“How Bright is Your Light?”

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Here it is the day before another Christmas, and I’m asking a rather personal question: “How Bright is Your Light.” To some this would seem rather intrusive; to others out of place; but to those who see the seasonal times as a good opportunity to let our light shine, they think it is an honest and necessary question.

Light of the World

As we put lights up on our houses, lights on our trees, and even light a candle at a Christmas Eve Candlelight services, we must ponder the question: How bright is our light, especially in light of our Lord’s words: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden” (Mt. 5:14).

What does it mean to  be “the light of the world”? Surely, one answer that pops to mind is our character. We are to bear the fruit of the Spirit, perhaps is another answer, and as we continue reading in our main text, it is also our “good deeds.”

In a culture that shouts down the opposition, perhaps all we have left is the Light of good deeds, don’t you think? As “they” are shouting to stop Christmas carols and praying at school functions; as they shout to forbid even the whisper of the name of the very person whose birthday Christmas celebrates, what would be the best thing to do? We don’t want to join them in a shouting match. No, this is unwise and ill-advised (see 2 Tim. 2:24-26). But our Light can out shine them, right? As we bend down and help a homeless man get up on his feet; or tend to a widow who needs her faucet fixed; or become a “big ear” to a lost teen, then our light will shine so bright it could possible drowned out their shouting. What do you think?  I don’t like asking myself this question either, but I know I must. How about you? How bright is your light? Bright enough to quiet the shouting?

Join me on our journey with Jesus at this Christmas in letting our light shine so bright—even as a small candle light, that they will glorify our Father in heaven.

…  making this Christmas especially merry, indeed.

Main Text: — Matthew 5:14–16 (NIV84)— 14 You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.— 2 Timothy 2:23-26 (NIV84)

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.— John 15:8 (NIV84)

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.—1 Peter 3:15–16 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, let the Light of Your Son, my Lord Jesus Christ, shine so bright that others are blinded to my foolishness and folly, and yet they clearly see You in and through my feeble good deeds. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“You May Not Have One—Yet…”

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As I look at our Church Family, I see many who do not have a father.  Some were literally orphaned, being raised by the state, foster care or an inconvenienced grandparent. As on Mother’s Day, so too, on Father’s Day, this often adds to the heartache and emptiness many may feel. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Many of these I am thinking of have a blessing: They have a ‘father figure’…, a caring man who has stepped into the role of father….

Some of these men sacrifice much time and energy weaving this ‘orphaned’ child into their already full-family and full-schedule lives, but they are doing a marvelous job at a quiet miracle. Many of these ‘adopted fathers’ did not apply for the position, nor did they volunteer. Instead, they were chosen by the disconnected ones who yearned to have this father influence in their lives…. I am also witnessing some wonderful grandfathers who have stepped in to fill the void left by a heart-breaking wayward child…. “Wonderful” just doesn’t capture it, does it?

Not long after becoming a Christian I discovered a promise Jesus made to His disciples found in  Luke 18:29-30 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”  (This promise is echoed in Mark 10:29-30.) As I began to observe my relationships, I discovered that, in fact, several men had stepped into that role as father while I was away from my father. I found this fascinating. As with all relationships, these were messy and often awkward, but over time, we have build enduring bonds that have filled that void….

Lifestyle worshiper, you may not have one—yet. But I am suspicious that when you take inventory of your relationships, you may just be surprised that this promise has been fulfilled in your life as well.

Perhaps you might want to pass along a Father’s Day, “Thank you.” to one of these men, too? What do you think?

Main Text: — Mark 10:29-30 — “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Sing to God, sing praise to His name, extol Him who rides on the clouds— His name is the YHWH [Blessed Be His Name]— and rejoice before Him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.  — Psalm 68:4-5 (NIV84)

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  —John 14:18 (NIV84)

 May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. — 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the men around me whose relationships have become more like a father to me. Let my life pour into others as they have poured into me the Love of the Lord Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“True Religion”

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Text: James 1:26-27 — 26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keeps a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: If our walk does not line up with our talk, then our ‘religion’ is merely mutter words.

My Thoughts: 

Many Christians often border on boasting when they say, “I don’t believe in a religion; I have a personal relationship with God.” And for the most part, I would agree that  indeed having a personal relationship with the Living God through the Lord Jesus Christ if vitally important. And, yes, this is vastly differently from the typical religions offered by this world. Religions are man’s attempts to make himself right with the powers that be, but Christianity is rather unique here: It offers God’s way, and His way is making us right with Him in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. For it is in Him and through Him we have peace with God and access to the Throne of Grace in time of need….

All this being said, the passage noted above from James 1:26-27 is rather fascinating to me in light of this religion vs. relationship conundrum. But what clears it up for me is the word that James uses for religion. It is a rare word, with potentially two meanings. One meaning focuses on external religious behavior. The other potentially refers to ‘the muttering of prayers.’ With this word, James appears to be challenging those who say they are doers of the word: “Okay, you say you are a doer of the word (see vv. 22-25). Very well, then. If (and you most definitely do) consider yourself religious, have you reined in your tongue? Oh, and do you really take care of orphans and widows in their distress? Just asking….” If their walk does not line up with their talk, then their ‘religion’ is merely mutter words.

Lifestyle worshipers, I know you can see that it is very important that our walk lines up with our talk. In short, true integrity: we do what we say and we say what we do. And both must spring forth from a sincere faith (see 2:14-26). Otherwise, our ‘relationship’ with the Lord Jesus is merely religion in the human sense—‘muttered words’.

Ah, but when the Lord Jesus Christ is truly our Life, this vital relationship naturally produces the religion that James identifies as pure and faultless: Taking care of orphans and widows. As we lift up our eyes from the din and dust of our self-absorbed ‘religion,’ we will soon see that orphans and widows abound all around, literally and functionally. We know the literal orphans and widows. But the functional orphans? These are they who have absent or disconnected parents, either through  divorce or neglect. Likewise, functional widows are they who are neglected or abandoned through neglect or divorce.

How do you see the Life of the Lord Jesus Christ living out this religion that is both pure and undefiled? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.  — 1 Timothy 5:3-4 (NIV84)

 And when the Lord saw [the widow who had lost her only son], He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then He came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. — Luke 7:13-16 (ESV)

This is what the LORD says: “Do what is fair and right. Save the one who has been robbed from the power of his attacker. Don’t mistreat or hurt the foreigners, orphans, or widows. Don’t kill innocent people here.” — Jeremiah 22:3 (NCV)

Lord Jesus Christ, clear my vision to see the orphans and widows around me. Burn within me a passion to meet their needs as You have gifted me both spiritually and physically as well as emotionally.  Empower me to be truly religious in this manner so that my relationship with You will deepen. In Your Holy Name. Amen.

Pastor Mike