Pastor's Update Archive: 2017

  Pastor's Update Archive: 2017  

January 2017
"I'm Not Perfect-So What?"

In 2013, the Florida State Seminoles were celebrated as college football’s BCS Champions after completing a perfect 14-0 season. In the 135 year history of Major League Baseball, only 23 pitchers have tossed a perfect game. Each of those 23 pitchers is widely celebrated for accomplishing one of baseball’s rarest individual feats. Back in 2009, USA Today reported that a Michigan teen got a perfect score on her ACT–and her SAT–and her PSAT! She was rewarded with a full-ride scholarship to Princeton University.

If perfection is so celebrated because of its rarity, then can we—should we—ever really condemn anyone who is less than perfect? Shouldn’t imperfection be considered “normal” and therefore OK? Nobody’s perfect at life! We all make mistakes. Who cares?

God cares! While imperfections are an accepted part of life for us, they are not acceptable to our God. Imperfections run contrary to the way God intended this world to function. When the work of creation was finished, everything worked in harmony. There were no imperfections; “God saw all that he made and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). In addition, God requires perfection from created human beings if they want to be righteous before him and enter his heaven. “Be perfect, even as I the LORD your God am perfect” (Matthew 5:48). And the consequence for those who cannot do this? “The soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20) and, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Our imperfections are therefore an offense to our perfect creator God. They are not excused; they are not overlooked. They are punished for the offense that they are. Sure, nobody’s perfect. That’s why we need someone to be perfect for us.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Yes, Jesus Christ who had no sin or imperfection became our imperfection so that he might receive all of the punishment that we deserved, paying for it all by his death on the cross. In return, he grants us the perfection that we could not achieve on our own. In Christ we become “the righteousness of God.”

As much as we celebrate individual accomplishments of perfection–the perfect season, the perfect game, or the perfect test score–how much greater can we celebrate the perfection that is ours by faith in Jesus Christ! In Christ you are perfect—believe it! Celebrate it! Live it!

February 2017
"Could God Really Be... My BFF?"

A friend is someone who knows all about me and likes me anyway. Have you heard that description of a friend? How would you define what a friend is? Are you happy with the friends you have? Do you wish you had more friends, or different kinds of friends, or that your friendships were healthier or more helpful? People might define friends in various ways, but one thing is certain. God designed people with a need for friendship. When he created the first man, he offered this observation: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). 
We naturally feel the need that God observed, but faithful friends might be hard to come by. In the internet world friends often call each other BFF’s—”Best Friends Forever”. But sometimes, those same friends turn on each other and end up more as enemies than as friends. No matter how well someone knows you and likes you, there really is no friend who knows all about you. Your innermost secrets—some innocent, some downright evil—remain locked within you, and there are deeper feelings than anyone could ever understand. God wants you to know what you might have suspected all along. He does know all about you. He observes that you need someone to whom you can pour out your heart, and he is willing to be that one. 

But do you want God to be a BFF, when deep down you know what he knows about you? As his own Word says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves” (1 John 1:8). Few of us would dare to make the claim that we are without sin. And we know how God feels about sin, including its damning consequences. But the good news is that God still wants to claim us as friends, despite our shortcomings. That is why Jesus Christ, God’s Son, came into the world long ago. He came to do what only the best of friends would do—he came to lay down his life for you. He came to stand in for you and take whatever punishment God’s justice demanded for your sins. And God accepted his own Son’s sacrifice to wipe out the guilt of your sin. The proof of that accepted sacrifice is in Jesus’ resurrection.

That is why God invites you to see him as your best friend. He knows all about you, and he knows everything that you need. He extends his love to you without conditions, for the sake of his Son’s death on the cross. You will not find a more faithful friend than God. Look to the living God and learn more about his faithfulness and his love. The more you learn, the more you will find that he is a true Friend that you can always trust.

March 2017
"Give Lent Your Undivided Attention"

“Do we really have to do this again? I mean, am I supposed to spiritually beat myself up for the next several weeks of Lent until Easter comes? Seriously, just how much “repentance” can a person do? It all seems a bit much, if you ask me. I know I’m forgiven—end of story, right?” 

