A Message From the Pastor

Give Thanks In All Circumstances - November, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ: Thankfulness, studies show, has multiple physical, mental and emotional benefits. Psychologist Robert Emmons calls gratitude “fertilizer for the mind” because of its powerful effects. He admits gratitude isn’t always easy — especially when life throws us curveballs — but says it can be most helpful during and after difficulties. Emmons suggests reframing challenges using thankfulness-based language. Ask, for example: "Though I wasn’t grateful for the experience at the time, how can I be now? What lessons did I learn, and how did I grow as a person?"

Throughout his letters, the apostle Paul reframes his extensive sufferings and urges us to do the same. “Give thanks in all circumstances,” he writes, “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).

REJOICE in Your Confession of Faith - October, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ: In the creeds of the Church, we make our confession about The Church. The Church is, as Luther’s Small Catechism says, “It is the Body of Christ—that is, all people whom the Spirit, by the Means of Grace, has gathered to Christ in faith throughout the world.” The Church not only spans the world, but all time as well.

We make our confession in these words: “I believe in ... the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints.” These two phrases are two ways of saying the same thing. The Church is holy because it is Christ’s body, and He is holy and therefore He makes the Church holy. In the word “communion” we find the aspects of “community” and “union.” What all true believers in Christ Jesus hold in common is their faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. And saints are those who are holy—declared holy, declared forgiven, pardoned of all sin because of Christ’s suffering and death on their behalf.

Later in the month of October, we will be observing the Reformation. The Reformation was not a one-day event. The Reformation actually spans years of God’s word and work in bringing the Gospel into a more clear position—starting with Luther in Germany, spreading throughout Europe, and out into the world. God the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, worked in the heart and mind of Martin Luther as he studied the Word of God. Through growth of faith and understanding and learning over a number of years, Luther sought to bring the Gospel into clear light in his preaching, teaching, and writings.

As Lutherans, we treasure the heritage of this work of God. Yes, we call ourselves Lutherans after Luther, but it’s not because of Luther—rather, we rejoice in what God did through Luther for the sake of the Gospel and the truth of God’s Word that reaches out to all the world.

We stand with Luther and with all the Reformers and with all Christians who confess their faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation from sin. We rejoice in being members of the body of Christ— believers in Jesus who lived righteously for us, suffered and died on account of our sin, and was raised in victory over sin, death, and the devil. The observance of the Reformation can focus on so many facets of the Gospel; but one facet is remembering God’s work through people in bringing many into faith in Jesus Christ. The Church is holy; it is in Christ; it is a community of saints/ believers. It is one. Jesus Christ is the Head and we are His body.

Rejoice for you are a member of the body of Christ along with fellow Lutherans and Christians who confess faith in Christ. Therefore, we firmly and confidently confess our faith in “the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints.”

Peace to you in Christ, Pastor.

God Remains the Same - September, 2022

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:1)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,  My favorite color is green. As I appreciate God’s wonderful creation, I have observed that so much plant growth is green. Certainly, there are so many other colors in God’s palette of colors in the work of His hands. Green is the color of summer. And now, with September, we will begin to see a change in colors. The summertime green and warmth will fade into tans, and golds, and reds, and yellows and cooler temperatures. The seasons change.

When I was younger, in my teenage years, I recall people complaining about the heat of summer. And it seemed like those same persons complained about the cold of winter. I decided that I would learn to appreciate each season of the year and what it brings in the variety of its season.

So, I appreciate summer warmth and green plants. The longer time of daylight. Thank you, God, for these. The fall brings cooler temperatures, football, and the wonderful color changes. How awesome is our God! What I like about winter is being outside on a cold, still night, and a clear sky so I can see the stars. And the silence. It can be beautifully quiet and calm and peaceful on cold, clear, crisp winter night. And one can think and wonder about Abraham looking up at those same stars as God invited him to. And then, the anticipation of spring when flowers pop up, and trees bloom, and the smell of a fresh spring rain. Yes, I know, here in Nebraska spring only lasts a day to a week, but still: thank you, God.

The seasons change. But God, in His mercy and goodness does not. And God’s Word is there for us in each and every season. As each season brings its glory of God into our senses, God’s Word continually seeks to enter our ears and into our hearts. Creation does reveal some creative aspects of God, but only God’s Word reveals His true good and loving and merciful heart. For in love, God sent His Son to be born, live, suffer, die, rise, and ascend to secure our salvation.

In all things, the praise is God’s. Each and every day I praise God for His creation and redemption. He made me and saved me. No matter what earthly changes come about, God remains the same. The seasons change, but God is merciful and loving, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love each and every day (Exodus 34:6). Praise the Lord! God’s Blessings to you, Pastor Toensing

Prayer: A Ship or a Boat? - August, 2022

Prayer: A Ship or a Boat? Do you know the difference between a ship and a boat? I used to think it was just a matter of size—a ship was bigger, a boat was smaller. But it’s actually more specific than that: a ship is a vessel that has its own boat. That’s right; a ship always has a smaller vessel, a boat, that it carries until it’s needed— for example, when the ship is sinking, a lifeboat. Now, a lifeboat is a very good thing, but the fact is that most ships never need their boat that way. Most ships go their entire sailing life without ever using the lifeboat. Almost all the time, you do your sailing in the ship.

