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“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14

light in darknessHave you ever had one of those nights when you lay awake waiting for morning because daylight may be the only relief you get from the worry in your heart and soul? You breathed a sigh of relief of seeing the first glimmer of dawn because it signaled the dawn of a new day and hopefully respite from your pain?

Have you ever been under attack for your faith? Even though you had complete faith in what God’s word said, you watched as people you loved and respected seemed to turn away. The loneliness was harsh and your emotions ranged from pain (for what was being done to Jesus) to anger (because when attacked, anger is the easiest emotion).

Have you suffered through the loss of a loved one? Even though you knew they were in the arms of Jesus. Even though you knew they were without pain. Even though you knew that someday you would be reunited again and rejoice for eternity. Even though you knew all those things, the pain was still unbearable?

Have you ever watched the news with horror as sin was celebrated as normal and everything you knew pleased your Lord and Savior was being mocked, ridiculed and scorned? In the midst of it all, you felt completely helpless. Like Noah, you watched society fail and the raindrops begin to fall?

Here’s some good news. You were never called to conquer the world. Jesus will take care of that. You were never commissioned to be the one to turn the tide of events. That has already been planned out.

All we were called to do is shine. That’s it. Just shine. John writes in his first epistle that God is light. No darkness, just light (1 John 1:5). Jesus tells us that we are lights on a hill, like a city on a hill that is impossible to hide.

Remember this the next time the darkness seems to creep in around you. The deeper the darkness, the brighter even the smallest light will shine. No amount of darkness will ever be able to subdue, conquer or change the effectiveness of light.

I have a favorite campground in far northern Minnesota. A few years ago I was sitting on the shore late at night. The stars were amazing. In the distance I saw the small flicker of a campfire on an island on the other side of the lake. Just a small fire, yet it was clearly visible in the darkness.

Be a light for Jesus. Let God’s Spirit determine your effectiveness. Just shine. Shine because of the God within you, not because of the gods surrounding you. Your God is greater!

PRAYER: Father God. I confess that I worry rather than trust; that I doubt when I should have faith; that I am afraid when I should be confident and that I get discouraged when I could be encouraged by the fact you are in control. For today, let my light shine for you regardless of the darkness around me. Amen.


Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:5

Slide1Several years ago a friend of mine decided to add on to his home. His family had outgrown the present house but they liked the location and there was little available in their price range. So the addition was the best way to go. I spent quite a bit of time with him in the process. I’m not a builder by any means and it was interesting hearing him talk about the project. I’d never realized how important it was to have the whole plan in place before the actual project began. If the details weren’t right, the whole project might be in jeopardy. Once the details were worked out, the whole picture seemed to make sense.

To be honest, even looking at his blueprints didn’t help me see the whole picture because I wasn’t trained to understand all the intricacies of a building plan.

Those blueprints remind me of how we can gain a deeper knowledge of God and his goodness. When we look at individual situations we may think God doesn’t care or that he isn’t involved in our lives. When we have the beauty of gaining the overall perspective of things it’s much easier to understand.

The first four verses of Proverbs chapter two have given us the details, so to speak, of getting a grasp on knowing God in all his fullness. Some may say, “Can we really know God?” After all, we can’t see him, how do we know he exists? We are surrounded by more and more examples of evil seeming to triumph over us.

To know God fully we must make persistent communication with God a priority by looking at nature, reading his word and looking at the example of his love as shown through his son, Jesus Christ. When all those pieces fall in place then we can gain an understanding of God that allows us to see the whole picture and not be misled by the details of life. When you question what God is doing, step back and by faith remember that he is good and only has your best interest in mind. No matter what has gotten you into the situation you are in, God can help you see a way through.

PRAYER: Father God, I confess to you that I don’t always understand why you allow things to happen as they do. With my lips I proclaim your power, but with my heart I doubt your ability to help me though. Forgive me for my doubt, give me courage to trust you and wisdom to see the whole picture. Amen.

Never ForgetJoshua also set up another pile of twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan, at the place where the priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant were standing. And they are there to this day. Joshua 4:9

I have an infatuation for old abandoned houses and buildings. When I drive through our beautiful countryside you’ll see them. Tucked away among trees and brush you’ll see them. Broken or non-existent windows. Trees growing out of what used to be a living room or bedroom. Holes in the walls or roof completely expose some of these buildings to wildlife and the elements.

