"Five Hundred Fifty Words-Or Less" Pastor's Blog

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Found in Translation (May 22, 2024)

 

CREDIT: Susan Fogleman

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I must admit I’m sometimes lost when talking to people of other generations – whether they’re older than me or younger. I know they’re speaking English, but sometimes their word choices don’t line up with my personal understanding. It’s almost like they’re speaking a foreign language. Fortunately, I have my wife around to help me from getting lost in translation. She is uniquely adept at understanding young and old alike … at least the strange words they use. Probably because she’s an avid reader who gets exposed to more “people” than I do.

Translating “foreign” languages into understandable words has always been a valuable skill. Without it, it’s nearly impossible to communicate. Foreign language – not just slang – came about because people were too easily working together, trying to become God, while building a tower upwards to heaven – rather than trusting God to reach down to them (Genesis 11). 

But God desired to bring His people back to Himself through His word. His work continued as Jews and converts from across the world gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost (The Feast of Weeks) after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven. The Holy Spirit became the divine translator. He enabled Jesus’ disciples to speak the language of all these pilgrims so they could hear the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection to save them and all mankind from the eternal effects of sin.

Today this news continues spreading everywhere as the full Bible has been translated into over 700 languages – including some interesting slang languages! The Holy Spirit helps us understand God’s grace and mercy in any language! The Holy Spirit guides us all into a continual, lifelong immersion in God’s word through our prayer and worship so we can keep serving God and others who need to be brought to faith too. Then, giving us words to speak and actions to accomplish, the Spirit leads us into the world … living in accord with God’s word – bringing His gospel to them … that they too might come to faith in Christ. 

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Jim 

Thank You Mom ... (May 15, 2024)

Dear Easter Friends,

Alleluia! Christ is risen. 

Happy Mother’s Day! It can be hard to find common ground sometimes, but there is one thing we should agree on – we all have mothers. I recognize we don’t all have the same “mother experience”; however, we still thank God for our mothers – the ones who bore us, the ones who cared for us, the ones who love us. Our lives come from God, through them, to us. May God bless and keep you all.

One of the things I learned from my mom is something I’ll never forget. She’s the one who modeled Christ for me by teaching me to pray. Following her teacher, she taught me the Lord’s Prayer. 

Of course, my mom had a great role model to follow – Jesus! As you read the four gospels, they record Jesus praying at least 38 times. And we can be pretty sure that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of His unrecorded prayer life! John 17, as His “last supper” with His disciples comes to an end, records one of His most powerful prayers – in my opinion that is – as He prays for Himself (John 17:1-5) … His closest disciples (John 17:6-19) … and, finally, us. Can you imagine that … Jesus actually prays for us! Jesus prays, “I do not ask for these only (the 12 He prays for in v6-19), but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.” (John 17:20-21) 

Jesus prays for us! He prays that we will come to believe in Him by the words of His Apostles. Then He prays that we will allow ourselves to be used to help others also come to believe in Him. Think about that! God Himself. Praying for us! That others also come to faith because of us. Amen!

He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

                                                                                                In the Risen Christ’s Love,

                                                                                        Pastor Jim

The Easter Tree (May 8, 2024)

CREDIT: www.rawpixel.com

Dear Easter People,

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

How many of you still have your Easter Tree up? You might be thinking, “Pastor Jim is a bit confused.” But I’m not. Though I rarely think about it as such, I do put up an Easter Tree – a white cross. My Easter tree goes up in my front yard from Good Friday to Pentecost to remind me, and others, about the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection! 

In the days of Jesus and before, what we call “the cross” was often called a “tree.” In fact, if you look up Old Testament verses that address crucifixion, they sometimes refer to crucifixion as being hung from a tree (e.g. Deuteronomy 21:22-23). In Acts, Peter was led by the Holy Spirit to baptize a Roman centurion and his family, Gentiles who were strangers to God. Peter followed the Holy Spirit’s guidance and taught Cornelius and his family the central truth of Christian beliefs, “They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree, but God raised Him on the third day and made Him appear …” (Acts 10:39-40) And as Peter taught, the Holy Spirit came upon Cornelius and his family. He enabled them to hear, understand, and believe Peter’s testimony about Jesus … just like Jesus’ closest disciples. Peter immediately baptized them into the new Christian faith.

You and I have been baptized into the same Christian faith as Cornelius and his family. Like them, many of us are so-called “Gentiles” who were not originally part of the family of God. But, like Cornelius, by the power of the Holy Spirit we have heard and believed the gospel, the good news, Peter and all the apostles first proclaimed. And because of Jesus’ death on a tree, and His resurrection to new life we too receive new life. So maybe we should think about putting up an Easter Tree – to remind us about our new life in Christ and to help proclaim the gospel to others who are still outside God’s family.

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In Christ’s Love,

                                                  Pastor Jim

Test the Spirits (May 1, 2024)

CREDIT: rawpixel.com

Dear Easter People,

ALLELUIA!  CHRIST IS RISEN! 

“Fake News” happens when people who can’t handle the truth call what they don’t like “fake” and hope people believe them. But some “fake news” is false. How do you determine the reality? It’s simple, consult the evidence. What does the evidence support? Reliable news is supported by reliable sources and evidence.

In the early church, “fake news” reporters tried pulling people away from the good news of Jesus Christ. Many just couldn’t believe Jesus was also God. Because, if He was God, He couldn’t die. And if He died, He couldn’t possibly rise from the dead. The truth – the Son of God’s death and resurrection are the basis for our faith in God’s good news! 

One the earliest purveyors of “fake news” was a guy named Cerinthus. He taught Jesus wasn’t God, but only carried “God” around with Him. He said Jesus’ divinity only joined Him when He was baptized.  Then, just before He died, His divinity left Him. Cerinthus’ teachings denied core Christian beliefs. 

