As we close out 2021, I want you to know that our church is in an incredible position to unleash the unconditional love of Jesus in our communities and with people everywhere.
Let’s take a moment to celebrate what God has done since July 1…
And, here’s an early Christmas present for us…
Thank you to the countless volunteers, contractors, and staff who helped make these improvements happen!
All of this is the fruit of God at work in and through you and your investment of time and dollars. At the end of November, we had received 99.2% of our projected income so far this fiscal year. Meanwhile, we only spent 93.4% of what we anticipated.
Thank you for your ongoing faithfulness to Jesus, His church, and His mission!
As we enter into a new year, we proudly “welcome home” Pierce College’s English as a Second Language (ESL) Community and other Community Groups (AA, NA, Al-Anon).
Here are a few other dates to mark on your calendar:
Who will you invite to join you as we love God, love people, and live like Jesus in 2022? I can’t wait for them to grow with you as together we experience the unconditional love of Jesus.
P.S.: If you would like to give a year-end gift, IRA Qualified Charitable Distribution, or other tax-deductible donation to support Jesus’ mission and ministry at and through Our Savior, make sure we receive it by December 31 so that it can appear on your 2021 Giving Statement.
Have questions or need help? Contact our Director of Operations, Nora Gass at email@example.com.
A reflection on the recent midwest tornadoes and how to help... from Pastor Tim & Pastor Matt
This past weekend, at least 27 tornadoes rolled over 200 miles through Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
As we continue to learn about the massive destruction and loss of human life in places either foreign or familiar, it is normal to feel the entire spectrum of human emotions.
It is normal to feel the entire spectrum of human emotions.
First things, first.
There has been an incredible response of local church and first-responders to the needs of those directly affected by last weekend's tornadoes. From search and rescues to food and from comfort dogs to clean-up, people are being the hands and feet of Jesus in the midst of tragedy.
We can first go to God in prayer. Ask Him that people's light would shine through relief efforts, simple words, and the presence of ordinary people coming together for help and healing. Why? So that all may see it and give glory to God (John 8:12).
Lutheran Church Charities is a national disaster relief organization. They have deployed people to assess damage for work, chainsaw, debris removal, and ministering to those in need through the local church.
If you would like to:
Go directly to Lutheran Church Charities at www.lutheranchurchcharities.org.
Want to Talk?
If you would like to talk to somebody, our ministry team and care ministers are here for you. Please reach out to the church office to schedule an appointment.
From search and rescues to food and from comfort dogs to clean-up, people are being the hands and feet of Jesus in the midst of tragedy.
It is OK to ask questions and seek understanding.
When horrific things happen, it is normal for us to seek understanding.
In fact, an early church leader, Augustine says that faith seeks understanding. In other words, seeking understanding is not a demonstration of a lack of faith. In fact, it is the opposite. We seek to understand events that are out of our control and do not seem aligned to who we know God to be because we already have a relationship with God. That’s why circumstances like the recent tornados can stir up questions, doubts, and emotions. In a way, seeking to understand these events with God in mind is a clear demonstration of our faith in Jesus, not the lack of it.
Into the Unknown.
Oftentimes, we feel the gap between what we know about God from the Scriptures, what we expect from God based on our relationship with Jesus, and our lived human experience.
When we are in this “gap”, we are in the unknown and therefore, seek understanding.
Let’s focus a moment on the three responses already shared (above).
When we are in this “gap”, we are in the unknown and therefore, seek understanding.
1. How could God allow this to happen?
God is described as both a Loving Creator and an Almighty Ruler of All Creation. The Philosopher, Aristotle would describe God as the Immovable Mover.
Let’s reframe the question. Who said that God allowed this to happen?
What if the tornadoes happened because everything on this side of heaven from humanity to creation is broken? And what if part of that brokenness is that weather wreaks havoc on people, places, and things? And just like we need to deal with our own human brokenness, we need to deal with the brokenness of weather patterns?