Some people look at these places as eyesores and I suppose they are. Others see them as safety hazards and I’d have no argument to that either. So why the infatuation? The answer is simple. I don’t see the broken glass or falling walls. I see the stories.

These broken buildings, especially the houses, are full of stories. One day, that house was someone’s new home. Perhaps it was a dream home of some young bride, or the home a farm wife always hoped for. At one time the walls were full of stories of babies being born and grandparents dying. Of young men and women graduating from High School and going off to college or war.  There may have been Christmas celebrations and Memorial Day picnics. There were baptisms and perhaps weddings.

Many people drive by these monuments without a thought of the stories. This past week we celebrated Memorial Day, a day set aside originally to remember those who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy. Then it became a day to remember all those who have gone before us. Now, for many of us, it’s become a day to celebrate the beginning of summer and vacations.

When Joshua led the people into the Promised Land they were entering into a whole new lifestyle. He knew that many would soon forget everything they had gone through. They’d forget all too soon the lessons learned from the victories as well as the defeats. The stones set beside the Jordan River were a reminder to never forget what it took to get them from slavery to freedom.

Just as Joshua put stones on the river bank as a reminder, we place stones in cemeteries for much the same reason. Those stones may mean nothing to most people, but if it is the stone of a relative, it means something to you. Hopefully, if it is the stone of a member of our armed forces, you admire them for giving their lives so that you can be free. We should never forget the sacrifice that was paid for our freedom.

There’s one more stone of remembrance we should never forget. That’s the stone of an empty tomb. Just as the members of our armed forces have sacrificed their lives for our political freedom, Jesus sacrificed his life for your spiritual freedom. Religion and all its activities can’t buy your freedom from guilt. Only the sacrifice of Jesus and his resurrection can do that.

PRAYER: Lord of the universe. You have crafted me in your image for your glory. Let the stories of my past and the legacy left by others be a continual reminder of your love and grace. Amen.

ezekielHow strong and courageous will you be in my day of reckoning? I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do what I said. Ezekiel 22:14

As a parent I’m even more impressed with my parents than I was growing up. Okay, I wasn’t that impressed with my parents growing up. They were strict, conservative and did mean and evil things like make us go to church (Dad was a pastor), taught us to be respectful, encouraged us to do well at school, and sacrificed financially to help each of us through school.

Looking back though, I’m tremendously thankful for all my parents taught us boys.  I can’t imagine the stress us five boys gave to them as we were growing up. I know now that both parents worked outside the home, and my father was a pastor, just in order to put food on our table and give us the best lives they possibly could.

One night, dad was at a counseling meeting and mom was at work. We had a babysitter who really had no control over us (to our shame, not hers). We boys were having a blast just being boys until the phone rang. My oldest brother was called to the phone. His face grew white. He softly said, ‘Yes dad.’ And hung up. The rest of the evening was incredibly quiet and we were five the best behaved boys you could hope for.

The reason for our abrupt behavior shift? A neighbor had observed one of us crawling out the bathroom window just in front of a bucket full of water (we were having a ‘small’ water fight much to the frustration of a young woman who had lost all control). The neighbor called my dad’s office and told him what was going on. Dad interrupted his session to give my brother a call. I never learned what he said to my brother that day, but my brother suddenly became a saint and purveyor of mature leadership in bringing us younger ones under the control and direction of our relieved babysitter. In a sense, my dad told us in no uncertain terms that we would be dealt with according to our works when we got home. It was time to clean up our act!

The Prophet Ezekiel writes to an out of control, rebellious Jerusalem. His words, from a 21st century perspective were something like this. “You think you’re so smart? Do you think you are above the law I set before you? You know you know better. Let’s see how brave and strong you are when I come home!”

These words from the prophet challenge me in two ways.

First of all, as I look at the smugness and open rebellion of people in our society, I am angered but also humbled by the arrogance mankind has in trying to legislate morality according to our own deceitful human hearts. We are a people who act as my brothers and I, as ones who have nothing to worry about because since we can’t see God, we assume he can’t see us, or doesn’t exist. Woe on us when his judgment comes.

The second challenge is personal. Are my daily actions and thoughts in tune with what God wants from me? Do I live daily with a full realization that God is looking upon me and scrutinizing my thoughts, words and deeds? Am I living with power and grace in leading others to Christ in the same way Jesus did, through merciful acceptance without compromising his position as Messiah?

