From the Pastor's Desk:
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?" And Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me." (Matthew 11:2-6 RSV)
These days, there are many who are offended by the God revealed in Jesus Christ. The primary offense is caused by the name Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Father and Son, it is said, exclude women and LGBT people. For the same reason, others also take offense at the masculine pronouns that the Bible uses for God. As a result, there has been a call for a greater use of "gender-inclusive and expansive language for God." These concerns are already reflected in hymnal and worship resources produced by the ELCA.
The Augsburg Confession, on the other hand, affirms the doctrine of the Trinity in the strongest terms, saying:
We unanimously hold and teach, in accordance with the decree of the Council of Nicaea,' that there is one divine essence, which is called and which is truly God, and that there are three persons in this one divine essence, equal in power and alike eternal: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. [emphasis mine]
So what is at stake? Is this just quibbling over words? Are we as Lutherans bound to the language used in the Augsburg Confession? Will it really make a difference if we use expansive language for God?
The answer is, "Yes!" What was at stake at the Council of Nicaea was far more than a quibble over words. The Council was not engaged in an esoteric debate about a doctrine that few lay people would ever understand. What was at stake was the Incarnation itself. Is the Son divine? Was God truly incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth? It was the position of the orthodox that the Gospel and salvation itself were on the line. The Lutheran reformers would have agreed.
Why is the Gospel at stake? To explain this, let me introduce a couple of terms that you may not be familiar with. The terms are general revelation and particular revelation. General revelation refers to the knowledge of God that is available to all people. Romans 1:20 says:
Ever since the creation of the world [God's] invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. (RSV)
Some knowledge of God is available to all people. For instance, through the use of reason we can come to know that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. If we look at nature, we can see God's handiwork and admire the beauty he created. If we pay attention to the moral law that is written in our hearts, we know that God is holy and righteous. Some of us can even feel God's presence in our lives. Reason, nature, the moral law, and our feelings can give us some idea of what God is like.
What none of them can do, however, is enable us to know that God is a gracious God. Knowing that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent doesn't tell me whether God cares about me. What nature reveals about God is too ambiguous to tell me whether he is good. For every beautiful sunset, perfect snowflake and cuddly puppy, there is a hurricane, earthquake or an incurable disease. The moral law tells me that God is holy, but it doesn't tell me whether God is merciful to sinners. My feelings about God are unpredictable. One minute I may have a sense of God's love and peace, but another moment I feel abandoned or condemned by God. General revelation can take us no further.
There is a twofold knowledge of God, general and particular. All men have the general and instinctive recognition that there is a God who created heaven and earth, who is just and holy, and who punishes the wicked. How God feels about us, what His intentions are, what He will do for us, or how He will save us, that men cannot know instinctively. It must be revealed to them. I may know a person by sight, and still not know him, because I do not know how he feels about me. Men know instinctively that there is a God. But what His will is toward them, they do not know. 
Special revelation, on the other hand, which refer to the Incarnation, to God in the flesh, does. Only when we encounter God in the baby in the manger and the man on the Cross do we know that we have a gracious God. It is the God we meet in Christ who enables us to have faith, to trust that we are loved and forgiven.
Christ is the only means whereby we can know God and His will. In Christ we perceive that God is not a cruel judge, but a most loving and merciful Father who to bless and to save us "spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all." This is truly to know God.
When we are offended by the very words that Jesus used to name God, when we are offended by his masculinity, as in the past some were offended by his Jewishness, when we are offended by the claim that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, we are offended by the Incarnation itself. We are offended by the only thing that makes it possible for us to know and trust that we have a gracious God. The Gospel itself, salvation itself, is at stake.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. David Charlton
St. Paul's foreign Missionary, Rev. Kristin Ergstrom, is in Senegal, West Africa, as the local head of ELCA's Young Adults in Global Missions program. Each year Pastor Kristin receives a new group of young adults. They have volunteered to spend a year learning to be foreign missionaries. They actually spend only ten months in Senegal. During their first month they have orientations in the USA. Global Mission personnel tell them what they can expect, what Senegal and its people are like. They also spend their last month in the USA for debriefing. Global Mission personnel questions them about their experiences. Global Mission personnel want to learn if the YAGM program can be improved. During their ten months in Senegal they are taught and trained by Pastor Kristin. She makes them a part of Senegal society by placing them in various organizations: Senegal Lutheran Church, Lutheran Development Services, Senegal businesses, etc. They live with various Senegal families. Contact is their key word. As they meet and work with Senegal people they have the opportunity to share their personal faiths in Jesus with the citizens of Senegal. Let us pray for Pastor Kristin. Let us support Pastor Kristin with our gifts to Missionary Support.
