Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
Last week, among other tasks, I worked on church bulletins. Not all denominations or congregations use bulletins in worship. But, the bulletins we use provide an outline for those in our worship services. Our bulletins give our office and our musicians information to plan for our coming worship of our Lord. With a couple of fits and starts I finished planning worship and wrote bulletins through March 13.
In planning worship it is important to read the assigned Scriptures. One verse that hit home with me as I read it is the assigned Old Testament Lesson for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, February 17, Jeremiah 17:5–8. This verse warns not to trust the wisdom or strength of people, but encourages God’s children to trust in the Lord. Listen to Jeremiah.
“5 This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6 He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
7 "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. 8 He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."
How often does our world try to solve our issues and leave God out of the solution? How often do even we Christians do the same thing? No wonder we are so often frustrated!
With this word of God on my mind I then received a devotion on Tuesday, from Dr. Dale Meyer, President of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and a personal friend. Do you hear the words of Jeremiah 17 echoing in Dr. Meyer’s devotion?
[Monday, January 28] . . . five police officers were shot in Houston. When terrible shootings happen, and sadly they’ve become all too common, people in places high and low encourage us to pray, and we do, praying for those devastated by the violence and praying for peace. After deadly shootings in San Bernardino several years ago, the headline in the New York Daily News blared, “God isn’t fixing this.”
Of course, God isn’t fixing this! God is saying, See how your life goes, America, if you don’t live in true fear of Me. Read what Paul said about the worldly wise people of his day: “Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks for him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…. Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind…” and then follows a catalog of sins that plague our lives still today (Romans 1:21, 22, 28-32).
Do you think gun control is the solution? Or the opposite, every citizen armed? Both solutions are superficial because they presume humanity is OK, that we can fix this, ignoring that these horrific crimes are symptoms of a problem between us and God. God has a fix, but as long as we imagine we can fix evil on our own, God will keep giving us over to our self-willed ways. Everything will stay imprisoned under sin (Galatians 3:22) until more and more Americans shudder in fear before the Creator and Judge. That’s the start of repentance, not just sorrow but sorrow spoken to God. Then God speaks His fix, and we are changed for life.
“If people desert God, God must desert people. The only way He could avoid this ‘divine necessity’ (if we dare call it that) was to place our sins on His own dear Son and desert Him in our place” (Francis Rossow, “Preaching the Creative Gospel Creatively,” 31). There’s God’s fix, and you and I need to be in it.
“Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins.”
I shake my head a lot these days and worry about the direction of our country. How often are we trying to fix our problems and leaving God out of the solution? But, then I look around me and see the same thing happening, even at times in my own life. We would like to think that we are smart enough and strong enough to overcome the evils and the problems we face. But, as Dr. Meyer says, that “presumes humanity is OK”, and that ignores our own sin. No wonder we continue to struggle with evil over and over again!
Thankfully, God has overcome our sin when He took our sin on Himself. Jesus, the Son of God, died on the cross to defeat our sin, to offer us forgiveness through faith in Him. Jesus, the Son of God rose from the dead and offers eternal life to all, not by trusting ourselves, but through trusting His saving love.
So, when I face a problem, I have learned, it is wise to wonder what I am doing that is helping to cause this problem. After all, if I am part of the problem but I refuse to admit my guilt, I will not be able to find a solution to the trouble if I can’t admit its cause. That attitude of confession and that question about my part in the issue may seem simplistic. But admitting my sin and my weakness to God ultimately causes me to look to the cross of Jesus.
Then, after considering my part in the problem, I consider how the forgiveness and the salvation of God helps me to face whatever life brings in the love and the strength of the Almighty and Merciful Lord of all. When my past is forgiven, and my future is guaranteed, I am free to face whatever horror this life brings in the love and the strength of God.
We would like to THINK we are OK. But the rebellion and desires of sin attack our hearts constantly. However, in love God has sent Jesus who overcomes our sins on the cross and gives hope in His rising from the dead. When I trust, not in myself, but when I trust in Jesus, I can bring the wisdom, the love, the righteousness of God even into this troubled and painful world.
A Child of God, Trusting in God, not In Man,
P.S. The St. John Fellowship Board organized a trip to the play, “Newsies” for last Saturday, January 26. A total of 18 people attended. Here are a few pictures taken by Kym Miller.
P.P.S. After worship on January 27 I took grandchildren Henry and Anna fishing. Here are a couple of pictures.
P.P.P.S. On Monday, January 28, I went fishing with St. John member, Kym Miller. Here are some pictures.
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.