“Make 2018 a Year to Remember”
A new year coming means new opportunities, 365 new sunrises and 365 new sunsets lie ahead and all the hours in between to make what you will of 2018. In January, the air is filled with optimism for what the new year might bring. What would make 2018 a truly blessed year for you?
Many people turn these desires for a better new year into resolutions that they may or may not keep in the months and weeks ahead. Losing weight, exercising, eating better, saving more, and checking off a few items on the old bucket list are useful resolutions to make and keep. Keeping resolutions like these will benefit your health and well-being, and help you live a healthy life in 2018. But do you notice something that is consistently missing from these resolutions? Most of the typical New Year’s resolutions are completely self-centered. Improving your health may indirectly help and be a blessing to someone else, but most resolutions serve one person, and one person only.
God didn’t create us to love and serve ourselves. We are reminded regularly in our worship services that God “created us to love and serve him as his dear children.” One way that we love and serve God is by loving and serving those he has placed around us: our families, church members, co-workers, neighbors. After all, Jesus tells us the second-greatest commandment is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The only commandment greater is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). We have no commandment to love ourselves. But as we see from our New Year’s resolutions and what we think would make 2018 great for us that we don’t have a problem focusing our ourselves.
I heard an expert say recently that even with the growth of digital communication, online social networking, and electronic gadgets, Americans are having an increasingly difficult time developing meaningful relationships with other people. We have lots of friends (on Facebook) but no one to talk to when we’re truly in need. God made us to interact with other people. God made us to serve one another, and remade us as his dear children so that we serve others joyfully.
He made us to focus on the needs of others because he has provided for all of our own. From a home to live in and food on the table, to a Savior from sin and eternal life in heaven, God has richly provided for all of our needs. Now he invites us to use the year ahead to serve others. John writes, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” Don't just talk about loving other people...get out and do it! What will you resolve to do in the year 2018?
Take action to serve others. Find a neighbor who needs some help. Bake some cookies just to give them away. Take off early from work to simply spend time with your kids. Put down/away your phone and listen to your spouse or children talk. Volunteer to take part in an organization or project. Target your prayers for other people and their needs rather than focusing on your own. Think of the abilities that God has given you and wonder, how can I put these to work for him and for others in the year ahead? Don’t worry, God will answer that prayer with more opportunities than you’ll have time in a year to tackle. And spending the year serving others and showing them God’s love will make 2018 your best year yet.
“A message from Pastor Andy DeGier”
Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus from Christ Lutheran Church,
Just like you, I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Pastor Weiland. I know that he was very special to all of you. What a blessing it must have been to be fed by the Gospel for so many years through his sermons and Bible studies. I know that many of you considered him a great friend, like a part of your family. I know that his death has probably come as quite a shock to many of you. Maybe you have been left with a lot of questions, but I’d like to share some comforting thoughts from God’s Word with you.
First of all, it’s good to look at this from Pastor Weiland’s point of view. I know he had plenty of blessings in his life. I know that he loved to spread the gospel and build up God’s kingdom. I know that he was blessed with a great family and lots of friends who must have brought much joy to his life. But what does the Bible tell us? It tells us that departing and being with Christ “is better by far.” (NIV® 84) It tells us that our death is a great victory. Any pain or problems Pastor Weiland faced are now gone. For all the times of joy he had in this life, none of them can even compare to the great joy he has with his Savior right now. Pastor Weiland’s ministry was all about telling people about Jesus all so they could one day taste the glory of heaven, and that is what he is enjoying right now.
But what about us? What about his congregation? What about his family? It’s not going to be easy. He is going to be greatly missed. Unfortunately, because we live in a fallen, sin-stained world, tragic situations like this happen. We all have to face pain and problems and death. The great news is that because of Christ’s victory on the cross and at the empty tomb, God turns even our problems into blessings for us Christians. Pastor Weiland’s death was transformed into a great victory by Christ, and that will be true for us as well. In the meantime, God has promised to use everything in our lives for our good. He uses even tough circumstances to strengthen and preserve us in our faith, and he doesn’t leave us alone as we face them. He promises to be with us, to never leave or forsake us, to give us the strength to endure the tough things we face in life.
