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 September 21, 2021

If Jesus is the hero of the story, who was the victim?

One of the disciples of Jesus was named John. He wrote down the most crazy story in the book of John chapter 8. John records the account of when an adulterous woman was dragged before Jesus in the temple. Have you heard this story? When you read it, you see that Jesus is obviously the hero. That makes the woman the victim. I’ve never given much thought about this unnamed woman. I never tried to imagine what her life was like. I’m embarrassed to state that I honestly didn’t empathize with the depth of emotional pain this woman would have felt that day. I simply saw this story as a beautiful example of Jesus’ Grace and kindness. I also liked how he put the group of prideful men in their place.

This unnamed woman is alive in heaven. I wonder how many people have asked for to share her side of the story? Has anyone asked about your story?

This last Sunday, our Pastor Paul wrote a beautiful monologue for me to read, telling this story from this woman’s perspective. It was so helpful to me that I thought I would expand on this more today.

Because there is little information on this woman, all I can do is fabricate what her life might have been like. Understanding culture at that time can also help to guide us into getting a picture of what might have happened.

A woman who was “an adulteress” would have been a woman unmarried, but having sexual relationship with men or a man who is married. A family with a daughter of the age of 14-16 would have been betrothed and married to a young man in the same town. If the family did not have enough money, they often could not obtain a husband for the daughter. She would need to work to earn money for the family and this money would never be considered “hers”. If a girl was born without a father, she would have a very difficult time in all aspects. A man was needed to make a marriage contract. If you did not have a brother, or uncle or cousin who would step in to take care of you, you had to prepare to live alone or marry outside of the Jewish community. This would make you “outside of the law”. If you were married and your husband left you, divorced you, or died – you could be left with nothing and little chance to marry again. How do you think these woman survived?

Woman were not considered equal to men. Their lives were not considered valuable, unless they were loved by someone. Women could be forced into working for men, like slaves. Men could force a woman into doing whatever it takes to survive, including prostitution.

The religious group called the Pharisees had created their own sect over the past few hundred years (before Jesus). They took the “Law”, the first 5 books of the Bible and they added their own rules based on what they thought was right. Their goal was to be right, not righteous. These men hated Jesus because Jesus had come to break down every rule they created that brought people into bondage rather than freedom of a righteous life.

Think about the craziness of what these men did that day…

How would they know a woman (never would they have brought a man before Jesus) was having an affair with a married man? They certainly would have been able to find out where a prostitute was stationed. They may have even found her “owner” and made a deal to get this woman caught at the right time. She would have been emotionally destroyed by what happened to her. Most likely forced into slavery, she was being used for her survival and possibly the survival of her children or siblings. She was found with a man who was not her husband. She was dragged from the room, barely clothed. In a moment, she is surrounded by men who are extremely wealthy, men who controlled the government in the city of Jerusalem. These men are now clutching her arms and pulling her along by her hair, to her death! She is stunned by the unthinkable fear of being tortured to death. She is screaming and weeping, calling for “someone to please help me”!

The Temple is packed with thousands of people trying to see Jesus. The crowds are parting as this group of men are dragging this devastated woman across the very streets she normally walks. People gawk at her, not understanding what is happening. Some scoff at her and yell that she “gets what she deserves!” while just assuming she did something wrong. Half naked, she was dragged by her hair to her sentencing while her entire city watched… can you even begin to imagine the powerful emotions that would have been traumatizing to any person. Shame and Fear would have been so overwhelming, I doubt she could even hear the conversation that takes place with Jesus.

I cannot conceive of the pain of this experience. And yet, until this week, I’ve never even tried to understand her pain. I did not see this woman as a person as valuable as my own daughter. Even if this woman was married and chose at this moment to have an affair with another man, she would have known it was wrong. Even if she was defiant, did anyone ever deserve to be humiliated and treated as poorly as this?!? In my mind, I feel it is much more likely that she was simply seen as worthless to anyone. She was of no consequence to these men. What did it matter how she feels as she is just to be used as a pawn to advance their cause. She was worthless to everyone… except Jesus.

