St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church

He Delights In You

Podcast Version

Zephaniah 3:17—The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

It can be very easy to get down on yourself, especially when you’re alone. Over these last two months, we’ve all had some alone time, but some of you more than others. Some of you live alone. Some of you who live alone also aren’t out in the world working, either because you’ve retired or been laid off. It’s so easy when we’re alone or feeling alone to think we’re unappreciated and to have thoughts of worthlessness and ineffectiveness begin creeping into our hearts.

Maybe this is a constant struggle for you. Maybe it’s grown during this pandemic because you’ve been told your work and job are “non-essential.” Maybe it’s grown during this pandemic because you’ve been stuck at home, unable to help. Maybe it’s grown during this pandemic because you’re older and more frail than you used to be, so to try and keep you safe, your friends and family have kept their distance.

The devil can use all kinds of things to get us to believe his lies of worthlessness.

When you find yourself feeling this way, listen to the value your God puts on you. Listen to how he speaks of you. Notice how he doesn’t add any qualifying statements when he speaks of how he feels about you. There is no talk about your physical state or attributes. No talk about whether your work is deemed essential by society or not. No talk about how others view you. No talk about how you view yourself.

The value God puts on you comes entirely from him. Zephaniah says that God takes
great delight in you! Why? Because he created you to be his own. He had a plan in eternity and before he even created the world to love you now and forever! He proved that value he has placed on you and the love he has for you by sending his one and only Son into this world to be your Savior! He punished and turned his back on his own Son all so that you could live with him forever in heaven!

This is the value you have in Christ. To your God, you are priceless! You are essential!
The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save!

So, when you are feeling alone, worthless, ineffective, and unappreciated, let
the LORD your God…quiet you with his love. He rejoice[s] over you with singing, all because he has made you his child now and forever! He loves you with an eternal, undying love! He values you more than you will ever know this side of heaven, and will spend all of eternity exploring the other side of heaven. Your God delights in you!

Waiting for God's Time

Podcast Version

Acts 1:6-8—…when [the disciples and Jesus] met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

If you’re anything like me, you’ve struggled with the timeline and plan in response to the Coronavirus on a national, state, and local level. You’ve struggled to one degree or another, and for various reasons. Even now as we’re moving out of greater restrictions and hoping to see an overall drop in percentage of cases, it isn’t over yet.

The apostles had some of the same struggles when it came to Jesus’ ascension. There was so much they still didn’t understand. There was so much bad information they were working off of. They though Jesus was finally going to restore an earthly kingdom of Israel. They were looking for an easy life on earth, now that Jesus had suffered, died, and rose again.

It is so easy for us to get caught up in false expectations like the apostles. It happens when we focus too much on earthly results instead of spiritual truths. There’s a whole host of ways we do this, but over the last few months you have probably focused a lot on this pandemic. “Why don’t you bring this to an end, Lord?” “Are you now going to enlighten everyone to your truth?” “Are you finally going to give our medical professionals the perfect answers and methods?” The list can go on and on where we sound just like the apostles with our heads in earthly clouds instead of our hearts fixed on the solid rock of God’s Word.

That’s when we need to just stop, and listen. Listen to Jesus. And marvel at what he
does have to say. “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…”

The promises Jesus made on ascension weren’t just for the apostles, they are for all believers of all time. The power you received at your baptism is the power that connected you with Christ forever! The power of God in your baptism caused you to die with Christ and to be raised again with him! The power of God ruling in your heart is what causes you to be a child of God to this day! The power of God is what has secured your eternal home in heaven by his side! The power of God is the comfort that is yours in trying times such as these, or when things are going well. And you have that comfort because you have listened to Jesus who says,
“Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:5-6).

And now, because of the power of God in your heart and life through faith, you can be just like the apostles, listening to Jesus and then living in calm confidence, knowing that God has everything under control. You now can wait for God’s time. And, as you wait, serve as his witnesses to this lost world.

No Judgement

Romans 14:13,19—Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister…Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

Dear friends, I apologize for not having a devotion ready for you on Tuesday. Pastor Sauer from St. Peter’s - Sturgeon Bay, does a weekly devotion. His devotion on this text is excellent. I could not have said it any better, and that is why I’m sharing it with you. Click the link below.

