Pastors' Blog

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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Live in the peace of knowing God's eternal love for you

Today, January 6, is the festival of the Epiphany. It is one of the oldest festivals in the Church Year that has a specific date on the calendar. It brings an end to the 12 days of Christmas.

We commemorate the coming of the Wise Men with this festival. They followed a star on a quest for someone they hadn’t met. In fact, they did not know their final destination or what they would find. Their faith serves as a model for all of us. How often we are tempted to make our faith and our God into something that is reasonable and fits our own ideas. We think we need answers from God for all our questions. The Wise Men traveled to Jerusalem, not knowing the answers to the many questions that might have been in their minds. 

The Wise Men found a baby who was the Savior of the world. We find the same. By faith, we see that in Christ we have received untold and indescribable gifts from God. The Magi let whatever their eyes saw, their ears heard, or their minds thought be subservient to the desire to see the Savior. Martin Luther commented on their faith in a sermon on their story (Matthew 2:1-12):


"The light of nature and the light of grace cannot be friends. Human nature wants to feel and to be certain before it believes. Faith wants to believe before it feels. This is the reason why human nature goes no farther than it can see by its light. But grace steps out cheerfully into the darkness, follows the bare Word and Scripture, no matter what matters appear to be like; whether human nature thinks them to be right or wrong, grace clings to the Word." What Luther Says, p. 611

Standing on the Word of God you will see countless blessings in your life. You will see God’s love at work in you, preparing you for eternity. You will see God as you look at Jesus. Join with the Magi in worshipping the one born king of the Jews who is your Savior. Then live in the peace of knowing God's eternal love for you!

 

Pastor Tim Wempner

Pastor Joshua Zarling



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Thankful to God

As I write this I am sitting in my recliner and staring out my living room window. It is my last day of quarantine - and I desperately want it to be over. If I could make time go faster, oh, I would.

But, alas, I cannot.

You see quarantining for two weeks has been a little trying. Oh it was great at first. I was feeling ill and I got to relax. Get plenty of sleeping done. Then, as I started to feel better, I had time for chores around the house that have been nagging at me. I raked my lawn, swept up the driveway, cleaned my gutters; I even mowed one last time. I thought, ‘this is great! The Lord’s giving me a chance to de-stress and do some manual labor. This quarantine thing is fantastic!”

But that was six days ago.

The chores are long done now. I’ve watched all the TV I can stomach and then some. I even started trying to sketch things in the backyard in a notebook (yes, seriously). I haven’t been this bored in a looooonnnngggg time. If I could make time go faster, oh, I would. I can’t wait for quarantine to be over - I am going to burst into the office tomorrow with all the exuberance of an eight year old riding their brand new ten speed.

But isn’t this always true of how we view the days God gives us? We’re either too busy or too bored. Either time is going too fast or way too slow. Either we can’t wait for something to get started (vacation, dinner, the weekly episode of our favorite show) or we desperately want it to end so we can get back to normal (I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed, everyone’s fighting around the dinner table, man that episode stunk). All too often we want time to speed up or slow back down, we want things to be busy or to calm back down. We want things to return to normal - or, when we’re sick of normal, we want them a bit crazier.

But dear friends, as we are about to celebrate Thanksgiving - don’t worry about trying to make things too perfect. Granted, this will be a little different kind of Thanksgiving. Many of us may not be able to see the family and friends we normally see at this time of year. It won't be the same, and I’ll bet many of us will want it over soon (like this entire year!). But instead of wishing for time to go faster, let’s be thankful for the time God gives us. For the food he gives us. For the moments together he gives us. For the Son he gave us. Dear friends, let us give thanks joyfully this Thanksgiving - precisely because it is a little. Precisely because so many in this world think there’s no reason to give thanks this year.

As Christians, we know better.

May God grant you all a joyful and joy filled Thanksgiving.

And trust me - I can’t wait to see you again!

 

Pastor Joshua Zarling



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Thankfulness Lives in the Heart

It is time to be thankful again. Of course, we should be thankful year-round, but the fourth Thursday in November serves as a reminder, just in case we have been negligent. So how will we be thankful?

God is not fooled by insincere words and mindless actions. In Hosea 6:1-3, the Children of Israel said “Come, let us return to the Lord” (v. 1). But God’s reaction shows he was looking at more than just their words. “Your love is like the morning mist and like the early dew that vanishes” (v. 4). The words of the people were different from what was in their hearts — and God could clearly see it!

God’s desire is “faithful love” and “knowledge of God.” He wants our faith to be such a part of who we are that it impacts our attitudes, words, and actions. He wants us to live with Christ’s love guiding us. This comes from the peace of knowing that our sins are forgiven and that God’s love for us will never change. This relationship with God, established by Jesus’ death and resurrection, permeates our lives.

The thankfulness that God wants is, above all, found in the heart. This thankfulness will express itself in hymns and prayers as we gather for worship. But our thankfulness is not a show in which we attempt to impress God. The confidence of faith is our greatest expression of thankfulness. As you trust in the Lord — for salvation and for everything that you need in life — you cannot help but be thankful.

If you're comfortable in public worship, make the effort to attend our special Thanksgiving services. Gathered with fellow believers around the Word of God to sing and pray will give you greater reason to be thankful. But let your thankfulness extend to all that you do. Let your gratitude to God for his grace be the joy that lives in your heart and the source of your unending hope for blessings now and forever. Let thankfulness live in your heart of faith.

Hosea 6:6 "For I desire faithful love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." EHV

Pastor Tim Wempner



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For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. ~ JOHN 3:16