Pastor’s Newsletter Articles
Have you ever felt trapped? Many situations in life can make us feel that way. We may feel trapped because of an injury or illness or chronic health condition; especially if they interfere with our life and may even isolate us from everyone else for an extended period. We may feel trapped in a thankless or grueling work situation. Or, on the flipside, we may feel trapped in unemployment with no hope for work on the horizon. Maybe we’ve been stuck in a toxic home life and felt unsure about how to escape. Debt can lead to a feeling of entrapment, too, especially if it’s from foolish choices or tragic circumstances. Since the fall, humans have been guided by Satan and their own sinful flesh to slip into addictions, commit crimes of all kinds, tell lies, spread gossip, all of which cause hurt and bring about a prison of guilt and shame. Indeed, there’s a long list of situations we could tally where we may feel trapped.
Being stuck in a circumstance that doesn’t seem to have an easy escape can be debilitating to our spirit. It can eliminate hope, fuel anxiety, and lead to depression. It can also lead us to make poor choices out of desperation. But if we remember who we are ~ redeemed children of God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus ~ then the truth is, we are not trapped. We are blessed. We are blessed because He is with us in our worst moments and He promises to guide us to our best. As God’s children any situation we encounter is temporary and our freedom in Christ is permanent. Consider these verses and find comfort in them:
Psalm 118:5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free.
John 8:31 Jesus said to those who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
1 Peter 2:16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
Whether you feel trapped by circumstances out of your control or ones that you caused by your choices know this: Jesus fixed it all on the cross. In your baptism you were called to belong to Jesus forever. Trust in His promises. Put your hope in Him and don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help. Call and confide in a Christian you trust for advice and help if needed.
Also, be a person of comfort for others if you’re able. Spread love, reclaim joy, center yourself with peace, endure hardships with forbearance, be kind, be good, stay faithful to God and gentle with others. Control what you can in your personal circle of responsibility and trust God with the rest. These are the fruits you have to give to others regardless of your temporary circumstance because the Spirit of Christ lives in you and He lives in you forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
A Letter to the Church
The Apostle Paul visited the Greek town of Thessalonica during one of his missionary journeys. While there, he helped to build and fashion the workings of the young Christian Church. Due to persecution, described in Acts 17, he was forced out of the area and had to leave sooner than planned. As a result, he wrote two letters to the Thessalonians to encourage them and guide them. How thankful are we today to still be able to read, apply, and share these words with our fellow Christians. Let’s take a look at what Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28:
Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Paul’s words were timely and important for the Church to receive back then. It is also easy to see that they are timely and important for the Church today. By God’s grace may we ever strive to honor Him, love our neighbor, and hold fast to the truths taught to us in these precious sections of Holy Scripture. As we endeavor to rejoin as a group for worship in our sanctuary, may we be inspired to rejoice, pray, and give thanks for the opportunities set before us to share the Good News of Christ and Him crucified for the salvation of all people. In His Name. Amen.
God Cares About You
“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. John 21:3-6
Does God truly care about the problems we face? Is He genuinely concerned about the trials and troubles we go through? It’s not uncommon for Christians to seek answers to questions like these. Thankfully, God is happy to supply them.
Look at what the resurrected Jesus did for His disciples in Galilee. They had spent a long night fishing and had caught nothing. Now, early in the morning, they were returning to the shore, exhausted and frustrated. Jesus saw them and demonstrated His concern for them by telling them to cast their nets once again. The large number of fish they miraculously harvested revealed an amazing God who cared about them.
The care Jesus showed to His disciples He also shows to you. In the miracle of Baptism He gathered you into His church for eternity. He daily cleanses our repentant souls with the blood of His cross. He is concerned about every aspect of your life: body, mind, soul, and spirit; today, tomorrow, and forever. He has even prepared a place for you in heaven. Here are some verses that are good to remember:
Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you. Psalm 55:22
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1
The Lord is trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all He does. Psalm 145:13
The wondrous care Jesus showed to His disciples He also graciously shows to you. Knowing that Jesus makes our burdens His own, we are better prepared to shoulder the problems of others. In doing so, we reflect our Savior’s concern for their lives.
Thank you for the kindness you show to others, especially during these difficult times!
He is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Do you remember Job? Do you remember how God allowed Satan to wreak havoc in his life? Do you remember how his friends often gave no real counsel but hurled accusations at him? Do you remember how he lamented his life, questioned God, and decided it would have been better if he had not been born? Through it all, however, Job was blessed. Not only did God have a plan to protect and restore Job on earth, He also had a plan to bring Job into the heavenly realms where he would reap the joys of salvation for all eternity. In the darkest moments of Job’s trials, he knew by faith this was true.
In chapter 19 verses 23-27 he said:
Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!
What a blessing for us that Job’s words were indeed written down. Even though he didn’t know it at the time, Job’s challenges, faith, and testimony would be shared in the pages of Holy Scripture for all to see. His belief in a Redeemer was fulfilled in the arrival of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, who lived, died, and rose again for the salvation of all people. The same Jesus who, before He took His rightful place at the right hand of God, said in John 14:1-3:
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me, so that you may also be where I am.
It is my prayer that during times of earthly challenges, you may find peace and joy knowing that your Redeemer, Jesus Christ, lives. He is on His throne and He is in our hearts. Let us trust Him and let us praise Him through the tests and trials this life brings us. Like Job, we will join the saints in the heavenly realms for all eternity. Like Job, we will one day behold our Redeemer with our flesh restored. Hymn 461 in our LSB was inspired by Job’s words and is a familiar Easter hymn. Let us offer our praise through some verses.
