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Stop. Please, Please, Stop.

Stop. Please, Please Stop!

Before you post anything or say anything at the ballgame or theater or grocery store . . . please read this:

As a church family – a household of Faith – we believe and practice that human life is created by God and is good. Since we are uniquely created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and formed by God (Genesis 2:7; Job 33:4; Psalm 139:13–16), we hold to the sanctity of all human life (Genesis 9:6; Matthew 6:26). As best as we understand, human life begins at conception (Psalm 139:13–16; Jeremiah 1:4–5). It also lasts beyond death into eternity (John 5:28–29; 1 Corinthians 15:51–52; 2 Corinthians 5:8–10). God gives life and breath to everyone (Acts 17:25), calling us to value equally the dignity of every individual life in its entirety, which compels us to love and have compassion for all peoples of the world (2 Corinthians 5:14–15).

EVERYONE matters to God. EVERYONE matters to us.

That includes people on BOTH SIDES of the debates now raging about the ruling on abortion rights from the Supreme Court this morning.

God loves the abortionist and the LGBTQ+ people and the ultra-conservatives and the moderates. And He loves the justices who voted against overturning Roe vs Wade just as much as he loves those who were in the majority. He loves the women who have had abortions and those who are contemplating the decision; those who’ve experienced abuse, trauma, and rape.

As followers of Jesus, we should be slow, very slow to speak. (James 1:19) Let’s be very careful not to alienate anyone who feels like they “lost” today by claiming a “win.”

By every human measure, Jesus lost. On purpose. With a purpose. Let’s humbly join Him by caring deeply for the people who are hurt, disillusioned, and angry.

Let’s avoid gloating, prideful claims of victory, and any words – spoken or written – which might damage the ears and hearts and minds of people who need to see and experience the love of Jesus.

Texas Tragedy

How do we respond? How do we answer the questions from young kids, teenagers, young adults, and especially those who are far from Jesus?

A school shooting in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday, May 24, left dead 19 children and two adults plus the shooter. And there are many wounded.

The “breaking news” is that the world is broken. Evil is alive and well. But our hope is in God who is our fortress and protector in times of trouble. We take refuge in Him. (See Psalm 37)

Bad things happen to good people. Horrific, unspeakable crimes are perpetrated against helpless, defenseless children.

Is God powerful enough to stop tragedies like a teenager slaughtering children in an elementary school? Yes, absolutely! Why doesn’t God stop all these bad things from happening?

I don’t know . . .

But I DO KNOW that God did not abandon those students, teachers or first responders. He was right there with them in those terrifying moments. God is always present – never absent. He joins us in our suffering.

Even as I write this, God is in the surgical suites, hospital rooms, and funeral director’s offices. He is present in the homes where grief threatens to overwhelm because someone is now absent. God steps into our suffering. He does not leave us alone but enters into the pain, confusion, and anguish with us.

Don’t reject God because He doesn’t measure up to your standard. God is trustworthy because He is all-powerful, always present, and knows everything. Even when everything seems to be going wrong, God is still good.

Sissy Goff offers some great words for parents, grandparents – for all of us: www.facebook.com/sissy.goff

Also check out this article on “Talking to Children About Violence.” Note: We don’t endorse everything found on the NASP website!

SUNDAY, CHRISTMAS EVE 2017

It was snowing when I got up at 5 this morning. There wasn’t much snow at my house but the roads got worse and the snow increased by the time I arrived at church in Ottumwa. My daughter, Joy and Lori Eldrenkamp did an awesome job decorating this year and took everything over-the-top with tables in the Commons stacked with sweet treats. Levi and the worship team and Chad in media were fantastic. It wasn’t a production or a performance; it was worship. Christmas Eve worship.

Serving the people of Northgate Church and our community is my priority; the focal point of my time and attention. I’m well into my fourth year and I don’t have any regrets; I am so grateful to God for this ministry. I still get up each morning with a heart full of anticipation for what God is about to do!

The highlight of the year was the wedding of Peter and Heather on April 9. What a great celebration! And they are expecting a baby boy April 23, 2018!

Kari Beth & Jeremy and their girls, Sarah & Natalie are doing well – I just don’t get to see them often enough. That’s a function of me being a pastor and Kari doing kids ministry at their church. Weekends are full.

Since I only live a few miles up the road, I do get to see Joy and Tony and their boys, Brady, Broc, Brandt, and Bo. Brady is a freshman and got a part in the High School play this Fall and I helped with the production – my 24th year. Some people go hunting; I help with High School Speech, Drama, and Theater.

The best event in 2017 is also the most difficult. TJ, the associate pastor I got to work with for the past three years, was offered a position at a church in the Denver suburb of Parker. I was/am so thrilled for him! As of the end of September, he is the Teaching Pastor at Crossroads Community Church; a great church and an awesome opportunity. I miss him. But I know this is also an opportunity for Northgate Church so we are trusting God as we pray daily for the right person to join our team.

This Advent season, I’ve been struck, once again, with the extraordinary courage of King Jesus who willingly left behind all the glory, power, majesty, and praise of Heaven to come to earth as a helpless baby born into utter poverty. That’s the kind of King I want to follow.

