Pastor's Blog

June 2024

God Makes Us New

“Ephraim is a flat cake not turned over.” Hosea 7:8 (NIV)
The verse might sound silly. It was actually spoken in anger.

Imagine cooking pancakes, but never flipping them. One side would be done, even burned, while the other side was soft and inedible.

In Hosea 7, that’s how God saw the people in Israel. They were only half done. Their words and actions were inconsistent. They professed to believe in God; they even followed some of his ceremonial laws in their outward worship. But God saw their hearts and their unwillingness to live according to his will.

God has never been satisfied with or fooled by an outward show of Christianity. He has worked in our lives to make us new. We are new through faith in Jesus and the peace that comes from trusting in him for complete forgiveness. This peace washes over us and offers us relief and hope. It shapes our view of God.

We are made new so that we can live as God’s people. The line immediately before the verse above says, “Ephraim mixes with the nations.” The people in Hosea’s day were living like unbelievers, even as they claimed to be God’s people.

Christ Jesus has set you free from sin so that you can live the full life of serving him and putting him first. This will be seen in your faith that rest on Christ alone. This new life will also be seen in your desire to live a holy life and to struggle against sin.

Christ has called you out of the world’s way of thinking and acting. Make time to grow in God’s Word and in his grace so that you can see the joy of a full life – a life of believing in Jesus and serving him.

 

Pastor Aufdemberge

Pastor Kneser

Pastor Wempner

Pastor Zarling



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Rest

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30 NIV)

The words of Jesus from Matthew 11:28-30 are beloved by all who believe in him. They should be.

Have you read what led up to Jesus saying these words?

At the beginning of Matthew 11, Jesus answered a question sent to him by John the Baptist, who was in prison. John wondered if Jesus was the One or if someone else would be the Messiah. In talking about John the Baptist, Jesus spoke of how the people of his day could not be pleased and would not believe. They rejected John for being too stern and rejected Jesus for being too eager to be a friend of sinners. This led Jesus to speak some harsh words against cities in Galilee that rejected him. He said that Sodom and Gomorrah, the godless cities destroyed by fire from heaven in Genesis, would find Judgment Day more bearable than the cities that rejected Jesus. That’s harsh!! Then, Jesus thanked his Father for the faith that lived in his disciples.

Then suddenly the words of Matthew 11:28-30 came out of Jesus’ mouth.

Of course, we rightly find rest in the forgiveness of sins that Jesus freely gives to all who believe in him. These sins make us “weary and burdened,” but his grace comforts and renews us.

But aren’t we also burdened, as Jesus was, by the unbelieving world. So many reject him and openly live contrary to his will. Aren’t we, like John the Baptist, burdened by doubts as the events we see around us do not match up to our expectations? Doesn’t the relative “doom and gloom” of most of Matthew 11 match what we see going on in a sinful world?

Jesus’ words thunder to those who live in this sinful world. In him is rest. No, the problems of life may not disappear – his “yoke” may not (will not!) go away. But in the midst of whatever today brings or tomorrow threatens, “you will find rest for your souls” in Jesus. His love has not stopped and will never stop. His plan for you, carried out when he died and rose for you, is that you be with him forever in heaven. You may face burdens today, but by faith, you know the rest of a Savior who will not leave you. Trust in him and know the true rest that your Lord wants you to have.

 

Pastor Aufdemberge

Pastor Kneser

Pastor Wempner

Pastor Zarling



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Facing Dangers

The Christian constantly faces two opposite, but deadly, dangers. Read the following from Martin Luther:

“Without the Holy Spirit hearts are either hardened in sins or they despair. But both are contrary to the will of God. By the Holy Spirit the godly navigate between the satanic Scylla and Charybdis [see explanation below, if needed] and cast themselves upon the superabundant and infinite mercy of God. They confess their sins, but at the same time they also confess the immeasurable mercy of God.” (What Luther Says, p. 662)

[Scylla and Charybdis were sea monster in Greek mythology. Scylla was a six-headed monster on a rocky cliff and Charybdis spit out water that created a giant whirlpool. They were located so close to each other that to avoid one meant getting too close to the other. The myth is probably the origin of the English phrase “between a rock and a hard place.”]

Luther used Scylla and Charybdis to picture the two deadly temptations we constantly face: hardened heart or despair — God doesn’t want either of those attitudes in us.

Pride causes hearts to become hardened. I do my best. I’m better than most people. I go to church or went to a Lutheran grade school and/or high school. Pick the reason, the heart that is proud is looking at itself, not at Jesus!

Despair overcomes hearts that focus on their failures, sins, and troubles. With this focus, a person feels unworthy and views their situation as hopeless. In the end, this heart is not looking at Jesus either.

Look at Jesus and see God’s grace for you. Do not look at Jesus so you can ignore and indulge your sins. Confess your sins; wrestle against them as you grow into Christ. But never stop looking at Jesus as your source of hope and strength. In him you will always find forgiveness. In him, you are righteous before God. Let this be your comfort and strength as you daily focus your faith on his love for you.

Lamentations 3:22–24 "Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."

 

Pastor Aufdemberge

Pastor Kneser

Pastor Wempner

Pastor Zarling



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Comfort and Strength

The Bible is an endless source of comfort and strength for new believers and life-long believers alike. Read the following section from 1 Peter. The verses teach us about what Jesus has done for us; what this means for our Christian living; conversion; the Word of God; and other doctrines. With these relatively few verses you will find plenty to feed your faith and guide your life of service. 

1 Peter 1:13–2:3 (NIV):
"Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.


And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence. For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was chosen before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the times for you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.


By obedience to the truth, having purified yourselves for sincere love of the brothers, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again —not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God. For

All flesh is like grass,
and all its glory like a flower of the grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord endures forever.

And this is the word that was preached as the gospel to you.


So rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it for your salvation, since you have tasted that the Lord is good."

 

Pastor Aufdemberge

Pastor Kneser

Pastor Wempner

Pastor Zarling



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