I know that my Redeemer lives: what comfort this sweet sentence gives! He lives, He lives, who once was dead; He lives, my ever-living head. Vs 1.
He lives to silence all my fears; He lives to wipe away my tears; He lives to calm my troubled heart; He lives all blessings to impart. Vs. 5
He lives and grants me daily breath; He lives, and I shall conquer death; He lives my mansion to prepare; He lives to bring me safely there. Vs. 7
He lives, all glory to His name! He lives, my Jesus, still the same; Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives: I know that my Redeemer lives! Vs. 8
Resurrection peace and joy to you now and always!
Commandments 1 & 2: A Closer Look
In this month’s newsletter, we take a closer look at the first two commandments and the Catechism’s explanation of them. Remember that the commandments play two important roles in the life of a Christian: Like a mirror they show us our sin and our need for a Savior; As a guide they teach how to live a God-pleasing life.
The First Commandment: You shall have no other gods.
What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
The only true God is the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is one divine being with three distinct persons. We are to revere Him alone as the highest being, honor Him with our lives, and avoid what displeases Him. We dishonor God and break this commandment when we fear, love, or trust any person, place, thing, or event more than Him. We love God above all things when we cling to Him alone as our God and devote our lives to His service.
The Second Commandment: You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.
God forbids us to misuse His name by verbalizing it uselessly or carelessly to curse, swear, and deceive. Satanic arts include witchcraft, fortune-telling, and trusting in horoscopes. Speaking evil of God or mocking Him is blaspheming His name. We are permitted to take an oath in a handful of circumstances such as promising to tell the truth in a court of law. However, making thoughtless oaths or breaking important ones goes against this commandment. Teaching false doctrine is a misuse of His name. Calling upon God’s name in every trouble and seeking His help and guidance is a right use of His name. So is offering Him our prayers, praises, and thanks.
Prayer: Oh Lord, Your Name is above every name, and we desire to honor only You as our God. Forgive us for the times we allow the things of this world to take the place of You. Forgive us for dishonoring Your name when we are overcome with temptations. Cleanse us anew with the blood Christ shed for us. Strengthen us with the presence of Your Holy Spirit in our hearts, homes, and lives. We lay this petition before You in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
The 10 Commandments: A Closer Look
On Mount Sinai, God presented the Ten Commandments to Moses. Moses carried the two tablets of stone down the mountain to God’s chosen people, the Israelites. The first three commandments are about serving God. Jesus summarized those by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” The other seven commandments are about serving God by way of serving our neighbor. Jesus summarized those by saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
In future newsletters, we’ll be taking a closer look at the Ten Commandments. If you have Luther’s Small Catechism, I encourage you to continue using it to meditate on them. The Ten Commandments are not an outdated list of recommendations given to a generation long gone. Instead, they are God’s moral requirements for all people of all times. Jesus explained in Matthew chapter 5:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
In the Catechism, Martin Luther described the three main uses of God’s Law, the Ten Commandments. The first use of the Law is that of a curb. Through fear of punishment, the Law keeps the sinful nature of both Christians and non-Christians in check. The second use is that of a mirror. The Law serves as a perfect reflection of what God created the human heart and life to be. It shows the Christian who compares their life to God’s requirements for perfection that they are sinful. The third use of the Law is that of a guide. The Law becomes the believer’s helper. Empowered by the gospel truth of forgiveness and righteousness in Christ, the believer’s new self eagerly desires to live to please the Triune God.
It is my prayer that our life of faith matures as we take a closer look at the Ten Commandments in this new decade. Despite the societal and legal shifts going on around us, let us hold fast to the truths of Scripture. I pray that we remain steadfast in honoring God and loving our neighbor through our church’s mission to Teach Christ, Preach Christ, and Share Christ.
In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15
Wishing on Stars, Acting on Faith
There’s an inspirational quote going around that says, “Why wish upon a star when you can pray to the One who created it?” It’s a nice sentiment. I wonder how many times people have made wishes upon a star, or birthday candles, or coins tossed into fountains.
Regardless of what we wish for or what we wish upon, there is only one Source who controls our destiny on earth and beyond. The wise men written about in the Gospel of Matthew knew this. For they, who spent time studying stars, acted on faith. They didn’t wish upon the star when it appeared. Rather, they packed up their belongings and made a long, arduous journey to meet the Creator of this star.
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.Matthew 2:10-12
In faith, these Magi from the East gave gifts to the One who came into the world to grant more than temporal wishes. This Child is the One who by His cross would deliver them from sin, death, and the devil. He came to give them salvation and eternal life.
Our loving God still pours out faith and salvation upon His Church today. His Holy Word is the means by which He guides us each step of our journey to our heavenly home. It is my prayer for this new year that we, as members of His Church, study the Scriptures often so that we may hold fast to the faith planted in our hearts. It is also my prayer that we continually act upon our faith even as we pray to the One who set the starts in place for us.
Holy Jesus, every day keep us in the narrow way; and when earthly things are past, bring our ransomed souls at last where they need no star to guide, where no clouds Thy glory hide.
In the heavenly country bright need they no created light; Thou its light, its joy, its crown, Thou its sun which goes not down; there forever may we sing Alleluias to our King.
–LSB 397 vs 4 & 5