Pastor's Blog

December 2019

Christmas Promises: The Place

Christmas Promises: The Place -- It’s hard to predict the future. Weather forecasters remind us of that all the time! We can understand – it’s hard to predict the future!

That’s why the Bible is so amazing! In the Bible, God allowed people to predict the future in incredible ways. Many of those predictions – or prophesies – had to do with Jesus and his birth. A full 700 years before Jesus was born, God had the prophet Micah write down these words, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).

If you were to try to predict today where the world leader 700 years from now would be born, how do you think you would do? Or, if someone in the year 1300 had tried to predict what the world would be like in 2019, how do you think those predictions would have turned out? Yet, 700 years after Micah’s prophecy, the wise men followed the star to Jerusalem and asked where the Savior was to be born. They were told, “In Bethlehem in Judea, for this is what the prophet has written” (Matthew 2:5). They went to Bethlehem and found Jesus the Savior, just as Micah had said 700 years earlier!

If God got that place right, do you think he’s got your life under control? Christmas convinces us of the truthfulness of God’s promises in the Bible. Christmas assures us of the certainly of God’s plan to save us. Christmas reminds us that our future is in God’s hands. As you continue your Christmas preparations, remember that Christmas is the season in which we rejoice that God keeps his promises.

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog.



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The NOW of Your Savior's Birth

The NOW of Your Savior’s Birth: I’m finding it difficult to keep track of time - and Christmas is compounding the problem.

Between all the services, the sermons, the decorations, the hymns, the shopping, the candy canes, and the cookies (not to mention TV specials), time is flying past me like a falcon on fire and I simply can’t keep up. I grasp at it, with a hand weak and wanting, but catch only mist. 

And Christmas is compounding the problem.

The reason is that Christmas is the one Holiday of the year that categorically refuses to firmly plant its feet in the NOW. It simply won’t do it. You can try and grab Christmas with your mind, try to pull it to your ‘now,’ try to lay it at your feet and sprawl it out on your living room floor…and it won’t cooperate. It will only wink at you and then dance off into the innumerable mists of other whens.

I’m finding it difficult to keep track of time - and Christmas is compounding the problem, for it will never plant its feet firmly on NOW. 

And we all know this. When Christmas Eve comes we will all think of the past, of Christmases from our childhood, of family and friends who have long been in Heaven. Christmas will not keep its feet planted on now - it will always conjure up the past. The carols and hymns we sing add to this temporal disorientation. Singing a carol I once sang with my Grandmother rips me back into the past - I lunge in my heart back through the years to her kitchen table on Christmas Day. I grasp at that moment, with a hand weak and wanting, but catch only mist. 

Christmas will not stay in the now, it always throws you into the past.

You put a live tree in your living room. You decorate it. You do this thing of a ritual. You know you will do it again. The smell of pine and the sight of a candle flame. It absolutely reeks of timelessness. I don’t know what they were doing in Mexico in December, 1943, but I know they were celebrating Christmas. I don’t know what they were doing in Southern England in 1672, but they knew Christmas. The same goes for Saxony, 1145. And while we’re at it - Lombardy, 750. Keep going back. Farther and farther.

You will find Christmas.

In fact, you’ll find Christmas before it even showed up at all: the Old Testament certainly thinks so. Christmas hadn’t even come yet - and the prophets didn’t care. Always they spoke of the Messiah to come, the one who would appear on earth, the promised Seed and Servant of the Lord who would visit and rescue his captive people. For them, Christmas was not in the now - it was always throwing them into the future.

I’m finding it difficult to keep track of time, and Christmas is compounding the problem.

For Christmas will not stay in the now. 

And I think I’ve figured out why that is. I think I know why Christmas is so timeless, why it’s always lurching us forwards and backwards through the thens, whens, and nows of our lives. It’s because of the one who is the true meaning of Christmas - and I’m not talking about some fat guy in a red suit who has a strange obsession with scampering down smoke ventilation shafts holding a bag of whatchamacallits. No, I speak of someone else.

The Son of God. The eternal Word. Through him all things have been made. Without him nothing was made that has been made. He stands at the center of Christmas. 

And HE is timeless.