As uncertain as the future of the congregation may seem, God has everything under control. He knows exactly how he plans to keeping feeding each and every one of your faiths with his Word. He knows exactly how he wants to use each one of you to continue to spread his Word and to build up his kingdom. Every promise he has ever given you to watch over you and preserve you in faith is still valid. He is faithful and will keep every single one. God’s blessings to all of you. I will keep you in my prayers and will try to do my best to help you through this time of transition. If anyone would like to talk to me more about Pastor Weiland’s death or needs the services of a pastor for any reason whatsoever, please contact me. I can be reached in the following ways: 920-471-1770 (cell), 715-536-6588 (home), firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your brother in Christ,
Pastor Andy DeGier
“Jesus' suffering... our Savior's great love for us”
1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (NIV® 84)
Here we are in another season of Lent. Week after week we hear more about the suffering of our Savior, about how he was whipped and beaten, spit upon and mocked. We hear about how he buckled under the weight of his cross. We hear about the nails that that were driven into his hands and feet. We hear about how he died a terribly excruciating death as he hung from that cross. To top it all off, we hear him utter those ghastly words, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (NIV® 84) Why? Why do we do this?
An outsider might wonder if we are obsessed with knowing and hearing about the pain and suffering of other people. But it is so important for us to reflect upon what our Savior did for us. At times we might go through life, thinking that our sins aren’t all that bad, that sometimes we make mistakes but they are not really a big deal. The sights and sounds of our Savior’s suffering and death show us just how serious our sins are. It was my sins and your sins that made it so Jesus had to go through this. The times that our hearts fill with hatred and resentment, that our eyes become wide with lust, that our lips are dirty with gossip. The times we turn a blind eye to people who need our help. These sins mean God should send us straight to hell and throw away the key. But that’s exactly what Jesus suffered for us on that cross: the God-forsakenness of hell. He bore every single sin we ever committed, and drank down every drop of God’s rightful justice and wrath for our sins until it had all been paid for.
The sight of Jesus suffering not only reminds us just how awful our sins are, but it also reminds us of our Savior’s great love for us. He endured all of that, all that suffering and shame and death, all so that we do not have to suffer what our sins deserve. It was like the bullet of God’s justice was headed straight for you and me, and he stepped in front. The sacrifice Jesus made for us means that we never have to face God’s condemnation for our sins. Through faith in him, we have his forgiveness. We have a place in God’s family and a room reserved for us in his eternal home. None of it would have been possible if Jesus wouldn’t have come and suffered for us the way he did. We focus on Jesus’ suffering in Lent, because it reminds us that our Savior has done everything it takes to make things right between us and God and that in him and his sacrifice we are saved forever. We are God’s own children who one day will enter the courts of heaven with thanksgiving and praise.
But what Jesus did for us impacts us even right now. Jesus died so we would be God’s children and go to heaven as his free gift. But he also died so that “we might die to sins and live for righteousness.” (NIV® 84) Through faith in Jesus, we have been given new spiritual life. We are a new creation in Jesus, dead to sin according to our new person, and alive in faith, filled with the love of our Savior and a burning desire to serve him and do what is right in everything. Our Savior sacrificed so much for us. He suffered so much for us. Now we have the privilege every day to show him how much we love and thank him for all he’s done for us by turning away from the desires of our sinful nature and embracing the love and obedience he has put in our hearts. Jesus sacrificed so much to save us. He brought us to faith and made it so we enjoy his free gift of salvation. In thankfulness for all he has done, may we live to serve him in all we do.
Your brother in Christ,
Pastor Andy DeGier
“Jesus not only died, but came back to life...”