Maybe Jesus knew this was going to happen. He is God after all. I can envision the deep sadness He felt, watching these “men of God” ruin the life of His own creation. When He is confronted with the ridiculous question created to trap His words, Jesus did not even respond. We all speculate what He wrote in the sand with His finger. I wonder why? I feel that Jesus was overwhelmed with several emotions at that moment- anger at the ignorance of the men leading the church. Fury at the injustice to this helpless woman. He could have felt deep sorrow that the Law given by His father would have been used to manipulate and destroy lives rather than protect and provide for them. Maybe He was overwhelmed with compassion for this traumatized child before him. Maybe what He wrote in the sand was Malachi 2:10 “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another?” We don’t know what He wrote, but we do know what He said.

“You want to stone this child of God for breaking a law… You who are without sin, go ahead, and cast the first stone.”

These men, enraged and fighting for their pride to the point where they would literally kill a woman in the temple of God – these men felt the deflation of their ingenious plan with those simple words.

We all know what happens next. The stones begin to drop to the ground with the realization that the Mercy God offers to every human heart triumphs over judgement. Jesus becomes the Hero, and the victim is not simply rescued from dying that day, she is given the chance of repentance. Well, that doesn’t seem like the right phrase. Yet, it is the truth. There is no one person who can live life so perfectly that they are not in need of forgiveness. We talk so much about God’s love for each person, His great compassion for us. And it is so true!! His compassion is to lead you into repentance. Which means, Jesus told this broken woman “you don’t have to live like this anymore…”

What He says to you is:

You don’t have to try to keep it all together.

You don’t have to make everyone in the world believe that the way you live is perfectly “right”.

You don’t have to earn love.

You don’t have to make every situation happy and healthy.

You don’t have to live in humiliation.

You don’t have to live with fear ruling your decisions.

You don’t have to feel like no one understands, and no one ever will.

You don’t have to make everyone like you.

You don’t have to hide your trauma, pain and abuse you have suffered.

You don’t have to kill yourself to make the pain stop.

You can be free.

You can feel peace.

You can be loved.

You can be held, safe and protected.

You can be comforted.

You can be healed.

That is what repentance offers. Jesus speaks to this woman who is broken, used and alone and says to her: In my perfect Love, you can live a different life. Please choose Me instead of you. In the next phrase Jesus says “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

The light of Life is the opposite of what this woman was living. It is the opposite of all that is evil in this world. You get to choose to leave behind the way you were living, and accept the Light of Life as your new journey. I personally have accepted Jesus’ call to repentance. I can testify to the overwhelming comfort I have felt, peace I have known, Love I have lived because of Jesus. There is NO other answer to the grace I have been given, truly God does value…me. That day, Jesus rescued this woman and offered her the healing balm of forgiveness and acceptance.

In my past, I have been treated poorly. My very first relationship was based on fear, I felt threatened. I felt guilty and I felt used. I’ve told very few people any details of these moments, but I can understand your pain if you have been mistreated by a person you trusted. I have also suffered from emotional abuse and betrayal. I have fought depression and moments where I could barely “feel” anything at all. I have stories I won’t share with people, but I also have stories of restoration, grace and miracles. I cannot change your life, but I can listen. And I can make sure you feel valued.

My experiences are minimal compared to the devastation many woman have experienced. The amount of sexual abuse, sexual assault and sex trafficking continues to rise. One statistic states that over 400,000 people in America fall victim to sexual assault or rape every single year. 1 in 9 girls under the age of 18 will or have experienced sexual assault. This is something we need to be able to talk about. It is something we try to prevent, but obviously, is not completely preventable. Every 68 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. So how can we help each hurting heart. How can we acknowledge the wrong done against you and surround you with compassion to keep fighting for abundant life? I don’t know all the answers, but I’m still going to start somewhere. Because your story matters to me and to Jesus.

The Jesus I know would do anything to heal your broken heart.
 
-Jill
September 14, 2021
We know more about how to help ourselves physically than we do emotionally.
We know how to call 911, get a bandaid or take a tylenol if we need. We know to eat when we are hungry and drink when we are thirsty.
We learn these these things young.
What many of us didn’t learn is how to help ourselves when our emotions seem broken or emotional trauma reaps havoc on our minds.
Sometimes we even convince ourselves that we can just get over it or get through it. We tough it out or at least we try to.
But in the long run it catches up to us…
Maybe you’ve been there or maybe you are there now…
So what do we do? How do we help ourselves?
We see this amazing example in Jesus. When the emotions ran high, when people wanted to take His life, when He knew He was betrayed by one of His own…
He goes and prays.
He spends time with His Father.
AND… We have the ability to do the same.
I want to be careful here. Prayer didn’t mean that Jesus was going to be rescued. It didn’t mean He was going to defeat Rome or that people were going to change their mind about Him.
He still walked through the pain, still was arrested, and still carried a cross to the place of His death…
Prayer, (spending time with our Father) doesn’t always mean we are going to escape the pangs of this world.
What prayer does do is draw us close to our Father. Often gives us the strength to endure. Encourages our souls and reminds us that no matter what we will walk through we are never alone.
Prayer is one of the first things we can do when our emotions are robbing us.
But it’s not the only thing… When you need to, reach out to others.
If someone reaches out… be willing. If it’s above what you feel you can do, help them find other help.
We may not have been taught exactly what to say or do, but we all can continue to learn.
Let’s help each other.
-Paul
WHO AM I?                                                                                                                                                                     
 
