Pastors' Blog

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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Do Not Be Surprised

If you consider where we live, you shouldn’t be surprised by the trials we face (not referring to Wisconsin!). Living in a sinful world means the effects of sin are always around us. Illness, wars, personal troubles, stressed relationship, a struggling economy. Add in the hardships, rejection, and persecution that come from being a Christian and we see that life is filled with troubles. Peter put our sufferings and trials in their proper context: "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name." (1 Peter 4:12–16 NIV)

Nothing strange happens as we live in a sinful world. Christ suffered and was rejected; we are called “Christians.”

Knowing that we will suffer as Christians doesn’t take the pain away. The heart may still ache; and world may still persecute, but we are reminded that our real home is with our Lord in heaven. This is a temporary stop. Jesus has taken away our sins and prepared us to live in the presence of God.

As the troubles continue, look up. Jesus has a far better home for us than this world. He will take us to be with him in heaven. And until you get there, he will not leave you!

Pastor Tim Wempner

Pastor Joshua Zarling



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Knowing Jesus as Savior Changes Everything

The truths we hear and learn at church, in Bible Class, or as we read our Bibles are not theoretical truths that won’t matter until we die. To know Jesus as your Savior changes the way we think and therefore the attitudes that can control us.

Here is one example from Proverbs 19:23: "The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble." (NIV)

I’m fairly certain that many of the members of Good Shepherd’s Lutheran Church can think of a few reasons to be anxious. While thoughts of meeting God at death cannot be totally erased from our minds, it is often the daily troubles that get more attention. We have lived for two years with fear and uncertainty as constants – in truth, fear and uncertainty have always been around, they are just far more obvious now.

As the Proverb above says, trusting in the Lord can calm our fears. God’s love for you is so complete that he did everything to take away your sins. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are the completed story of our forgiveness and the sure promise of God’s unending love. 

As you see reasons to be anxious, don’t lose sight of God’s love for you. Everything he does in your life is because he loves you. Even hardships and trials are based on his desire for you to remain in faith and to be his child. In the certainty of God’s love, you can rest with contentment and know that troubles cannot change who you are. 

You may not like the recent paths that God has chosen for you; that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care about you. In his perfect wisdom, he knew that the difficult path was the right path for you. And he loved you enough to lead you in the right direction! 

Grow in your faith and you will see life with new eyes and renewed confidence. You will rest in quiet peace, regardless of the situation.

Pastor Tim Wempner



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Pure as Snow

Snow is one of those things that we both love and hate here in Wisconsin. It can be a hassle to shovel and drive in, but there is no denying the beauty that comes when the world is blanketed in a layer of fresh, clean snow. This is how David describes what forgiveness is like before God.

"Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Turn your face away from my sins and blot out all my guilt. God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:7-10 NIV

David writes Psalm 51 after he has been confronted by Nathan the prophet over his sin with Bathsheba. David confesses in this Psalm that the weight of his guilt was something that caused him great grief and torment. But after he confesses his sin and is forgiven by Nathan he rejoices. David found great joy that all of his sins no matter how great or terrible had been cleansed and purified by the blood of Christ. The blood of Jesus Christ has purified us from all of our sins. Unlike the snow, which merely covers over the dirt of this world and doesn't stay clean for long, we remain clean and pure in the eyes of our God. Our forgiveness removes s the burden of our guilt and cleanses us from all our sins.

Because of Christ's sacrifice, we can live in peace with God. We can approach our Father in heaven boldly in prayer knowing that he does not hold our sins against us. So, the next time the world is blanketed in pure white snow, remember this is how you are in the eyes of God. You are pure and clean of every spot and stain. So, rejoice that your sins have been completely forgiven by the blood of our Savior.

 

Pastor Tim Wempner

Pastor Joshua Zarling



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