LUTHERAN BIBLE TRANSLATORS
The Lutheran Bible Translators consists trained linguists. They are missionaries sent to people in various countries. They tell people of the Good News of faith in Jesus. They tell people of God's gift of salvation. They do their "telling" with the written word. They translate the Bible into the languages of indigenous peoples. These new Bibles allows people to read God's Word in their own languages. One to the Lutheran Bible Translators is Michael Ersland. He has been a member of LBT for six years. He has been in Ghana, West Africa, working with the Komba Old Testament translation team. Before joining the team he spent a year living in Komba society, so he could learn the language. The Komba Church was established 30-35 years ago. The men and women converted and taught by the first missionaries are now the church leaders and members of the translation team. Michael learned from older missionaries that translation methods have changed. Years ago translation was done by hand writing, word by word. Now computers and office equipment help the translation task with their speed and memories. The following books are finished in Komba: Joshua, Psalms, Genesis, Judges, Samuel. Michael helped with some of these books. He also helped with other books. Michael spent the summer in the USA learning to improve his skills. Let us pray for the Lutheran Bible Translators and Michael Ersland. Let us support the Lutheran Bible Translators with our gifts to Mission Outreach.
LUTHERAN MEN In MISSION
December 2019 Bible Study Breakfast
The LMM monthly Bible Study and Breakfast will be Saturday, December 21, at 7:30 A. M. in the Parish Hall. We are continuing the Course on "Spirituality." This is the fourth session where we will be discussing the subject "Spiritual Basics: Becoming a Christian." The Bible study topic is "How Can I Be Sure? 'Confident faith'"
(1 John 5:1-21). This Bible Study will follow Option 2: Advanced: Teaching with Margin Questions.
In this First Letter of John, he is writing to the Church at Ephesus, a church in trouble. By extension, he is writing in a way that is also helpful for us in our troubles. And this is what he says: We can know what is true, and what is true can give us the assurance we need to live for God even when it's difficult.
As we come to the end of John's letter, it is important to review what he has written. According to John, real faith involves three things: believing, obeying, and loving. If we have genuine faith, three things will be true in our life:
We will believe that Jesus is the Messiah - the promised deliverer - and the Son of God come as a man to save us from our sins.
- We will obey him - not perfectly, because none of us will achieve perfection before our deaths. But our life will be characterized by a growing love for and obedience to God's commands.
- We will love others as God has loved us.
In the fifth chapter as John concludes this letter, he gives us five things we can know for sure. Not guess, but really know. Doubt comes from many sources, but we can know these things, and it will make all the difference in the world. We can know what is true, and what is true can give us the assurance we need to live for God even when it's difficult. Here are five things we can know: 1) that we have eternal life, 2) that God hears and answers our prayers, 3) that our future is secure, 4) that there is victory even in the middle of the battle, and 5) that the Son of God has come and that he gives us understanding.
Discussion will focus on the truth that as God's people we have the ability to "overcome the world" because we believe in Jesus and obey God's commands (verses 1 - 5). God gives us all the assurance we need for this life and for the next one too. So how do we respond to this? We don't have to guess. John tells us in the final verse of this book: "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (verse 21). As Christian men we should understand what an idol is. An idol is a God-substitute. An idol can be religious. An idol can also be a false teaching about God, like some had embraced in Ephesus. But an idol can be many other things. What are the idols we "worship" in the place of the true God? In light of what we know, how can we allow anything to take the place of God in our life?
All men of the congregation are invited to attend.
WORN/TATTERED AMERICAN FLAGS
If you have a worn out, tattered, or faded US flag you need to properly dispose of, you can bring it to the church and Don Cleveland will deliver it to his Veterans of Foreign Wars Post for a proper and respectful disposal.
AUTOMATED EXTERNAL DEFIBRILLATORS (AEDS) -
St Paul Lutheran Church has 2 AEDs for use in an emergency. One is located in the Gathering Room hanging on the east wall (near the classroom door) and the other is in the Family Life Center/School in the Lobby.
STAFF GIFT: As we count our many blessings it is time to consider our Christmas gift for our pastor and the church staff in appreciation for their dedication and devotion. To help with the accounting, we ask that you make your gift check payable to St. Paul Lutheran Church and mark on it Pastor and Staff Christmas gift. You can enclose this check in your regular Sunday envelope, put it in the collection plate, or drop it off in the office. It will be very helpful if you could accomplish this by Sunday, December 15.
