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DEVOTION:  March 18, 2021
Thought of the day:  From Pastor Mews
 

Humble to Greatness!”

Luke 13:18-20

His was a familiar story during WWII.  He left for battlefields thousands of miles from his beloved town and church. He was prayed for at his departure, remembered in weekly prayers and was included in his congregation’s P.R..  As his service pay checks began to arrive, the soldier wasn’t quite sure to do with his abundance.  In his weekly mailings, he sent a $5 bill to his home church and told them to do something nice for the children there as he was blessed during his childhood at that church.  Not knowing exactly what to do a congregational leader at the next church meeting shared that he had a pile of $5 bills and instructed them to do something nice for the children and wasn’t sure what to do.  A member suggested building an education wing that was needed for the children’s ministry.  The rest was history, those $5 bills became seed money for a state of the art children’s ministry addition where hundreds of children first heard of Jesus and received Christian education over the years.  Following the war, the soldier returned home to begin his young life as a civilian and was shocked by the enthusiasm and activity of the children’s ministry wing of their church.  He was even more shocked that he, well, his stack of innocent and simple $5 bills would be blessed by God to serve so many children!  Likewise, I’m fan of history watching “The History Channel & The Food that made us”  it’s fascinating how humble beginnings made Mr. Kraft, inventor of cheese processing into a multi-billion-dollar year dairy industry.  And how two McDonald brothers devised a quick way, speedy system, to make decent burgers, fries and shakes on an assembly line of food into the most popular restaurant in the world today, “McDonald’s!”

 

PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM: “Therefore he said, “To what is the Kingdom of God comparable and what shall I compare it?  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man, took and planted into his garden and it grew and became a tree and the birds of heaven dwelt in its branches. And    again he said, “What shall I compare the Kingdom of God to?  It is like a yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.

 

A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.  More sharply, they are an iron fist inside a velvet glove. The small mustard seed is the humble message of Jesus’ death and resurrection and how it, mysteriously grows to a tree in which birds nest.  It is an unfolding process how God’s Word and Sacrament touches so many lives.   Growth comes automatically which unfolds God’s creative activity for things He made to grow.  No person can create that sort of thing.   
More importantly, the small things that are done today, the seemingly small and insignificant ministry we do today with God’s Church, His Word and Sacrament (represented by the mustard seed and the leavened lump) are the fullness of the Kingdom not yet come. They will be fully displayed in the future and more importantly in the eternal Kingdom of God in heaven.

 

God expands His Kingdom supernaturally through the means He has chosen to give His church, The Word and The Sacraments.  This growth also comes through the cross, His death and resurrection and it points to a greater reality, sinners being set free.   We, children of God, are now asked to ‘share our $5 bills,’ and one day we believers in Jesus following Judgment Day will receive an immense and great treasure with Christ!  Never be fooled by humble beginnings!

 
 
 

He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death.”
Philippians 2

A story was told about a future hall of fame NFL running back who was pulled over for speeding.   He was the leading rusher in the NFL and was carrying his team towards post season accolades.  He was the most popular celebrity in his town, his name was known by all his jersey would fly off the rack. When the officer asked to see his driver’s license his eyes lit up and he said, “Are you ‘so and so’ the great running back?  My son would like a signature and that would mean a lot!”   Sensing that he might not be given a ticket and realizing he broke the law and for justice to be served and he needed a ticket, he said, “No.” The disappointed officer wrote the ticket and told him to slow down. Humility.

How would you define humility?  Do you know humble people?  Do you know proud people?  What do proud people do?  What do humble people do?  It’s hard to be humble in a culture where celebrity accolades are given out weekly, where individual expression is worshipped and a plethora of platforms for self- glorification are available to all.  How many ‘likes’ did you get? 

Yet humility is a cherished fruit of the faith.  While the world seeks mountain top experiences and notoriety, we’re reminded that our God leads us to “Lie down in green pastures and He walks with us in the valleys of life.”  A wise man once said that “Humility is the mother of all virtues, we see more from the valley than we do the mountain tops.”    

Humility is at the heart of a believer.  It is a gift from the Holy Spirit and blossoms as a Christian matures.   A Christian is one who has been broken by the Law, and realizes that they are the ones to be blamed as their lives are a ‘mess,’ and only by God’s grace are they saved.    A Christian is one who is quick to listen and slow to speak as it is God who gives gifts and talents and enables ability and growth. 

Jesus Christ, being true God and man, left his glorious throne to live in our messed up and heated world. He was obedient and humble to the point of death.  It wasn’t nails that held Him to the beam of the cross, but His love.  St. Paul reminds us that “He emptied Himself, and became subject to death,” to  crucifixion, to torture, to bear our sin and bring us salvation.  Our response to the Spirit given gift of faith?  Humility, Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”  Which verses best  describe humility where you are at on your faith walk?  Which verse is enlightening to you?   Why?

James 4:6, “But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

Luke 14:11, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good….to act justly to love mercy and to walk humbly with Your God.”

Psalm 25:9, “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.”

