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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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Show the Goodness of God

selective focus photography of person holding white clustered flowers

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

One of the best known and often quoted passages in scripture is Ephesians 2:8-9. This two-verse passage makes it clear that it is not our good works that save us, but rather God’s grace through faith. Many people are satisfied to leave it there, but in so doing they neglect an important result of our salvation.

“Faith alone” has been one of the pillars of the Church since the days of the Reformation, especially in the Lutheran Church. But we ought not forget a quote that is often attributed to Luther that reads, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” Connecting this to what Paul writes we understand that good works will naturally follow God’s gift of faith. We are not saved by our good works, but rather, we are saved for good works that God has planned for us.

In the previous devotion, we considered the fruits of the Spirit that Paul lists in Galatians 5. As we think about these fruits, people can see them through the good works that God has prepared for us. The good works that we do, according to God’s plan for us, are another example of the fruit that His Spirit will bear in our lives.

What does this mean for you today? Will you passively receive God’s love and forgiveness without any response? Or will His immeasurable gift transform you and compel you to share His love and grace with others? Will your life bear the fruit of His goodness and serve as a blessing to others?

God may not put you in a position to change the world, but your actions today, small acts of grace and kindness, could change the day for just one person. Keep your eyes open today for that opportunity to show the goodness of God in the works you do and the actions you take. In doing so, you honor your Father in Heaven, and glorify His Son Jesus.

Loving Father, You have done all that is needed for my salvation through Your Son Jesus Christ. There is nothing that I can add to it. Today as Your redeemed child, may the goodness that You poured into me flow out to others in acts that are a blessing, even to just one other person. Walk with me today as I show Your love for Jesus’ sake. Amen.


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Walk in Love

heart-shaped white Love decor
 
1 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2
 
Some people are really good at doing impressions of people.  Comedians have made a career of impersonating presidents or other celebrities. Students sometimes imitate their teachers or children their parents.  We can imitate bosses or others, sometimes to highlight humorous characteristics or traits.  It can all be done in good fun or can turn mean-spirited.
 
But to imitate God?  That’s an interesting charge!  It’s important, I think, that our call to imitate God mentions children and puts it in the context of love.  Young children are often amazing in their ability to be unhindered in showing love—they don’t know any better (think about how that sounds!) than to be loving and kind when that’s what they see.  Babies, children, and all of us are sinful and in need of God’s grace and forgiveness.  None of us can love perfectly or on our own.
 
But the passage reminds us that we are beloved children and because of that we can imitate our Heavenly Father.  “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us,” the passage tells us.  God started that relationship with each and every one of us—He loved us first and lets us learn how to love from Him.
 
The better we know someone, the better we can imitate them.  Surrounding ourselves with others who know and love God and getting to know Him better through His Word help us to show Christ’s love to all.  So, today, do your best impression of God and see who doesn’t smile as they see it!
 
Dear Heavenly Father, we thank You for reaching out to us in love, for adopting us to be Your own dear children in Baptism.  Help us be comforted in Your perfect love today and each day. Let Your love shine through us to be reflected to others You have placed in our lives and around us.  In the name of our dear Savior Jesus.  Amen.

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