XYZ Celebrates Jesus's Birthday on Tuesday, December 10, at Bogey's Bar and Restaurant in DeFuniak Springs. Join us for Bogey's Early Bird Specials featuring 2 chicken dinners, 2 shrimp selections, and 2 fish options. Though we must submit our meal choices in early December, all tabs are individualized and paid for at the party. Transportation is provided and a loop around Circle Lake to observe the holiday light displays is anticipated after dessert. Cost of dinner is $12.99 which includes entree, potato or vegetables, bread, and salad. Entrance to Circle Lake Light Show was $3.00 per person last year. Come and sing Happy Birthday to our Lord and King in Bogey's upper room, elevator provided. Questions or suggestions? Contact Linda Nelson @ 499-8509 or 729-1954.
Fa La La La Cantata
Last year's musical performance, Mary Did You Know, was so moving and spiritual it felt like a worship service. Knowing Brad and how much he and his musically talented choir put into a performance, this year will be no different. Join us on December 15th at 4:00 pm and fill your hearts with "Grace Devine".
Sunday School Christmas Program
One of the best services the 10:30 Praise Service has is when the Sunday School Program performs their Christmas Play. AND IT'S HAPPENING THIS YEAR!!! It's always a joy to see who's kid will be signing super loud, which one will be dancing to the beat of their own drum, and who's kid is not having it and is instead mean-mugging a teacher (that was mine last year...it's someone else's turn this year)! I hope some of our traditional brothers and sisters will stay and see the hard work our St. Paul kids have put into "The Reluctant Inn Keeper".
Annual St. Paul Christmas Party
On Sunday afternoon, December 15, following the Christmas Musical Cantata, we are having our annual St. Paul Congregational Christmas party. Underdahl Hall will be festively decorated, and there will be plenty of food, as well as activities and crafts for young and old alike.
Everyone coming to the party is asked to bring either a heavy hors d'oeuvres or a dessert to share. Let's face it: hors d'oeuvres and desserts are the best part of any meal or party.
If your last name begins with
- A-M bring an hors d'oeuvres (a fancy word for appetizer)
- N-Z bring a dessert
Enjoying beautiful Christmas music and delicious party food is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon at this special time of year.
Advent Services will begin Wednesday, December 4th. We are offering two services for your convenience. A morning service will be held at 11:00 am and an evening service will be at 6:30 pm. There will be three Christmas Eve services on December 24th. A 4:30 pm Family Service, and 7:30 & 11:00 pm Traditional Services.
Niceville High School Chorus
The Niceville High School Chorus, Opus One, will be performing at St. Paul on December 6th at 7:00 pm. All are invited and encouraged to attend.
WOMEN OF ST. PAUL
Thankoffering Sunday - Many thanks to all the women who helped decorate the chancel, set up the altar, and served in various ways during our Thankoffering Service on November 17th. We also want to thank everyone who contributed to our special offering. Our offering total so far is $1814.10. This will be divided between the Pavilion, Calm House, and Hope House. Thank you for your generosity!
Cookies for Niceville Choral Concert on December 6th - The women of the church have been asked to provide cookies for the reception following the 7:00 pm concert on December 6th. We need to have your cookie donations here at the church no later than 10 am on Friday, December 6th.
Ladies' Christmas Tea - All women are invited to join us for a Christmas Tea at the Crazy Madhatter's Tea Shop (next to Bayou Books) on Saturday, December 14th at 10 am. Join your fellow sisters in Christ.for fellowship while enjoying a variety of delicious teas and holiday goodies (including gluten-free options}. Prices vary, depending on what you order. Space is limited, so reserve your place now. A sign-up sheet is in Underdahl Hall. Sign up or call Dona Charlton (850-716-2731) to MAKE YOUR RESERVATION NO LATER THAN WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 11TH!
 Theodore G. Tappert. Augsburg Confession (Kindle Locations 58-59). Kindle Edition.
 Luther, Martin. Commentary on Galatians (p. 133). Acheron Press. Kindle Edition.
 Ibid., p. 133.
 Ibid., p. 131.
Community Pastoral Counseling
A ministry of St. Paul Lutheran Church and School
Rev. Robert R. Lutz, PhD Diplomate
American Association of Pastoral Counselors
Call 850-843-3083 for Information or to make an appointment