Bring The Light!

 

Thanksgiving is over, and it’s official: The Christmas season is upon us! In our house that means it’s now ‘legal’ to put up Christmas decorations, listen to Christmas music, and watch Christmas movies.

As you go out into the ‘wild’ of the shopping malls, restaurants, parties and programs, let me encourage you: Bring The Light!

 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden, and 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. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

As a child of God, you ‘represent’ Him in this world. The way you treat others makes a difference!

YOU can ‘Bring The Light’ to that harried cashier, that fellow shopper who’s been up too long and shopping too hard looking for that ‘perfect gift’, to that Waiter or Waitress who’ve had a long line of crabby customers…YOU can ‘Bring The Light‘ to them and lighten their load!

Share an encouraging word…express genuine appreciation and thanks…compliment their Christmas sweater…do something to lift the mood and ‘Bring the Light‘…finish with a wish for a ‘Blessed Christmas’, and you’ll be surprised at how much you can change someone’s day.

That will be a great way to ‘represent Jesus’ to those you come in contact with this season.

Have fun, enjoy the season, and Bring The Light!

 

Thankfulness–It’s great Every Day!

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is one day that most of America stops and, for a brief moment, expresses thankfulness for all our blessings.

…but WHO are we thankful TO? Fate? Karma? Some existential Force?

No!

I think it’s important that we acknowledge that we are thankful to Almighty God for His blessings.

The scriptures say: don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father” (James 1:16-17)

Throughout our history, it has been important that we stop and thank God for all His blessings on us.

President George Washington’s first Thanksgiving Proclamation said:

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty

God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor. . . . Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November [1789] . . . that we may all unite to render unto Him
our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection.”

Later, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln would offer this proclamation:

“The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the Source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of Almighty God. . . . No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of
the Most High God, Who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

Today, in the midst of our own tumultuous days, we need to stop and thank the Lord for His continued blessings. Freedom and liberty continue to be blessings that we experience here in the United States of America, and those enable us to experience many other blessings–faith, family, friends, football, food, fun…and lots of other good things!

Today is a GREAT day to give thanks…but so it tomorrow and Saturday, a week from Tuesday, and next month.

Let’s try to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, and make sure that we express it–to God and to others–often!

Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for YOU!

YOU be the Difference Maker! Speak LIFE!

It’s no secret–there’s a lot of bad stuff going on in this world!

My heart is heavy because a lot of people I know, and many I don’t, are in pain today. There’s strife, anger, frustration, and fear boiling up…and boiling over.

I know people who are dealing with issues at work, where they’re being mistreated, misrepresented, and–in at least one case–fired for very questionable reasons. I know others who are having to make very difficult, unpopular decisions knowing that their integrity and character will be impugned.

In Ferguson, Missouri, anger, rage and frustration are boiling over–and it’s spreading. Years of thinking that the authorities are out to get them are causing some people to protest angrily. Others are taking advantage of the situation and furthering the ‘criminal thug’ image.

Across the world, ISIS is spreading hate with the edge of a machete, intimidating and then killing those who disagree with their particular brand of Islamic theology, and using terror and threats to force people to ‘convert or die’.

What can be done? How can we make a difference?

How do we live in a world like this? How are we–people who just want to love and be loved, to be accepted and to offer acceptance regardless of skin color, opinions, politics or religion –to live? How are we to interact with the world situation without making matters worse?

We simply MUST begin to see people the way God sees them–as His creations, whom He loves. We MUST learn to see past the stereotypes, the rumors, and the headlines, and start treating people with respect, dignity, and love. Jesus said as much when He said “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)

We have a choice to make, every day: Are we going to live more as children of God, or people of this world? Are we going to view people as He does–people who are lost in sin and need a Savior? Are we going to start giving grace in our personal lives, choosing to believe the best about them, or are we just going to go with the stereotypes that the media propagates and assume ‘others are bad’ and ‘we are good’?

1st Corinthians 13:4-7 shows us how we should be living–especially if we’re children of God, through faith in Jesus:  Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

How do we do that, in a world full of strife, hatred, gossip and negativity? It’s tough! It takes prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It also takes people who are willing to do the following:

Stand for Truth, even if it’s unpopular.

The truth is that prejudice exists-from all races toward all others. Police brutality does exist, and so does common thief thuggery. We don’t really know everything that went on there, but presumably the Grand Jury heard a lot more than we did and chose to go this way.

 

Stand Against Evil, even if it makes you a target.

Pure evil exists, and must be confronted–whether in the Middle East, in Missouri, or in our own workplaces and homes.

ISIS IS evil, period…and this kind of evil-in-the-name-of-god must be stopped wherever it shows up. Police officers, bosses or family members who use their position of ‘authority’ to abuse others or ‘put them in their place’ are being evil.  Looting and burning business is criminal–that’s not ‘demonstration’, it’s sinful criminality, and evil.