Why would God…?

QUESTION: Over ten years ago there was a funeral for a little boy. The pastor said he died because God needed a new angel in heaven. Please explain why God would do that to a little boy and his family just to get another angel.

ANSWER: There are two things to address. First of all, I’m sure that pastor was sincere in trying to offer comfort to a family at a tragic time but the reality is humans do not become angels when we die. God made us “a little lower than the heavenly beings” (Psalm 8:5) because we are distinctly different from angels. God created angels as spiritual beings with great authority and power to do His will and serve as His servants.

Someday, when we are gathered around God’s throne in Heaven, we will actually be even greater than the angels in heaven! The Apostle Paul writes “Do you not know that we will judge angels?” (1 Corinthians 6:3) which indicates that after death our status will be above angels.

Secondly, God has the power to create all the angels He needs – and since humans do not become angels, God would not take the life of a child (or any person) to benefit Himself. When children die we are especially outraged because their lives are full of promise and bright futures. Death occurs – whether by accident, disease, or old age – because of the evil, sinful condition of the world in which we live; a world that is broken and doesn’t function the way God intended it to at Creation. But we should take hope in the reality that earthly death is not the end.

In 1 Corinthians 15:21-26 Paul writes, “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

Death is our enemy and one day death will come to an end.

Why does terrible…?

QUESTION: Why does terrible sickness happen-like cancer that goes on for months/years? How can God allow this all over the world?

ANSWER: We live in a broken world where war, cancer, car accidents, plane crashes, brain tumors, human trafficking – suffering – happen every minute of every day. It all started in a perfect Garden, thousands of years ago when the first humans were unable to obey a simple command and sin began to multiply in this world. Since that time, sin, which is at work in all of Adam and Eve’s descendants, has compounded and its destructive power is (or should be) a constant reminder of our great need for God. Living in a sinful world means we deal with accidents and sickness and all kinds of tragedies that happen to good and bad people alike.

If it were not for God’s mercy (when He withholds what we really deserve for our sinfulness) and grace (when He generously gives us what we could never deserve) our lives would be filled with the horror of constant tragedy, pain, and separation from all that is good. At this very instant, God’s goodness is being poured out all over the world because He loves us in spite of our rejection of His only Son, Jesus as the Master, King and leader of our lives.

Is God powerful enough to stop tragedies like the hundreds of refugees dying in the Mediterranean Sea? Yes, absolutely! And He does prevent accidents all the time – but not every time. That’s what we find so difficult to understand and accept.

Why doesn’t God stop all the bad things from happening? Because He loves us; God understands how foolish it would be to remove the consequences of living in a sinful world and let us have our own way all the time. If I got my way and what I want every time, I would soon think of myself as god.

Ghana Update #2

Bill and I arrived Accra, Ghana without any additional delays past a late departure from Dulles. Both us got a huge welcome from the rest of the team! We are at Lee & Michelle’s home for food and to meet more the the HCJB staff. It’s very warm here. Feels good but may become uncomfortable when we try to sleep.

INTENSIVE CARE

My Mom, Clarice, had surgery yesterday and it went well although she is still in Intensive Care. She has four screws in her neck, two from C-1 into C-2 and two from C-3 holding C-2. She only has the wear the neck brace when she gets out of bed. The challenge came when they tried to remove the breathing tube. That didn’t work and she ended up on the ventilator all night. They removed the breathing tube this morning and Mom is breathing on her own and her vitals are stable.

The plan is to continue to stabilize her by weaning her off some of the medication, dealing with a little bit of drainage from the incision, and helping her swallow. If all this goes well she could be back on the Neurology floor before nightfall or at least by tomorrow morning.

Mom will spend 3-4 days at the University Hospital before transferring to skilled care at the Keokuk County Health Center in Sigourney. That will be close to family.

Thanks for praying

Jim Eschenbrennner

From Univeristy Hospital

My Mom, Clarice, fell in the early hours of Wednesday morning and broke her neck. As I write this, I am in her room at the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City where she is receiving wonderful care. Fortunately there is no evidence of damage to her spinal cord and no loss of feeling or movement. The Dr. has given the options: either have surgery to fuse the vertebrae or wear a neck brace for the rest of her life.

Mom is very anxious and uncomfortable. She was unable to sleep at all last night – just can’t deal with the neck brace and all the limitations. She’s also very sore from the fall. It’s very difficult to sit or lay in one position for more than 15 min without an overwhelming desire to move. This afternoon they did a swallowing test because that has become a problem. Soft, pureed foods only for the foreseeable future.

After prayer, talking with family members, and consulting with several friends, Mom has decided to pursue surgery. Right now they are working to schedule surgery for Monday or Tuesday. There is some swelling in Mom’s neck at C2 & C3, where the break is, and they have to give that time to go down. Please pray for surgery at the earliest possible time.

From what we understand, Mom will be at the University Hospital for three days following surgery before being transferred to skilled care in Oskaloosa. From there we just don’t know what the plans might be.

Many thanks for all your prayers and calls.

Jim