John 5:24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (NIV® 84)
John 11:25b-26a I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (NIV® 84)
1 Corinthians 15:20b Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (NIV® 84)
Years ago, my mother-in-law planted a whole bunch of tulips. The next year she waited for them to come up, but not one single one came. Can you imagine the sinking feeling she must have had as day after day went by on the calendar and there were no flowers? But just think if she had seen one come up early in the season, wouldn’t that have made her almost certain that the rest would follow, that they would have life too? This is what Jesus’ resurrection does for us.
There are times we might be tempted to wonder about having life. What about when my loved one dies, I see them lying motionless in the casket, and everything my eyes are telling me indicates that this is it for them? What about when I am facing the end of my life here on earth, when my body seems to be giving up, and my eyes have no way of detecting what lies beyond that? But the fact that Jesus not only died, but came back to life himself, leaves us no doubt that every promise he gave us about eternal life in him is true. He died for our sins to take them all away, so we would be saved from the death they deserve. When he rose from the dead he left no doubt that he had accomplished it. Jesus truly is the resurrection and the life. He is the one in whom all our sins are forgiven. He is the one in whom the grave has been conquered for you and me. He is the one in whom we are given the gift of eternal life.
Simply by believing in Jesus and what he has done for us, we have already crossed from death to life. We are no longer slaves to sin, but are set free to serve our Savior with the spiritual life we already have. We know when our bodies die, our souls will live on in heaven with Jesus. We know that on the Last Day, just like Jesus came back to life that our bodies will live again in glory and perfection. Because Jesus rose from the dead first, we know that we will follow and rise from the dead as well.
How comforting this is when we are by the casket of a fellow believer. How comforting it is as we go through life without the familiar sound of their voice, without the smile on their face that would always lift our spirits. How comforting it is when our time on this earth seems to be coming to a close. Jesus’ resurrection means we can be certain that fellow believer we love so dearly lives on. It means that we can be certain that we will see them again. It means we can be certain that someday we will share in the amazing blessings that they are enjoying right now. It means we can be certain that on the Last Day we will rise in glory and honor just like our Savior.
Your brother in Christ,
Pastor Andy DeGier
“Do not... take a vacation from God and his Word”
John 6:63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. (NIV® 84)
Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (NIV® 84)
Isn’t it exciting? Soon the summer months will be here. The kids (or grandkids) will be out of school. This is the time when there will be trips to your favorite campground, weekends at a cabin, or tournaments for baseball or softball or soccer. There is a good chance that your summer will be busy with vacations and weekend trips and fun-filled activities. These activities can be a great blessing from God for us, but they can also be a distraction. They can easily become a reason why a person has failed to feed their faith or meet with fellow Christians for weeks or even months on end. One thing I want to encourage you to not do this summer is to take a vacation from God and his Word. God blesses us so richly. He is the one who gives us everything we have. He is the one who makes it so we are even in a position where we can think about planning all sorts of fun activities in our lives. But most importantly, he is the one who sent his own Son to die on the cross for all of our sins. He is the one who made sure the life-saving message about Jesus came to us and that we believed it. But that message about Jesus is like food. It is what God uses to sustain us in our faith so that we continue to have forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Jesus. To take a break from God and his Word would be like taking a break from eating. You may be able to survive for a while, but at some point, you are going to starve.
I don’t necessarily want you to read this and go out and cancel all the plans you have made for this summer. But I do want to encourage you to think about if and how you will be able to keep those plans and continue to feed your faith and meet together with your fellow Christians. If you can’t make it to church on a Sunday, there are so many options available to you. You could attend the Thursday midweek service here at Christ. You could look to see if there is a WELS church nearby where you are going to be. You can go to https://yearbook.wels.net/unitsearch and look for nearby WELS churches and service times on your own, or you could ask me or someone else in the congregation to look it up for you. You could ask me to have a copy of my sermon sent to you by mail or email. If God blesses you with a new pastor sometime this spring or summer, you could probably ask the same things of him. By all means, take your vacations. Do your summer activities. Spend time golfing or fishing or camping or doing whatever it is you like to do, but make sure you continue to feed your faith with God’s Word. Make sure you continue to function as a part of the body of Christ, meeting with your brothers and sisters in Christ, encouraging them in their faith and being encouraged by them.
