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Happy New Year! (December 2, 2021)

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash 

Dear Servants of the King,

Happy New Year! I know we’re barely past Thanksgiving and Christmas is still a few weeks away. But the Advent season is the start of a new year - the new church year. “Happy New Year!”

On new year’s we remember the past year while looking to the future. First, we take stock of all God has given us – thanking Him for His abundant provision and for the strength to endure the hardships we’ve encountered. Then we look forward in hope to the future and how we can better use the time, talent, and treasure God provides to us each day to serve Him and His creation.

The new church year begins with Advent, a season of waiting for the coming of Christ and the hope He brings. For many, the focus of their waiting is Christmas. However, for Christians, we know Jesus has already been born. What are we hopefully waiting for? His return. As we wait, we hope. In His return, Jesus will deliver on the hopes Christians have had, and still have, since Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1:6-11). We live in hope, knowing He’ll return to bring all who believe Him into His kingdom forever.

His promise is found in His word; delivered by prophets like Jeremiah, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah …  In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely” (Jeremiah 33:14, 16). As God’s people today, we are the new Jerusalem. We are the inheritors of this promise. We live in the sure and certain hope that God will fulfill this promise just as He has fulfilled all His promises.

This new year we continue to wait. We wait in hope trusting God’s promises, knowing He’ll return. God has promised to save us. Jesus, born over 2000 years ago on the first Christmas, will return to save us. And when He does, our hope will become our reality. Happy New Year!

                                                                                                        Waiting Hopefully,

                                                                                                        Pastor Jim

Anticipation (November 24, 2021)

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Dear Children of God,

This time of year includes great anticipation. Some are anticipating the celebrations, festivals, and feasts to come – Thanksgiving, holiday gatherings, Christmas, and New Year’s along with all the happiness, joy, and fun which attends them. Others are anticipating … the difficulty, trials, and even sadness coming with these same events. For whatever reason – perhaps the loss of loved ones and friends, maybe conflicts with others, or a simple lack of energy – these days are hard to deal with. But we see the calendar turn to November. We know they’re coming, so we prepare as best we can.

The calendar also tells us we are coming to the end of the church year. And we hear in our readings a lot about another day we anticipate – the Day of the Lord, Jesus’ promised return at the end of the ages. However, unlike Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and the various parties along the way, this day is not marked on a calendar. We know it’s coming, “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him …” (Revelation 1:7a). But only one person, God our Father in heaven knows when that day will actually arrive (Mark 13:32).

Some anticipate this day with dread. For those who don’t believe in Christ and His promises, the fear of the end of all things as they know it can be a terrible thing to ponder. Rather than face the reality of God’s promise, many in this boat simply ignore the reality – pretending it won’t really happen. But for others, in spite of the tribulations to come – darkened suns and moons and stars falling from the heavens and the world shaking and quaking (Mark 13:24-25), we anticipate Christ’s return with joy. Why? Because on the great Day of Christ’s promised return, He will gather all who believe in Him into His holy and eternal presence (Mark 13:26-27). On that great Day, we know we will be welcomed with all the Children of God into His new creation, the eternal Kingdom of Heaven.

                                                                                                        Patiently Waiting In Christ’s Love,

                                                                                                        Pastor Jim

 

A Burning Fire (November 17, 2021)

people grilling marshmallows

Photo by Josh Campbell on Unsplash 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The other day my wife and I hosted the church youth group for an afternoon of fellowship. We had a great time playing frisbee golf, roasting hot dogs and making S’mores on the firepit, and hanging out. The best part of the whole afternoon was that last part, hanging out. Why? Because God created us to be in relationship with one another … not to be a bunch of “lone rangers” stuck on our little islands.

At the center of our gathering was the firepit. Here we warmed up after our games, roasted our hot dogs and S’mores, and sat around sharing stories and fellowship. In the firepit was a cool image of God’s word, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). The collection of many logs and burning coals provided the warmth needed to warm us and cook our food. And when the coals began cooling off, a little stir reignited them. 

God calls on each of us to come together not just to share the latest news and have fun – though that’s part of it – but more importantly to encourage and exhort each other through our many gifts by lovingly helping each other through challenging situations we face during our journeys of faith. We also come together to help each other understand what God is calling us to do in His creation with these gifts as we worship Him, study His word, and pray together.

We aren’t created to stand alone in faith. God creates us to come together in a community of faith. Don’t let your brothers and sisters in Christ stand alone. Invite them into the circle of fellowship to join us in experiencing the warmth of God’s presence while He strengthens our faith through worship and life in the community of all believers as “the Day” draws near. 

                                                                                                        In Christ’s Love,

                                                                                                                Pastor Jim

The Two-Edged Sword (November 2, 2021)

Photo by Ricardo Cruz on Unsplash 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

When we think of a Christian missionary, we probably think of someone doing God’s work in places where God’s word is needed in special ways. We might envision a dedicated, faithful servant of the Lord desiring to share God’s life-saving word with others - acting as the hands and feet of Christ through education, healthcare, construction, agriculture, or some other way. In short what could be more harmless than a Christian missionary showing others Christ’s love!?

The reality – depending on where missionaries serve, they might be viewed as dangerous weapons. I read of a young missionary crossing into an “unfriendly” country. The border guard asked, “Do you have any guns, drugs, or Bibles?” Guns – they’re used to mount insurrections and revolutions. Drugs – they can be used to raise money for criminal elements intent on causing trouble. But Bibles?

