August 2017 Morning Star Message

God Demonstrates His Love for Us

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

What’s the greatest and noblest thing you can do for someone? Save their life, right? Those who do this are called heroes! They deserve honors and thanks, attention and appreciation.  People want to meet them, shake their hand, hug them, imitate them.

Yet what if you risked your life to save a thief, a murderer, a war criminal? That would get a different reaction. “Why!? Why would you risk so much for that lowlife? You’re crazy! You should have let him die!” Very few people want to risk their life to save a good person. No one wants to risk their life to save a bad person. Yet Jesus did just that.

But we don’t really think of ourselves as being all that bad, do we? We tell ourselves that there are worse people out in the world. Yet, God doesn’t look at us in comparison to someone else. He looks at us in comparison to perfection. And we have NOT been perfect. Even our best efforts are worthless if they don’t meet God’s standard of perfection.  And, honestly, we don’t even get that close.

Our natural inclination is selfishness, to look out for myself and my own interests. And what does that sinful selfishness get us? It ruins our families, our happiness, and our lives.  How many marriages have fallen apart because of pride, because both people spent more time worrying about what I want rather than thinking of their spouse. How many people have been hurt because those around them were more concerned with themselves. Sin is a selfish thing! It drives the gaze inward to focus on me and mine! And when sin rules, death rules.

Yet on the day when it seemed like death had finally won, on the day when Jesus was executed though he’d done nothing wrong, we see death’s power destroyed forever.  How strange that on that Friday at the moment of the greatest act of God’s grace, we see no crowd of joyous followers, thanking and worshiping God. Instead those present were sinners, people who hated Jesus.

Yet for these people Christ died. For wretched sinners who despised him, God gave up his Son. And the result? Sin is finished! Death is done! Those who were guilty have been declared innocent. Those who hated and fought against God have peace with him.  They now stand before God unashamed, forgiven.

Because Christ died, we now have life! Every day will continue to be a struggle against sin and temptation, but every day God continues to offer free forgiveness and the strength to stand firm against sin. While we were still sinners, God saved us. So now, through Jesus’ death, we will live forever.

Pastor Wahl

 

July 2017 Morning Star Message

Honoring Our True Treasure

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19-21

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Any faithful church has a legitimate concern for spreading the message of Jesus.  It is the church’s mission, the very reason it lives and breathes, to tell the world about Christ at any cost.  One of the costs happens to be money.  In fact, this cost demonstrates what a wonderful gift money is for the church.  Just think of it.  This stuff we call money allows us to touch the lives of people in a profound and life-changing way.    It’s hard not to be amazed on how money can be used to bring the love of Jesus to the farthest corners of the world to people whose faces we have never seen and whose names we will never know—except in heaven.

But God’s church is also concerned that the motivation behind the giving is pure, untouched by human pressure and joyless obligation.  God wants no unwilling service, but he wants believers to give in joyful response to the undeserved love he has lavished so freely and outrageously on them.  In fact, God doesn’t want us to give back a nickel until we want to because of what we have heard, until the love of Christ compels us inwardly.  God doesn’t want our money.  He wants us.

Does he have us?  Any faithful church will have a legitimate concern for the worldly attachments people feel toward their money.  “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” warned Jesus.   We know that materialism is not defined by the fact that we simply have lots of stuff.  It is God who has blessed us with that stuff.  No, materialism is trying to meet spiritual needs by accumulating material things.  Material needs for clothing, food, and housing are appropriately met by material things.  But the need to know I am someone, that I am loved, that everything is well with my soul today and will be tomorrow, these are needs that material things cannot provide for, things it can never provide for.  These are spiritual things that only a loving God can and does provide.

In the penetrating words of Jesus, “Life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions.”  Mere things can never fill the place that God holds in our hearts.  And so God’s church, if it is to be faithful, must keep confronting the sin of  idolatry and keep calling the love of money exactly what it –the “root of all evil”—to compel our repentance and to clear the center of our stage for the one who is alone worthy to be our Lord.

In our lives and in our hearts, let us honor the treasure that is Jesus Christ.  Remember what he has given us and why.  Remember where your real treasure is.

Living each day with you honoring our true treasure,

Pastor Raasch

Christ’s Resurrection = Our Identity

Christ’s Resurrection = Our Identity

Who am I?  What makes me special?  What is my purpose in life?  These are questions of self-identity.  Experts say that the formation of identity is crucial in human development.  In order to assume a meaningful role in life, people must understand themselves and their abilities, and have an attitude of worthiness about themselves.

As God’s people, our identity is centered in Christ.  Who I was – by nature, I was dead in sin and doomed to hell.  Who I am – I have been bought back (redeemed) from slavery to sin, death, and hell by the perfect life and sacrificial death of God’s Son Jesus.  My identity is confirmed in Christ’s resurrection from the dead.  Let’s consider our “resurrection identity” based on the following Scripture passages.