May each of us be overwhelmed by the power and holiness of God. May we live in the grace and mercy of his love while at the same time working towards being a sanctified people, a holy people in his sight.

PRAYER: Father God, I confess to you that I often act in ways that would imply you aren’t watching. I measure my holiness according to those around me rather than to your plumb line of holiness. Forgive me for my arrogance. Help me to reach out to those who need to know you. In Jesus name, Amen.

Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up. Proverbs 12:25 NLT

worryWhen I was growing up I remember singing an old chorus that went something like, “Why worry when you can pray, trust Jesus, He’ll be your stay. Don’t be a doubting Thomas, trust fully in his promise? Why Worry, Worry, Worry, Worry, When you can pray.”

Cute little chorus and I remember enjoying singing it often. Then life set it. I became a grown-up. I watched the news; I fought valiantly (and often lost) battles with temptation; People let me down, ridiculed me, misunderstood me and put way too many expectations on me. I made stupid mistakes and waited for the consequences to set in. I think that’s why I worry.

Worry is really nothing more than a form of idolatry. Worry says, in a sense, “This is too much for me to handle, therefore it must be too much for God to handle. I’m doomed!”

King Solomon was right when he wrote in the book of Proverbs, “Worry weighs a person down…” Those of us who struggle with worry know the feeling. Worry is like a downward spiral. The more we worry, the more stress we bring on ourselves. The more stress, the more worry. We lose sleep, which causes stress which causes worry which causes stress which…well, you get the idea.

Worry robs us of the joy God intended us to have. Worry affects our relationships. Those who are chronic worriers become ‘Debbie Downer’ type people. Worry can cripple our creativity and steal away our ability to reason wisely.

So, what can those of us who struggle with worry do? First of all (and this may seem obvious to you), Pray. Jeremiah 33:3 says, ‘ Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.’  (NLT)

God repeatedly tells us in his word that we will have struggles. We will be persecuted, mistreated, misunderstood and even killed. But he also assures us that nothing can happen outside of his permissive will. He tells the prophet Jeremiah to ask him and he’ll reveal to him all he NEEDS to know about tomorrow. Key word there is NEED. Jesus says, don’t worry about tomorrow. Work on today. Tomorrow is already taken care of.

When the enemy of worry attacks, what should you do? Here are some things I have tried to do. (I’m still working on these.)

  1. Is this something that will definitely happen? (Psychologists tell us that nearly 80% of the things people worry about are things that will never happen)
    1. If Yes, move to step two.
    2. If no, the chances are unlikely that this will happen, Pray that God will release you from this bondage of worry and help you trust in him.
  2. If what you are worrying about is likely to happen then ask yourself if there is anything you can do about it.
    1. If Yes, move to step three.
    2. If No, Pray that God will release you from the bondage of worry. The enemy wants to constantly question God’s promises to you. (Garden of Eden ring a bell)
  3. If what you are worrying about is real and there is something you can do about it strategize ways in which to take action. Four areas of your own life to consider in the strategy are:
    1. Communication: How is my prayer life? Am I really in touch with God on how I should act/respond to this crisis?
    2. Circumstances: What have I learned in the past about this type of situation?
    3. Counsel: Who am I listening to? God sends people into our lives to help us through the tough times. The enemy sends people into our lives to mess with our minds. Seek counsel from those you can trust and who have shown by their lives that God is working in them and through them. This may be a pastor, a friend, or if the problem is severe enough, a professional counselor. It’s amazing to me how we are more than willing to go to a medical doctor for physical ailments but those ailments of the heart we tend to think we can heal ourselves. Get help if you need it from a professional.
    4. Conscience: What does my gut tell me? After you have spent time with God listening and sharing your heart; after you have pondered the wisdom gained through your past; after you have sought godly counsel, there will still be times you need to rely on that gut feeling you have. When you are in tune with God, this is often the Holy Spirit speaking to you.

Why worry? We have a loving heavenly Father that wants to see us through the tough times in life.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, please forgive me for my lack of faith and the idolatry that keeps me from trusting you. Thank you that you know my heart, my needs, my fears and my frustrations far better than I do. I pray against the demon of worry in my life and ask that based on your power you remove it from me. Amen.

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