John wrote to warn Christians about Cerinthus and others spreading fake news; urging them to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1) He advised testing what was heard, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” (1 John 4:2-3) 

The false teaching about Jesus and God’s Word didn’t end with Cerinthus. And just like John’s day, we too can test these teachings. Whether the “fake news” questions Jesus’ divinity, God’s promises, God’s love for all human beings, or even day-to-day matters regarding rights to live, fighting poverty, and human sexuality and marriage let’s test it. God’s direction to the 1st century church still applies – test what’s said against God’s word. When we encounter “fake news,” use God’s word to proclaim the truth.

HE IS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!

                                                                                        In our Risen Savior’s Love,

                                                                                        Pastor Jim

The Good Shepherd (April 24, 2024)

CREDIT: James Tissot

Dear Easter People,

ALLELUIA!  CHRIST IS RISEN! 

I just read an interesting, yet unsurprising, story about some sheep and their “shepherds” in Turkey. I say “shepherds” in quotes because that’s what they called themselves as they ignored their flock during their breakfast. The sheep without shepherds started following one another. Off a cliff. Falling 45-feet to their deaths – as the shepherds looked on in horror. Over 1,500 sheep followed each other off a cliff. Almost 500 of them died. Probably because they broke the falls for the other 1000.

These shepherds are clearly more like the hired hands Jesus speaks of when He calls Himself “the Good Shepherd” and compares Himself to “hired hands.” They were more concerned for their own well-being than the sheep’s – leading them near a dangerous cliff, ignoring them while they took care of feeding themselves.

Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” A good shepherd sacrifices himself for his sheep … giving up his own comfort to keep them safe from danger. And Jesus is THE Good Shepherd. He gave up more than His comfort, but His actual life for His sheep, including sheep that weren’t even in His flock!

Jesus laid down His life to bring all who are aimlessly wondering around in darkness and danger – including you and me – doomed to fall off a deadly cliff to their deaths because of their ignorance of God’s words of law (which show the sinfulness separating us from God forever) and His words of grace through faith in Jesus (which shows God’s desire to bring us back to Him through His merciful forgiveness).

Today Jesus has called us. We’ve heard His voice and followed Him. Now He uses us to call to others who are still not a part of His flock. Let us allow Him to use us to call to others through our words and works of love that they also become part of one flock under the Good Shepherd.

HE IS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!

                                                                                        In the Love of our Risen Savior,

                                                                                                Pastor Jim

Believe It to See It (April 17, 2024)

Eyes | [...] Nature and Books belong to the eyes that see th… | Flickr

CREDIT: Riccardo Cuppini on FLICKR

Dear Easter People,

ALLELUIA!  CHRIST IS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!

There’s an old saying we’ve all heard, “Seeing is believing” or it’s cousin, “You’ve got to see it to believe it!”  But there are lots of things we’ve never seen, yet still believe. Why? Because people we trust have told us about them.

The disciples had heard stories about Jesus’ resurrection, but still couldn’t believe He was alive.  It didn’t make any sense to them – until Jesus showed up at dinner on that first night of the week.  They saw Jesus and believed in His resurrection.  But Thomas wasn’t there that night.  He still didn’t believe … and wouldn’t “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25) So, Jesus showed up the following week … to show Thomas His hands and side … Thomas believed.  Then Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

We believe today, not because we’ve literally heeded the old saying, “You’ve got to see it to believe it” but because our Father has given us eyes of faith through the Holy Spirit in our baptisms.  Seeing with eyes of faith we believe the word of the many witnesses recorded in God’s word.  To use the lyric from one of my favorite music groups, U2, which flips the saying on its head and explains how we see Jesus each day and one day will see Him in His kingdom, “You're packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been, A place that has to be believed to be seen.” (Walk On, U2) We believe … and so we see. And seeing through faith, Jesus tells us to go into the world and help others to see Him through our words and deeds of love in response to His love for us.

ALLELUIA!  CHRIST IS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!

                                                                                        In the Love of our Risen Savior,

                                                                                        Pastor Jim

Endless Hope of Easter (April 4, 2024)

Dear Easter People,

ALLELUIA!  CHRIST IS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!

This is the Easter acclimation! Easter is not just a single day. It is in fact a season. But it’s really more, it lasts to eternity. When the eggs are gone, the bunnies consumed, the baskets put away, and the photos have been posted – remember – “CHRIST IS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!” 

Jesus claimed to be “the Son of God.”  He taught from the Holy Scriptures. He performed miracles. He raised people from the dead. But many had made similar claims and performed similar deeds. Prophets and rabbis taught from the Holy Scriptures. The Old Testament tells of mighty men of God performing miracles. Jesus’ disciples even raised people from the dead (Acts 9:40-41). However, none of these were God. But Jesus is who He claims – God! 

Jesus died on the cross. He was dead!  A guard drove a spear into His body – the blood and water that had settled in His chest poured out. He was buried in a sealed tomb for three days. “Three days” is significant. Many believed bodies weren’t “dead” until they showed no life for three days. Jesus was in fact truly dead! Yet, on the third day, Jesus appeared to His disciples alive.

Jesus’ resurrection proves He is who He says He is – God. As God, His word and promise are true for all mankind. He says He forgives our sins – they are forgiven – no matter how bad we think they are!  He says He will raise us to eternal life – we will be raised to eternal life. As Easter people, we “confess with (our) mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in (our) heart that God raised Him from the dead and (are) saved.” (Romans 10:9) One day, we will be raised to new life. We will join all who believe in Jesus and His promises in His eternal kingdom. Why? Because CHRIST IS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED! We celebrate and shout this fact not just today, but every day! Amen!

                                                                                        In the Love of our Risen Savior,

                                                                                        Pastor Jim

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