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What Goes on in Your House (August 23, 2023)

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                             CREDIT: Image by upklyak on Freepik

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Think about your house for a minute … what goes on in there? Who do you let come in to see it? And why? There’s an image of houses I’ve seen where people open their garage, drive into it, and never reappear. It’s like the garage ate them up! Then, in the morning it spits them out when they reappear to go to work. What goes on behind the doors is private. Who gets to see it are a few invited guests. That’s the way many people live today – private lives witnessed by only a few who are granted admittance.

Then there’s God’s house. God says, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7) God freely admits anyone and everyone from wherever they might come from into His house – foreigners, outcasts, anyone. All are invited to come into His house to witness what goes on inside. And what goes on inside? Prayer in the form of worship – the joyful hearing and digesting of His Word, willingly giving back offerings from what He’s already given, the acceptance of all who enter His doors. God desires for His house, His church on earth, to be a place where everyone from everywhere can come worship Him.

And we worship Him, not in a building, but wherever we find ourselves in His creation. It’s here that God works through us to “gather yet others to Him besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:8) He calls us, the ones already gathered, to be His means to “joyfully proclaim His word and enthusiastically share His love” with others … including those who aren’t in His house yet. We respond to God’s love for us by loving God – to be certain – but also by loving others as ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-39) Including those who’ve been cast out by society at large. Let’s all make God’s house, His church on earth, a true house of prayer for all peoples by inviting them in and showing them what truly goes on in here.

                                                                        Your Brother in Christ,

                                                                        Pastor Jim

Free Food & Drink (August 15, 2023)

Food for the Poor

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I admit, I don’t often go to the grocery store. Therefore, I’m not attuned to food prices. My wife wasn’t feeling well recently, so I had to “forage for food” as we say. And I was surprised that the base price for anything seemed to be $5. I picked up 4 or 5 things — milk, yogurt, a box of cereal, and a bag of chips — over $25! Yikes! It’s little wonder our church food pantry is so busy these days (and thank you to all of you who are contributing to that ministry)!

It’s indeed true that in this world, food prices and food insecurity are on the rise. As bad as it is here in the United States, it’s nothing compared to other parts of the world where food inflation continues rising in dramatic fashion — upwards of 5-10% or more per month in many parts of the world!

Things certainly are difficult for many in the world right now. And God calls on those of us who have an abundance to help those who live in poverty (Leviticus 23:22, Matthew 25:31-46). In that way we show love for God as we “love our neighbors as ourselves” (Matthew 22:39) in our obedience to God’s 5th commandment (LSC Catechism). But one day, God also promises that food insecurity will no longer be a problem in the world.

God’s word urges all mankind to come to Him so they can receive wine, milk, bread, and rich food at no cost! (Isaiah 55:1-2) This is a picture of God’s new creation — the place where all who incline their ears to God and His word, who trust His promises of forgiveness and eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ will be able to find rest from labor and true peace. We aren’t there today, but it is coming. Trust God. Trust His promise.

In addition to our Food Pantry, another way to help those in poverty today is Food for the Poor. You can find out more at www.foodforthepoor.org.

                                                                        In the Love of Christ,

                                                                        Pastor Jim

Priceless Possessions (August 1, 2023)

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CREDIT: Open Stax College

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Worth can be a sensitive topic for many of us. If I asked you, “How much are you worth?” you would not be wrong to say, “None ya!” — as in “None of your business!” After all, what we’re worth might seem like a private matter. Nevertheless, I read that we’re all actually worth something around $17.18. Several years ago, a scientist estimated that the amount of chemicals in our body, if they could be sold, would be worth a total of $17.18. 

Fortunately, each of these chemicals has been arranged by our creator, God in heaven, into what is a truly priceless creation called the human body — a living, breathing, thinking, and doing creature created in His image. But even the best of us is so tarnished and broken by sin that “priceless” might not seem to be the best description of our value. Which makes it even more amazing when we hear God tell each one of us, “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

To God our Father, even though we’re tarnished and broken, we’re still His priceless treasures. So much so that He gave up His only Son, Jesus Christ, to cleanse our sin tarnished souls and restore our brokenness to bring us back into His good and perfect presence. However, the world around us, egged on by Satan’s lies, tries convincing us just the opposite in order to drive a wedge between us and God. Through suffering, hunger, poverty, danger, and death the devil seeks to cause us to doubt God’s love for us; to separate us from Him.

But God’s promise to all of us is that none of this will ever separate us from His love. (Nothing) in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39) We are His. He will do anything to keep it that way!

                                                                        In Christ’s Perfect Love,

                                                                        Pastor Jim

Groaning in Prayer (July 26, 2023)

Art, Pattern, Article, Background


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Have you ever struggled to get words out of your mouth? Sometimes you can’t remember the word for or name of something. Perhaps you’re making a presentation on a complex subject. Or maybe it’s just a tough situation where you’re trying to comfort someone. Whatever the case, the words in your head won’t come out of your mouth. Then, what comes out is a noise, a grunt, a groan. That hardly makes for good communication for most of us.

When it comes to prayer, we know God wants us to pray. But sometimes we’re not sure of the words to pray. Frankly, God doesn’t care about the words. He just wants us to trust Him by knowing He will hear our prayers and answer them in accord with His good and perfect will. Yet, often we aren’t sure what to say – which is understandable given who we’re speaking with … God!

