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The Rest of the Story (April 21, 2021)

Dear Easter Friends,

Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

When I was a kid, a man named Paul Harvey was noted for a daily program called (I think) “And Now, The Rest of the Story”. He’d take a story everyone was familiar with and provide interesting insights into the lead up to the famous story, or what happened after the story took place. For example – after telling a story about a bumbling, up to his eyes in debt barkeeper who became a lawyer after losing a couple of bankruptcy cases he ended with, “… and now you know the rest of the story of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. Good day.”

After Easter, we hear the familiar account of Jesus’ upper room appearance to His disciples in John’s gospel. The one where He breathes the Holy Spirit upon them, gives them power to forgive sins, then a week later, helps Thomas to believe by showing him His scarred hands and side. It would appear from John that only Thomas had his doubts. But Luke tells us – the rest of the story. Luke tells us more about Jesus sudden appearance in the upper room (Luke 24:36-49). Here we see that they too had their doubts. They too needed proof that Jesus was, in fact, alive. It wasn’t until they also saw Jesus’ nail scarred hands and feet and watched Him eat some broiled fish that they believed He was alive. 

Then He proceeded to open their minds to understand the scriptures; everything Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms said about Him. He told them clearly how He alone fulfilled the promises found in what we call the Old Testament. Finally, He said, “You are the witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48). The disciples had a hard time believing too. But Jesus enabled them to believe so they could pass the stories along that we too “by believing may have life in His name” (John 19:31). And now we know the rest of the story. Good day.

                                                                                        In the Risen Christ’s Love,

                                                                                        Pastor Jim

No Islands Unto Oneself (April 14, 2021)

Photo by Martine Jacobsen on Unsplash 

Dear Easter Friends,

Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

I think one of the most satisfying things in life is the ability to help someone in need. Whether it’s through something I know or have, it gives me a good feeling to know I can use the gifts I have to help someone besides myself. After all, “No person is an island unto themselves.” It does take others to get through life.

The idea that we’re here to help others shouldn’t be news to us – it’s the way God created us. After all, in the very beginning, God noted it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone, so He created a helper for him (Genesis 2:18). As Jesus prepared His disciples for life without Him in a physical sense, Jesus knew they’d need someone to help them out. He promised them a Helper – the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-27). And the Helper filled these men and women in ways they couldn’t imagine as they came together as “one heart and soul … having everything in common” (Acts 4:32). And as a result of being one with each other, they also worked diligently to give what they had, from among the generous provision of God, to whomever had need (Acts 4:34-35). Trusting God would continue to supply their needs, they had no fear about giving to others to ensure nobody was lacking.

As modern-day disciples, God continues to richly bless us with many different gifts. He gives all of us the gift of life and mixes in time, talent, and treasure as He sees fit. Guided by the Holy Spirit, He launches us all into the world to be His hands and feet to help any and all in need by giving freely and generously from the gifts He has blessed us with – trusting His promise to refill the coffers from which we give. So, let us rejoice in God’s loving provision and then respond to His love by helping any and all in need with the gifts He has given us.

                                                                                        In the Risen Christ’s Love,

                                                                                        Pastor Jim

He is Risen! (April 7, 2021)

white printer paper on brown wooden table

Photo by Joshua Burdick on Unsplash 

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 a body wasn’t “dead” until it showed no life for three days. Jesus was in fact truly dead! Yet three days later, 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

Spoonerisms (March 29, 2021)

Dear Friends and Family,

Have you ever heard of a “spoonerism”? My father-in-law Jerry was known for them – “Sorry to be late, my truck got a tat flier.” “Spoonerisms” sound like verbal mistakes caused by switching parts of two words in a sentence. A “flat tire” becomes a “tat flier”. Maybe it’s a slip of the tongue. It might also be a play on words emphasizing a point. Reverend Archibald Spooner, famous for this verbal technique, is credited with the “spoonerism”.

Jesus’ life might be called a “living spoonerism”. Paul writes, “Christ Jesus, who, thought He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man” (Philippians 2:5-7). The problem most in Jesus’ day had with His claim to be the Son of God, is He didn’t act like it. In their eyes, the Son of God, should’ve ridden a war horse into Jerusalem to conquer the Roman occupiers and restore Israel’s greatness. What we call “Holy Week” shows the extent of Jesus’ humility. “He humbled Himself … to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8), a death reserved for slaves and the lowliest criminals. A death that took place on that first Good Friday.

Jesus didn’t come into the world to conquer it. He came to conquer sin and death. To do this, He lived as a perfect human being. He humble Himself by submitting to His Father’s will and to those He came to serve. He did all this perfectly – Jesus destroying the power of sin and death to rule over us. Then, on the first Easter, His Father raised Him from the dead. He raised Him to His eternal throne “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 5:10-11). And we who believe in Him, sinful humans all, are forgiven and made worthy to serve Him now, on earth, and in eternity, as His children. Come to think of it, we might be “living spoonerisms” too.

