says that those who trust in the Lord are renewed in faith that leads to zealous service. The devil keeps attacking, but Jesus’ victory cannot be undone. Sin and death are no longer our masters; we have been raised to new life. Our hope of heaven cannot be destroyed. Our confidence is God's love is well-placed because he will never abandon his people!

This Lenten season, let the story of Jesus’ victory inspire you. Jesus’ passion isn’t just another story. What he accomplished changes everything about you. Live in the peace of forgiveness and the power of knowing that you can serve God as you faithfully serve the people around you.

"Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:30–31 (NIV)

 

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Little Things Matter

Little things matter. One broken bolt can have a major impact on a huge machine. Forget one small ingredient and a cake may not taste very good. One mistake in a math problem and the final answer will not be correct.

We have a tendency to overlook little things.

Zechariah 4:10 “Who despises the day of small things?”

God doesn’t! To him, little things matter. In Zechariah, God was speaking about the work that Zerubbabel, the leader of the Israelites, would accomplish. A remnant had returned from exile in Babylon and were working to rebuild Jerusalem. At this point, Zerubbabel has only done a “small thing.” But to God, this was the beginning of something great.

Your life is filled with small things. Taken as individual events, you may not see the importance of a kind word or a simple act of service (perhaps one that you’ve repeated in your home countless times). These acts of service are not small; they reveal that you are God’s child. Jesus has worked in your heart to renew you by his forgiveness. He has set before you these opportunities to serve others. There is nothing small about that!

Joyfully seize the moments that you can service – even the ones that are not your favorite or may not seem that important. Through faith in Jesus, see your life for what it is. This is your time to serve Jesus by serving others. That is something that is huge!

 

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Pride

Pride is the most basic of human sins. It is a love for self that leaves no room for our neighbor or God. Pride is the opposite of true, Christian love. Pride always leads us to other sins because pride, in essence, allows us to replace God with our own will. Once we’ve done that, watch out!

Psalm 131 (NIV): 

"My heart is not proud, O LORD,

my eyes are not haughty;

I do not concern myself with great matters

or things too wonderful for me.

But I have stilled and quieted my soul;

like a weaned child with its mother,

like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, put your hope in the LORD

both now and forevermore."

King David wrote Psalm 131. Was he serious when he said, “My heart is not proud”?

Through faith in our Savior, the believer has the antidote to pride. By the forgiveness that Jesus won for us, our hearts have a new focus. Instead of turning inward toward our own desires, Jesus directs us to serve others. We seek to imitate him.

Look at Jesus every day and let him transform your heart into the heart of a servant. Then Psalm 131 will accurately reflect the attitude that truly lives in you!

 

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What does God want from you in 2024?

What does God want from you in 2024? What is his will for the coming year?

1 Thessalonians 4:3 "It is God’s will that you should be sanctified."

It has never been your responsibility to read God’s mind and make choices that discover a path that he has laid in front of you – a path you cannot see but hope to find. If that were the case, how miserable and filled with doubt would we be!?

As the verse above reveals, God’s will is that "you should be sanctified." In the context of 1 Thessalonians, Paul was writing about the choices God wants to us make in our lives. These choices will reflect our faith in Jesus as our Savior. These choices will be based on our knowledge that Jesus has set us free from sin! These choices will be to live a holy life – to be sanctified.

In the verses that follow, Paul writes about sins we should avoid and godly virtues we should pursue. God’s will for you for 2024 is the same as always: that you seek to live your life in a way that reflects your faith in Jesus. God wants you to see who you are because Jesus’ died for you and because, through baptism, you belong to God forever. In light of his grace, God wants you to grow in the way you live as his child. It will, at times, be a struggle to live according to God's will because of sin and sinful habits. Don't give in because it is difficult but embrace the struggle. God's grace will give you strength and encouragement to grow as his child.

That leaves the door open to many wonderful and God-pleasing choices. Serve and love and be God’s representative in 2024. Through faith in Jesus, that is God’s will for you.

 

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The Miracle of Jesus' Birth

We just celebrated the birth of Christ. The miracle of Jesus’ birth is that he was truly the son of Mary — human; but he was also truly the Son of God — divine. John’s Gospel brings this out when he says, “The Word was God” (John 1:1). But the divine nature of Jesus was not a surprise; God had been promising for generations that he would come into the world himself to be the Savior. One example is from Micah 2:13. There we read: One who breaks open the way will go up before them; they will break through the gate and go out. Their king will pass through before them, the Lord at their head.

The passage is Messianic, that is, about the coming of the Messiah. At the end of the verse we hear that the Messiah will be the Lord himself. (The name “Lord” is the divine name; the name God gave himself when Moses asked what God’s name was.)

At Christmas we celebrate nothing less than God himself coming into our world for the purpose of being our Savior. The Christmas story is one of pure love for the world — for you!

Christmas Day might be past, and you might be contemplating taking down your decoration. But don’t ever let the message of Christmas stop ringing in your heart. “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” He has come for us!

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Reflecting on Blessings

After learning that she would give birth to Jesus, Mary praised God with the words recorded for us in Luke 1:46-55. In the first part of her song, Mary reflected on the personal blessings she had received from God. She said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has been mindful

of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.” 

(Luke 1:48-49)

“For he has been mindful.” Is there any greater blessing from the Lord than knowing that he is mindful of us? As Jesus’ mother, Mary would play a very special role in God’s plan. While we play a far different role than Mary, God is no less mindful of us. In his grace and mercy he has brought you into his kingdom by washing you in baptism and nurturing your faith with his Word. Because of Jesus, we receive the same blessings that Mary received: forgiveness of our sins, opportunities to serve God here on earth,  and the promise of eternal life. Mary was right, all generations call her blessed because God blessed and used her. He’s blessed and used us too!

Mary didn’t list the great things God had done. She simply said, “the Mighty One has done great things for me.” A list of what he had done would have been too lengthy because everything God does is great! In the life of Mary we see the greatness of God. In the life of Christ, God displayed his power of sin, death, and the devil. In your life, God’s power is seen as well. It is seen in your faith and your service. It is seen in your hope and your love.

As you prepare for Christmas, join with Mary to praise God as you trust in him.

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