“... our whole life is to be a thank offering to God.”
Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. (NIV® 84)
Matthew 5:16b Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (NIV® 84)
1 Peter 3:15b Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (NIV® 84)
The summer months are upon us. This is the time of weekends at the campground or cabin, baseball or softball or soccer games for the kids, vacations, and all sorts of other fun activities. Last month my encouragement to you was not to let all this activity distract you from joining together with your fellow Christians to feed your faith. That is good advice that you would do well to heed. The health of our faith is more important than anything else in our lives.
But of course, being a Christian does not mean we spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week studying God’s Word and singing praises to him. Really, our whole life is to be a thank offering to God. The way we conduct ourselves at our jobs. The way we interact with our spouse, our classmates or co-workers, our friends. It is all an opportunity for us to put our faith in action by showing love to God and other people. It is all an opportunity for us to thank God for the wonderful gift of salvation he has given us in his Son, Jesus Christ, a gift that we enjoy through faith in him. When we show forth the love of God in the way we carry ourselves, in the way we treat other people, it has an effect. People take notice. They might wonder what we have that they don’t. It may give us a special opportunity to tell them about Jesus. Even if they don’t ask us about Jesus, it’s clear that God always wants us to be looking for a way to share him with others.
If you saw someone drowning and had the chance to the pull them into safety, wouldn’t it give you such a great feeling to know you just saved someone’s life? Well when you tell other people about Jesus, and the Sprit leads them to believe in him through your message, just think about how much more amazing that is. That person has just been rescued from an eternity in hell. They have just come into possession of the greatest thing that any person could ever have: eternal life in Jesus, the right to be God’s own child right now and to someday live in a place where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…” (NIV® 84)
All this means if you have lots of activities planned for this summer that you may in fact have a special opportunity. You may have the chance to interact with some new faces and to do so on a regular basis. Wherever you find yourself this summer, whoever you find yourself spending time with, take advantage of the opportunities God gives you. Shine the light of Christ in your life in all that you say and do. Have the same caring and selfless heart for others that he does for you and live your life accordingly. When the opportunity arises, be quick to tell people all about Jesus, all about the love he has for you and me and all people, all about all he did to save us from our sins and win us eternal life. As we Christians sow that seed, the Spirit will continue to carry out his work, to work faith when and where he pleases, to bring more and more people to enjoy the salvation that Jesus has won for them.
Your brother in Christ,
Pastor Andy DeGier
No update this month.
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." (NIV® 84)
- Psalm 119:105
"And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." (NIV® 84)
- 2 Peter 2:19
Have you had that scary feeling before? You find yourself in a dark room where you can hardly see anything, and you have to try to find your way out, so you can make it to the kitchen or the bathroom or back into bed. You don’t know if you are going to run into a table or step onto one of the toys the kids left on the floor. If you aren’t careful, you could get hurt really badly, but think about how different it is if someone simply turns the light switch on or perhaps if you just even had a flashlight in your hand to light up the path before you. All of a sudden you can see those potential dangers. You know exactly the way to go so that you won’t run into something or step on something that could make you fall.
God’s word is like a light to us. Our sinful heart has the ability to cloud our sense of right and wrong. This world can often make it seem like what is bad and evil in God’s eyes is actually good and right. We can find ourselves in the darkness when it comes to knowing what God says is right and wrong, but when we turn to God’s word, it’s like a light has been switched on and everything becomes clear. It shows us exactly what God says is right and wrong.
