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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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The Word of God You Never Hear (Part 2)

white and black labeled book selective focus photography
 
You never hear God tell your heart to keep pumping or your lungs to keep breathing or your brain cells to fire off neurons, or whatever it is they do.  You never hear God command food to discharge its proteins and carbohydrates and vitamins into your blood stream to sustain your life.  You never hear God tell your immune system to fight a virus or your blood to clot or any of the million things that explain your continued existence.  But that word of God you never hear sustains you.

In Deuteronomy 8, Moses told Israel: “God humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  

You know from Scripture that God fed Elijah by a raven, an angel and a jar of flour that never emptied; that 5,000+ were fed when Jesus spoke a word of blessing over five loaves of bread and two fish; and you know that Jesus went 40 days without food, yet was sustained by God.  But do you know the lesson of Deuteronomy 8?  You are alive, not simply because you eat a semi-balanced diet and breathe only moderately polluted air, but because God says so.  You never hear that word he speaks; but when he withdraws it, you will die.  And no food or medicine, no ventilator or surgery will alter the fact.

We’re all in favor of a healthy lifestyle; but instead of listening to nutritionists and pharmaceutical ads, listen for the word of God that keeps you alive — in the burp that settles a baby’s tummy or the deep breathing of a loved one asleep.  And take with you the comfort and encouragement that you are a living, breathing, nourishment-taking ambassador for Christ because God has spoken your continued existence.  He wants you here.  He keeps you here, even though you never hear the word of God that preserves you.

As you marvel at the wonder of God’s creation that is you, as you thank God for the awesome life he’s given you, project ahead to the eternal life – perfect and undying life – that he has waiting for you because Jesus lived your life for you and died to redeem your life for eternity.  Then you’ll hear every word of God in person.

PRAYER:  Forgive me, Lord, for taking for granted all that you have given me and all you’ve done for me.  Help me to see your purpose in my continued existence here and your goal for my life in your presence hereafter.  Speak to my head and heart your words of truth as you speak to my body your sustaining power.  Amen.

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Drawn to Jesus

book on top of table and body of water
 
“Now is the judgment of this world; now with the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:31-32)
It’s about that time of the year when we need to get out the bug spray to keep away all the ticks, mosquitoes, flies, and other bugs which are drawn to us.  Those pesky bugs keep us from enjoying our time outside; instead of watching a beautiful sunset, we spend our time swatting away to hordes of mosquitoes.  Bugs are just drawn to us.

We are drawn to things, too.  We are drawn to good and pretty things.  We are drawn to tasty and attractive things.  Jesus makes a distinction between the things that draw us in.  There is the ruler of this world, who is trying to draw us into slavery and judgment.  Satan is working hard to enslave us to our passions, desires, and feelings.  Satan is spraying on a perfume to draw us to thinking his kind of thoughts.

But Jesus has brought judgment upon the darkness.  Jesus has cast out Satan.  Jesus has drawn all people to himself.  How?  By going to the cross.  He was lifted up on the cross, so that all the world would see.  He gave his life, so that all people could have true life.  Jesus has provided the thing we desperately need: peace.  And His peace drawn us to Him.

Who needs to know they have peace in Jesus?  Who needs to be drawn in?  Take today to pray for those in your life who need be been drawn, like a bug, to the blood of Jesus.  He will welcome them with open arms.

Father in Heaven, You gave Your Son Jesus, to draw all people to Yourself in love and grace. Draw us to You each and every day, as we live in this world, and guide us to use our lives to draw others to Jesus as well. In the name of Jesus, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we boldly pray; AMEN.


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