All of these behaviors and mindsets do the devil’s work on earth! Don’t get sucked in…instead, confront it and rise above it!

Offer Grace, even if it’s hard.

Remember that you make mistakes, you misunderstand people, and you have overreacted in difficult circumstances. The ‘other person’ may have mistreated you. You may be in the right and they’re in the wrong. Forgive them, show them grace. God will supply the strength to do so.

Remember, God forgave you even though you didn’t deserve it. Through Jesus Christ, He offers us forgiveness and new life! Celebrate that, and share THAT message!

Over the next several days, you’ll probably have a chance to talk about these things. Make up your mind, with God’s strength, that you are not going to perpetuate the hate, but instead will Stand for Truth, Confront Evil, and all the while, Offer Grace.

YOU be the Difference Maker!

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

YOU be a Difference Maker! Speak LIFE!

 

Let GOD fight for you!

Have you ever felt like others are against you?

Like they’re treating you unfairly, assigning all kinds of negative motives to you, and trying to ‘get’ you?

If so, then first it has to be said that MUCH of the time, we’re wrong. The people we think are against us are not, and we just need to communicate more clearly to get beyond this.

But what if they really are? How do you react?

For many, we do the exact thing our ‘enemies’ are doing–we try to raise up people who are ‘on our side’ and mount a counter-attack of some kind.

That may be a Facebook or Twitter campaign to put them in their place, or an actual plan to confront them. In some cases, we may even plot an altercation.

But what is the person who follows Jesus to do?

After all, if we are ‘citizens of heaven’ and if we are to ‘set our minds on the things of heaven’ (see Colossians 3:1-2), then we should be living differently–even when we’re being mistreated.

Jesus provides the perfect example.

He allowed Himself to be mistreated, to the extreme–going to the cross, dieing for those who were killing Him! Instead of asking the Father to reign down death upon them, He said “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 22:34)

But, lest we think that’s only ‘Jesus being Jesus’, and not us ‘regular’ people, think about David.

He would later become king of Israel, and he knew that. Saul, the current king, knew it too…and he reacted very negatively, trying to kill David on many occasions.

Once, when David and his men were hiding in a cave, and Saul and his men were closing in, Saul came to “relieve himself” in THAT VERY CAVE!

“Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the Lord is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe.

But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this to my lord the king. I shouldn’t attack the Lord’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him.” So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul.” (1 Samuel 24:4-7)

Even though David had opportunity and some justification, he knew that what he should really do is to wait on the Lord to deliver him and promote him.

The timing, and the means to his goal were up to the Lord, and not to him!

Later, when David had means and justification for another violent act, he relented. Abigail said to him,  “Even when you are chased by those who seek to kill you, your life is safe in the care of the Lord your God, secure in his treasure pouch.” (1 Samuel 25:29) 

Safe in his treasure pouch! I like that!

God holds you–your reputation, your future, your plans, your name–all of it–in His “treasure pouch”.

He ‘treasures’ YOU!

He has your back. As you commit your way to Him, and you follow and honor Him in everything, He will care for you. He will protect you, and He will promote you–in His perfect timing.

Trust Him. He will fight for you!

I Believe! Do you?

Have you ever really stopped to think about what you REALLY believe about Jesus?

Do you really ‘Believe’ that He was ‘Immanuel’–God with Us–that baby sent from heaven?

Do you really ‘Believe’ that He healed the sick, cast out demons, walked on water, calmed the storm, and even raised the dead?

Do you really ‘Believe’ that He is the Son of God, the Savior, who paid for our sins by giving His life on the cross, rose from the dead and now lives at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us?

I do!

What’s more, I believe that He is STILL changing lives–mine among them–and making us new. As the Scriptures say, “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation! The old is gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

What’s more, He promises to continue making New Things!

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelations 21:1-5)

So the GREAT news is that Jesus is not only still alive, but is still working actively–in the lives of Believers, and in this world!

He is redeeming us, and re-making our lives.
He is restoring us to the people He designed us to be.
He is freeing us from the powerful clutches of sin.

He is giving us Full, Abundant LIFE!

He Himself said “I have come that they might have LIFE, and life to the FULL!” (John 10:10, emphasis added)

Do you believe that?
I do!

Yet, many of us are settling for less than all He has for us…because as much as we do believe about Jesus, we really, practically, when-it-gets-right-down-to-it, don’t believe

    this

.

We think our lives is as good as their going to get, and that the “Full, Abundant Life” that Jesus talked about is for other people, not us.

Wrong.

I believe it is still what He wants to give His followers, and I believe that means US!

Let’s really think about it: What do we really ‘BELIEVE’?