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Freedom For ... (June 29, 2022)

Dear Servants of Christ,

“Freedom from” or “freedom for” are two different freedoms. This time of year, many celebrate “freedom from.” Freedom from … school as we start our summer break … work as we take that needed vacation … tyranny as we prepare to celebrate Independence Day. “Freedom from” is how we often think of “freedom.” 

Why is “freedom from” so cherished? In part it’s about perspective. We’re freed from something curbing our ability to live as we would prefer. It’s this kind of freedom that enables us to live the lives we want. But if you think about it, that can lead to self-centered approaches for using the gift of freedom?

St. Paul says, “For you were called to freedom … Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13) Paul speaks of not only “freedom from” – slavery to sin, death, and the devil; but also about “freedom for” – a purpose. God has freed us FOR serving and loving others with the many gifts He’s given us – time, talent, and treasure. We’re freed FOR using them freely while also trusting God to replenish them, so we’ll never run short. No need to worry that we’ll not have time to do something, talent to complete it, or money to pay for it.

When we live this way, the anger, enmity, and strife caused by frustration that things aren’t going our way begins to vanish. The rivalry, envy, and division caused by comparing our apparent shortages with others’ abundance starts to fade. The need to drown our feelings in abusive behaviors, like drunkenness, goes away. Our new freedom, founded on trust in God, leads to lives filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:23). Why? Because we’re FREED FROM thinking about “what if, what might be, what could’ve been” and FREED FOR thinking about the possibilities God has enabled through Jesus Christ and our faith in Him and His promises of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

                                                                                                        In His Service,

                                                                                                        Pastor Jim

Grateful Dudes (June 24, 2022)

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Dear Sons and Daughters of God,

A belated Happy Father’s Day to the dads! We’ve all had different “father” experiences that drive our images of “father”. My own father wasn’t around much. Work consumed much of his time early on. Then, after my parents divorced, he moved away for work. But through it all, he took care of my needs – putting food on the table, clothes on my back, and a roof over my head. And when I went off to college, he never failed to send a regular check to help me eat, remain clothed, and stay sheltered. My image of a father is someone who, despite infrequent physical presence, always tried providing for my needs. A shirt of mine expresses my thoughts, I’m a “Grateful dude.”

We learn something of the character of God, our Father in heaven, in His word. God provides us – and all people everywhere – with all that’s needed to live in this life He’s given us. Everything needed – food, drink, clothing, shelter, and the like – comes from God to all in this world (Matthew 5:44-45). But He desires to give even more. He desires for us to call Him “Father.” And by His grace, we can. Through His gift of baptism, God adopts each of us as His own sons and daughters (Galatians 3:26-27, 4:4-5). We become, in fact, children of God, calling out to Him.

Our Father still provides for all our physical needs. But He also longs to provide so much more. “Because (we) are (His children), God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:6) As we cry out to our Father in prayer, He hears us. He answers us. He provides us with all we need in this life … AND so much more! He gives us all we need to gain eternal life in His kingdom – forgiveness of sins on account of Jesus Christ. This Father’s Day let’s express our gratitude to God our Father for providing for ALL our needs – both now and in eternity!

                                                                                                        In His Love,

                                                                                                        Pastor Jim

3-in-1, 1-in-3 (June 15, 2022)

Dear Children of God,

If you’re a stargazer, you’re likely familiar with “Orion’s Belt” which appears, to the naked eye over 1200 light-years away, to be three stars – Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. But, taking a very close look, Alnitak and Mintaka, the belt’s two end stars, are each three stars rotating about each other. And they are two of hundreds of thousands of “stars” that are, in reality, multiple-stars. Failing to understand the reality of multiple-stars caused confusion among astronomers for centuries. But, when scientists understood this reality, their calculations fell into place. It’s amazing what a closer look reveals.

In some ways, we see God in ways that mirror our earthly view of the stars He created. When we look at God from a distance, we’re tempted to see God as one entity … one God. And for many in the world, that’s what they claim to see. One God. For example, Muslims see “Allah” and Jews see “Yahweh”. But, when you take a closer look at God through His scriptures, which reveal Him as He truly is, we see something a little different. While God’s word doesn’t include the words “trinity” or “triune” His word does reveal that He is also three persons while still being one God. How can this be? It’s a mystery, something we know from evidence to be true, but at the same time, remains unexplainable.

Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” There is one God. But we also read in the opening words of Genesis that God created all things, the Spirit of God was present, and the Word of God caused light to come into existence (Genesis 1:1-3) and “The Word was with God, and the Word was God … and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1,14). A closer look at God, viewed through the lens of His scriptures, reveals God is three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet remains also one God. The mystery of the Trinity, the one true God.

                                                                                                        In the Love of God,

                                                                                                        Pastor Jim

The Helper (June 7, 2022)

File:Modern Tutor.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

CREDIT: AsteroidComet

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We pride ourselves on our independence and rugged individualism. But we individuals all need help at times. When I was a student struggling with math, I needed help to get through calculus. As much as my independent, rugged individualistic self hated it, I was lost. I needed a helper. So, I went to a tutor, who helped me understand “math with no numbers” – calculus. 

There are times when our life of faith is a bit like that calculus class. It can be hard to understand what God is up to. In fact, it’s impossible to do so on our own. And God our Father knows this; so, He has sent us “the Helper, the Holy Spirit … (to) teach us all things and bring to (our) remembrance all that (Jesus has) said to you” (John 14:26). And just as Jesus promised, the Helper, the Holy Spirit, came on Pentecost, enabling many thousands to hear God’s word from Peter and to believe in Jesus’ saving work on the Cross (Acts 2). The same Holy Spirit, alive and active today, enables us to believe in Jesus also.

