My aunt and uncle recently delivered to me 46 carousels of slides my grandfather took on trips to Europe and the Holy Land. “But how will I see them?” I wondered. My aunt and uncle brought an old projector that is no longer available in any stores for me to view the images. “But where will I show the slides when I have no blank walls?” My aunt and uncle brought a classic screen that I can unroll and stand anywhere in my home to clearly capture the images on a white background.
My experience with the slides made me think of this passage:
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15).
We are like the projector that shines the light on the Word of God so that people can see it and understand it. Without the projector, the slides are useless. And without our witness, the message of the Gospel will never be known.
We are also like the screen. Without the Word of God reflected upon us, people will never see how the image of Christ will impact the blank slate of our lives. The story of our faith is revealed only when it is captured in our words and actions illuminated by Christ.
My grandpa’s journeys are shown in his slides. And our journey of faith is shown in our Savior. Do all you can to shine the light on the one who is the Light of the World. Then people will know. People will see. And people will believe.
We are in an era when we are thinking about each other’s faces
more often than we perhaps did in times before. I am thinking about the many
faces of people that now appear before us when we video chat with family and
co-workers. I think of faces we can’t see when they are behind masks in grocery
stores or restaurants or other locales. I think of our faces on our profiles on
Facebook and Instagram and other social media outlets.
Face it! Our faces say a lot about us, about who we are, about how we feel, about what matters to us. Those who are fellow Christians with us (and those who are not) are looking closer at our faces than we may realize. It is important for our faces to reflect Christ. The Bible says, ”For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Our faces should shine with Jesus’ love. Our faces should reveal that we know God in our heart. Our faces should show that we are aware of the way out of the darkness. No matter what we face, we have a Savior who is watching us with love and leading us to glorify him in every smile, every listening ear and every eye that looks with care. People are saying they can see people smile through their masks. The beauty of our faith in Christ can go through and get out from under any barrier put in front of it. Let your face be a beacon of Christ’s presence in your life, no matter where it may turn up.
The wise men followed the star from afar. They did not stop
until they came to the palace in Jerusalem where they thought Jesus was born a
king. But the chief priests and scribes pointed them in the direction of
Bethlehem according to the Scriptures, to the house where Jesus was.
I find it interesting that the wise men followed the Word
after they followed the star. It was the Word that put them back on course. It
was the Word that led them to Jesus, the Star of their lives. And it is the
Word that leads us to Jesus as well, who is the Star of our lives. As the
psalmist says, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
The star the wise men saw is no longer present in the sky.
But the light of the Word remains for us today. All we need to do is open the
pages of Scripture to see it. The Word enlightens our lives with hope, faith
and love. It is the Word that brings us close to the Light of the World, Jesus,
our Savior. He shines on us with forgiveness and everlasting life through his
sinless life and suffering and death on the cross and resurrection from the
The light of Christ enters into our hearts, souls and minds,
and into our very lives. We ourselves become the lights of the world because of
Christ dwelling in us. We share the light of Christ with those we meet. Our
glow of Christ’s glory from within us spreads to those around us. Christ’s
light is brighter each day as it spreads. We keep the Light alive in us through
prayer and worship and Bible study. We fan into flame the Light of Christ in
thought, word and deed. Everything we say, everything we do, everything we
think is a reflection of the Light of life. We are little lights that keep
glowing for him.
When we look at the night sky, we see thousands of stars
that make the night brighter. They make us remember that each one of us makes
the darkness of the world disappear. We are reminded that God promised Abraham
that his descendants would be as many as the stars in the sky and the sands on
the seashore. We are little lights of Christ among many. We do not shine alone.
We shine in concert with others, much like stars in constellations. Our lights
form shapes and designs that send messages to those who don’t know Christ as
the Light of the World. We work together to let people know that Jesus is the one
true Light. God made sure that the children of Abraham (of whom we are a part)
have lights that interconnect and intersect with one another. We are not random
bursts of light, but steady beams that have a permanent place in this world.
Shine on. Shine bright. Shine full that Christ might be bright always and ever
in your life and in the lives of those around you.
There will be a time when the light we shine as humans on
this earth will go out when we die. But the light of heaven will shine on in
us. We will be blessed in the heavenly realms in the city of light where we
will shine like stars as saints of God. In heaven there is light everlasting
and no darkness at all. There is no sadness, no tears, no hardship, no sickness
there. Light like no other outshines all light and there in paradise new light
from the risen Christ beams forth.
Dan Shepmann, one of the keynote speakers at Best Practices in Phoenix in February, talked about these verses:
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. —Matthew 11:29-30
Shepmann brought an actual yoke to show. It does not look easy or light at first glance, but in the hands of our Master, it is.
Yokes put on oxen are controlled by the farmer, the Master of the ox.The ox yoked to the Master cannot go anywhere without the Master guiding and directing. This makes the work easier for the ox. With Christ as our guide, we learn how to maneuver through the treacherous portions of life, as he did on the way to the cross for our salvation.
One translation of these verses says that the Master’s yoke “fits well.” It is not a “one size fits all” sort of approach. Our weight, our mission, that is placed upon us by our Lord is custom designed for us. So being yoked to our Savior is not something to struggle with, but something to hold on to and to celebrate the gifts God has given you to be the bearer of this yoke.