                                                                                        In Christ’s Love,

                                                                                        Pastor Jim

Travel Plans (March 24, 2021)

two men holding luggage on airport

Photo on Unsplash by Calle Macarone

Dear Friends and Family,

When we travel, we might think we’re in charge. But are we? We can’t make reservations without computers and phones. Pilots fly the planes. Handlers make sure our bags arrive with us. Or – the GPS better guide us on the correct route. We need to trust many others to have a good vacation.

Our Christian journey to the Kingdom of Heaven is another kind of trip. But, unlike a vacation, where we might control some parts of the journey, there’s absolutely nothing we can do to get ourselves to this destination.  We only get there by trusting God and His promises.

John 3:16, “The Gospel in a Nutshell,” says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Who loved?  God.  Whom did He love?  The World. How did He love?  Through His only Son.  Who did all the work?  God. All we do is trust and believe in Him who did this work and we’ll be saved from death and receive eternal life.

Paul writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Grace – a gift from God. We can’t buy it or exchange for it.  He does all the work to save us.  All we do is accept His gift in faith. 

Once saved by God’s grace, we’re free to live as He created us to live. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) God has done all the work to save us so we can be His hands and feet as He continues to save others through us.  As we journey together toward eternity, let us love others as God has already loved us by bringing His gospel to all in need through our words and deeds.

                                                                                        In Christ’s Love,

                                                                                        Pastor Jim

String of Pearls (March 17, 2021)

Black Pearls | This is a genuine black pearl necklace, it wa… | Flickr

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

My wife likes black pearls. Good ones are expensive. A while back I found a great deal on a string of high-quality black pearls. So, I bought them and had a necklace and earrings made. What struck me about this string was how beautiful the pearls were when strung together. This was especially apparent when the jeweler cut the string and I saw the pearls roll in separate directions. Fortunately, he restrung them on a solid string with a strong clasp to keep them together.

A string of pearls like the one I gave my wife reminds me of God’s Ten Commandments. I don’t recall where, but I read that these individual pearls are all strung, one next to the other, on the infinitely strong string of God’s 1st commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) They are, when you ponder them deeply, a beautiful gift from God. He strung them together to show us how HE DESIGNED US to live in His creation. However, if you separate the commandments from this string, allow them to roll around, they lose their beauty. 

But God has kept them together. The 1st commandment strings the others TOGETHER as a beautiful gift. Think about it, many – even atheists – think murder is immoral, stealing is bad, and lying is wrong. And they’re correct. But, without being tied together on the infinite strength of God’s word and love found in the 1st commandment, their thoughts are nothing more than good words to live by. 

However, once they’re tied together in God’s word and love we see how we are to live, not only with God, but with all His other creatures. We “fear, love, and trust in God above all things” – Martin Luther’s explanation of the 1st commandment – by responding to His love for us in keeping all the other commandments. And when we fall short, we again respond to His love by returning to Him alone to receive His forgiveness on account of His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.

                                                                                         In Christ’s Love,

                                                                                        Pastor Jim

Testing and Tempting (March 11, 2021)

Photo by Quentin Lagache on Unsplash 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Last Fall, my wife and I went to Maine – one of our favorite places in the world. One of our favorite activities is walking on the rocky beaches, soaking in the sea air, hearing the crashing waves as they crash down on the rocks. The tumult those waves create is a sight to hear and see. It also has a profound effect on the rocks. Every rock has been tossed and turned by the ocean. And over time, the many rough edges get worn down by the intense testing revealing smooth, polished, beautiful stones.

This tossing and turning of the sharp, jagged rocks … forming them into smooth, polished, beautiful stones reminds me of God’s word, “Blessed is the one who remains steadfast under trial, for when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life, which God has promised those who love Him.” (James 1:12) These trials, or tests, don’t happen because God delights in seeing us tossing and turning in the world. They happen because of sin, which we have brought upon ourselves. However, in these times of trial, our faith is tested. Where do we turn? Do we turn to God – trusting Him above all else; or do we trust another whom Satan is using to try to tear us away from God? When we trust God, He provides the way through (not necessarily out of) the trial we’re facing. In these times, our faith is strengthened a little bit more … the hard, jagged edges of our sin-filled hearts are smoothed a touch. 

During our Lenten journey, we remember that whenever we’re tested – or tempted – God our Father is with us. Just as He was with Jesus when He endured betrayal, suffering, and death on the cross. Because Jesus made it through that trial, we’re strengthened to face the difficulties we face. And, when we succumb to Satan’s temptation, falling into sin – God picks us up, wipes us clean, forgives our sin, and sets us back on course to His eternal kingdom.

                                                                                        In Christ’s Love,

                                                                                        Pastor Jim

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