July 7, 2021
 

Have you shared your story lately?

There is a story that is of such great importance will save someone…

Did you know there is a difference between believing in Jesus and receiving salvation? There are many who acknowledge the name of Jesus and believe He lives and died, maybe they even believe he could have been resurrected. They have heard and know a lot about Jesus. Hearing about Jesus, and knowing about Jesus is not enough.

Knowing about Jesus does not make them Followers of the Way, the Called Out Ones, Christians. 

So what makes the difference? 

Christians have come to a place in life (sometime between the age of understanding and their last breath) where they believed they are a sinner in need of rescue. Maybe it looked like this : “God, I cannot do this (life) on my own anymore!! I am a failure. I am hurting and broken and I just don’t want to try to make everything work by myself anymore. I know You are real and I know that I need you. Please forgive me and help me. I give my life to You Jesus.” 

Maybe it’s a revelation “Jesus! You truly are God! I believe now and I follow you alone.”

Maybe it’s in a church, someone leading you to pray some words into your moment of salvation. 

What I’m trying to demonstrate is that people come to the moment of salvation in many different ways and points of life. There are more people than you might expect who have heard all about God and Jesus, and in their minds they believe but they have never come to a place of repentance. Salvation is for all. It is a gift but it must be understood and accepted. This gift, you cannot accept by mere acknowledgement that Jesus loves you. You must let go of “who you are now” in surrender (repentance) and then you can accept “Who you are In Christ” as a true follower. This change takes place when you offer yourself to trust that God did make a way to rescue you from the darkness of this world in which you will live until death. And this rescue extends into life after your body dies. This is salvation, a gift given in Grace, accepted by your faith and surrender. 

People may easily believe that Jesus Loves them just as they are, and never come to a place of repentance. Sadly, they will live this life without actually accepting how this Love makes them fully alive now and even offers to them a portion of God’s kingdom. And when they die, they will live in eternity without the love they never even realized is what they desired their entire life. 

We as followers of God, must not simply offer kindness (we show love to the people around us by acts of kindness) we must make known the truth of the gospel! It is about love, but how do you show others that This Love will cost them their life? 

The answer is this: You have experienced this transformation of your spirit being brought to life, and it is no longer I who lives but Christ in me- you know that there is no other way. And we want ALL to find the Hope in which we now rejoice in. 

There is no condemnation or judgement being spoken when I tell my story to another of how broken, lost and even dead I was until the day Jesus rescued me. I was glad to surrender, I was overjoyed to repent and turn from that despair. I had no trouble asking for forgiveness because I believed I was wrong and I knew I would be forgiven. And…I was! 

“The beauty of the gospel is that Jesus Christ is of such supreme worth that we would gladly sacrifice All to have Him.” Francis Chan

 Please do not lose the chance to share the Gospel. People have heard that Jesus loves them, and yet they remain lost, broken, living in darkness without hope of light. They also need to hear your story of salvation, it just might change their life. 
 
-Jill
 

July 2, 2021

When you can’t find God… Look lower.

 
He’s right there with you.
There’s actually a lot to this thought, but to put it simply……
 
Sometimes we are searching for God high above us. Then we either give up because we feel it’s really not possible to get there OR we imagine God waiting for us to get to the mountain top where He must be and we try and try to do what we think we need to do to get there. It’s exhausting.
 
But He’s not there.
He’s not on the mountain top waiting for us to achieve something to reach Him.
He’s not waiting for you to fix everything in your life so He can magically appear.
The reality is that He’s right here now.
 
He’s where you are.
 
Whether you are making your way somewhere or you are broken and curled up in a ball on the floor.
 
He’s there.
He’s always there.
He never runs from, abandons, or forsakes.…
 
No matter what.
 
