Darkness in our World versus the Light of Christ

hope_in_DarknessIf there is anything NOT to do first thing in the morning anymore is watching/reading the news of the darkness rising in our world. With all of the ISIS news, especially about Christian’s being persecuted, it can become sad with a feeling of helplessness. Then today I was looking through and cleaning up notes on my phone and ran across my grandma’s graveside service I did a few years ago. I scrolled down and noticed a line that I felt God gave me while preparing back then and I wanted to share a few thoughts with you.

I was referencing Psalms 23 and the verse that says “…even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear NO evil” and I shared the statement, “don’t STAY in the valley of the shadow of death. Walk THROUGH it.”

Today, maybe you are in a “valley of the shadow of death” that looks familiar and a place you will never be able to leave. Some people feel it’s necessary to “set up shop” in a valley of death in life and leverage that environment while learning to exist IN that valley. Maybe your “valley of death” is the loss of a loved one or maybe it is a plan that you had formulated for your life that just didn’t work out quite the way you had hoped. The verse in Psalms does not say “…even though I LIVE in a valley of the shadow of death….”. The Bible has been given to us to bring encouragement, direction and correction which is all for our good. There is so much truth and wisdom in the Bible if we will only open it up, read it and then APPLY it to our lives. Only then can we see the Word’s full power on display for others to see. The darkness in this world is only increasing and the “light” that followers of Christ are able to bring in valleys of darkness have never been more important than they are right now! We also need to not be so consumed with our own “darkness” personally that we forget to provide prayer cover for those in areas of the world who are dealing with a darkness that many of us will never understand. When we continue to WALK with God’s help THROUGH darkness and pray for others and the darkness they encounter, we have a strategy for success!

Have a great rest of the week and know that I’m praying and believing the best for you.

Some Old Books Contain Timeless Truths

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Anyone who works from an office and has a lot of books will realize something very interesting when you have to move to a new area; you will find books in your collection that are out of date. I have acquired not only books myself through the years but also a full library from my mother-in-law when she died which had ones she got from a pastor friend when he died.

I have always had more books than shelf space through the years and moving into my new office was no different. It was time for me to go through my books and pair down the ones that I was probably not going to use or read anymore. When I was working full time in church as a pastor I would get books from people like George Barna or whoever the “stat” guy/girl was who was talking about why people do what they do in relation to the church and God. I found all kinds of “how to” books on doing things to get people into church but the dates were from 1998, 2003 and a couple from 2010. The thing I realized when I was holding those books is that they were out of date and, in general, irrelevant at this time in history.

Then I came across 2 Bibles that had dates signed in them from 1910 and 1907. Two books that were almost 100 years old and still had relevant truth, timelessness teachings and powerful words to change lives and alter destinies. A book that I try to implement in my life everyday to the point that I have a question that I am going to ask myself starting in 2015. It is the simple statement, “will what I do/say right now give Jesus a good name?”

The teachings of the Bible have shaped me and molded me into the person I am today and will stay with me until I am no longer on this earth. Men through the ages have been known for many things but I want to only be known for living the truths of the Bible out in my life. That is the legacy I want to leave on this earth and to know that I bettered the lives of those I came in contact with from a life-giving, life-changing and life-empowering book, known only as the Bible.

Two Things to STOP and Two Things to START This New Year

1. Stop worrying about defending Jesus and Bible.
The Bible and Jesus have been around for far longer than you and I have even existed. The Word of God has been staving off attacks of all kinds for many many years. The Word has stood the test of time and continues to bring life and direction to all who heed its words. Jesus is in the business of defending YOU and not you worrying about how you are going to defend Him. He is not up in heaven nervous and biting his nails to the quick…so you shouldn’t either. It’s all about asking God for wisdom and to follow the verse in Matthew 10:16 for this new year; “…being wise as serpents and gentle as doves.”