Is prayer a lifeboat, or is it a ship?

“Pastor, would you pray for me? The doctor says I have a tumor.”

Absolutely, yes, and Pastor does. Even when it may appear all hope is lost, the ship is sinking, God answers prayer, and it may be his will to work a miracle, to spare one’s life. Prayer can be a lifeboat.

But God’s intent in giving us the gift of prayer isn’t that we wait to pray until all seems lost. God intends that prayer be an everyday, every moment part of the Christian life, including when life seems to be clear sailing, a pleasure cruise. The fact is that God rights the ship, keeps the world on an even keel, by the prayers of his Church. The saints on earth and in heaven are constantly praying, and God is constantly answering—with good weather, good crops, good health, and all sorts of things we might take for granted. God invites us to pray about everything every day, not just as a last resort.

It’s like the difference between a ship and a boat. The ship— constant, daily prayer—also has a boat, like that life and death prayer Abraham brought before the Lord (Gen 18:22–33). But God invites us to sail every day, pray every minute, in the ship.1

1Robert J. Pase, Midland, TX (CPR:CPH, 2016)

Giving Witness - July, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ: In 1801, Jonathan Chapman, age 26, appeared on the shores of Liking Creek, Ohio, planting apple seeds. Five years later he was seen again navigating the Ohio River with two canoes lashed together, carrying his cargo of apple seeds.

Legends began to grow. He was given a new name: Johnny Appleseed. According to W. D. Haley, the writer for Harper’s Monthly Magazine who recorded the story, the purpose of his life was to plant apple orchards on the farthest verge of the pioneer settlements. In spite of dangers and wars, he kept planting apple seeds. Why did he do it? He evidently was filled with a compulsion.

Paul says that he was commissioned as a servant of Christ for the purpose of planting the seeds of the Gospel. God filled him with compulsion to do his Lord’s work.—Preaching, July–August 1991, p 30.

This same compulsion should fill you and me too. And when we do share the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ, it can give courage to fellow believers and plant the seed of salvation in those who do not yet know Christ.

Something I learned in the last few months is the value of witnessing to fellow believers. Recently, I stopped to get my hair cut in Lincoln. I did not know the gentleman who cut my hair. But as you know, there are boundaries that are lowered when someone is cutting your hair. The conversation turned to matters of the Christian faith. I talked about being a pastor. It opened him up to talk about his “testimony.” Last April, when my father was in the hospital, I saw him give witness of his faith to doctors and interns in front of me and his pastor who was there to visit. How encouraged we are when fellow believers faithfully and courageously talk about their love of Christ and what He did for them on the cross and in His resurrection.

The point is: be under the compulsion of grace to give witness wherever you are—to fellow believers and to strangers. You may find that some stranger is a fellow brother or sister in Christ. And when they see your boldness in the compulsion to plant the seeds of God’s Word, they will be emboldened to do the same. And in this way the Word of God grows.

How amazing that we are both compelled and freed to share the blessings of Christ and His Word. May God’s Spirit continue to compel us and free us for service and witness in Christ.

Peace in Christ, Pastor

The Apple of His Eye - June, 2022

Dear Fellow Saints, Did anyone ever tell you that you were the “apple of their eye?” Did you know that God calls YOU the apple of His eye?

A teacher gave apples to the children in her class. “Look at your apple closely,” she said. “Notice the color, spots, blemishes, bumps, and how the stem points. Close your eyes and picture your own apple and everything about it.” After a little time, the teacher collected the apples in a basket and laid them out on the top of her desk, mixing them thoroughly in the process. Then she said, “Come and pick out your apple.” Every one of the 30 pupils in her class picked out his or her particular apple.

Each one of us is unique, just as is every apple. We all have our bumps, spots, shades of color, and differing stems. God can pick each of us out of a million people. He has chosen us to be His own precious apples, and He cares for us, just as He chose Israel to be His holy nation in ancient times. That’s what Moses told the people of Israel, “He guarded him as the apple of his eye” (Dt 32:10).

This image is also found in Psalm 17:8. This image of the apple of my eye is 3500 years old! It is an image that gives us comfort that God affectionately cares for you and me. But even more so, because Jesus Himself is the apple of the Father’s eye. And Jesus gave His live in love and sacrifice to save us from our sins. Jesus Christ lived righteously and gave His life unto the punishment of death for us, then rose and ascended into heaven in glory.

Since we are now saved, we have each become the apple of God’s eye. All God’s love and compassion and forgiveness and grace are extended to you because of Jesus. What joy and peace that you, me, and all believers are the apple of God’s eye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor

The Gospel in Seven Words - April, 2022

Dear Sons and Daughters of our Gracious Heavenly Father. During the Lent 2022 Wednesday services we have been considering a number of Gospel themes for putting together seven-word statements that summarize the Gospel. I have found it interesting and challenging. There are many wonderful Gospel themes to choose from.