There is a part of our hearts—and it is found in everyone--that doesn’t want anything to do with Lent. It is that part influenced by our Old Adam, our sinful flesh. It may be seen in the proud heart that doesn’t want to be reminded that we were utterly hopeless and helpless until God came to rescue us, and that, in Christ, he did EVERYTHING needed for our salvation. It might be a self-righteous heart that doesn’t want to reflect on one’s own sin or repent before God, but rather thinks: “I’m alright--I’m a good person, and I don’t need anyone telling me otherwise.” It might be a troubled heart that doesn’t want to see the agonies of the cross, because somewhere deep inside it bothers their conscience to see Jesus suffering for their sins, when all along they have their minds made up that they are going to stay in those sins. There is the recurring voice of darkness—again, from our sinful flesh—that simply doesn’t want anything to do with the Light—and so it finds the story of Jesus’ sufferings and death boring, even irritating.

Now, such attitudes do not govern or dominate the hearts of God’s people, but they make their presence felt, and they are always seeking to gain control in our hearts, drive us farther from God, and ultimately seek to rob us of saving faith and our hold on salvation. The very fact that such attitudes and thoughts dwell in us, is itself a compelling reason for us to pay attention to Lent and embrace the season. We need to give Lent our undivided attention this year, as in every year, because of our sin. 

Our sins are no trivial matter. They are not mere character flaws or bad habits that we have acquired. They are not just “bad decisions”. Our deeply-rooted, inborn tendency is to crave what God has declared to be not just harmful, but deadly. We are born with a desire to be served rather than to serve, to rebel rather than obey. There is no recovery from that. There is no day where we don’t have the itch of our inborn addiction to sin, no human being who isn’t motivated by selfishness. 

Deny it if you want (and be a fool), but the truth is that our sin was so serious that it warranted eternal punishment in hell. Yet our gracious God had a plan. Only perfection could merit God’s pleasure. Only the blood of God could cover over the sins of every human being who has ever lived or will ever live. Only God’s selfless love could motivate him to ever exchange his perfect Son for a world steeped in sin from birth. Lent shows the magnitude of our sin only so that we might recognize the magnitude of God’s love for us in Christ. Only the direst of circumstances would require such a dramatic rescue. 

An approaching ambulance merely piques our curiosity unless we are the one it is coming to save. A Savior who shows us how to be “good people” has no need of dying for us. He, like all self-help gurus, merits only our passing curiosity. But a Savior who becomes our sin so that we can become his perfection—that Savior is a Savior who gives his life for us. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. That merits our absolute and undivided attention.

April 2017
“Jesus Lives — This Shall Be My Confidence!”

It was refreshing, though the situation certainly wasn’t. Sandy’s mom had spent a wonderful, joy-filled day with her and her ten-month-old daughter. But it took just one moment. What started as a minor health scare quickly escalated, resulting in an emergency trip to the hospital. Less than two days later, Sandy’s mother went home to heaven.

They weren’t ready to lose her. If they could have their way, she’d still be here. So what was so refreshing? “We ask that God’s will be done.” “I’m glad she is in Jesus’ arms.” Throughout the entire tragedy, that’s what Sandy wrote.

How could she be so upbeat? In the midst of mourning, she was a modern-day Martha. Martha, fighting through tears for her brother Lazarus, freshly laid in the grave, boldly proclaimed to Jesus, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24).

How could she be so confident? How can I be so confident? As a result of Adam and Eve’s first sin, death was introduced into the world. As a result of sin, I’ve lost loved ones. As a result of sin, I myself will lose my life one day. And as a result of my sin, God tells me there’s only one place where I deserve to go, hell.

How can I be so confident? Because I have a loving Savior. Where I struggle and fail each day to love and obey God, Jesus didn’t ever fail. Even when obedience to his Father meant dying for me, Jesus obeyed. His love for me took him to the cross. His love has taken away all the guilt of my sins.