I am really forgiven – my sins are paid in full.  Romans 4:25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

I have real hope and joy – I am loved, I am already saved, and I will be taken to heaven.  1 Peter 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.

My faith and trust is in the only true God.  Romans 1:4 [Jesus] was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.

Through faith in Jesus, I am connected to God who gives me power to live for him.  Romans 6:5,11,13 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. . . count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. . . offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.

I have real purpose in life: to share the powerful message of the Savior with others.  1 Corinthians 15:14,20 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. . . But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.

I wait for Jesus to come again, when I will receive a glorified body like Christ’s resurrected body.  Philippians 3:20,21 And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorified body.

Staff Minister Tom Banaszak

 

Life in Christ

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Romans 5:17)

Kids love balloons.  They’re round and light. They’re colorful and they float!  They help celebrate special occasions.  And if you rub them on your hair you can use the static electricity to stick them to other things or other people.  And yet they’re so fragile.  All it takes is one tiny little prick and POP!  The balloon is worthless and can’t be repaired.   It’s just dead.

That picture of a popped balloon is a good one for describing what sin did to mankind’s perfection. One little sin and poof! Perfection and holiness gone.  Paul talks about this here in Romans.

God had placed Adam into a perfect world and called on him to worship the Lord his God and serve him only. But Adam did not. He worshipped himself and ate the forbidden fruit.  By his actions Adam burst the perfection of God’s world and plunged the world into an age of darkness and death.  Before that day, man’s destiny had been life eternal with God in glory, but death came rushing in the vacuum left behind when holiness and peace vanished. Everything changed that day that Adam fell. It only took one person and one sin from that one person to bring about sin and death for all people.

But it also only took one person to undo all that.  Where Adam failed the test and fell into sin, Christ passed with flying colors.  And he did it again and again.  Every time sin and temptation came before Jesus, he acted with righteousness and love.  When the ultimate act of obedience came before him, he willingly suffered and died so that God’s will would be done, so that the sins of the world would be paid for and sin and death defeated. One man had doomed the world, but now one man, the God-man, Christ Jesus, saved the world.

Through Jesus we have a new righteousness, a new life.  The power Satan held over us is broken. And on those occasions we do fall, Jesus’ perfection is still there to carry us back to God and wipe out that failure.  No longer fragile and helpless as a balloon, when we rest in God’s hands, the devil and his temptations can do no lasting harm to us.  Saved by Jesus’ blood, secure in our salvation by our baptism, strengthened through the Word, nothing can separate us from God and his love.  As we ponder our Savior this Lenten season, let us never forget all our Savior did to save us, and let us dedicate and rededicate our lives to him who did so much for us. Death is gone. We have life in Christ.

 

Pastor Tim Wahl

 

A Heart Filled With Faith

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. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”     

Luke 17:15-19
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In the familiar story of the ten lepers I have often wondered why this one person returned to thank Jesus when the other nine didn’t. After all it would have been so easy for him to simply follow the crowd, and the crowd he hung around felt it wasn’t necessary or important to say thank you to the one who had healed them. And being a Samaritan he could have simply used the excuse that Jews and Samaritans don’t mix and that was reason enough not to return to Jesus. Of course he could have leaned on any number of rationalizations not to return to Jesus—from seeing his family again to embracing the joys of life —and no one would have thought any lesser of him.
But he did come back. He came back praising God with a loud voice. He came back and threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And the reason he came back isn’t hard to figure out. Leprosy was one of most feared diseases of the first century. It was a disease that caused a slow, painful death which had no cure. It disfigured you in the most horrible way. But worst of all because of the infectious nature of this disease, it separated you from the people you cared about most. You were forced to live out your life in a leper colony, isolated from family and friends and society, alone, death waiting for you at the end. From this disease, from this future, Jesus rescued this man, and he responded.
But it was more than Jesus’ healing miracle that made him return with a thankful heart. It was also a heart filled with faith that could grasp the greater miracle that stood before him. Here was God in the flesh. Here was God’s burning love for sinners, outcasts, Samaritans, even lepers. Here was God’s righteousness lived for the unrighteous. Here was God’s lamb willing to be wounded and sacrificed for people that despised him. Here was God keeping his promise when the whole world had broken theirs. And this heart alive with faith responded the way faith has to respond—with a voice of praise and a life of thanksgiving.
As we enter the Lenten season we are tempted to see it as just “another season of the church year” with more services to attend and depressing songs to sing. We’re quick to rationalize that this is “church overload,” and thus we like to think that we have every reason to tune out and disengage—except one. Like the leper that returned to Jesus, hasn’t God opened our eyes to grasp the miracle that lies before us? That God would give up his own Son on a cross for sinners like us does more than just touch our hearts, it compels them to respond, to worship, to give thanks—and to look for every opportunity to do so.

Embracing with you our Lenten worship,

Pastor Raasch

The New Creation has Come!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

 

The word “new” has a positive ring to it – new car, new house, new clothes, new job, new friends.  “New” implies good things in the Bible as well, especially when it stands in contrast with “old”.