He stands apart from time. He is not bound by it. There is no past, present, or future for him - no, no. He is totally and completely beyond time. Time cannot grasp him. It reaches, with a hand weak and wanting, but catches only mist. He is beyond time.

And yet he came to earth. He was born in time. Christmas is the day when the Son of God - the one beyond time - entered into our world and stepped into time. Today we celebrate when God grasped the NOW of our salvation. For that is what Christmas is, that is what this all means. That is what the babe in Bethlehem says to you: “NOW I step into your world. NOW I begin your salvation. NOW I march towards the cross. NOW I aim myself like an arrow at sin and hell. NOW I claim you as my own. NOW the Sovereign Lord has sent me to save you” 

Christmas is timeless, for it is at Christmas that the timeless One stepped into time. It is when our Savior grasped the NOW of our salvation. It is when past, present, and future all became wrapped up into the huge, exultant “NOW!” of God’s promise fulfilled. 

The boy in Bethlehem. 

It’s Christmas, and I’m finding it hard to keep track of time. But that’s OK. All I need - all you need - is a great, big NOW. 

The NOW of your Savior’s birth.

“And now the Sovereign LORD has sent me with his Spirit.”  (Isaiah 48:16)

Merry Christmas!

We thank Good Shepherd's pastor, Reverend Joshua Zarling, for this week's blog post.



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No Other Gospel!

No Other Gospel!: “It’s all really the same, isn’t it?” “Sure, there are lots of different messages in our world, but ultimately they all end up in the same place, right?” That’s the message we hear so often today. “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you believe something, right?”

Wrong! Not every message is the same. Not even close! Listen to Paul in the Bible: “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:8). There is only one message that saves. There is only one way to salvation. It’s the message of Jesus Christ and how he died for our sins and rose to give us eternal life. Salvation comes through faith in Jesus. There is no other gospel!

So what message are you following? Listen closely. Evaluate what you’re hearing. There is nothing else that compares with Jesus’ love for you. There is no one else who has done what Jesus has done for you. There is no other message that promises free forgiveness like God does. There is nothing that gives peace like knowing God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus. That’s the gospel—the good news. This is urgent! Even if an angel preaches something different to you, don’t believe him! Salvation comes from Jesus. There is no other gospel!

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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I Could Do That!

I Could Do That!: “I could never do that!” How often have you said that? You watch the news describe the shocking fall of another famous celebrity. Bankruptcy. Drugs. “I could never do that!” You hear of another pastor resigning in scandal. Adultery. Embezzling. “I could never do that!” Except here’s the hard truth from the Bible: You could. I could. I could absolutely do “that”—whatever the sin is. The Bible gives us this warning: “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Don’t ever underestimate your sinfulness. You could do that. I could do that. The root of every sin lies in every human heart. But by the grace of God, there go I. Be careful that you don’t fall!

How can we not? The Bible continues, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). If we’re that sinful, how could we not fall? “God is faithful.” We are weak, but God is strong. We are unfaithful, but God is faithful. Stay connected to God and his Word. Stay connected to Jesus and his forgiveness. Live with an honest recognition of your sinfulness: “I could do that, so may God in his grace keep me close to Jesus!”

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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Speak Up!

Speak Up!: There’s a lot of hot air in our country today. People aren’t afraid to speak their minds about anything! Everywhere we turn, we hear more complaints, more anger, more opinions, more accusations. Lots of hot air. You and I are part of it. We’ve had a thing or two to say too, right? It feels good to speak our minds. To put people in their place. Think about this, though: When you speak up, how often aren’t you defending yourself? Promoting yourself? Arguing for yourself? It hurts to say it, but we’re pretty selfish, aren’t we? Our selfish hearts are so focused on ourselves. We use a lot of hot air speaking up for us.

So God calls us to change our focus: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute” (Proverbs 31:8). Do you know whom God loves? Everyone! Jesus died to take away the sins of the world. And God in the Bible spends a lot of his “hot air” speaking up for the poor, the widows, the foreigners—those who can’t speak for themselves. Can we? For unborn babies and homeless veterans, for fleeing refugees and struggling immigrants, for single moms and lonely kids. “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” Whom can you speak up for today?

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works... ~ EPHESIANS 2:8-9