They are indeed dangerous. God knows it and tells us, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible, God’s word, proclaims truth and exposes falsehood. It gives courage, strength, and hope to the oppressed. It shows those who think they’re powerful, the one who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and almighty! God’s word, that living and active two-edged sword, destroys even the most unspeakable evil.

As we go through life, we may not be oppressed by a ruthless dictatorship. But we can find ourselves oppressed by Satan and those he works through in the kingdoms of the world. In these times, let us break out the most powerful weapon of all, God’s word and lean on it to fight off the devil and those in league with him. Know that God is ultimately in control. Through Jesus He has already won the battle over our souls. In faith we know that one day, any oppression we’re under now will vanish as we enter eternal life in the kingdom of God.

                                                                                    In Christ’s Love,

                                                                                    Pastor Jim

Boosters Needed (October 20, 2021)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

There’s a lot of talk these days about “boosters.” In this case, it’s a “booster shot” to increase our effectiveness to ward off disease through vaccines. There are many kinds of boosters. For example, booster chairs lift children to eat at the “big people table.” Booster rockets give satellites the “oomph” to achieve orbit. Boosters increase others’ effectiveness by their efforts.

God’s word is filled with words of encouragement – “boosters” – for His people. We all face many challenges each day. The temptations laid before us by Satan, the world, and our own sinful nature can make a life of faith difficult. Without a booster, even faithful people can fall away from God. Therefore, the writer of Hebrews urges us, “Exhort (Boost) one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). God created us to live in community, not as separate, independent islands unto ourselves. This community He calls us into is “the Body of Christ.” Here we live together so we can “exhort one another every day!” 

This exhorting, or boosting, takes many forms. When you’re going through a challenging time and you make a prayer request to the church – the Prayer Circle, the Deacons, and I come together to boost you in prayer. When someone in the church falls on hard times and has difficulty making ends meet – the Food Pantry, the Benevolence Fund, and others boost them up with extra food or other provision. When a church member is grieving the death of a loved one – we pull together as the Body of Christ to boost them through meals, prayers, and often by our simple presence. You and I, we’re the eyes, ears, hands, and feet of the One who gives us all the ultimate boost – through Jesus, we’ll all be boosted to the place we can’t get to on our own, eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. So, let’s also boost one another for that glorious day to come.

                                                                                    In Christ’s Love,

                                                                                    Pastor Jim

Following Him in Faith (October 6, 2021)

Dear Faithful Followers,

This weekend we celebrated 45 years of “following Him in faith!” On October 3, 1976, a group of families committed themselves to serving God and each other in a congregation called First Lutheran Church of Calvert County. And ever since, First Lutheran Church has been on the move – serving God, His people, and Southern Maryland. From the Plusch family’s living room to various locations around Calvert County to our present location at the intersection of Routes 2 and 4, the Cross of Christ has shown brightly through those God has gathered in this place.

Over the years, God has blessed His church with many forward-looking leaders who shared His vision of the future. These faithful Christ followers shared their many gifts – time, talent, and treasure – praying for one another, guiding people of all ages in worship and the instruction of God’s word, starting school and other ministries, and sacrificially supporting the work and ministry God called them into by leading committees, boards, and other groups. Those who’ve gone before us have joined with Christ to be His hands and feet who “Joyfully proclaim God’s word and enthusiastically share Christ’s love” in the world.

It’s important to remember what those who’ve come before us have done in putting their full faith and trust in God to lead them in the work He called them to do – including those who sacrificed time, talent, treasure, and personal convenience to start new congregations. Looking to them for inspiration, God calls us, today’s church, to see the future with His eyes and heart. He calls us to keep shining the light of Christ by faithfully using the many gifts He’s given each of us. This weekend we rededicate ourselves God’s mission. We thank Him past blessings. We ask God to lead us into the future He has set before us. Please join me in trusting Him with all our hearts, minds, and souls that our lives become lives of worship, responding to His love for us as we glorify and praise Him by following Him in faith.

                                                                                    In Christ’s Love,

                                                                                    Pastor Jim

We're #1! (September 29, 2021)

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash 

Dear Children of God,

“We’re #1! We’re #1!” Everyone wants to be #1. With college football season upon us the “Top Twenty-Five” polls are a common sight. And many are excited to see their team jumping in the polls … others get crazy that their “arch-enemy” is ranked above them. I fall into the same trap with my teams. This year, they had a big win early on and looked to be flying up the polls, while their chief rival got upset – “YAY!” The next week my team got upset and fell out of the polls too.

This fascination with being #1 or on the winning team is nothing new. Even Jesus’ disciples fell into the “We’re #1” trap. They were beside themselves with jealousy because someone else, who wasn’t on their “team” was healing people in Jesus’ name. But Jesus reminded them, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:39-40). There is one “Team Jesus” and whoever calls on His name in faith is on that team. Wherever His name is proclaimed in truth and light, the gospel is being spread.

I can see myself in the disciples’ sandals though. I have a pretty good idea on what I think is the correct interpretation of scripture in many areas. When I see others with different interpretations, it is tempting to join in with the disciples to call those others out too. But then I hear Jesus’ scolding of His disciples ringing in my own ears. While we may differ in certain areas of scriptural interpretation, it’s important to remember what Jesus says to us, “No one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:39-40). We are saved by the works and name of Jesus and faith in Him alone (Romans 10:9-10).

                                                                                    In Christ’s Love,

                                                                                    Pastor Jim

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