From the Pastor

Following Jesus Together - January 6

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year! For a brief gospel meditation this week, I want to share some well-written words by a former student I had the privilege of knowing and discipling in youth group. She writes,

“I refuse to put my hope in 2021.

How could I place all my hope for a better year in some far off, superficial feeling or figment of time?

What if things don’t get better?

What if the vaccine doesn’t work the way they are hoping?

What if this new president elect makes mistakes?

What if, God forbid, things get even worse?

Where would we be then if 2021 isn’t kinder?

These “what ifs” are not meant to alarm or stir up anxiety, but I mean to point you to Christ - the same One on the throne in 2020 - the only comfort, solace, hope, peace, and joy in the midst of suffering can come to us through Him alone. In Him all things hold together. So I continue to place my trust in the God who knows the beginning from the end and rescues us not because we are good, but because He is good.

So you won’t see me asking 2021 to be kinder to us. But I pray God draws you near in His peace that He is good and in control. I ask God for healing and relief from the suffering of 2020, knowing His holy and perfect will cannot bring me to despair or the end of myself like the things of this world. They say, “when you reach the end of your rope, just tie a knot and hang on.” That’s absurd. We are too weak. His strength and power alone pulls us from the depths.”

Those beautiful words apply what the prophet Habakkuk wrote in the midst of chaotic times, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4) Here’s what that faith sounds like (3:17-18), again in Habakkuk’s words, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”

May the Lord be our strength in 2021 – as Habakkuk reminds us – God gives us what we need to navigate through uncertain times and places: faith.

Thompson Update
Uncertainty sums up our holidays. I am being tested again for Covid today. I thought I was improving and then got hit again yesterday with tightness in the chest – fatigue and shortness of breath. So they are making sure I didn’t have a false negative last week. I will keep you all updated.

I greatly appreciate your kind words, texts and prayers! By God’s grace everyone else in the house is healthy.

Sunday – Pastor Jim is in the pulpit Sunday continuing through Romans – “16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Martin Luther, the famous Reformer, wrote long ago that when he finally understood these words, it was like the gates of heaven opened wide and he stepped into paradise. He was changed by the grace of God. May Jesus do the same for us today!

It’s communion Sunday this week. So please take time to prepare your hearts and minds to feed on Christ by faith and be strengthened by the grace of our good God!

Grace and peace,
Nate

Following Jesus Together - December 22

Dear Friends,
I hope and pray you have a Merry Christmas! I know our kids are buzzing with excitement and joy and longing. Their childlike joy is an invitation, I think. We are called into the joy and anticipation of that great day when our faith shall be sight, the dead shall be raised and Christ’s returns to feast and dwell on earth with us for eternity. We will need no light, for the Lamb of God (Jesus) shall be our light. Until then we light our candles on Christmas Eve, celebrating the light of God’s presence we have right now and even as we look forward to God’s promised endless bliss. Sin has made us tired and weary. Joy is difficult amidst sorrow. So thank God for the joy and faith of the little children among us, who can teach us how to anticipate with eager longing the true meaning of Christmas: God with us.

Candlelight Christmas Eve service on Thursday evening at 6:00pm.

It’s good to end a chaotic year with the reminder of what Christmas is all about – a cosmic love story. As John famously wrote, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”

God’s love is the love of a husband for an unfaithful bride (see Hosea). His love is a Father’s love and yearning for His rebellious children (Luke 15:11-32). His love is a cosmic love – He loves the world – all of creation was called good and will be once again.

So come Thursday and reflect on the good news of Christmas this year – “Cheer up you are worse than you thought, but God loves you more than you can imagine. He gave His only Son FOR us.

Sunday, December 27thWe are going to continue meditating on God’s love as we see Jesus interact with an outsider, the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Our studies in Daniel will resume January 17th, as Pastor Jim will be in Romans on January 3rd and 10th.

One interesting comparison between John 3 and John 4:

The story of Nicodemus, the Pharisee & Hebrew Bible expert, takes place at night.

The story of the woman at the well takes place during the day.

So what you may wonder? Well, look at the symbolism of darkness and light, it’s part of Jesus’ teaching here. (John 3:16-21). Nicodemus, who ought to see and understand God’s promised gospel, needs Jesus to open His eyes to see the kingdom of God. The one who is really good, the spiritual insider, is in the dark.

But the Samaritan woman – who absolutely knows she is a moral mess (you’ve had 5 husbands and your current man is not your husband) – comes to Jesus in the noonday brightness of the hot desert sun. This Samaritan woman is a spiritual outsider (not Jewish, shamed for her sin and ethnicity) and immoral gets in the kingdom and becomes a light to the nations, a missionary to her community once she sees Jesus. She gets the gospel quicker.

The over all point is that both moral AND immoral persons need the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. But It’s harder for the disciplined, the religious, the holy, the good folks to see their need of grace.

These two great stories are stitched together intentionally. Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman help us see what Jesus says elsewhere to the religious, “Truly I say to you, the tax collectors and prostitutes get into the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21:31)

              God’s love is for the world – that means - us religious insiders and the immoral outsiders. “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (John 4:29)

Thompson Update

Our year has been full of change. The Fall has been and continues to be a season of grief for our family, as you all know. Earlier in the year, we saw the closing of Spa Christian. So we began homeschooling in August. We added Thompson kid #5, Asher Roy, who will be 5 months in January already. (See attached picture)

The combination of homeschooling with 5 fun and active children living in 1200 square feet has us moving towards another change. With the guidance of the Session, the Thompsons are looking to move out of the manse and into a larger home sometime in 2021, God-willing! We covet your prayers for that process.

There are the practical reasons of making the change of course. But I also think of Jeremiah 29:5-7, of God’s commands to move into the neighborhood and settle down and work for the good of the community God has planted you in. We love Ballston Spa and Hope Church and look forward to and pray for years of fruitful gospel ministry together.  

See you Christmas Eve!

Grace and peace,
Nate Thompson

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