He’s right where you are and He loves you.
 
Think about this and the next time you feel like He is far away, when you can’t find Him, look lower.
 
-Paul

#cantfindGod #looklower

June 17, 2021

I have my own religion. 

I don’t know how I feel about God right now. 

Two sentences from two different woman I spoke to this week. I couldn’t get them out of my mind. Why do they feel this way?

And the answer hit me – people. People influence how we see God and how we think about the Bible. 

I felt like the woman who has created her own religion was saying: I don’t understand most of the Bible, and I don’t understand churches so I’m going to find my own way with God. 

And the woman who told me she just doesn’t know how she feels about God, she was asking me to pray. This means she doesn’t not believe in God, Almighty God and Savior, she doesn’t know if she trusts what people are saying about God. She doesn’t trust people who say they are Christians because people have let her down, some have lied, some have fallen short, some have been controlling, some have been judgmental, some have been mean. People who believe in God can easily lose faith in His followers. And sadly, His followers greatly influence how you see God. 

People are becoming more upset with those who call themselves Christians and people are becoming more vocal about it. 

So what’s our answer? 

Here’s what it’s not: It’s never “just get over it”. People always have the right to feel how they feel. And right now, those people don’t trust me…

The answer is also not just win the trust of people. I cannot constantly try to win the affection and trust of everyone around me. Why? What’s wrong with that? Because life is not all about me…

So what should we be doing as followers of Jesus?

If life is not about me, and it is all about Jesus then I should want people to find Jesus. How? I should reflect Jesus. 

How do I reflect the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth? The more I simply spend time with God, the more I look like Who He actually is. I don’t have to make it up. I don’t need to make up some story of how amazing this God is that I serve. God is seriously just as relevant to humanity today as the day He walked on Earth.

I don’t have to have politically correct responses. I just need to reflect the God who created every spirit, soul and body. 

How can I reflect God? Ask God to make you like Him. Ask God to Fill you with His very Spirit. The more I can live like Jesus, by walking in His Spirit, the more people will trust me. I’ve seen this work in my own life personally and in the lives of many others. 

And when I say the wrong thing or fail someone and I apologize, they are much more likely to forgive me. Why would people forgive someone who is living everyday to be close to God? Because I have no personal or worldly driven motive for gaining their trust. The more time I spend with God, the more I Love Him. The more I love Him the more I naturally love who He loves. People recognize genuine. 

People don’t want to have to create their own religion, but they will if they don’t trust the Jesus followers who influence them daily. 

People want to fully believe and live for God, but they won’t if they don’t see God changing and affecting the Jesus followers who influence them daily. 

I encourage you to spend time every single day with God. Somehow talk to Him, and listen. Sing to Him or speak words that show your affection. Read His Word: for it cleanses, washes, redeems. The Word gives wisdom and clarity. It is full of Hope and completely true. It hasn’t changed and is reliable and relevant. You get to choose, to be in love with God or be in love with yourself. What you spend the most time on will prove your love and worship. Because God is soooo good, you will never get tired of choosing Him over yourself – and everyone around you will see a genuine reflection of the God they long for too. 
 
In Love,
Jill

June 16, 2021

Father’s Day is coming up…
Many people have a really hard time on Father’s Day because they didn’t really have the Dad that we try and celebrate. Others struggle because their Dad is no longer with them. Loss is hard.
This flooded my mind as I started to think through and pray through next weeks message. It reminded me of something I read last year. Let me share this with you…
There are many children, young and old, who can’t stomach Father’s Day. They have deadbeat dads, abusive fathers, men who have failed them. Some of them are scarred for life. To them the whole purpose of this day is senseless, if not revolting.
There will be no phone calls home, no backyard BBQs, no sappy Hallmark card. “Lord, just let this day be over,” they pray, “and let me get on with my life without being reminded of that man.”
I lack the wisdom, and the experience, to counsel those who have been hurt so deeply. There is no pain like the pain of being mistreated by those who, above all others, you expect to love you unconditionally.
This, however, I do know. When men do not live up to their callings, when they live only for themselves, nevertheless remains a man who will never do that to you. When men abuse the innocent, and do the unspeakable, there is still a man who never once will treat you that way. If even father and mother forsake you, brother and sister turn their backs on you, the whole world hate and curse and damn you to hell, there is a man who will stand shoulder to shoulder with you through it all, never leaving your side.
This man is not your father. He is your brother. He came down from heaven to suffer abuse for you, to know what it’s like to be hated and mistreated and abandoned by those nearest and dearest to him.
And he has a father who wants to adopt you, to make you part of his family, that he might care for you as no earthly father ever could. This man, this Jesus of Nazareth, will get you through Father’s Day, and will bring you into the arms of a Father who is truly worthy of the name. -Chad Bird
Father God,
Thank you for being the best Dad. Thank you for filling the gap that so many have. Thank you for helping many break the generational chains of abandoned fatherhood.
Lord we ask that you would comfort those who grew up without Father’s and those who have lost Fathers. We ask that those that grew up without a Dad would believe they can be better than what they missed. That their definition of parenthood isn’t about what they lacked here but rather what we gain with our Heavenly Father.
Thank you for all of the single Moms who made it through taking on both roles who loved their children with everything they had. Let their love lead to generational healing.
Thank you for being the father to the fatherless. Thank you for being the better father we all needed. We ask that you hold all those who need to be held through this Father’s Day. Let them feel your love.
In Jesus name…
Paul

