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Always There

brown wooden cross on green grass field under blue sky during daytime

Psalm 139:7  Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Where shall I flee from your presence?

If someone is always there, it can be a scary thing, or it can be a wonderful thing.  My cousin was a police officer in Las Vegas.  In the latter part of his career, he flew the Las Vegas police helicopter.  On a number of occasions, I was invited to fly with him.  Aside from the thrill of it, I was able to observe some real-live police work.  On one occasion at night, a call came that a store had been robbed and that the robber was still on the loose.  The officers on the ground couldn’t find him in the darkness and in the midst of houses and trees.  So my cousin flew to the scene, snapped on the amazingly bright spotlight, pointed it toward the ground, and started looking for the alleged robber.  Eventually, we spotted him.  And when he got hit with that light, you could see the panic in his actions.  The darkness hid him from the officers on the ground.  But he couldn’t escape the light that was above.  On the other hand, the officers on the ground found great comfort in that light.  The light was exposing the robber, which meant that the ground officers would not be surprised by him or caught off guard by him.  They were able to follow the light and safely apprehend the man.  At the end of the episode, one of the officers radioed up to my cousin, “We’re sure glad you’re up there, Gary!”

On some occasions, we might prefer to escape God.  When we sin, we’d much rather not have God around.  And how comically often we’ll plot a sin and carry it out secretly, privately, perhaps thinking nobody will know that it was us.  That works until we remember that God was always there.  He saw it, He knew about it.  Guilty.  What follows is repentance and the plea for forgiveness, which God offers freely.

But so many other times, we are profoundly grateful that we can’t escape from God.  His comforting presence is exactly what we need when no one else is there to help us, or when no one else seems to even notice our need.  His Word is always there.  His sacraments are always there.  That means that God is always there.  His forgiveness and love are things which, gratefully, we can never escape. 

O Lord God, how grateful we ultimately are that we cannot escape your presence.  Amen.


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Called To Be Holy

woman sitting on brown bench while reading book
 
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:13-16
 
As Christ followers, we are called to be holy in all that we do. How’s that working out for you? As you think back over yesterday, would all of your actions earn the gold star of holiness? Were you holy just like Jesus?
 
Even on our best days it is not hard to see how sin crept into our lives. That careless word to our spouse or friend. A thought that has no place in the heart and mind of a child of God.
 
Peter certainly knew what he was writing about here. The impetuous apostle was known for talking first and thinking later. How often do we do the same? And the result is a trail of those who have been hurt by our lack of holiness.
 
So at this point it would be easy to say without much thought, “Yes, I know that I’m a sinner and yes, I know that Jesus forgives me.” While it’s all true, do we say it so quickly that it really has no effect on us? Is there any thought to asking God, not just to forgive us, but to change us, to make us holy for the sake of Christ?
 
Peter addresses his readers as “obedient children” who are meant to be different than the culture in which they live. And it is purely God’s grace that enables that difference. It is no less true for us today. So take a moment for honest, heartfelt confession to the Lord who loves you. Recognize again the depth of His love and the sacrifice that He made for you. Pause over His Word today and pray that His Spirit would align your heart and life with His, living in both obedience to Him and in holiness that glorifies His name.
 
Gracious Lord, I recognize how often my actions, words, and thoughts are no different than those around me. Even as You have forgiven my sins, continue Your work in me, making me Your holy child, that others may see You through me. I love you Lord and desire to walk with You this and every day. May it always be so for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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You Know Us So Well

blue and brown painted wall
 
Psalm 139:1 O Lord You search me and you know me.
 
One of the most appreciated places to be is around someone who knows us; I mean REALLY knows us.  So often in our lives we paint pictures of ourselves and create appearances for others so that they may see us as we’d like to be seen.  But there are those who cannot be fooled or manipulated.  These are the ones closest to us.  How stress-free it is to be with someone who knows us so well that we can be ourselves, without fear, without the need to fake it.

The Psalmist appreciates this characteristic of God.  He knows us.  He REALLY knows us.  I had a Lutheran grade-school teacher who said something in religion class that I have not forgotten.  He said, “Before God lifted a finger to create the heavens and the earth, He knew your name.”  What an amazing thing to consider.  Not only does God know you, he knew you before there was a you.  The One who knows us that well knows when we’re sad, confused, lonely, elated, celebratory, angry, helpless, hopeless, excited, nervous, and everything else.  And a benefit of having that kind of knowledge of us is the ability to offer to us whatever we need when we’re in any of those circumstances.