In Luther’s Small Catechism (LSC), on the basis of God’s word, we learn that the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, enables us believe and understand the incredible gift our Father has given to all of us in His Son, Jesus Christ who suffered and died on the Cross – that we might receive forgiveness of sins; and rose from the dead – that we might also receive eternal life (LSC, Explanation of the Creed, Articles 2 and 3). 

The Holy Spirit continues to bring many to understand all Jesus did and said. Because of the Holy Spirit, you and I have come to saving faith in Jesus. Because of Him we can also tell others about Jesus that they too can come to believe – also receiving forgiveness and eternal life. This is ONLY possible because of the Helper, the Holy Spirit. Without Him, we’d be lost. Thanks be to God for sending Him!

                                                                                                        In Christ’s Love,

                                                                                                        Pastor Jim

Always There for Us (June 1, 2022)

Tin Can Telephone - Openclipart

Dear Brothers and Sisters of Our Ascended Lord,

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Among the modern technologies I marvel at is that thing strapped to my belt, my cell phone. Why? Because it gives me great comfort knowing that no matter where I am, if I find myself in need of help, I can get it with a touch of a few buttons. It’s as if help is always there; because, in a way, it is – as long as the batteries don’t run out or coverage doesn’t disappear.

For forty days after Jesus’ resurrection the disciples had a direct connection with their risen Lord, Jesus Christ. He appeared to them eating, drinking, teaching, and, I’m guessing, many other things (John 20:30). Then, on the fortieth day, Jesus left them – slowly ascending back to His Father in heaven (Luke 24:51). Their direct connection appeared to be gone also … but listen to their response, “And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:52-53). Why would they react in this way? Because they trusted Jesus’ promise that they wouldn’t be alone. The Holy Spirit would come upon them to guide them on their mission. Moreover, His Father had placed Him on His eternal throne reigning over all things as the head of His church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23). Through prayer and the Holy Spirit, their connection to Jesus remained with them.

This same connection remains with us always. We have no need to worry about batteries or coverage with Jesus, our risen and ascended Lord. He’s always available to us, whenever we call on Him. He is ready to help us in all things. We just need to reach out to Him in faith. What a great comfort for us all!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

                                                                                In the Love of Christ Ascended,

                                                                                Pastor Jim

Help! (May 25, 2022)

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Dear Children of God,

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

“Help! Please help!” Such a cry might lead to someone coming to my rescue, but if I really want someone to come, I’ll be more specific, “Mom! Help! Please fix my shirt.” “Fred! Help! Please help me get my computer running!” “Sally! Help! Please help me change this flat!” Then, having called on a person I have faith in, with the necessary skills, I’ll get the help I need – or at least get started solving my dilemma.

As God’s children, we have someone to call on for help no matter what – our Father in heaven. Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He will give it to you” (John 16:23). “In my name” – we ask the Father in Jesus’ name – we call on Jesus for help! “The name” is key. Calling “in the name” of Jesus shows where our faith is placed. We place our faith in … Jesus. Calling “in the name” of Jesus shows where our trust lies. Our trust lies in … Jesus. We have FAITH God will hear and answer our call to Him; TRUSTING He will answer with what we need, when we need it according to His good, perfect, holy will because Jesus told us so. 

Of course, there are times when we ask for something and we receive another thing, including “no thing.” This doesn’t mean Jesus’ teaching is wrong though. God hears our prayers. Then He responds as a good, loving Father should respond –giving His children what we need at just the right time, not what we might want when we desire it. It’s all about FAITH and TRUST – in Jesus and His promises. As children of God, we believe Jesus’ Father, our Father, loves us and provides all we need as we journey through this life into the eternal kingdom of heaven, His new creation. There we’ll never be short of anything ever again! Thank You Father! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

                                                                                                        In Our Father’s Love,

                                                                                                        Pastor Jim

Love Sweet as Honey (May 18, 2022)

Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

There’s a saying, “You can catch more bees with honey than vinegar.” I’m not sure if that’s a scientifically proven fact “bee catchers” would follow, but the point really isn’t about catching bees anyway. The point is actually about drawing people, especially those who are not on your side of things, to yourself by a little sweetness instead of trying to argue them over to your side.

As Jesus served His disciples the Passover meal on the night of His last supper with them, He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). Jesus desires for His disciples to show Himself to “all people” everywhere. After all, He came into the world because His Father loved the world – all of it … not just portions of it – and wanted to save the world – all of it … not just portions of it (John 3:16). And the way disciples show Jesus to the world is by living their lives in a way that’s consistent with His word … living lives that show they love God by loving their neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40) with “selfless, sacrificial acts done without expecting anything in return” – the definition of “true love” according to God and His word. 

As Jesus’ disciples in the 21st century, these words are for us too. God calls us to also “love one another” that through our true love – “agape” (αγαπη) love – others would know we’re Jesus disciples. Through the “sweetness” of our true love, others in the world would be drawn to Jesus asking us, “Why do you act that way?” In response we can invite them, “Let me tell you why. I follow a man named Jesus. Would you like to hear about Him and what He’s done for me?”

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

                                                                                                        In the Love of Christ,

                                                                                                        Pastor Jim

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