How can I be so confident? Because I have a living Savior. Jesus died, but he’s not dead. His resurrection is more than just an occasion to commemorate once a year on Easter. It’s the proof that Jesus not only forgave my sins and conquered hell, it’s also the promise that because he lives, I also will live. When I die, in his loving and living arms, I will live!

Jesus’ resurrection gives me confidence. It makes me confident to say, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” I am refreshed in every joy and every sorrow because I know that my Redeemer lives. And when at last my earthly journey is done, I will wake to live forever with my Savior because my Redeemer lives. As we sing in a favorite Easter hymn:
Jesus lives! The Victory’s won! Death no longer can appall me. 
Jesus lives! Death’s reign is done! From the grave Christ will recall me.
Brighter scenes will then commence; this shall be my confidence!

May 2017
“It's Planting Season!”

"What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow."  -  I Corinthians 3:5-7 

Spring time is a great time of the year. It’s also a busy time of the year for farmers. If the farmer doesn’t “get busy” and get into his fields to cultivate the soil and plant the seed there will be nothing to harvest come fall. 

The Apostle Paul reminds us who does the “real work” of making those planted seeds grow… God does. How silly it would be for the farmer to go out into his field, after planting the seeds, constantly digging up those seeds to check on progress, maybe cracking them open so that “the innards” can come out and grow! It doesn’t work that way. Those seeds will crack open and grow all by themselves (or better, with God’s help!) 

It works the same way with the Word of God. Different people—Pastors, teachers, and laypeople—may have a hand in planting the seed of the Word. They may participate in watering and fertilizing the tender soil and seeds, using the powerful Word and Sacraments. Ultimately, though, it’s God who does the really hard work of making things (faith!) grow. 

Amazing when we think about it: God makes something dead come alive through the application of his powerful, life giving Word! Precious souls for whom Jesus bled and died, lost and condemned without hearing the Word, hear about their Savior’s love, come to life, and respond to it…and grow. 

Christ is “alive and well” after being “planted” in a tomb on Good Friday. Easter reminds us that our sins were buried with him and have been paid for in full by his perfect life and innocent sufferings and death. When he sprang back to life on the third day after his death, our hopes and dreams for heaven also sprang up new. The Gospel has had a wonderful effect on our hearts and lives. We are ready to serve the living Savior who loved us and gave his life for us on the cross. 

How silly it is, therefore, when people give credit for growth to the planter of the seed. The congregation in Corinth was a prime example of this as there were factions in the church because individuals were standing behind their favorite pastor/planters. The Apostle Paul properly gives credit where credit is really due by reminding them that it was God who made things happen in their midst and elsewhere where the seed of the Word was being planted.

Planters come and go, but it’s the powerful seed of the Word which needs to continue to be planted so that God continues to bring to life and make things grow…for his glory and his glory alone!

June 2017
“Keeping a Good Thing Going”

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go the house of the LORD’”.  -  Psalm 122:1

Perhaps you have seen the following quotation in an email or letter. But it is worth repeating. What if people gave the same excuses for missing a baseball or basketball game as they gave for missing church? It might sound something like this: “Why I stopped going to ball games”

1. Whenever I go to a game, they want my money. 
2. The other fans don't greet or care about me. 
3. The seats are too hard. 
4. The referee makes calls I don't agree with. 
5. Some of the games go into overtime and make me late for dinner. 
6. The band plays songs I don't know. 
7. I have other things to do at game time. 
8. My parents took me to too many games when I was growing up. 
9. I know more than the coaches do anyway. 
10. I can be just as good a fan at the lake. 
11. I won't take my kids to a game either. They must choose for themselves which teams to follow.

Summer affords opportunities for many different activities…family vacations, family reunions, sporting activities on the water and off...the list is long. Summer is a wonderful time to enjoy God’s creation and take a little R & R. None of us should feel guilty about enjoying these blessings from our Creator; unless they come at the expense of the Creator. I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go the house of the LORD.” David wrote. This time is the highlight of our week. It’s important time with our Savior and fellow believers who share our faith. Let’s not allow summer to get in the way of what is most important in life! 

