Bethlehem Star Newsletter Excerpts

April 2020

Called to Be a Witness : Part 2


Finding Your Motivation to Share Jesus

As we concluded the last installment, the conversation inevitably turned to talk of persecution and martyrdom when regarding those who were witnessing their faith in the Early Church years. This leads us to ask, “Why would we therefore witness?” Before we consider why we should witness, it might help us if we were to first consider what is keeping us from telling others about the most remarkable truth in our lives that we have eternal life through our Lord Jesus. Thus, Thus,“Called to Be a needs to address what is, by its very nature, shocking or scary when it comes to a discussion on witnessing.

Many of us shy away from witnessing but not for a lack of knowledge of Jesus' call to be His witnesses. We know we are supposed to tell others about our Lord. So what makes it so challenging to do? What keeps so many, perhaps yourself, from witnessing about the most important truth in one’s life?

For myself, there is one force underlying all my reasons: fear. Do you arrive at a similar conclusion in your answers to the above questions? You're not alone, for I, like most if not all of you am afraid of not having all the right answers or of saying something wrong or of losing a friend. It all boils down to “FEAR.”

Considering all of that fear, why would we dare tell someone about Jesus? More to the point, what could possibly be my motivation to witness? “LOVE.” God's steadfast and unconditional love for me. This in turn, motivates my love for God, my love for others, and God's love for other s through me. The answer is a kind of love that this fallen world will never comprehend they can only experience it.

As we consider how fear and love factor in to how we are to interact with others in response to who God is and what He has done in our lives, we ought to remember the words of the apostle John. In his first Epistle he reminds us that fear has no place in love. Here’s what he has to say: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18-19) .

That “perfect love” he points us to is Agape love, the love whose source is God.  For this reason, God's perfect love for us is both our confidence and and our motivation to love  –– and witness to –– others. We love because God has first loved us. 

In His love, God has defeated our greatest threats: sin, death, and Satan’s power. What fears can possibly compare to those? In answer to this rhetorical question, we join the psalmist in  proclaiming,  “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” “(Psalm 118:6) As we walk in the same faith and trust as the psalmist, God's love is our confidence.

God's love is also our motivation.  One of the best ways we can love God is by doing what He commands, which the apostle John puts into perspective for us: He commands, “[God’s] commands are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) ) This being the case, it means taking seriously the Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have  commanded you.” Our Lord Jesus then adds this awesome addendum:  “And surely I am with  you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19--20)

The heart of the matter is that to witness is to tell others of Jesus. In addition, Jesus sends us with His authority to baptize and teach others what He has taught us. And in doing so, He promises to be with us always. As people claiming to follow Jesus, we need to take seriously His command for us to witness –– not as a burden but as a privilege. As we do so we have the honor to show others the love God has first shown us.

[This is a reprise of a Lutheran Life article written by Amy Bird




Count your Blessings in the Midst of a Virus Pandemic

For many of us the Coronavirus national emergency is perhaps the biggest life-changing event that as a country we will face. Fortunately, our generation has missed the great depression and world wars which caused even greater lifestyle changes than what we are facing today. As we all know, this virus pandemic has caused the closing of schools and colleges, the cancellations of sporting events, and the job loss for many people. Many churches are no longer holding services, concerts cancelled, restaurants closed, vacations postponed, etc. The coronavirus has caused significant declines in the world’s financial markets, decreasing the value of people’s investments and retirement funds.

It is easy for people to become bitter and frightened in these circumstances and many will blame God. God’s Word tells us of a better way. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17). These verses give us actions that will enable us to overcome the worst circumstances. We aren’t told just to “feel better” but to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks…”

There’s a lot to give thanks for, too, when we’re going through difficult times. God is with us, and He is control. What a joy we have knowing that we have God’s presence and protection. We have God’s strong and abiding presence through His Word and Sacrament. Each and every day, we have the opportunity to turn to God in His Word to be uplifted and refreshed even when the world around us seems to be closing down. Through the faith that God gives us, we know it is God’s will that we rejoice in Him and seek His peace in the midst of this virus pandemic.

In the midst of this crisis, the church still continues its vital mission and ministry. Jesus tells us “I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). God promises us that nothing will overcome the Church because it rests on Jesus. The church is here to minister to the bitter, frightened, and doubtful. We encourage your prayers and ask you to continue your generous giving. The fear of catching the virus will keep many away from church, but we do ask that you continue your faithful giving as you are able. May God help us all during these challenging times be the light that He wants us to be.