And our Savior promises to be gentle. His gentle hands on the reigns make our work for him manageable and doable and pleasing to him and to ourselves. In this light, what a privilege it is to “take his yoke upon us.”
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? —Psalm 27:1 (KJV)
My confirmation verse was Psalm 27:1. I chose it because I liked the words about the Lord being “my light and my salvation.” But recently a friend of mine showed me a plaque he received as a farewell gift when he left one congregation to serve as a musician in another. “The Lord is the strength of my life,” it read. And my friend has faithfully put it by the door in homes he has lived in ever since.
What a nice reminder as we leave our homes that the Lord is the strength of our lives. We cannot do it with our own strength, but we can do it with his. He is the core, the center, the driving force that carries us forward in our lives.
Much like in our bodies, when we exercise, we are supposed to “work the core,” the center of our bodies around the torso, because when the core is strong, the rest of our body becomes stronger. That is a great picture of how the strength of the Lord makes our entire selves, both soul and body, strong because he is strong.
Think about the strength God gives this week. Draw upon that core strength, and say with the psalmist, “Of whom shall I be afraid?”
In the Fall 2016 Concordia Journal, Professor Jeff Gibbs talks about the Gospel language that Matthew uses to share the news that Christ has come to save us through his death and resurrection.
In Matthew the good news of Christ is presented in the Gospel language of living under the reign of God. For instance in Matthew 5:3, Matthew records Jesus saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Gibbs points out that if Paul had written that verse, he would have said, “Redeemed are those who are enslaved, for Christ has set them free.” Paul’s gospel language is about freedom from slavery.
If John would have written it, it would have said, “Enlightened are those who were in darkness, for Christ is the light of the world,” because John’s Gospel language is light and darkness.
I find the idea of different Gospel languages interesting because I have found that people often have a favorite type of Gospel language that they are drawn to. For instance, my adopted grandma, Mrs. Graber, always liked Good Shepherd Sunday and loved the hymn, “Children of the Heavenly Father.” Her preferred Gospel language was about being safe and secure in the lovingly arms of a Shepherd or a father.
It might be a good practice for each of us to evaluate what Gospel language has the most meaning and resonance for us personally, and then it is good for us to consider what Gospel language might have the most significance to a friend or family member or someone we are witnessing to.
The sure message of the Gospel is always the same (We are saved from sin, death and the devil by Christ alone), but understanding what way to share the Gospel message to a certain person can be just as important as conveying the Gospel message itself. Something to think about the next time you are talking to someone about Jesus.
The Psalms are called the Church’s songbook, which is it. So it is a book we need to go to often for comfort, help and strength at many times in our lives. Here are some Psalm suggestions for reflecting on at specific instances:
When feeling insignificant: Psalm 8
When lonely: Psalm 23
When seeking God’s light: Psalm 36:7-9
When thanking God: Psalm 30:1-5, 11-12
When sick or suffering: Psalm 103:1-5
When feeling attacked: Psalm 70
When hungering for assurance: Psalm 118:1-9
When unsure about where to look for help: Psalm 121
When wishing to praise God; Psalm 150
Let the Psalms be your go-to resource in every circumstance you encounter.
I am singing in a cantata at my church again this year, and as part of the discipline for preparing for that event, our director provides CDs of people singing the music for us to listen to in the car. I find the experience interesting because I have the songs on almost a continuous loop whenever I am driving anywhere. And sometimes the juxtaposition is startling.
As I turn off the car in the grocery store parking lot, the last words I hear are, “Love came down at Christmas.” Somehow buying food becomes less of a chore when you know that.
I recently read this quote by Francis Chan in his wildly successful book, Crazy Love:
“Lukewarm people love God, but they do not love him with all their heart, soul, and strength. They would be quick to assure you that they try to love God that much, but that sort of total devotion isn’t really possible for the average person; it’s only for pastors and missionaries and radicals” (Crazy Love, p. 73).
Chan is a firm believer in the fact that the lukewarm believer is the biggest threat to the future growth of the Church. He goes straight to Jesus’ words in Revelation to back up this claim:
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit out out of my mouth.” —Revelation 3:15
Pretty definitive language from our Lord that he does not like when we are wishy-washy in our faith. We can’t get by with being “godly enough,” Chain says (Crazy Love, p. 67). We must be all in.
How do we go about going all in as Christians? Chan has some ideas:
In the June 2016 Thrivent magazine, there was an article in which people related their favorite Bible verses and why they were so meaningful to them.
Here are some of them:
Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven. —Matthew 5:16
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. —2 Corinthians 1:3-4
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forever. —Psalm 125:2
Then came this verse:
The Lord turned to him [Gideon] and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?“ —Judges 6:14
This verse struck a chord with me in that moment because I was feeling over-busy and bedraggled. And the words “go in the strength YOU HAVE” really registered with me and gave me hope and confidence that I could accomplish the multiple tasks that laid before me. I may not feel the strongest I have ever felt, but God has given me the strength I DO have to do great things, which is something I need to be grateful for and remind myself of daily.