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Reflections


Pastor's Message for the Month


January 2023

Hopes and Dreams for a New Year

 

by Pastor Benjamin Dolby
All Saints Lutheran Church

 

Happy new year! That is what we joyfully declared on Sunday, November 27, 2022. While the Church Year begins anew in Advent, the broader culture recognizes the new year beginning on January 1st each year. Sadly, the excitement and determination over endless possibilities, new beginnings, and hope-filled resolutions fade quickly for most of mankind. Reality inconveniently reminds us of the same weakness that brought us low in forgetting or failing last year’s resolutions will do the same this year; as the prophet Isaiah writes in chapter 40, verse 30, “even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted.” 

I hope this is a helpful way to adjust our perspective for the new calendar year. Instead of asking ourselves what we will commit to doing differently this year, perhaps we can ask God what he will do and where he will lead us this coming year.

As you reflect on 2022 and look forward to all that 2023 may have in store for you and for our All Saints family, I challenge you to ask God what he desires your hopes and dreams to be focused on?

My hopes and dreams for the new year of 2023 are as follows: 1) listen more.

First, I hope and dream of listening to God’s Word more. I am eager to be sharpened by a deeper understanding of God’s Word in places that are not my “comfort food” passages. As I sought to improve my approach and preparation to preaching last year, I noticed how often I go to Genesis 3:15, Job 19:23-27, Isaiah 25:6-9, and Ezekiel 18:21-32 when I get excited about a specific topic in my sermons.

I am excited about the challenge to take on a two-year challenge of reading all of Holy Scripture. It will not be a sprint as my weak flesh would prefer, but rather a committed, daily reading Holy Scripture. I dream about expanding my “comfort food” passages so I can expand my abilities in outreach opportunities.

Proverbs 8:33, “Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.”

I also hope and dream of listening to unbelievers more. I want to expand my experiences in outreach; specifically, I want learn how I can gently pursue conversations with unbelievers to go one step deeper…find a reason to set up one more conversation. I am confident that as I mature in expanding my go to Bible passages, the Holy Spirit will carry me along and drop me in the middle of new conversations with those who do not yet believe with the same promises of God’s Holy Word, wrapped up in the One in whom every hope and dream hinges on, Jesus Christ.

An excellent and succinct starting place when an unbeliever, a seeker, or a doubter genuinely invites us to give our “elevator pitch” we can begin by expressing our authentic self. Tell them we honestly want to listen more and understand what weighs as important or worrisome on their heart and soul. Once we have waited, listened, and expressed our desire to listen…then our hopes and dreams to sincerely share the Gospel may receive an equal welcome and audience in that shared conversation.

There is something incredibly powerful when we honestly assess the condition of the world and ourselves and state to an unbeliever that everything is undeniably broken. Then share a Scripture passage like Psalm 118:13 with them to emphasize that truth in light of God’s presence and action for our sake, “I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me.” Who knows where the Holy Spirit will take the conversation and friendship from there?! But any continued conversation with an unbeliever, when they see the authenticity of our hopes and dreams, is an exciting place to be living.

Happy new year! What are your hopes and dreams for the new year of 2023? I pray that we properly prepare to achieve them by asking God what he will do and where he will lead us this coming year. May the Lord bless your spiritual growth in your prayer life and your daily devotion life. In Jesus’ Name. Alleluia and Amen!

“And he (Christ) came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” – Ephesians 2:17-19.

In Christ,

Pastor Dolby


December 2022

A Simple Gift for your Advent Journey

 

by Pastor Benjamin Dolby
All Saints Lutheran Church

 

This is one of those special years where Advent begins in November. How has this beautiful season of preparation started off for you?

Do you already feel exhausted? Is it a monumental struggle to find time to be intentionally meditative and appreciate the moment? Or could this be a season you are dreading because of anxieties, burdens, or sorrows that silently weigh you down?

Wherever you find yourself at this very moment, I pray you will receive this article as a simple resource. I pray it is a helpful companion as you light the appropriate number of candles each week of Advent and be still with the Lord, the Coming Messiah. 

First Week: Hope, The Prophecy Candle

For the first week of Advent, I invite you to light one candle and remember what this first Advent candle symbolizes: the eternal gift of Hope, God’s promised hope passed down to us through the power of the Holy Spirit and entrusted to our forefathers in the faith. Consider how this passage about a star, a symbol of royalty given authority from heaven to reign. This hope was given to Moses beforehand and realized in its full brightness in the Messiah King searched for and found by the Wise Men under the star of Bethlehem!

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel. – Numbers 24:17

This also blesses us with hope in knowing the One whose First Advent happened just as God promised, is coming again for the Second Advent, just as God has promised. There is hope for you and me, even as we wait patiently…expectantly for the Messiah King, alongside Moses and all our forefathers in the faith.