It’s not that God isn’t in control of all things and still doesn’t silent the winds and the rains… it’s that the nature of weather is broken. And just like we live in the “now and not yet”, simultaneously completely broken and completely forgiven, our weather is also in a “now and not yet” reality - simultaneously producing destructive storms and restorative precipitation and sunshine to nourish creation.
We can be confident of one thing: there are no tornadoes, death, or destruction in heaven.
Who said that God allowed this to happen?
2. I know God allowed this to happen, but I don’t know why.
For all the modern world’s research, science, and advancements, our human understanding of God remains extremely limited. These tools are great gifts and do an amazing job of describing how situations, phenomena, and wonders of our world occur. However, they rarely satisfy our curiosity to understand “why”.
We are reminded of Paul writing to the church in Corinth about a “thorn in his side” that God allowed and didn’t remove despite him pleading multiple times. The oft-quoted words God spoke to Paul - “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9) - remind us of important truths when facing trials, evil, and brokenness.
For all the modern world’s research, science, and advancements, our human understanding of God remains extremely limited.
3. I’m angry at God, but trusting Him at the same time.
The anger is real. As people shaped by the Western American value of personal responsibility, we can be honest and admit that we tend to look for somebody to blame because the one who causes the inconvenience, pain, and suffering is also responsible to fix it.
It’s fair to ask the question, “who is to blame?”. So, let’s listen to Jesus’ answer… His answer is always better than our own.
Jesus had someone ask him who is responsible for a man’s inconvenience, pain, and suffering? Because whoever it is, they’re responsible to fix it.
Jesus’ response: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 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 9:3-5).
In other words, there is no blame. Instead, look for Jesus.
Let’s listen to Jesus’ answer… His answer is always better than our own.
The Best Place to Be is With Jesus.
When disaster strikes - whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, we want clarity. What is wrong? How do we make it right - right now.
Martin Luther says it best, “When you look around and wonder whether God cares, you must always hurry to the cross and you must see Him there.” Jesus is always in the middle of pain and suffering.
At the cross, Jesus righted the wrongs for all times, in all places, for all people.
If we want to know where Jesus is working, look for pain and suffering.
If we want to join Jesus on His mission, look for pain and suffering.
In these moments:
And by doing so, you let your light shine so that people will see your good deeds and join you in giving glory to God (John 8:12).
When you look around and wonder whether God cares, you must always hurry to the cross and you must see Him there.
How Can I Help?
Lutheran Church Charities, a national disaster relief organization, will be deploying to assess damage for work, chainsaw, debris removal, and ministering to those in need through the local church.
Additionally, Lutheran Church Charities have deployed comfort dogs and ministers to the Edwardsville, Illinois area. They will be helping create a safe and spiritual environment for the communities affected by the damaged Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, to share love and compassion to the victims, and assist in helping first responders process their grief.
You can help by making a donation directly to Lutheran Church Charities at www.lutheranchurchcharities.org.
You can also pray for the families affected by the tornadoes to experience the unconditional love of Jesus through the hands, feet, and voices of ordinary people.
And seriously… We are always here for you if you want to talk.
Love you much.
Pastor Tim and Pastor Matt
Advent is all about Jesus’ arrival - at both Christmastime and at the end of all human time. And, this week, we want to orient our hearts to look for and see “Jesus-things”.
Here’s the point: Look for what God is looking for and maybe we’ll begin to see Jesus’ “advent” in a whole new way.
Let’s start with the obvious: you don’t need to go very far to see the shadows of Christmas.
The many things we cherish are, no doubt, shadows of the arrival of Jesus at Christmastime.
Now, you can call me a “Scrooge” when I say this: while all of these shadows are good and helpful, I have not yet found a place in the Bible where Christmas lights, rich food, holiday trees and ornaments, candy canes, or presents are pointing the way to Jesus. They’re all very much a cultural expression of an ancient truth. Again - they’re helpful… they’re just not in the Bible.