Sauer Encouragement Devotion Podcast

Sauer Encouragement Devotion Video

Existential v. Transcendent

Podcast Version

Philippians 4:7—And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

We’ve heard a lot lately about how the current pandemic is an “existential threat.” We’ve also heard this said about a lot of other things lately—even certain people! Do you know what it means to say something is an “existential threat”? An “existential threat” is a philosophical theory about a hypothetical future occurrence where the very existence of all or nearly all of humanity is lost, and with it civilization.

While this virus can be very dangerous and deadly for some people, it is certainly not an “existential threat” according to the definition of the phrase/concept. Even if you take the worst case scenario projections, as awful and mind-boggling as those deaths would be, it would still not be an “existential threat.” A far more deadly virus, massive meteor, or perhaps all-out mutually assured destruction nuclear war are the only things that could be an “existential threat” from a scientific/philosophical point of view.

But what about the Christian point of view? What about the biblical point of view, which is God’s point of view? The only existential threat, is sin. What did God say to Adam in the Garden of Eden?
You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die (Gen. 2:17). Sin is the only deadly pathogen that touches and infects every human being. Satan is the only deadly enemy who wages war against every human being. And these two combined create the mutually assured destruction of the human race through physical death AND eternal death.

But God did not want it to be like this. He created humanity to exist with him forever. That is why after the Fall into sin, which plagued all the world with sin and death, God made the first gospel promise:
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel (Gen. 3:15). In that moment, God created the cure for the only truly existential threat to humanity. And that cure and its peace is one which transcends all understanding…

For something to transcend or be transcendent, means that it goes beyond the ability of the mind to fully grasp, comprehend, or understand. Now, there are some things in God’s creation that still transcend our understanding. In centuries past doctors used to think that people were sick because they had bad blood. So what did they do? They let the blood out. That’s where blood-letting came about. The reality of illness and disease transcended their understanding. Now we know that people get sick because of viruses, bacteria, cancer, and other abnormalities and deficiencies of the body.

But notice here that Paul says God’s cure for the disease of sin and the peace that cure brings
transcends ALL understanding! It isn’t just beyond the ability of the human mind, but even that of the holy angels! The only one who can truly grasp, comprehend, and understand his cure and grace is the one who gives it—the one, true, eternal Savior God!

Yes, by nature, we are ignorant of this truth. That’s why sin and Satan are the true existential threat. But the grace of God found in Christ Jesus our Lord and given to you purely by grace, the undeserved love of God, rescues you! As a child of God, there is no existential threat! Yes, you are still a sinner who sins, but you know and believe that those sins have been washed away in the blood of the Lamb of God! Yes, you will one day die, but you know and believe that your physical death will in no way be the end of your existence, but only the beginning of the life you were always meant to have!

In this world there will always be things which can threaten our existence on this earth, not just deadly viruses. And it is important to take those things seriously. But far more important is the truly existential threat of sin. But even more astounding is the cure! It has been secured and promised by God, and he gives it to you freely. He asks for no co-pay, no assistance. He’s done all the work already through his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Cling to God’s peace which is so big and amazing that it goes beyond your understanding. Let that fact be something that comforts you all the more and destroys your doubts and fears. You have peace with God, and you have an eternal perfect existence waiting for you in heaven which nothing will ever be able to threaten!
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Anything & Everything

Podcast Version

Philippians 4:5-7—Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So, how have you been with the people in your life? Your spouse? Your children? Your friends? Your family? Your co-workers? Your fellow citizens? Your authorities? Have you been gentle?

You know, when our gentleness starts going out the window, it’s generally because of two things lacking. And it isn’t a quicker end to COVID and it’s impact. It’s a lack of trust in God’s promises which reflects itself in a lack of prayer.

Maybe you’re praying more now than you did before the pandemic came. How shameful of us that it takes a pandemic to turn to our God in prayer! But also look at your prayers. Are they focused on God’s promises and the needs of others, or mostly on you? Now, there’s nothing wrong with praying for yourself, but if your prayers are all about you and your needs or desires, is that faithful prayer? Is that a faithful clinging to all of God’s Word and promises?

It’s so very easy for us to become very self-centered, especially as this shutdown drags on. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of good being done by all of you, but take a deeper look in your heart. How much is done with a smile on your face, but with a frown in your heart? How much is done to look good in other people’s eyes, instead of out of pure love for God and your neighbor? How much talking and thinking are you doing about those you disagree with that contains little else but venom and rage? How much of what you are doing is lacking gentleness with those you know and love most?

