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Let Our Light Shine

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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)

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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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The Word of God You Never Hear

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You’ve heard the Word of God preached in church and read in a Bible app. You’ve heard the
Word of God taught in confirmation class and discussed in Bible classes. You’ve heard it sung
by choirs. You’ve heard a lot of the Word of God. Because you’re a Christian, you’ve forgiven
boring preachers and teachers and asked forgiveness for your own boredom as you listened.
Because you’re a Christian, you’ve grown in your understanding and appreciation of God’s
Word, discovering in its repetition new insights and old assurances. But have you ever thought
about THE WORD OF GOD YOU NEVER HEAR?
 
You never hear God speak to a meteor hurtling through space and by that word deflect it from a
collision course with planet earth. You never hear God tell the solar system to continue its
orbits, the winds to blow, the birds to return and the seeds to sprout so that winter in Wisconsin
is not a permanent condition. You know from Scripture that Jesus commanded a storm to
silence, that God stopped the earth’s rotation so that Joshua could complete his victory in the
valley of Ajalon, and that he commanded the Red Sea to part for Israel’s escape from Egypt. But
you have never heard the word of God that controls nature.
 
Hebrews 1:3 says of Jesus: “He upholds the universe by the word of his power.” We speak of
the “laws of nature” to describe the recurring forces and processes that sustain life and preserve
the cosmos. “Laws of nature” – that’s a rather mechanical term. Does nature make laws
governing itself? And if these are truly laws, doesn’t someone need to enforce them and – when
necessary – suspend them? You have heard the Word of God we know as moral law. You have
never heard the word of God we know as natural law. But that’s how your universe is preserved.
Jesus said that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and
on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45) Jesus said that your heavenly Father feeds the birds (Matthew
6:26) and that none of them dies apart from the Father’s will (Matthew 10:29). When God no
longer speaks his preserving, sustaining word, the end of the world will come.
 
It’s so easy to take for granted the so-called “laws of nature,” to lose our wonder at the power,
the beauty, the intricacy of creation. Hebrews 1:3 urges us to listen for the word of God we
never hear in the sound of the wind in the trees, or thunder in the skies, or crickets in the grass.
When you know that the Father who adopted you into his family at the cost of his Son preserves
the world with his word, when you know that the Savior who died for you rose to sustain all
things in your best interest, not only will you appreciate your world more, but you will fear it
less. . . pandemics included.
 
PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, for speaking our world into existence at creation and
sustaining this world for our benefit each day. Thank you more for revealing yourself as
our Father and our Savior in the Word you inspired as Scripture. Comfort us with the
assurance that you govern our world; and comfort us still more with the promise that
you’ll love us forever for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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Be Still and Know

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Psalm 46:10-11  Be still and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!  The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
 

God has a lot of competition in this world.  There are even times when He has competition in our lives.  What is it for many?  For some, their own intellect supersedes God.  For others, their talent replaces God.  For still others, it may be their accumulation of possessions, their positions of power, their achievements and success, their own perception of indispensability. 

In Psalm 46, we are reminded that God utters His voice and the earth melts.  We are told that God makes wars cease to the ends of the earth, that He breaks the bow and shatters the spear.  He gives us these assurances not to win the competitions. He gives us these assurances out of love, and to comfort us when we realize that we have been wrong about whatever else might be God.

In the First Commandment we are told, “You shall have no other gods.”  That’s law.  God has earned the right to demand this of us because of Who He is and because of what He has done for us.  But wrapped in this commandment is a fatherly gift, given for our own good.  Why should we have no other gods?  Because they will all fail.  Intellect, talent, power, success, popularity, indispensability, all of these will fail in truly being God, in truly giving what only God can give.

In our society today and the circumstances in which we’re living, amid confusion and fear, we realize many things.  Perhaps one of the most important realizations is that we are not God, and that nothing we have is greater than God.  “Be still and know that I am God.” 

Prayer: O Lord God, we confess that in our lives we often find things to compete with you as God, and in our world, so many alternatives are found.  Comfort us with the certainty that you are God, the Lord of Hosts who is with us, the God of Jacob who is our fortress.  Amen.

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