So, as we turn the corner in our Advent journey to focus on the hope that Jesus brings, let’s take a moment and look at five Jesus-things God looks for… and if it’s good enough for God - it’s probably good enough for us, too.
Look for what God is looking for and maybe we’ll begin to see Jesus’ “advent” in a whole new way.
Here we go...
Humble Servanthood - Luke 1:48 says that when Jesus arrives as a baby, God looks for humility and a servant’s heart. Beyonce is right when she said, “God is God and I am not”. That’s humility. And servanthood is joyfully responding to the work of God through praising the One who is God and loving the people and creation God gives to us.
In fact, Luke 1:52 actually says when Jesus arrives, that God replaces the arrogant and prideful people with those who are humble servants. This is true both at Christmas and at the end of human time.
How is my heart feeling about God being God and me not being God? Am I OK with that? Is there something I need to change in my thinking or feeling that will allow me to be OK with this truth?
“God is God and I am not”.
A fear of God - In Luke 1:50, God looks for those who demonstrate a reverent honor and respect toward what God can do - namely, give them mercy. Mercy is receiving undeserved favor. God looks for the undeserving and makes them deserving of His unconditional love, forgiveness, and power. It’s like a Christmas present. It’s yours… but you need to freely receive it and own it.
The ironic thing is that the more aware we become of God’s mercy given to us in Jesus, we develop a deeper honor and respect for God. Let that sit on your mind for a while and see where it leads you.
How much do I need God’s unconditional and undeserved mercy? Am I in awe of this, or do I take it for granted? Lord, forgive me when I don’t honor and respect this gift!
The more aware we become of God’s mercy given to us in Jesus, we develop a deeper honor and respect for God.
The proud - Yes - Luke 1:51 does seem to say that God looks for the proud. When God sees them, He doesn’t bury them in guilt, shame, or cancel them like we ordinarily would want to do (hello, social media?). Rather God sees them (that’s grace!) and He allows them to be scattered in their own thoughts, pride, and arrogance.
Let’s be honest, sometimes we discount the work God is already doing in the lives of people and think that we must be the power behind the life change. That’s not how God works. God convicts us by showing us our “scattered mindedness”. I’m reminded of Peter’s words, “Lord, to who else would we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
For the proud, the words of Joel 2:13 resonate: “Return to the Lord, your God, for He is gracious and merciful. Slow to anger and abounding in unconditional love”.
Where in my life am I proud? May I return to you in all areas of my life… make me more like Jesus. You alone have the words of eternal life.
“Return to the Lord, your God, for He is gracious and merciful. Slow to anger and abounding in unconditional love”
Hungry people - Luke 1:53 lifts up the hungry in body and spirit. Where are the hungry bellies and souls around you? Let’s follow Jesus’ example when He feeds people on the mountaintops and valleys, front rooms and backrooms with His teaching, His healing, bread and wine, and the loaves and fish that is passed around with the Zacchaeus' (Luke 19) and Nicodemouses (John 3) in our lives.
Am I “hungry” for you? Do I want more of your Word? Do I crave more of your presence? Or, do I starve myself by relying on my own body weight to sustain me throughout the day?
Where are the hungry bellies and souls around you?
Rich people - It seems as if God looks for rich people and empties their bank accounts. Now before we think of socialism or go all Robin Hood, let’s look at what Jesus actually does. Jesus never “robs” people. Jesus never “takes from Peter to pay Paul”. Instead, Jesus says things like, “give to Caesar what is Caesar's and God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17).
We also see rich people walking away from Jesus (Matthew 19:22 and Mark 10:22). They aren’t walking away because Jesus sent them away, but rather Jesus’ way of living meant that they had to part with their hard earned or inherited riches. . . not because they "have" to - but because they "get" to. They were sad because they so wanted to follow Jesus, but they also wanted to part with something that became part of their identity.