That’s a reason God gives His Word.  It’s not just that he knows the model called “humanity.”  It’s that he knows the individuals of humanity like you and me.  After all, He is the one who has created us individually, uniquely.  And the reason why he has such amazing assurances in His Word is not just for the sake of a generic “humanity”, but because of each of us, individually, whom He knows so well.  That’s why when we go there, we will always, always find something which speaks so specifically.  And thankfully, it is because God knows us so well that He knows how much we’d need a Savior. 

Prayer: O Lord God, we are grateful You know us so well.  May we always find our comfort, our answers, and our certainty in You.  Amen.

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Be a Blessing to Others

two person holding papercut heart

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22-23

Pandemics, hurricanes, war, civil unrest, economic chaos, political discord; these all have become part of our vocabulary. As we look around the globe today and even within our own country, it is not hard to see the consequences of a fallen world and the evil that it bears. Even nature seems to have run amuck with storms, wildfires, and earthquakes. Pick up the paper today and you won’t need to go beyond the front page to find stories about sin manifesting itself in so many ways.

What ever happened to goodness? Are there any good people left? Seeing so much tragedy, evil, and hardship all around causes us to wonder where this world is headed. Does anyone still possess the fruit of the Spirit called goodness that St. Paul names in Galatians 5?

While the bad news makes the news, God is still at work. The Holy Spirit is still at work. And God’s people are still at work.

One of the fruits of the Spirit is that of goodness, choosing that which is right instead of evil and wrong. And if you look beyond the headlines, you can see the Spirit at work bearing the fruit of goodness in the lives of His people. People on the frontlines showing care and compassion for others, showing love as they have been loved by Christ. This is goodness.

While there is plenty of bad news to go around, there are also great stories of sacrifice that we need to hear more about. We may quickly think of the medical professionals and scientists who are doing their best to care for those infected and to find a cure, but signs of goodness stretch far beyond the hospitals. Think about the churches in our community, our own church, where we continue to actively seek ways to support families with food and care in many ways. The Holy Spirit is clearly at work among God’s people.

While there is still much more to be done to help, God’s people are making a difference. You can make a difference. In response to what God has done for us and in us, the Spirit can lead us into a life that shows His goodness to others.

As you go about your day, give thanks to Him for He is good, His mercies endure forever, so let us share that goodness with others.

Gracious Father, Your Son came into this world and showed us what real goodness looks like. Forgive us when we fall short of Your plans for us, and help us to always choose that which is truly good in Your eyes that we may be a blessing to others. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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God’s Protection

person holding Holy Bible
 
10 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  Ephesians 6:10-17
 
Do you know the story of the mythological Achilles?  The story is that his mother wanted him to be protected in all the battles he might face.  So when he was a baby she grabbed him by the heel and dipped him in the magical waters of the River Styx and thus protected him—except for the one little part that wasn’t touched by the water—his heel.  It was eventually a poison arrow that struck him in exactly that spot of vulnerability—the heel—that killed him.
 
We sometimes speak of someone’s “Achilles heel” to mean the vulnerability or the one weakness that someone has when all of the rest of their character or person seems strong or invincible.  When it comes to faith, every bit of us is vulnerable to the schemes of the devil.  When we are born, we are helpless to defend ourselves in any way.  The passage above speaks of a spiritual battle going on that we’re caught in the middle of and sometimes can’t even see as evil would try to defeat us.
 
But God has dipped us in the waters of Baptism—something that doesn’t just protect most of us but every bit.  It’s not magic but a miracle of God’s protection.  Paul made the image very visual in the description of our “spiritual armor”—a breastplate, helmet, shield, etc.  And for a weapon?  The sword of the Spirit is God’s Word.  That’s all we need to do battle.  God’s gifts protect us and His Word defends us!
 
Are you equipped to venture out in the world today?  In Jesus, you absolutely are!
 
Gracious Father, we thank You for Your protection and love.  Thank You for equipping us to live in a world of sin and danger by the protection of Your truth and righteousness and peace and faith and salvation.  Thank You for the power of Your Word which can defend us at all times.  Guard us each day in our Savior Jesus.  In His name we pray. Amen.

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