There are two opportunities to worship weekly here at Christ Lutheran—in the summer on Thursday nights at 6:30 and on Sunday mornings at 9:00. If you will be gone on vacation find a local WELS or ELS church on the internet using the WELS Church Locator. Here’s my challenge for my family and yours: be in worship, whether in town or out of town. Tell the t-ball coach you’ll be there after church. Tell your loved ones you’ll meet them there after you worship (scratch that, bring your loved ones too!) Make specific plans to find a place of worship on the Sunday of your vacation. In other words, let’s keep a good thing going—let’s keep that commitment to regular church attendance going throughout the summer months as well. God’s richest blessings to you as you enjoy the beautiful gifts of summer!

July 2017
“Little Keys, Big Responsibility”

A key is power, and it is great responsibility. It’s just a tiny piece of metal, probably a few ounces, but it is amazing what such a small thing can do. If you’ve ever lost your keys you know exactly what I’m talking about. In your garage you have a fully-functioning car that you have purchased with your own money, and dutifully taken care of. However if that one little key is missing the entire vehicle is useless. It may as well be a giant rock in your garage or driveway. You’re stuck! That little key allows you to make use of your car. A different key opens the door to your home and gives you (or anyone else) access to everything you have inside. Keys are small, but they are powerful and hold great responsibility. 

At a recent Church Council meeting, we discussed how many keys to our church might be “out there” among our members. Council members and a few other positions in our congregation have the right to have church keys. But sometimes, those keys aren’t always turned back in when a person vacates a position. It’s not a big problem, but it is a matter that we need to keep on top of, and steps are being taken to eliminate any problem in connection with “missing keys”. 

Having a key is a privilege and a responsibility. This leads us to marvel that God has so freely handed out the keys to his kingdom. He told Peter and the rest of his disciples, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19) Some may try to say Jesus was only giving keys to Peter, but he repeated these same words to all of them later in Matthew 18:18. Wasn’t God being a bit careless handing out keys to his kingdom so freely? Would you hand out keys to your house, your car, or your church as liberally as he did? I doubt it. With these keys he has given us each great power and responsibility. He commands us to use the key to open heaven’s door for each repentant sinner, to assure them of Jesus’ love and forgiveness. We don’t have the option to hold a grudge, or give them the silent treatment so that they suffer for their wrongs against us. Unless God has placed another person under our care such as a child to a parent, or student to a teacher, we never have the right to try and punish someone for their sins. That’s God’s job. God commands that we love our neighbor, and that means releasing them from the guilt of their sin when they repent. That same love also leads us to call our brothers and sisters to repentance when they are caught in sin. If they refuse to repent and stay in their sin, the “binding key” is used. That means that we let the person know that as long as they hold steadfastly to their sin, and refuse to repent, their sins stay with them before God, and they are not forgiven. That, as you can well understand, is a dire pronouncement! But again, the goal is not to embarrass, shame or belittle them, but to lead them to repentance and forgiveness and a right relationship with their loving Savior once again. The goal is to rescue their soul from sin. This is the power that God has given to you, and to every believer!

August 2017
“Thank God for Your Christian Worldview”

Sam and Harry are two brothers who are able to see eye to eye on just about everything. But every August, it seems that they have a hard time agreeing on anything. Whenever football season starts up, Sam and Harry are always at odds. Though these two men had been born brothers, they grew up rooting for different teams. And whenever their rival teams play each other, Sam and Harry leave the stadium with very different views of the same game.

In many ways, Christians and non-Christians are able to see eye to eye when it comes to the ways of the world. Most people, no matter what their beliefs may be, like to be treated fairly, to have a feeling of personal security, and to have a sense of purpose in life. There are times, however, when a Christian’s view of this world can be very different than their neighbor’s. Often, it’s the joys and woes of daily life that demonstrate the differences. Whether celebrating a milestone, or coping with a disappointment, or even facing death, Christians and non-Christians can think, talk, and act very differently.