The purpose for trying to get the Gospel summarized into seven words is to be prepared to share the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ in a single simple statement. First, so that we can have something memorized about the Gospel. Second, it gives a basic picture for conversation with someone in our witnessing of Christ. Third, it can help us with the outline for witnessing—the bad news of sin and the wonderful news of God’s salvation for us from our sin. Every one of us is a witness to Christ. Each one of us is to confess that Jesus is Lord (Rom. 10:9-10; Phil. 2:11; 1 John 1:9)

And we do have wonderful news to share about Jesus. He is God incarnate. He walked the way of life and followed all the will of God and gives us the credit. He suffered for the sins of which we are guilty. He died the death of hell which we deserved. He rose the third day in victory over sin, death, and the devil.

Such a great love for us and the saving acts of our Lord should enliven us and enable us to courage and joy in sharing the Gospel. However, as we look at the world around us, it seems as if being a Christian puts one under the attack of current trends. But this means that it is ever more vital for us to share the saving message of Christ. In fact, in world history, the Church has actually grown more in places where there is persecution. Therefore, we do need to be ready to confess our faith and confess it boldly and confidently.

Jesus knows what we will endure. But, He says this in Matthew 10:32–33 (ESV): “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

So remember this: Romans 5:10 (ESV): “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” And this: Romans 6:23 (ESV): “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Our boldness and confidence in our confession comes from the love God has poured into us, and from the Spirit who empowers us through the Word of God. All that we have heard from God’s Word comes into our ears, drops into our hearts and creates faith in Jesus, and then spills out in joy from our lips with confession and praise.

I encourage you in the love of God to think about your favorite Gospel theme. Then, create a short statement about sin and grace that you can easily remember. Let that short summary of the Gospel be yours to share when you find yourself in an opportunity to confess Christ Jesus and His work of salvation. God grant you His love and strength to confess the saving name of Jesus.

In Jesus’ name, Pastor Toensing

The Gospel In Seven Words - March, 2022

The Gospel in Seven Words Imagine that a friend or family member who is unfamiliar with your Christian faith asks you to summarize the gospel. She isn’t looking for a laundry list of doctrines. She has no interest in hearing you recite the Apostles’ Creed. She wants to get to the heart of the matter. “In seven words or less,” she says, “tell me what you believe as a Christian.” What would you say? How would you put it? Are you prepared to confess your faith in Jesus?

To be a Christian is to “believe with your heart” and “confess with your mouth” the good news of God’s love for us in Christ (Romans 10:9-10). Peter calls us to be prepared always to give a reason for the hope we have as Christians (1 Peter 3:15). Christians have the best news in the world to share! But are we prepared to share it?

During this season of Lent, we’re going to prepare to celebrate Holy Week by sharing why Holy Week is so important. Out midweek worship services will serve as opportunities to consider the many ways in which the Scriptures proclaim Jesus. During the weeks of Lent, each of us will be working on our own summary, with the hopes that all of us are more prepared to share the good news of Jesus. Come and join us this Lent, and join us by crafting your own confession of the gospel!

In the Love of Jesus Christ, Pastor Toensing

Last Day Preparations, Taken Care of! - February, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ: Last December we saw the finals of the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament. In January, the college football championship. February brings the NFL championship to our viewing pleasure. Often, there are parties for such events. There are also watch parties that people hold for big TV shows, like the final episode of some popular series. Whatever the show or the game or other event that people gather together to watch, there are many preparations that go into hosting such an event.

It begins with a decision to host the event. The invitations go out. Then, planning what to get. Buying all the necessities and delegating some preparations to others. And there will be lots of cleaning, too. Then, the mixing, the baking, the cooking, the grilling, the gathering and the event. It can be a lot of work. And some people just love doing all this kind of work in order to host such an event.

This reminds me of a really big day that is coming that will affect the entire human population. In fact, it will impact all of creation. The Last Day, the day of Christ’s return to end this world, is coming … soon. How soon? No one knows except God the Father.

But … there are preparations being made for that day. But you don’t have to do any of the cooking or cleaning or preparing for this big event. God is host. So, God is the one preparing for that day.

The planning? God. The buying? Well, it was Jesus’ blood shed on the cross that bought you for that day. The invites? They are constantly going out as God is seeking more and more people to receive His invitation of love and mercy. All the work is done by God. Some has been done. The plan to send the Savior who would die for the sins of the world—that was designed by God. Fulfilling that plan—all of it was accomplished by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for you. Now, getting ready for heaven? God is working on that too.

By His Word God is preparing hearts to believe in Jesus, giving them hope and faith. He does that by His Word— the Gospel. The Gospel is the good news that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins.

So, what work do you need to do to get ready for the Last Day? Nothing. You have the Lord’s invitation. Jesus did the work to get you the invitation. You are invited. Trusting in God’s salvation and in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are ready for That Day. And the Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of the heavenly feast God is preparing. But get this: you can share the invitation. God wants you to share the invite. He has room in His eternal dwellings for everyone.

Praise God! In the Love of Jesus Christ, Pastor Toensing