For you, does your wealth shape your lifestyle of following Jesus? Or, does your lifestyle of following Jesus shape what you do with your wealth?
By the way, I’m just pointing out what Mary, Jesus’ mother sees when Jesus arrives in her tummy. Check out her song in Luke 1:46-55.
Jesus’ way of living meant that you must part with your hard earned or inherited riches... not because you "have" to - rather, because you "get" to.
Here’s the point: If it’s good enough for God to look for - it’s good enough for me, too.
Keep looking for the things God is looking for and maybe we’ll begin to see Jesus’ arrival in a whole new way.
Jesus has come. Jesus is risen. Jesus will come again.
God’s voice is best heard in silence.
I think about Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11-13. A boy named Elijah is trying to listen for God’s voice. Interestingly enough, he doesn’t hear God speak in wind, earthquake, or fire. Instead, Elijah hears God speak in the silence of a gentle whisper.
If you’re like me, you’re always listening to something. We listen to the loud winds of the news feeds and media. We listen to the traumatic earthquakes happening in people’s lives and in our culture. We listen to the foray of fires in our workplaces and relationships. We don’t need to necessarily listen to anything sinister to find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, cluttered, and busy listening to everything else in life - other than Jesus.
God’s voice is best heard in silence.
Think about it with me…
God sends us silent moments everyday as we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ first advent (Christmas) to declutter our thoughts, stills our heart’s rat race of a rhythm, and gives us confidence in whose and who we are.
The question is, do we take, open, and use God’s gift of silence?
Slow Down and Stop.
Sit and be still.
Listen and Seek to Understand.
My desire to embrace silence in the midst of the winds, earthquakes, and fires around me is really a “heart-thing” than a “schedule-thing”.
The question is, do we take, open, and use God’s gift of silence?
Roman Catholic Pastor, Thomas Keating once said that silence is the expression of our intent to surrender our will to God’s presence and action.
If I were completely honest with you, it’s easy to choose busyness to feel productive and worth something to others. I listen to the voices in my own head instead of seeking the voice of the One whose second advent is coming soon (Revelation 21:5) and who says I am loved and accepted for who I am, not for what I do.
The bottom line question (for me, and perhaps you, too) is this: do I want to hear Jesus’ voice more than anything else?
If not - then Jesus’ voice will always be second to the noise and clutter of preparing to celebrate Jesus’ first advent (Christmas).
But, if I do want to hear Jesus’ voice more than anything else, then slowing down and stopping, sitting and being still, and listening for Jesus’ voice will always be a priority until Jesus’ second advent (His Return).
Do I want to hear Jesus’ voice more than anything else?
For me, in my current season of life, finding an entire hour or even 30 minutes of uninterrupted silence is almost impossible.
And, while I also have my own devotional rhythm, that’s more of a “work pattern” than a personal habit. (That’s part of the reality of the pastor-life… personal devotional life can quickly run dry because you’re always reading the Bible, devotional books, and in prayer for others as “your job”… I’m happy to unpack it more sometime, if you’d like.)
So, here’s what I do… you can join me, if you wish!
I remember this because our area code is 2-5-3.
In his book What’s Wrong with the World, G.K. Chesterton said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly [at first]”. This was clunky at first. But, over a short period of time, it has become something I can’t live without.
The goal is to consciously and consistently experience God’s gift of silence in order to listen for the voice of Jesus at some point everyday - not to all become silent monks.
And, how better to prepare for Jesus’ first and second advent (Christmas and His Return) than by getting to know His voice and following Him wherever He leads us?
After all, Jesus Himself is the best Christmas gift we could ever receive.
Anything worth doing is worth doing badly [at first].
Where will you find your consistent silent moments each day to say, “Lord, speak, I’m listening.”?
Meet Pastor Tim
Tim Bayer has served as Our Savior's Lead Pastor since September 2019. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Concordia University - Irvine, a National Leadership Facilitator and Resource, and a Community Mental Health First Aid Instructor.