Old Self vs. New Self   We came into the world with a sinful nature that is hostile to God and bound in wickedness and evil desires.  This ugly old self controls those who reject Jesus as Savior.  When the Holy Spirit created faith in our hearts, he gave us a new self that directs our lives.  The new self lives under God’s love and forgiveness, and seeks to serve and obey the Lord.

Old Attitude vs. New Attitude   The old attitude of unbelief is filled with selfishness and evil thoughts.  It lusts after the pleasures and riches of this world, and is determined to satisfy its desires with sinful living.  The faith-filled heart has a new attitude, motivated by love for God who loved us first through his Son.  With this new attitude, God’s will and the welfare of other people are placed ahead of our own interests.

Old Lifestyle vs. New Lifestyle   When Christ is rejected, words and actions are governed by the sinful nature and Satan.  The old lifestyle includes sexual immorality, idolatry, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, factions, and drunkenness (Galatians 5:19-21).  The Holy Spirit empowers the child of God with a new lifestyle:  compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love (Colossians 3:12-14).

The Lord tells us to put off the old and put on the new every day (Ephesians 4:22-24).  He gives us the power and motivation to do this through the Good News of Jesus in God’s Word and in the Lord’s Supper.  Stay connected to Jesus.  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10 NIV)

 

God is the Ultimate Giver

10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.                2 Corinthians 9:10-12qtq80-ci6tz4

 God is the ultimate giver!  This truth is demonstrated not only in the material blessings God provides, but in the amazing spiritual riches he bestows on us.  In spite of our sin and unworthiness, God loved the world and sent his Son Jesus to win our forgiveness and eternal salvation.  He gives us the gospel of Jesus and his Holy Spirit to create faith.  Through that faith, he fills us with joy, peace, and hope in the knowledge that we are right with God in Christ.  Truly, he has made us rich in every way.

The richness of God’s goodness and mercy is the supreme motive that leads us to live for Jesus cheerfully and freely.  The abundance of God’s grace leads us to overflow in many expressions of thanks to God.

  • † We thank God with our lives – at church, at work, at home, at play.
  •  We thank God with our mouths – in worship and praise, witnessing our faith, giving encouragement and comfort to others.
  • † We thank God with our actions – in service to God and other people.
  • † We thank God with our time, talents, and treasures – giving back to the Lord a measure of the gifts he’s given to us.

May the richness of God’s love drive our generous expressions of thanksgiving.

Staff Minister Tom Banaszak

 

Seize the Day

 “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me.  Night is coming, when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  John 9:4-5

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In the film Dead Poets Society, a new teacher named John Keating enters his classroom at an all boys’ prep school for the first time.  The boys sit in their desks, heads down, expecting the usual tedious, boring journey through poetry.   But Keating isn’t any ordinary teacher, and soon he helps these young men realize that they are no ordinary students.  He has them tear out the introduction in their poetry textbooks and has them stand on their desks to help them see the world from a different perspective.  He captures their attention with the following words: “Carpe diem.  Seize the day, boys.  Make your lives extraordinary.”  Keating turns a simple poetry class into a life-changing experience for these young men as they learn to embrace the opportunities that lie before them.

For Jesus in his earthly ministry, every day was precious.  Every day was an opportunity to “carpe diem” for the kingdom of God.  Whether it was doing his “Father’s business” as a 12 year old in the temple or helping a crippled man walk in faith, Jesus made the most of every moment to seek and to save.   To think that Jesus’ public, earthly ministry only lasted three years, and yet during that time we find him constantly on the move, going into towns and villages teaching and preaching, healing and caring, correcting and leading.  It seemed as if Jesus never had an idle moment.

Why this sense of urgency?  When our Savior looked at the crowds of people that followed him he saw them as they really were—sheep without a shepherd.  He came into the world knowing exactly what that world needed—“to preach good news to the poor … to bind up the brokenhearted … to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners … to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Isaiah 61: 1-2).  And our Savior delivered.

Do we have our Savior’s sense of urgency?   Has there ever been a greater opportunity than now to share the love of Christ with the lost and brokenhearted?  Has there ever been a greater opportunity than now to let the Word of Christ live in us deeply through worship and bible study?  Has there ever been a greater opportunity than now to demonstrate our joy of giving to the God who has given us so much, even his own Son?   Has there ever been a greater opportunity than now to shine with humble, compassionate service to God and our neighbor?

In the closing scene of Dead Poets Society the students get out of their seats and stand on top of their desks as their teacher Keating leaves the classroom.  They do it to honor him, taking to heart his advice to see the world from a different perspective.  Let us honor our teacher, our shepherd, our Savior, by getting out of our seats and standing on our desks, not only seeing with fresh eyes the opportunities God gives us, but acting on those opportunities…to seize the day for our extraordinary God.

Seizing each day with you for our extraordinary God,

Pastor Raasch