Pastors' Blog

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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Here You Can Finally Find Peace

It's December - and everything's chaos.

Shoppers are running around, frantically crossing things off their lists. Stores are open longer, employees are working overtime, traffic is jammed, and coffee shops have mysteriously discovered over twenty five different flavors of peppermint to mix with your coffee. Looks like everybody's gunning for a little bit of that big green Christmas payday. And green is a good word for it. Between the tree sitting in your living room and the cash in the store registers, green really is the color of this span of time known as the "Christmas season."

It's December - and everything's dead.

Almost (if not all) the leaves are off the trees. The ground is a nice shade of frozen brown. There's no green to be found here. The temperature has dropped and nature has retreated, folding in on herself, freezing herself in the lifeless husk of a dream-sleep waiting for the first warm day of spring. Nothing but browns and greys. The death mask of winter hangs all around, and all nature suffers silently in its grip.

It's December - and peace and joy are nowhere to be found.

Unless you know where to look.

For at the manger in Bethlehem something else stirs. It makes itself heard. It murmurs with the groan of a thousand prophecies. It bubbles with the longings of Isaiah and David. It cries with the desire of Abraham and Sarah. Its breaths are small, its voice quiet. Its arms are short and chubby - as a baby's ought to be. It is the Christ Child, our Savior. The baby Jesus, our brother.

There is no chaos or death here.

There is only love. Pure love and pure joy. There is only the promise of God sitting ablaze in the full brightness of total fulfillment. There is only the unlimited, unstoppable love of God that has come straight down to earth for one single reason, and one reason alone: you.

Here, dear Christian, you can finally find peace. Whether you're alone or with family, whether you're in pain or in plenty, whether you're smiling at the TV or holding back tears in an empty apartment - remember, here is where you find peace. Here you find joy. Here your enemies cannot touch you. Here your worries are muzzled and your fears silenced. Here, at the manger in Bethlehem. Here, where your God embraces you.

It's December - and your Savior is born.

Pastor Joshua Zarling



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How God is Glorified

"Glory to God in the highest," the angels sang when Jesus was born. Really? The highest glory of God is two peasants in a barn, laying a newborn baby in an animal feeding trough? The highest glory of God is that his magnificent angels sang their wonderful song to smelly, uneducated shepherds who had been working the fields for who-knows-how-long?

From a human perspective, there is absolutely nothing about this story that is glorious. A baby born in a barn might be moderately interesting to a modern-day local TV news crew. But the story could just as easily be bumped from the evening news by, well, just about anything.

The Christmas story is exactly how God loves to be glorified—by saving people. He doesn't need fanfare. He already knows who he is and that he is unmatched in power. What he really wants is for us to know him as a loving Savior and believe in him.

God doesn't just call for humility. Amazingly the One who is greatest also displays humility. His greatness is seen in his willingness to endure anything in order to save us. The story starts with the humbleness of a manger; it ends with the horror of a cross. In between were years of persecution and homelessness. Through it all, there wasn't a word of complaint. He was too committed to saving us to notice the hardship it entailed!

The birth of Jesus was God revealing his highest glory—love! Without love and forgiveness the other attributes of God are just too terrifying to consider. But because he is guided by love for us, his power and magnificence are wonderful for us to consider. He won't use his power in any other way than to bless us.

Learn a lesson from the Christmas story about how to glorify God. Jesus said, "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples" (John 15:8). You glorify God when you humbly take the opportunities and gifts he's given to you and use them to do God's will. You don't need fanfare either. When you quietly love your family and serve them, God is glorified. When you use your skills at your job so that you can support your family and provide a service to a company or customer, you glorify God. When you help a friend who needs help, you glorify God.

The Christmas story shines with the glory of God. That glory is his love. We too can glorify God—by showing love.

A glorious Christmas season to each and every one of you!

Pastor Tim Wempner



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Bold in Thanksgiving

It’s amazing to me how sometimes I can be incredibly bold with my bellyaching. As soon as I get mad, as soon as I get annoyed, as soon as something happens that frustrates me I let everyone around me know it.  I can be so courageous when I complain, so brave when I start whining about the things I don’t like. 

Stage fright? Please. I could be in the middle of a packed shopping mall, surrounded by people, but if something sets me off I’ll start complaining at the same volume level as if I were preaching the last sermon of my life. 

And I think that’s true of a lot of us. When it’s time to show our discontent (Especially if there’s family members around), we just let ‘er rip. It is not hard for us to be bold in our bellyaching. 

But instead, maybe we should aim to be bold in our thanksgiving. 

It’s about that time of year again, November is rolling in. Soon it will be time for food, family, and football. The joys of Thanksgiving day, the eagerness of appetizers - while all the while at least one family member keeps an eye on the calendar to let everyone know when Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas season really begins. 

And during all of this, let’s be truly bold in our Thanksgiving this year. Instead of being bold in family squabbles, courageous in complaining about nationwide shipping shortages, or brave to chastise the person who dared to make that stuffing recipe again - instead of it all let us be bold in our Thanksgiving. 

Our thanksgiving to each other, and especially to our God. 

Not just for the blessings of home, food, warmth, and companionship. Not just for family and friends. Not just for big screen TVs. But for the love God showers on everyday through Jesus. For the love God will shower on us eternally through Jesus. All of it. All of it we are thankful for, all of it is God’s big, bright smile towards us through the cross of His Son.

So this Thanksgiving, instead of being bold to bellyache, be bold to bless. Be courageous in counting your blessings.

Raise up your voice and let ‘er rip.

 

Pastor Joshua Zarling



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