When we find ourselves in these ruts of unrighteousness, remember that the Lord is near. That’s frightening law for your heart of sin. The Lord knows it all!!! But it is beautiful and comforting gospel to your heart of faith!
The Lord IS near. He is with you every day and every step of the way! And knowing this beautiful promise is what sets your heart free to not be anxious about anything… Hearing God’s promises of unbreakable love and forgiveness for all your sins of doubt, harshness, and meager prayer life is what relieves your heart of anxiousness. God is in control.

But there is another gift God has given to help you in your need. You have heard from him in his Word, but he also wants to hear from you—about anything and everything.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And what is the result of letting our hearts rest in God’s promises and unburdening our hearts in prayer to God? Paul gives the beautiful answer that has been and will continue to be a closing blessing of countless worship services:
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Dear friends, rest in Jesus’ peace. Let his peace fill you with gratitude and gentleness. Let Jesus’ peace also guide your prayer life as you pray for yourself and all people.

Six Weeks In

Podcast Version

Galatians 6:9-10—Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…

Happy six week anniversary! Yeah, can you believe it? It’s been six weeks since the “safer-at-home” order. In some ways it doesn’t seem that long ago considering all the work it took to figure out a new way of ministering to all of you and our community. In another way, it seems like forever since life was normal.

Six weeks in, weariness may be setting in. Maybe it did a while ago. On Tuesday we addressed the weariness of heart which can lead us to question God’s love and plan for us personally, our community, our country, our world. Having our hearts set straight, strengthened by the hope only our LORD can give, today I want to offer you the encouragement of the Lord from another great gospel messenger—the Apostle Paul.

Like Isaiah of Old Testament times, the Apostle Paul of the first century A.D. was no stranger to adversity and the temptation to be overwhelmed with weariness. As weariness and frustration settle in our hearts, the temptation to give in to weariness festers. And if you are one of the many whose income has been slashed or are in danger of loosing your income, the danger of this temptation is even greater!

Weariness can often lead to very ugly selfishness. It can very easily turn into a woe-is-me and this-is-mine-you-can’t-have-it attitude. Imagine how weary of us God would be if he were one of us??? Do you think he’d really want to share his love—his grace—his Son—his heaven with the likes of us??? Not likely! And yet, what has he done for us? We who so often should be nothing more than a wearisome bother to him? His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:23)! His love is yours every day (Ps. 66:20)! His grace is sufficient for you (2 Cor. 12:9)! He has given you his Son, his only Son(Jn. 3:16)! And heaven is yours forever (Ps. 23:6)!

In God you have the cure for your weariness. And, considering all he has done, is doing, and will do for you, may you also
not become weary in doing good. Explore all the ways you can show love and concern for your family, your neighbors, your co-workers, your leaders, etc. Do it out of love for them and love for God because you know it is not wasted effort. It is not wasted effort because all you do for others, you also do for your Savior (Mt. 25:40).

It is also not wasted because your God has promised you that
at the proper time [you] will reap a harvest if [you] do not give up. God is pointing your heart toward heaven, where all this mess and weariness will be over! Keeping that in mind, as you have opportunity, let your heart be free of weariness and do good to all people so that you might be God’s instrument to help relieve them of their weariness of both body and soul.

Tired Yet?

Podcast Version

Isaiah 40:31—Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

So, are you tired yet? How many late nights have you had? When was the day you realized you were tired of this mess? Some states are “re-opening.” Who knows when Wisconsin will??? I just read that some reports are saying things are still going to get worse before they get better. Now some are saying the beginning of June will be the peak. Are you tired of this yet?

In many ways, I am. Tired of the isolation. Tired of the news. Tired of not being with people to encourage them with God’s Word. Tired of not being able to gather in God’s house. Tired of the masks, the gloves, the hand sanitizer, etc. Are you tired of this yet?

Whether you were tired of it long ago, or you feel just fine about it, each one of us needs to hear these words from our LORD through Isaiah:
Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

When you put your hope in the LORD. When you let his peace rest on your heart. When you set aside what you see and hear in the world and simply cling to God’s Word and promises, your strength is renewed. When you recall that God has promised to use everything for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8:28), the weariness departs and you can carry on. You can carry on knowing that this pandemic will pass one way or another. You can carry on knowing that you have the strong reminder that this world is not your home. When you remember that your eternal home is with the LORD in heaven, your hope and strength are renewed to continue on in this wearisome world, knowing that one day you will have perfect rest. And so, let your hearts soar, run, and walk with the LORD. He is with you.