If you happen to find yourself here, take comfort from Paul’s letter to the Romans. He writes, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26) Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, the Helper, to His people (John 16:7-13). In Baptism, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our souls, helping us in all things – especially our belief in Jesus and His promises to hear our prayers. 

In those moments when you’re feeling distraught and all you can do is say, “UGH … ARRGH … UGH!” These are groans. We’re stuck and don’t know where to go. But “He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27) Our groans are the words of the Holy Spirit making our needs known to God. And God … He completely understands. So, don’t worry about what to pray – keep groaning. The Holy Spirit will translate.

                                                                                       Your Brother in Christ,

                                                                                        Pastor Jim

Gardening Basics (July 19, 2023)

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CREDIT: Creazilla

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

If most of us were asked, “What do I need to do to make a garden grow?” we could give a good answer – something like, “Well, you need some good soil, a little fertilizer, and regular watering.” I admit, the details might escape many of us, but that’s the basic start. You need to make sure the environment is adequate for the garden to grow. Without the basics, the garden might have a promising start, but soon, it’ll simply die away.

Jesus uses the image of varied types of environments to make a point on how God’s word grows from the first seed planted in a person’s heart into a rich life of faith in His Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9) and His explanation (Matthew 13:18-23). A Sower scatters his seed all over the place. He doesn’t seem to worry about the kind of ground he’s scattering his seed on though. And most of it does sprout up. But most of what sprouts fails to mature into the desired fruit.

Like the ground where the seeds fall, our hearts, upon which God’s word falls, isn’t always ready to receive it. Too often, we desire to hear it, but our motives and intentions aren’t in the proper place. If we treat God’s word like a set of “magic beans” that’ll automatically change everything in our lives without our willingness to truly hear and understand it, His word will get snatched up, wither away in tough times, or get choked out by the worries of the world.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Like poor soil conditions can be improved by adding rich soil, fertilizer, and water; our hearts can be improved by the Holy Spirit if we subject our hearts to constant exposure to God in worship, regular devotions, and bible studies with other Christians. God plants in and transforms our less than fertile hearts, through His word, into lives of fertile faith producing much fruit today while we mature into eternal life in God’s heavenly kingdom.

                                                                        In Christ’s Love,

                                                                        Pastor Jim

Why Didn't I Think of That (July 12, 2023)

CREDIT: Sergey Kozak

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“Why didn’t I think of that!?” Sometimes, when I’m trying to solve a problem, my knowledge and wisdom can blind me. While the answer is obvious, my “engineering brain” can overthink and make things harder than needed. Then someone like my wife says, “Did you ever think about (insert obvious answer here)?” Well, what do you know, that was easy! “Why didn’t I think of that!?”

We all have problems in our lives. But the most critical problem of all is the same for all of us. And the solution is quite easy. Yet we can make it a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Our wisdom, knowledge, and pride combine to lead us to ignore the only remedy – and it is a simple one.

This problem? Our sin and the eternal separation from God it causes. Our solution? We try all manner of things to ward off sin’s eternal effects – elaborate prayers bundled with good deeds … packages of complex rituals and worship practices … or some other over-complicated set of things. Yet for all our efforts, we’re still unsatisfied. There must be more to it! And so, we and many others continue our search, ending up caught in an endless cycle leading right back to where we started.

Jesus prays, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.” (Matthew 11:25) It’s not that Jesus doesn’t want us to see the solution. But He doesn’t want us trying to figure out how to make it happen on our own. Or to say, “That’s too easy! There’s gotta be another way I can try.” The solution to our problem is simple, trust in our Father’s promise of forgiveness through Jesus. The truth – it is that easy for us, there is no other way. Let’s thank God that He thought of it and trust Him to free us from our sins and eternal death through Jesus Christ, His only Son.

                                                                        In Christ’s Love,

                                                                        Pastor Jim

Bad News is Good News (July 5, 2023)

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CREDIT: Gerd Altmann (geralt)

Dear Sinners and Saints,

As a junior Captain, a grizzled Master Sergeant schooled me saying, “Sir, I can take bad news. At least I can react to it. It’s no news that bothers me.” It was his way of telling me to be honest with him. If something needed fixing, he needed to know. Unfortunately, people too often soft peddle bad news to make it seem not so bad. Or worse, keep bad news hidden.

As Judah entered exile in Babylon, the false prophet Hananiah said, “Within two years, we’ll be back in Jerusalem with our kings and our treasure.” To make his lie even worse, Hananiah claimed God had told him so. (Jeremiah 28:2-4) This may’ve been what Judah wanted to hear, but it wasn’t what they needed to hear. Jeremiah corrected Hananiah with some bad news, “I wish you were right. Previous prophets told us this would happen, and it did; that it would be bad, and it will be.” Jeremiah also said, “As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent that prophet.” (Jeremiah 28:9)

God told Jeremiah to speak the cold, hard truth of the impact of disobedience so Judah could see their errors, react to them, and repent! They had to hear the bad news to change. The lies of false teachers might make us feel good. But, in the end, things just get worse until the smell of death overwhelms us. 

God’s law doesn’t often sound like good news. We may not want to hear it. But we need to hear it to see our sin and the death it brings. Only then do we turn to God, receive His forgiveness, and make our way to eternal life with Him. Let’s pay attention to the bad news God’s law lays out so we can grab hold of His good news, the gospel, found in His mercy on account of Jesus and the change only He can make in our lives.

                                                                                        Your Brother in Christ,

                                                                                        Pastor Jim