Second Week: Faith, the Bethlehem Candle

For the second week of Advent, light two candles and remember what the second Advent candle symbolizes: the eternal gift of Faith, that is dependent wholly and completely on the giver of the gift. It is incredible to be reassured that this is dependent on the strength of Jesus Christ alone! When Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, he did it with the clear purpose of comforting our terrified minds. As our Lutheran Confessions reflect, “Christ’s flesh was given as food for the life of the world.” – Apology of the Augsburg Confession XXII 10.

Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. – John 6:51

Third Week: Joy, The Shepherd Candle

For the third week of Advent, light three candles (the third one being pink if you have one on your advent wreath!) and remember what the third Advent candle symbolizes: joy. In the Gospel according to Saint Luke, Jesus commands us to raise our heads in confident expectation of a blessed event. Even more certain than singing Joy to the World on Christmas Day in the Divine Service, is the truth of our deliverance from all forces of sin and evil. Consider how great it is to sing, “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found, far as, far as the curse is found!” – Joy to the World stanza 3.

Jesus said, “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” – Luke 21:28

Fourth Week: Peace, The Angel Candle

For the fourth week of Advent, light four candles and remember what the four Advent candle symbolizes: peace. Remember how we started out with the prophet candle, the hope that has been promised of old? We return to the voice of our forefathers, echoing down the ages what God first spoke to them through his Holy Spirit. We are invited to remember a present and everlasting gift that is ours from the One True God who loves us.

This passage from the prophet Malachi is God speaking directly to believers. Ponder this: the Ruler of the Universe is speaking to you personally. He is calling you to hear the pronouncement of his counsel. God does not desire to keep the promise a secret from you! God wants you to hear, understand, receive, and then go tell it on a mountain…that he offers the eternal gift of peace to all who believe.

God gives us peace now, a peace that surpasses all understanding because of the healing in the forgiveness of sins we enjoy through Christ Jesus alone. God promises us the healing peace of the resurrection when this same Jesus comes again in his Second Advent.

For you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. – Malachi 4:2

I pray this will be a simple resource that blesses your Advent journey alongside your Savior, alongside your forefathers in the faith, and alongside your church family as we all prepare for the Coming Messiah together.

In Christ,

Pastor Dolby


November 2022

Thanksgiving for Past, Present, and Future

 

by Pastor Benjamin Dolby
All Saints Lutheran Church

 

The truth about life is the juxtaposition between so much being broken and so much to be thankful for. We are hopelessly broken creatures living in a terribly broken world. In stark contrast to this bitter truth is the truth that there is so much to be thankful for.

I invite you to ponder your favorite Thanksgiving memory; was it from a recent year or from many years ago? Was it a memory of the fellowship in preparing the house and the food for family and beloved friends? Or do you remember the delicious dessert brought by a grandmother or friend? Or, if you are anything like me, the memory of the morning football game outside with the laughter of kids and grown-ups, the crunching of autumn leaves underfoot…while we try to live out our football dreams without a hospital visit before the Thanksgiving feast with gathered loved ones.

The gift to gather around a meal and share the gift of fellowship with family and friends at Thanksgiving mirrors the incredible wealth we experience as Christians every week. Think about it…God gathers us around his table to receive his eternal gifts of forgiveness, joy, and hope in his Word and Sacraments even as we still live as pilgrims, sojourners in a broken, sorrow-filled world. There is so much to be thankful for even as we acknowledge how difficult it is to look at the world around us and even the broken state of our own heart, mind, and soul. God provides us sustenance for our earthly journey in himself and his gifts to us!

As I remember Thanksgiving memories from the near and long-ago past, I see so many beloved faces and hear so many voices from those no longer with us among the living on earth. I miss them terribly. Even as I deal with that bitter sorrow, I am comforted in knowing that reality is much more than the present longing for the past while simultaneously being thankful in the present. As we begin the month of November, I am thankful that because of the accomplished work of God through his Son, Jesus, Christ, the faces I no longer see and the voices I no longer hear are not something doomed to remain in the past, dead, and gone. I am thankful for Jesus giving us hope that the past and present indeed have a future in him.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy *catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life + everlasting. Amen.

What does this mean? … In this Christian church he daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.

On the Last Day he will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.

I give thanks for the truth of God’s eternal gifts meaning so much for us in the present. God brings us comfort as we deal with the truth of our present reality – the juxtaposition of the world being broken and yet, we have so much to be thankful for. I am thankful for the daily bread of God’s Word that applies to all of us among the living. It is good to have time to give thanks for our one and only hope, the Savior, Jesus Christ, Victor over Sin, Devil, and Death. May we hear him and share him as we still have days afforded to us on earth!

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. – Daniel 12:2

Jesus said, “All who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” – John 5:28-29

So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. – 1 Corinthians 15:42-43

Christ will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body. – Philippians 3:21

May we be blessed to receive, remember, recite, and re-share the Good News God gives to us in this month of thankfulness and every future month he affords us on earth. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

In Christ,

Pastor Dolby

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