May 28, 2021

An Introduction from Pastor Jill

You and I are not the same, but we are equal.

If you are reading this you are a human being (unless you’re that one animal in the world that can read and I’m honored you’re reading my post).

No matter who you are; what you look like, how you talk, where you are from, where you live now, how you feel, what you love or hate, what gender you are, what race you are, how much money you have:

you are not better than me. And, I am not better than you. Period.

We walk on perfectly level ground in one incredible truth- we are both human and therefore we are equal in the sight of our mutual Creator.

Hi,

My name is Jill Nastoff and I am the newest Pastor at Wellspring Community Church, Escanaba, Mi.

I’d like to introduce myself to you as I begin this new role as a Pastor, which to me is actually a journey. I am full of joy and gratitude to have this chance, and to work along side Senior Pastor Paul Culbertson, our amazing Leadership team, and Elders. One thing that is exciting is how different Pastor Paul and I are… one obvious difference is gender. Also, he grew up in the city. I have lived most of my life in the U.P. We were raised differently and came to know Jesus at different points of life. We are not the same. And that’s what is so awesome. He’s naturally outgoing and I’m more of an introvert but God chose us to be here, right now, for you.

I’m writing this because I truly want people to know how much we at Wellspring value transparency. Our signs all read “Come as you are”. What we mean by that is not:“we don’t care how you dress” although, we don’t care how you dress. What we mean is you don’t have to be in a good place in life to come to church. You don’t have to be… anything. We are not a church just for people who already know about Jesus. We are not a church just for people who have it all together. Actually we are the opposite. Wellspring is a church without any perfect people. I’m not perfect and neither is Pastor Paul.

We both believe that all humans are created by God, and all are loved exactly the same. God doesn’t love me more than you because I’m a Pastor. I am a person who was born into this broken world. I learned who Jesus is and I trusted in His life, death and resurrection. I believe my life now is fully surrendered to Jesus, even though I still make mistakes. I’m not ashamed to share my past or my failures with you. I try not to brag of my mistakes or my accomplishments. I try to boast of the great things God has done in me.

I am 39 years old and married to my best friend Jeremy. He supports me 100% in following this dream. We were married at 22 and I graduated as an RN that year. We have four awesome kids. I love worship music. I am more comfortable on stage leading others in worship or teaching than I am in small groups of people. I use sarcasm more than I should and often try to get the people around me to laugh. I love to serve other people and meet practical needs. I felt called at the age of 14 to somehow tell the world about Jesus and have traveled to many cities in the US and around the world as a missionary. I’ve had the chance to work as a nurse for the last 17 years. During those years I also served at various churches as a worship leader. Life was good in a lot of ways and difficult in others. Many years ago Jeremy and I began to develop serious marital issues. After several years in a deteriorating marriage, Jeremy’s chronic depression and selfishness led him to divorce me. During that time of separation I lost my dad and my job. I can remember the endless tears. Yet I marvel at the comfort and closeness of Jesus during my pain. I never felt more loved than I did when I was broken and alone. God could have let me move on alone but He miraculously restored my husband and I. Jeremy and I were remarried in February 22, 2020. Please feel free to ask either of us more about our story.

I felt God calling me to a change this past year. It became very clear to Jeremy and I, it was to leave nursing and begin this journey with you. I pray that I may “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;” Colossians 1:10. Because you and God are worth it.

God bless,

Jill