Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
Last Sunday felt like a great day to be pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Palmer. Worship uplifted me as we commissioned our new DCE Intern, and as we installed officers and board members at St. John for 2018. The afternoon Dave Ramsey Class was full of people wanting to follow God’s wisdom for personal finances. And the Sunday night All Board Meeting was not only very well attended, but showed the willingness and the desire of God’s people at St. John to step forward and work together to accomplish our Lord’s work. As I left on a trip to Florida to spend a week helping my dad move, I was greatly encouraged to see God working in our midst! But, all it takes is a Sunday of low attendance, or a church member who is hurt or angry, and those feelings or encouragement can instead become feelings of discouragement.
Likewise, the life of a Christian can be one of up’s and down’s. God’s children rejoice when we see our Lord’s gracious answer to our prayers. But, when families struggle, when illness threatens, when our country is in turmoil, when troubles linger, or when we know the guilt of our sin, we call out to God and we can even wonder where He is.
In my daily devotions I am currently reading through Isaiah. It is eye-opening for me to see experiences in the lives of God’s people 2700 years ago that are similar to what we face today. On Monday I read Isaiah 26 and 27. As I read I could see how good news or bad news from God affected the lives of people in Isaiah’s time, as our lives and our hearts are moved today.
Isaiah 26, verses 1 and 2 proclaims, “In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts. Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith.” What a great reason to sing praise! God protects His people! His salvation and eternal life are a wall against the evil of life. God welcomes people of faith into that city that knows and lives in His eternal love. Praise the Lord!
But, in spite of God’s goodness, His grace is still rejected by many. In Isaiah 26, verses 9 and 10 we hear bad news. “10 Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the LORD. 11 O LORD, your hand is lifted high, but they do not see it.” Doesn’t that sound like our world today? God offered grace but many of the people in Isaiah’s time turned their backs on His love. Why do people in our world today turn away from God’s wise guidance and His loving grace?
The up’s and down’s of faith and life can be discouraging. We would like for our lives to constantly experience the success of God’s blessings. But we have all had times of failure in serving our Creator. Even when we want to follow our Lord, we can still act selfishly and sin against Him. So, it is not surprising that in this world we experience good times and bad times. We experience bad times and good times.
However, there is One on Whom we can depend in the constant changes of life. Isaiah 26:4 calls us, “4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.” When our joys are overcome by illness, family trials, political unrest, natural disaster, personal failures, and more, we still have a rock. In fact, we have THE Rock. We can always trust in the Lord.
As I have been reading in Isaiah, I also hear my Lord telling us more about why we can count on Him. God explains more in chapter 28. "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.” The rock, The stone, which is our “sure foundation” is Jesus. (See Psalm 118:22-23 and 1 Peter 2:6-8)
Life as a child of God is encouraging, and it is discouraging. But there is a rock that is sure in the uncertainty of our lives. Our Lord’s love is sure. In fact, in Jesus, God’s love overcomes our sin and our failure to follow Him. In Jesus, the Lord loves us and forgives us. In Jesus, we have that “sure foundation.” Jesus, “the precious cornerstone” gives God’s love eternally because He died to forgive our sin and because He rose to build a wall of salvation. In this world of good news and bad news, we can build our lives on this foundation of God’s precious cornerstone, Jesus Christ our Lord.
A Sunday like last week at St. John is a reason for rejoicing as we see God work in our midst. But, times of discouragement still happen. Wednesday, January 17, is seven years since my mom passed away. I spent much of the day with my dad. We visited my mom’s grave. Then we ate lunch at the restaurant where our family dined after my mom passed on that evening. But, just as in Isaiah’s time, in the ups and downs of life, the love of God is ours because of His “sure foundation,” Jesus. God’s sure love is a constant encouragement!
A Child of God, Thankful for the Sure Foundation of Jesus in the Up’s and Down’s of Life,
P.S. I am in FL for a week. Here are some pictures of my trip and time with my dad. Here are some pictures. I will keep adding pictures as the week goes on. https://photos.app.goo.gl/dRcgjaKNBLmGwWvy1
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.