What makes a Christian ‘tick’? Why do believers look at their world with such a different perspective? The answers to these questions reveal what Christian faith is all about. While the world around them believes in things like fairness, decency, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, a Christian believes in the God who is this world’s Maker, Savior, and Counselor. Simply by speaking the words of a Creed, every Christian makes a powerful statement of who they really are—not only in relationship to their world, but also in relationship to the God whose world it is.

When a non-Christian sees a lifetime’s worth of achievements as the sum total of hard work or as simple dumb luck, the Christian sees the hand of God, and rejoices in God’s blessings with a thankful heart. When a non-Christian sees a world filled with madness and uncertainty, the Christian sees a world gone haywire because of sin, but also sees a world for which Christ died and a world over which God is still in control. When a non-Christian experiences extreme adversity and can find no answers to explain their pain, the Christian sees the over-arching will of God for their lives, and a loving God who will work all things out for their good, and even bless them through their suffering. When a non-Christian struggles to see their purpose in life and where they ought to fit in the world, the Christian sees their faith, their calling to be disciples and witnesses, and their own future in heaven.

Christians confess their faith in God. “This is the God who made me what I am, gives me what I have, loves me always, and who holds this whole world in his hands!” Be thankful for your faith, and for the truths that you know. Be thankful for your God-given worldview, which supersedes any earthly philosophy or reasoning, because it is the truth of God!

September 2017
“An Invitation For You...”

“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” —- (Romans 10:17).?

With these words, the Apostle Paul under inspiration of the Holy Spirit reminds us that if we want to grow in our faith lives, in our spiritual maturity, if we want to have an increasingly close walk with God, we must spend time with God’s Word. Hearing, reading, and studying the Word are what we mean by “spending time” with God’s Word. Of course, after we hear, read, and study that Word, we need to submit to that Word and meditate on how we can apply that Word to our lives for it to effect the changes God wants in our lives. 

When we think of hearing the Word, the first thing that comes to mind is attendance at worship. That’s where we are most used to hearing God’s Word. It’s an important part of our faith lives, to be sure. When we think of reading God’s Word, we generally think of reading the Bible on our own or reading something like Meditations on a regular basis. This is also important, because spending a little time with God’s Word every day helps keep us spiritually alert and strong against temptations, which don’t take a break or come to us only on Sundays. When we talk about studying the Word of God, we generally think of Bible Class.

It’s this last one—Bible class—that I’d like to promote in this month’s lead article.

Bible Class is a wonderful opportunity to do all three of the above—hear, read, and study the Word. In addition, Bible class allows us to share spiritual insights with each other. It’s comforting to know that others struggle with the same things you do! Bible class gives a person an opportunity to ask questions of the pastor—an opportunity that doesn’t come during the worship service or in one’s personal devotions at home.

One can participate as much or as little as one wants to in Bible class. Some of our members like to read the Scripture passages and are open about sharing things. Others in the class prefer to mostly sit and listen. Either way is fine! No one will pressure you to read or offer anything if you don’t want to. Here’s a great Bible class fallacy: Bible class is for “mature Christians” only. Bible class is for EVERYONE, no matter what level you feel your faith life is at. In fact, one could argue that Bible class is exactly where one should be if they feel insecure about their knowledge of God’s Word and its teachings.

In many ways, I have enjoyed serving the vacancy at St. Andrew in Goodrich. But one of the things I have missed most is leading Sunday Bible class here at Christ Lutheran. I look forward to doing that very soon again, as the vacancy situation is nearing an end.  

Your spiritual growth is one of my greatest concerns as your pastor. I’m conscious of that when I prepare sermons and Bible studies. But for YOU to benefit from those things, your need to be present. And that’s why I’m inviting YOU to Bible class. Won’t you please come?