When it comes to salvation, by nature, we are all in the darkness. Our sinful nature makes us inclined to think we can earn it on our own, when in reality we are sinners by nature, who could never truly earn anything from God. If it were up to us, our dark hearts would lead us down a path of self-righteousness or despair that would lead to our destruction. But God’s word is like a light showing us the true path of salvation, showing us that Jesus is our Savior, that eternal life is God’s free gift to us in him, that we receive and enjoy it only through faith.
Think about how important it is to use the light that God has given us, to be in it, to trust it, to let it guide our lives. Our sinful nature is constantly telling us the wrong way of salvation. Without the light of God’s word in our lives, we are in great danger of changing our trust for salvation from being in Jesus to being in ourselves. But we know that God works through his word to preserve us and strengthen us in faith. As Christians who believe in Jesus and have his salvation, we want to thank him by living lives that are pleasing to him, but without the light of God’s word, we might come to the wrong conclusion about how to do that. We have every reason to be in God’s word often. Let’s take advantage of the opportunities we have: the sermons that are preached on a weekly basis in our church services, the Sunday school and Bible study classes that are about to start this fall, the chances we have to read God’s word at home, the online and printed devotions that are available to us. God will use them to preserve and strengthen us in faith, to keep us trusting in Jesus and thereby on the true path of salvation, and to guide us in our faith-born effort to thank him by serving him with our lives.
Your brother in Christ,
Pastor Andy DeGier
"Think about all we have in Jesus"
Mark 8:34-36 “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (NIV® 84)
Can’t we sometimes think that if I am putting my faith in Jesus and following him that my life should be easy? That everything should just sort of go my way? It makes sense. If Jesus is the all-powerful king of the universe, then believing in him should make my life better and easier in every way possible. But as Jesus tells us, there is a cross that comes with being a follower of him.
Although there is great blessing that comes with believing in Jesus, there are also tough things we have to face as believers in him, that we wouldn’t have had to face otherwise. Some of the world’s greatest ridicule is reserved for people who would dare to believe that God created this world in six days, thousands of years ago, like the Bible says, as opposed to over billions of years. Some of this world’s greatest anger and hatred is reserved for people who would dare say that Jesus is the only way to be saved, that people who follow other religions, no matter how sincerely, are on the path to hell. Think about what ramifications there might be if you tell many people what Jesus’ teachings about marriage are: that it is between one man and one woman, that it is a lifetime commitment, that people are not supposed to be intimate or live together before they are married. Saying these things could make you lose a friendship, a love interest, a job. Believing in Jesus brings us God’s free gift of salvation in him, but it also comes with a cross. It leads us to confess Jesus before this world and to strive to follow him in the things we do and the words we speak, and often times that can make us a target to this world.
Sometimes it might seem easier to just lay that cross down, to walk away from faith in Jesus and the difficulties that come with being his follower. But there never could be a more foolish thing we could do. Think about all we have in Jesus. We have forgiveness for all our sins. We are saved from something far worse than we could ever face in this life: the eternal death in hell our sins deserve. We have the eternal joy of heaven to look forward which nothing we ever experienced in this life could ever compare to. Even though we will face some difficult things because of our faith in Jesus, even though our life actually may become more difficult in many ways, even in this life, we will be better off with Jesus than we would be without him in the most important way, because we will go through this life with the peace of knowing our sins are forgiven and that we are acceptable to God. We will have God’s promise that he is with us and is watching over us at all times, protecting us from things that are too difficult for us and our faith, and using everything that happens in our lives for our good in the long run. In the life to come, the eternal glory and joy we experience will be so great, it will make our temporary troubles here seem like nothing at all.
Fellow Christians, there is a cross that comes with believing in Jesus. But may we remember all that we have in him right now and all we have to look forward to and then gladly take up that cross every day of our lives.
