Pastor's Blog

November 2015

A Thanksgiving Thought

Probably my favorite episode of the TV show Seinfeld has to be the episode about Festivus. Festivus was a holiday one character’s father made up because he hated all the religious and commercial elements of the holiday season. The famous tagline was: a Festivus for the Rest-of-us. The holiday was just a simple meal with some peculiar twists. My favorite twist was at the beginning of the meal: the airing of grievances. Each person would take a turn going around the table telling each person how they’ve disappointed you over the past year! It’s a terrible idea! (and terribly funny, too)

It gets me thinking about how we celebrate Thanksgiving. With everyone around the table, what’s really on our mind? It’s about eating. Or it’s about family. Good things to think about. But how much thought and thanks is given to what really matters, the truly spiritual things that will last for eternity? Probably very few of us have ever started our Thanksgiving meals with little more than a prayer. That’s one reason I like worshiping on Thanksgiving Eve: it gives me an opportunity to put the next day into perspective and give it some prayerful thought without as many distractions.

Psalm 118 is a great Thanksgiving psalm. It follows a king to his own thanksgiving celebration. There’s no turkey. The house is the house of the LORD. The table is the altar of the LORD. And the guests are the righteous who follow the righteous king. And as we watch this thanksgiving celebration, we are reminded that we, too, enter into the presence of the LORD to offer our own joy-filled and humble thanks for being in the presence of the LORD and for his gift of forgiveness.

Psalm 118:19-21:
Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.

This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter.

I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.

The key to understanding this Psalm is Jesus. Jesus is the one who has brought us to the king. Jesus is the one who has become our salvation. Jesus is the very center of our thanksgiving becuase he died for our sins and earned a place for us in God's family.

That sets the table nicely for Thanksgiving, doesn’t it? Perhaps instead of a centerpiece of flowers, you could have a centerpiece of a cross. But no matter what, remember in your heart and in your lives that the reason you can give thanks for all the good things in this life is because you have been made right with God. You can enter into his presence and give him thanks, too.

God bless you and your family this Thanksgiving!

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Then the Light

In the midst of life's craziest moments, do you ever wish you could just wake up and it would all be over?

One of my recurring dreams is that I am trying to get ready for church, the bells are ringing, people are waiting for me, but I just can't get everything ready in time. It gets worse and worse, until I finally just wake myself up. Thankfully it was all a dream!

But real life isn't a dream, is it? The pain you feel when you lose someone isn't a dream. The hardship of an illness or a disease isn't a dream. The struggle with our sin certainly isn't a dream.

But one day we will wake up, and then the darkness will go away forever. God has set a day when he will bring an end to this world as we know it. Jesus will return on that day, he will raise the dead, and all whose names are written in the book of life will be saved.

For those of us who believe, our name IS written in the Book of Life. We believe that Jesus is our savior from sin. We believe that he conquered death and hell for us, and gave us his perfect life as a robe of righteousness. Our sins are forgiven and we have nothing to be afraid of.

Except that now things are still a little dark. And sometimes not just a little dark, a LOT dark. We feel the pressures of society. We feel the pressures of our sins. We feel the darkness of sin in us and around us. This is why the resurrection to life matters. That resurrection is our ticket out of this sin filled world. It is our final rescue from sin and the darkness of sin.

Now the darkness.

Then the light! Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen!

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A Day Worth Waiting For

God has set a day when everything comes to an end. When the story of man on earth reaches it's final and climactic conclusion. And when that day comes everything will stop-including the preaching of the gospel. At that moment everyone who rejected God's Word will be judged. All who decided in their hearts to set themselves up as most important and refused to honor God will be completely destroyed in the fire of God's wrath.

It sounds harsh, but in reality it's meant to bring us to our knees in humble repentance before God. When we realize that we cannot come to God on our own, that by our power we are lost, then we can look to God for help, and that's exactly what he does.

But first he wants us to stop and listen. And so he speaks hard words of judgment. These are words that wound our pride and send us sputtering into making excuses and justifications for our sins. But for some, hopefully you, they will recognize the futility of it all. They will see that God and God alone can help them. And that changes everything.

God's wants Judgment Day to be a day of rejoicing for everyone. He wants the sun of righteousness to rise on people's hearts. He wants to tell people that their sins have been washed away. He wants to declare before everyone that you have been declared not guilty for your sin.

It's a day that can begin right now. In his word, God tells you that Jesus lived and died for you. In his word, God tells you that everything that was broken in your life, he has fixed. He has given you a spiritual life where there was none before. And in the joy of that day, we look forward to the final day: The final day when Jesus will return and he will look at you and welcome you to your eternal home in heaven. That's a day worth waiting for.

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It's Only the End of the World (so what's the big deal?)

The truth is, the world has been ending for a long, long time. The Apostle Paul spoke about it a lot in his letters to the different churches. He said in 1 Corinthians, “The world in its present form is passing away.” It was almost like he expected it to happen any moment. Jesus himself gave us many signs that the end of the world is coming.

And what was Jesus’ promise to the apostles, to believers throughout the centuries, and to you and me? "It only gets harder." The wars become more frequent. The famines and floods and natural disasters keep coming. The turmoil in this world increases. The love of most will grow cold. Many will fall away from the faith. Christians get treated worse and worse.

Hey, it’s only the end of the world—don’t worry! Right?

Jesus says “be on your guard” and “watch out” but he doesn’t say get worried. In fact as things get more difficult, as the end draws closer, Jesus gives you and me confidence to share the gospel. Martin Luther would agree: it’s only the end of the world—don’t worry.

Martin Luther stood firmly on the gospel. The apostles lived and died standing on and defending the gospel. Where do you stand? Don’t raise your hand, but do you find yourself defending one presidential candidate more than you defend your Savior? Do you find that it’s easier to talk about how bad things are getting than how good our Savior has been? It’s so much easier to get wrapped up in all the day-to-day things that we forget the end is coming. People do not wake up anticipating the end of time, but they do suddenly die. With the end coming, where do you stand?

Jesus doesn’t give us the warning to scare us; he gives it to help us so that we stand firmly on the gospel, like the apostles, like Luther. The gospel means everything to you and me because, in a world that is passing away, the gospel is life. The gospel is the sure and certain promise that for every time you failed to live up to God’s expectations, Jesus did. Every single time the devil or this world of false teachers tried to deceive Jesus, he wasn’t fooled; he prevailed over them. And he did it for your sake because he knows how weak you and I are and he covers us with his perfection. This is the gospel we stand on: that God considers us perfect for Christ’s sake; that Jesus lived for you, he died for you, he rose for you. He did all of this so that you could stand firm, all the way to end.

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For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. ~ ROMANS 6:23