October 2017
“God's Hand in History”

God is the Lord of history. He rules all things for the good of his church and the good of his plan of salvation. From the very beginning, he was working in history so that everything was in place for the sending of his Son. He used kings and empires to discipline his people in captivity and demonstrate his faithfulness by returning them to their homeland. A common Greek language allowed for ease of communicating the gospel throughout the Mediterranean world. The Roman Empire brought peace and ensured relatively safe travel on land and sea. The Jewish people living under foreign rule heightened their longing for the Messiah. God used Caesar’s edict to force Mary and Joseph to move to Bethlehem at just the right time (Galatians 4:4). Even the Roman method of execution fit God’s plan to have the Savior “pierced for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5). 

When we look at the Lutheran Reformation, we can see God’s hand in history. Luther was not the first to attempt to reform the church. So why was he successful? Why did he survive when others were executed as heretics? The major reason was that Luther’s reformation was theological. Luther focused on what the church was teaching. The Holy Spirit worked through the gospel that Luther was preaching, teaching, and writing to bring countless people to faith in Christ alone as their Savior. However, we can also point to several historical factors that were in place that allowed Luther to survive and succeed. 

Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press in the mid-15th century. Prior to the printing press, copies of written material had to be made by hand, a painstaking and expensive process. With the invention of the printing press, books and pamphlets could be reproduced efficiently, inexpensively, and in mass quantities. This also fostered an increased interest in literacy. Luther took advantage of this new technology to get his message to a broad audience. He became the best-selling author of the 16th century. Since Luther believed that the gospel was the power of God to change hearts and lives (Romans 1:16), he wanted that gospel as accessible as possible. 

Luther was a citizen of Saxony, one of the hundreds of principalities that made up the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. By God’s working and timing, Luther’s princes, Frederick the Wise, John the Steadfast, and John Frederick the Magnanimous, served as Luther’s protectors and supporters. The government of the Holy Roman Empire allowed for these princes to have sufficient authority and power to keep Luther safe and alive. 

The Lord of history raised up enemies of the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor Charles V to keep him distracted. He needed the help of the German princes to battle the French, the pope, and the Muslim Turks. He had to make concessions to the Lutheran princes. And he was unable to devote all of his energies and focus on getting rid of Luther. This allowed time for Lutheran teaching to spread and solidify. 

We know that Jesus rules all things for the good of his church. Everything is in his control (Ephesians 1:20-23). God has his hand in history. That includes your history. He has worked in your life so that, in ways that are different for different people, he has brought you into contact with the gospel. Maybe you had Christian parents who had you baptized and taught you about Jesus. Perhaps it was meeting your future spouse who brought you to a Bible information class. Whatever it might have been, God’s hand is still in history for the good of his church—and for your spiritual and eternal good.

November 2017
“The Antidote for the 'Thank You'”

“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.” 
— Luke 17:15-16 

So what did that leper actually do? He gave thanks, right? That’s how the story goes and we’ve heard it over and over again. All ten lepers begged Jesus for help and all ten did what Jesus told them to do: they ran off to show themselves to the priests—their hope was Jesus would heal them on the way. You know what happened: one leper came back, and we all know why he came back. He came back to say thank you. And ever since St. Luke told this story and ever since Christians have been hearing it, that leper has kind of set the standard for what Christians do when God does awesome things. 

But, brothers and sisters, we need to be careful that we don’t fall into the “thank you” trap. The Lord Jesus is looking for a lot more from his people of faith—and that’s what we are: we’re believers who put our trust in Jesus. There’s nothing wrong with saying thank you—and in fact we’d be remiss if we didn’t say it—but saying thank you doesn’t necessarily lead us to realize just how undeserved God’s blessings really are. We begin to take things for granted; worse yet, we think we’re entitled. Or we play a game with God: “I’ll be good to you as long you’re good to me.” That’s why it’s so important for us to repent, and I mean everyday in some way. When we repent we’re admitting that God doesn’t really owe us anything except for hell. When we repent we turn our eyes away from the sins we sometimes love and place our eyes on the one who loves us more than we can understand. When we turn and look to Jesus we begin to recall all the things and all the people we chased after in our lives that Jesus didn’t want us to chase after. You know what else we recall? We remember that in the long run none of these things and people did us an ounce of good. 