Proverbs 18:12,  “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

Romans 12:16, “Live in harmony with one another, Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in the weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties, for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

This Lent and Easter as God speaks to us through the Parables that are ‘iron fists in velvet gloves,’ that convict sin and reveal the heart of Jesus, His death and resurrection, may the Lord humble us!  That we might all the more know our Redeemer who humbled Himself that we may have life eternal.  Blessings, Pastor KFM.

 
 
 
DEVOTION:  February 11, 2021
Thought of the day:  From Pastor Mews
 

“Spiritual Gifts, “The Spirit Manifests Himself for the common good.”

1 Corinthians 12:1-7

 

What is the highest level of sports that you ever witnessed?   College? Division I? Professional? or the Olympics?   What is the best concert or play that you attended?   Have you ever been to the back stage or met a celebrity?  Have you ever met a top performer in your occupation?  What makes those events so outstanding is that chances are those stars and performers are at the top .1% of their profession or sports.  To me, it’s amazing their precision, their ability and how easy they make the difficult look.  While hard work is crucial, and for some of them luck smiled on them, but no doubt these elite athletes and performers are gifted.   A gift is something much more than genetics and upbringing, but abilities that have been bestowed from God.  The older I get the more I’m offended by those who win major awards, metals and trophies and can’t take the time to thank God, and I rejoice that many do.  Talking about gifts, while maybe not at the elite level of fame or performance, we may have had many gifted doctors, teachers, coaches, mechanics, technicians that have blessed us.

Read;  1 Corinthians 12:1-6.   “Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.  There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

Key take always and blessings for us;  

The first gift of the Spirit that we are given is faith.  “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ expect by the Holy Spirit.”  I was once asked how the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in my life.  Very valid question- I replied; “No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”  Faith is a gift a manifestation of The Spirit, St. Paul says, “We are saved by grace through faith and not by works, so no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2.

The second reality of gifts is that the gifts are given freely by the Holy Spirit. All believers have gifts.  Often times, we note a person as being a natural-as if it their task or ability just comes naturally.  Some gifts are spotted at a very young age.    This would make sense as “The same Spirit distributes them.”   Many time people tend to enter into their calling and career as their gifts have enabled them.  Is that true in your life?  One of the greatest tragedies in life in when someone never fully uses their gifts.

The third reality is that there are differing kinds of gifts.  If you ever listened to a talented band, seen a gifted team, been healed as God worked through a medical team, been around a successful organization there is one common thread, a diversity of gifts.    Our gifts are only useful as long as other people are blessed by them.  What are your gifts? What are the gifts of those you work or serve?       

The fourth and final reality is that the gift of the Holy Spirit work for the common good. A preacher’s gift is to edify the body that enables the church to function. A teacher educates one to be able to listen to a pastor.  The congregation is blessed by gifted and dedicated servants who humbly serve together.  The common good? That all might know Jesus as Lord and the Body of Christ is lifted up!  

 
 
 
DEVOTION:  March 23, 2020
Thought of the day:  From Pastor Mews
 

Fight the good fight with all your might, Christ is your strength and Christ your right.  Lay hold on life and it shall be your joy and crown eternally!” LSB #664.

 

According to the news, the peak of our COVID 19 epidemic might not be until 2 weeks from now.   At SJL, we postponed all services through Easter Sunday.  The was a jolting punch to take.  In perspective that may be much less painful than what thousands of other people are enduring throughout our state, nation and world.   That means that at the earliest we may be looking until May 1 before we can resume any sort of normalcy of life.  Those fighting the hardest are on the front lines; nurses, doctors., those in the medical field. We can also add others in the fight ring; truck drivers, store employees, scientists, the unemployed and those most vulnerable.  The list of those fighting the good fight is almost limitless.  Yet God clangs the bell in our ring and turns our heads sharing that He is always in our corner.

Christ fought the good fight for us.  Becoming man, He lived a perfect life of servant hood and laid His life down for us.  He fought off the temptation of Satan who desired for Him to avoid dying for all sins.  Jesus, as true man faced the agony of a painful, humiliating death.  Jesus as true God knocked out sin, death and the devil, and is declared the champion for all who sits at the right hand of the Father.  Christ now pleads for us, prays for us, guards us from all evil.  His triumph means our eternal victory, we can wear “The belt of salvation” won by Him.   

Fighting the good fight right now means for us inconvenience as we are now being asked to self isolate until April 30 at the earliest.   Fighting the good fight for many may mean the pain of unemployment and dealing with bills.  For many its slowing down from an over booked life.   For others it’s the pain of fear of how far this epidemic may reach. For increasing numbers it’s dealing with this disease, or mourning the loss of a loved one.  For us believers fighting the good fight is that in spite of a world that for the first time seems uncertain and scary in contrast to a world that is absorbed in a plush life of delightful extras.  For us children of God, we fight the good fight as we love others around us in real and practical ways.   The good fight is won as we are willing to “speak the truth in love,” to a some in a culture’ that may question, “Why does God allow this to happen?” Or “Where is your God now?” We fight the good fight as we endure as prized fighters dealing with the effects of a fallen world, yet our hope and eyes are on Christ, our champion, who holds all fields victorious.  ‘Go in peace and serve the Lord!’  Pastor Luhring and Pastor Mews, SJL’s pastors. 

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