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Peace Through Weakness

 
green-leafed tree
 
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’” 2 Corinthians 12: 8-9
 
I’m writing this while sitting in a lawn chair in the middle of our back yard. The middle of the yard is the premium place to be since I’m in my own space. When I sit here, our house is on the east side while the row of arbor vitae trees blocks the north side. The maple tree and the pine tree take up the west side and the vacant lot is on the south. Peace is sitting in the middle of the lot.

Peace is distance. We seek that kind of peace naturally. We think of peace as the space we can put around ourselves. The greater the distance, the greater the peace. Paul had that thought when he faced the thorn in the flesh. The obvious answer to this problem was distance. He prayed that God would take the thorn out and put some blessed distance between himself and the pain.

We have the same prayer often. Lord, put my life in the sheltered center. Put a wall thicker than a row of maple or spruce. Make the distance around me more than half of a simple village lot.

But to that thought God often answers as he did with Paul.  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God says that nearness to Him is more important than distance from what disturbs me. If my peace is distance from trouble, that peace will be threatened every day by a new thorn, trying to invade my space. But if peace is the presence of God even in the midst of the thorn, then there’s nothing more for the thorn to do. It’s already here. That’s all it can do. But God is here also and he’s not done. For his strength is made perfect in the presence of our thorns. His strength shows itself when I can’t escape. When my middle space of peace is shattered, I find that peace is still there with Him.

Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, remind me that peace is not finding a big enough space in which to escape. But peace is found in this present space when I recognize that you’re here with me, with grace that is strength. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.My

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Sin Changed Everything – Almost Everything

one red apple

8And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”  (Genesis 3:8-9  ESV).

Sin changed everything—almost everything. 

Sin altered the thought process of the man and woman.  When the Lord came walking through the garden, just as He had done before, Adam and Eve ran from the Lord.  They once found peace and contentment and joy in the presence of the Lord.  Now, having disobeyed their Creator, they run from Him.  They run from the One who created them from His heart of love that they would have a relationship together forever.  Their minds have changed as they actually think they would be able to hide from the God of the universe among the trees of the garden.  Their hearts have changed as they blame one another for their disobedient behavior.

We still suffer from these changes.  We imperfect people often fear the perfect Lord.  We wonder if we could ever stand before Him.  We often find ourselves running from Him.  When we chose to live outside the Lord’s desire we run from Him.  And we still live with self-centered hearts that don’t take responsibility for our behavior, but try to find relief in shifting blame. 

Sin changed everything—almost everything. 

Our Lord hasn’t changed.  When the man and woman ran from Him, He ran after them to save them.  When Adam and Eve tried to hide from Him, He knew right where to look.  When our first parents began to blame each other, the Lord set them straight.

The Lord hasn’t changed.  He is still perfect, still loves us, still seeks us, still blesses us with untold gifts, still forgives our sin, still promises us life everlasting.

How blessed we are by the Lord who is the same yesterday, today and forevermore!

Prayer: Blessed Lord, You created me that we could have a relationship together.  I admit that I have not always appreciated Your faithfulness to me.  I also admit that I have been less than faithful to You.  Forgive my sin.  Increase my faith.  Give me a true joy in serving You today while I look forward to being with You in heaven.  I pray this in Your holy name.  Amen.


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Pressing On

 
 
road photography
 
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Philippians 3:12
 
Everyone who has taken a summer road trip knows this feeling and this question: “Aren’t we there yet?” This is a hopeless question. If we were there, we could tell. By the very asking, we have the sad answer. No, we’re not there. We’re still driving just like we’ve been for hours.

But though logic says we’re not there yet, we can’t help but asking. Our question is a thinly-disguised complaint. We should be there by now. Why aren’t we?

Do we ask this question of God? “Aren’t we there yet?” It’s the expectation that somehow our lives should have arrived at the place we had in mind. That place is probably however we define peace and perfection. Shouldn’t we have gotten there by now? I’m not complaining, but I am asking.

Isn’t it remarkable mercy that God lets us ask and complain? And then he reminds us of this truth said by Paul. We’re not there yet. We haven’t missed a turn that would have parked us in perfection. If even Paul wasn’t a completed project, a perfect man, then we can’t expect God is done with us yet. Peace is not planting ourselves in a past perfection. Peace isn’t finding the Garden of Eden, letting ourselves in, and locking the door behind us. Peace is found with the God who chooses to walk with us. Peace is walking with the patient and merciful God who listens to our questions and answers with mercy: “No, we’re not there yet. I haven’t finished shaping and changing you. And, you haven’t shaped and molded all the lives I have in place for you to touch.”

Peace is a life that is moving, not one that has arrived. As we move ahead, we do so with the forgiveness and mercy of God. In fact, the fact that we say with Paul that we are not yet perfect means we are tied to God by grace alone. That grace connection becomes our peace and gives a purpose to what we’re doing right now. No, we’re not there yet, but we’re moving ahead with God’s grace.

Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, thank you that you have chosen us even though we haven’t arrived in any perfect place. But you continue to walk with us and help us see the value of that walk by grace alone. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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The Word of God You Never Hear (Part 3)

two angel statues
You never hear God speak to an angel, sending him to deflect the falling object which narrowly missed your head.  You never hear the command which works all things together for your good.  You may sense only an intuition when God whispers to you the word of wisdom that keeps you out of harm’s way.  But the word of God you never hear is God’s preserving power.

Psalm 91 says: “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.  On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”  You have read about the angel that shut the lions’ mouths to preserve Daniel and to fireproof three men in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace.  You may remember the army of angels Elisha showed his servant to allay his fear of the Aramean army.  You know how angels tended to Jesus in the wilderness and in Gethsemane.  But do you understand that God commands angels to sustain and protect you?  You may not hear the word or see the angel; but listen, will you?  Maybe that was an angel’s sigh, not yours, when you narrowly escaped harm.  Maybe the warning sound that kept you from disaster was really the word of God you never hear – the word of his preserving power.  He’d love for you to worry less, trust him more, enjoy the life he preserves for you.

Do you remember that Satan quoted that verse from Psalm 91 in his temptation of Jesus?  Satan twists Scripture.  He also twists the word of God you never hear into an excuse for irresponsible living, just as he attempted with Jesus.  Or Satan mystifies the word of God you never hear to promote neo-pagan pantheism.  Or he rationalizes the word of God you never hear to argue for Darwinian evolution.  That’s why God inspired the Word of God you do hear.  And the more you hear that Word of God, the better you will understand the word of God you don’t hear and the less vulnerable you will be to Satan’s distortions.  Search the Word of God you do hear, and you will find comfort in the word of God you don’t hear.

John begins his Gospel calling Jesus “The Word.”  He spoke the world into existence and gave life to human beings.  He spoke the truth that makes our God knowable and our salvation assured.  John writes: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”   Jesus is God’s Word made visible – all that we need to know about our God in human flesh.  And you will see him, the Word incarnate, when he calls you home to be with him forever.  Glorious day!

PRAYER: There is so much about life that I don’t understand, Lord.  Make me content to know that you understand, and that you have told me everything that I really need to know.  For preserving my life and the life of those I love from harm and from evil, thank  you.  For the full revelation of yourself that awaits me in eternity, accept my praise.  All this is for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

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Let Our Light Shine

person's hands

14“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16

Motivated to Let our Light Shine!
 
Motivation.  Difficult tasks, uncomfortable conversations, an unending workload… I get exhausted just typing those words!  When I am feeling overwhelmed or need to be motivated I often look to music on YouTube to get pumped up.  Yes, I jam to the “Eye of the Tiger”, “Final Countdown” and other movie inspired clips to change my mindset to be intentional and productive.  Other times I will listen to inspirational voice overs from motivational speakers (cue Morgan Freeman or Denzel Washington, with moving music). 
 
Sometimes those motivational tools work… sometimes they don’t.   It’s hard to be motivated if you don’t have a purpose.  Today I want to help motivate you to see that you have another purpose in your life, and that is to mentor and encourage your family and friends in their Christian walk of faith.  (Hear the voice of Denzel Washington saying, “You can make a difference!  Let your light SHINE!”)
 
As a pastor, a husband, a father, and a friend I have a purpose… that matches up with God’s ultimate goal for all of us.  “(God) desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” I Timothy 2:4.  It is overwhelming… but it is a purpose with eternal value!  Think of the people in your life who need Jesus, who need to know the contentment and hope that faith brings.  Realize in a personal way, that God has given you a purpose.  As Jesus taught us in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
 
Now we have our purpose… it’s time to get motivated.  (cue inspirational music and Morgan Freeman voiceover)  Be equipped.  Be Genuine.  Be Courageous.  Be at Peace.

  • Be Equipped:  Read the Bible and personal devotions, listen in worship and Bible Study.  Deepen your faith so that you may equip others.
  • Be Genuine:  Having been equipped, live out those values in your daily life.
  • Be Courageous:  Talk about your faith, find teachable moments, impact the lives of those who look up to you!
  • Be at Peace:  You don’t create faith, the Holy Spirit does through the Word and Sacraments.  Be filled by them yourself, so you can encourage others to do the same.

You have been redeemed through Jesus life, death, and resurrection.  You have been equipped as a child of God to live genuinely and courageously. Be at peace, you have a purpose… let your light shine.

Gracious Lord, strengthen our faith through your powerful Word. Reveal our sin and grant us forgiveness.  Empower us to live out our faith and let our light shine so that our family and friends may see You through us.  In Jesus name we pray, AMEN!

 


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