Come to church, go to Bible Class, open your Bibles, review your own personal story—I don’t mean once in while; I mean as often as you can. Think about all the blessings God has given you. My list isn’t going to look exactly like yours—but here’s a start: recall how God created you to have such a magnificent body and mind and how you haven’t been starving in a long time; recall how Jesus went to the cross with your sins on his back and then rose again so you would never have to wonder about your eternal future. Recall how the Holy Spirit led you to believe in Jesus—that’s an awesome miracle all by itself—and how he keeps you believing when so many people you know don’t have a clue. Take some time to consider all of the comfort and hope that you have because of the many promises that God gives to you in his Word. 

If you and I take a minute every day to repent, to honestly assess the wrongs we’ve done and the good things we haven’t done, if we take some time everyday to recall and remember and rejoice in what Jesus has done for us our entire life, if we repent and recall, it’s going to happen. When his law leads us to repent of our sins and his gospel allows us to recall his great love, we become determined to love him and love one another, we become committed to follow him wherever he leads, we become devoted to sharing his message with the world. 

December 2017
“Giving the Very Best Gift'”

How long does it take you to find the right Christmas gift? Some Christmas shoppers begin hunting for gifts already months (even years) ahead of time. This type of person usually thinks long and hard about what to give the people they love. But the latest sales numbers from Black Friday weekend show that most people in this country aren’t thinking about Christmas gifts months in advance. Most of us feel the pressure in the days (rather than months) before Christmas to find something, anything, that will constitute as a gift for the people in our lives. There are also people who run into Walmart on Christmas Eve and grab the first thing that catches their eye on the shelf, plus a gift bag and some tissue paper on the way out. Done! Sometimes you may get lucky that way and snag a real nice gift that someone truly enjoys, but I think we can all agree that the best gifts take some thought, planning and some real sacrifice. That kind of gift shows that you care—which is really what the person receiving the gift wants for Christmas anyway. The best gift are tokens that demonstrate your love. 

God began the tradition of gift giving on Christmas by giving us the very best gift of all. This gift was an eternity in the making. Long before God said the words “Let there be…” he knew that he was going to give you his Son to be your Savior. He knew that this gift would be valuable to you because he knew how badly you would need him. Without our Savior we would all be lost and without hope, just fighting to enjoy our few days before we faced an eternity of punishment. God planned for thousands of years, directing the course of history to deliver your Savior to the perfect place at the perfect time in order to do his work to rescue you from your sins. Jesus gave up his heavenly glory and came to this earth as a poor and lowly infant to be born in a stable. He would grow up to suffer the rejection of his own people and the wrath of his Father in heaven—wrath that you and I deserved for our sins. God demonstrated his love for you when he gave his Son for you so that you could be his beloved child forever.

The real purpose of the Christmas gifts that we give is to imitate the sacrificial love that our heavenly Father demonstrated in his gift to us. This Christmas, you can demonstrate that thoughtful, sacrificial love of your heavenly Father by carefully considering the person who will receive the gift and rejoicing in the love you have for them. Then, even small gifts can carry great meaning. 

The same is true about our gifts of thanks that we give as offerings to our God. He loves it when we take the time to give careful thought to our offerings rather than giving him a last-minute gift. “It’s the thought that counts,” is phrase often spoken in jest when a truly miserable gift has been given. But in this case it’s actually true. Whether our gifts of time, talents or treasures are large or small, God wants our gifts to him to be given from a thankful heart that considers and treasures his unending goodness to us, especially his grace to us in Christ. Every gift that is given in joyful response to his gift to you is a great gift in God’s sight. 

This Christmas as you consider what gifts you can give that have the most meaning and greatest impact, remember the love of your Father that gave more generously to you than you can ever give back to him. Your gifts of time, talents and treasures back to the Lord here at church support the preaching and teaching of his Word in our community, our school, and around the world. With your gifts, the Lord provides the good news of salvation to souls who desperately need to hear it during this Christmas holiday and until our Lord comes again. Thank you for your support of the ministry we do together at Christ Lutheran.