Your brother in Christ,
Pastor Andy DeGier
"We need God's mercy just as much as David"
Psalm 51:1-2 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. (NIV® 84)
David had just been confronted about his sin. What he did was pretty ugly. Adultery. Murder. Lying and cover up. But the prophet Nathan came to him, showed him his sin, and David said, “I have sinned against the LORD.” (NIV® 84) Nathan uttered those sweet words to him, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.” (NIV® 84) The words for our devotion for today from Pslam 51 are said by this psalm’s Hebrew heading to have been written right after Nathan came to David. Can you imagine David approaching God in any other way than the way he does? Could you imagine David saying, “Give me what I have coming. Treat me the way my actions deserve. Take the book of my deeds, that has all these terrible sins of mine, and render accordingly to me”? If God did that, things wouldn’t have been too pretty for David. He rightly cries out for mercy. He calls on God to blot out his transgressions, to wash away his iniquity and cleanse his sin. David doesn’t appeal to any great deed he has done, but to God’s unfailing love, to his great compassion.
We really find ourselves in the same boat as David. The Bible says that David was a man after God’s own heart. It emphasizes how great his faith was and in general how faithful he was in following the LORD. And yet none of that changed what his sin deserved from God. The Bible tells us that if we hate our brother, in God’s eyes we have committed murder. It tells us that if we look at a woman lustfully, we have committed adultery in our hearts. It tells us that if we break one command of God’s law that we are guilty of breaking it all. Even the most seemingly insignificant sins of ours makes us just as guilty of God’s punishment as David. And we probably all can think of something we did in our life where we just can’t believe we ever could have done something so awful. We need God’s mercy just as much as David or anybody else for that matter.
How wonderful that God gives it to us in Jesus! In his great love and compassion, God sent Jesus to save us. All those sins that were written down in our book. God put them on Jesus. Jesus suffered for them in our place. In Jesus, they are paid for and taken away. It means that when we come before God with the same heart as David, one that humbly recognizes our sins, that cries out for God’s mercy, that trusts his promise of forgiveness in the Savior, that we enjoy that same blessing as David. Our sins are blotted out. We are washed clean of all our sin. Through faith in Jesus we live in the mercy of our God and have his gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. Praise God for his great mercy and compassion that he gives us in Jesus! May he always keep us looking to him for mercy and trusting in him for forgiveness, so that through faith we will continue to enjoy his wonderful gift of salvation.
Your brother in Christ,
Pastor Andy DeGier
"Think about the gift that God gave to you and me at Christmas: his only-begotten Son."
Have you ever received one of those gifts? One where you know the person put in a lot of time and energy to make it truly special? One where it just sort of hits you: This person really cares about me. If you ever wondered about whether they loved you before, you don’t anymore.
This is something we can wonder about God at times. Does God really love me? And if he does just how deep is that love? When I’ve committed a terrible sin, can’t I easily think that God may have loved me at one point, but he certainly couldn’t anymore? You know what, though? That’s a question you and I can put to rest. Think about the gift that God gave to you and me at Christmas: his only-begotten Son. If you are a parent, you know how special a child is to you. At Christmas, God sent his very own Son into world for you and me, knowing all the pain and suffering he would endure on the cross in our place. Of course, God isn’t some monster of a father. He and his Son are one. They agree in everything. Jesus willingly went through all of this for you and me.
But think about just how much God did for you. Let it sink in. God gave up his very own Son for you. Is there any more question in your mind about whether he loves you? He did it all so that Jesus would be the atoning sacrifice for your sins, the one whose blood makes you perfectly holy in God’s eyes and means you don’t have to suffer what your sins deserve, but instead you get to go to heaven. His love for you in Jesus is a constant. Even when you are plagued with guilt over a sin, his promise that all your sins are forgiven in Jesus is there for you to trust in, to enjoy through repentance and faith. The God who sent his Son to die for you still loves you and promises you his forgiveness in Jesus.
As you get ready for Christmas this year, buying gifts for the people who are special to you, remember the wonderful gift that God gave to you in his Son, Jesus Christ. Remember that he loves you and that through faith in Jesus you enjoy his wonderful gift of salvation.
1 John 4:9-10 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (NIV® 84)
Your brother in Christ,
Pastor Andy DeGier