2. Stop worrying about how to evangelize people and just start loving them!
There are so many things that are happening in today’s society contrary to the Word of God and its principles. The hard thing to realize is that many, if not all, of the things happening in our culture today were happening back in Bible times as well. Our CENTRAL focus in life should be how do we “out-LOVE” people around us who are screaming by their actions that they need someone to listen and show them Jesus. The key is when the opportunity comes and someone asks you “why are you being so nice to be?” or “why do you love me even when I can’t seem to love myself?” that you don’t say something like, “well, just because I am trying to make the world a better place.” You can say, “I follow Jesus in my life and he was the GREATEST example of love there ever was or will be. I am just trying to show the world what that love looks like through me in a healthy nonjudgmental way.” Just because you love someone doesn’t mean that you accept everything they do. Jesus loves YOU and he doesn’t always like the things You do either. People giving Jesus control of their lives will happen when you start SHOWING others what a healthy belief in God looks like coupled with loving others.

3. Start praying and asking God for opportunities to show true Christlike love in 2015.
It’s the age old adage; you don’t get what you don’t ask for. We need to realize that God is always speaking but sometimes we are not truly listening to what He has to say. When we ask God for his will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven” we are saying, “God, use me today to bring your love to a lost, hurt and dying world that is falling slowly out of love with itself and doesn’t even know it.”

4. Start believing for the impossible in your life.
When we go through problems in life, we can program ourselves to start believing or looking for the negative in situations. When we start believing for the impossible we open a door of opportunity for God to show up and show off to encourage our faith and lift the life of someone else. We need to start getting worse at unbelief and professionals at seeing the impossible and believing for something GREAT! I truly believe that 2015 will be a year where faith in the unseen will be needed more than ever and that God is looking for those who would see the “possible” in the “impossible.”

Have a great New Years and wonderful start to 2015!! See you next year!

Newtown Connecticut Shooting Observations…

I find it fascinating how people who have no concept of God or evil are trying to make sense of the shootings in Newtown. There are many elements at work here (as there normally are in a tragedy like this one) but the evil and the Spiritual motivations behind it is all the same. The Bible is very clear about the intentions of the devil and his desire for the people of this earth. His objective is to “steal, kill and destroy.” (John 10:10) He doesn’t just want to steal from us in this life nor does just he want to even kill us. He wants to destroy us. Now destroy to me is different than the other two because it has to do with not just harming the target but including repercussions that will affect everyone around. I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but there is not a quick solution to where we are as a society. The current government wants to make people feel temporarily better by suggesting that portions of the 2nd amendment be taken away from law abiding citizens but not many are talking about the importance of putting mental health and violent movies and video games into the mix. It has been floated as ideas but all the talk is about “get the evil guns.” The answer to all these problems can be found in a devil that wants to “steal, kill and destroy.” As a pastor, these are wonderful times to take inventory and see if I am doing everything I can to reach out to those “different” people in our world that fit the profile of all the killers in recent memory. I always like to think that I am a friendly person but if I am not offering Jesus as much as my humor to a hurting person then I am just becoming part of the noise in that persons life. If you are a follower of Christ you need to temper everything you are hearing on the news and on the Internet with the compassion of Christ. Flesh will never be able to explain the fruit of the spiritual especially in a situation like the one unfolding in front of us. Prayer is the only solution to what ails America and thoughtful conversation, not knee jerk guns laws and stirring people’s emotions for a political agenda. I don’t know about you, but i have NEVER made a good decision about ANYTHING while thinking with my emotions. Everyone in this conversation needs to step back and have a thoughtful conversation about what is best for the country but all people who know Jesus and know how to pray need to be interceding on behalf of the families of this tragedy and the lawmakers who are making decisions that will affect us all. If you are not praying for this situation in our country as much as your are “preparing for the worst” then stop calling yourself a follower of Christ. I have learned in life that I can’t complain and be worried as well as praying and focusing on Christ. It’s just the way God has wired us all. God bless America and God bless the families affected by this tragedy.

Swine Flu and you…what we are really seeing in America

pigartWell I don’t know about you, but I think I am fed up with hearing about swine flu (typed in all lower case letters for a reason).  I look on my twitter account and see that one of the most searched terms for the past couple of weeks has been swine flu.  This has really turned out to be more of a flop (in a good way) as far as the severity of the flu strain than it was first supposed to be.  People are contracting it and getting better with treatment and some news articles I have read said that it is just a different strain of the common flu.  One thing I find amazing is the way that the world has reacted to this epidemic of words and information about the flu.  The news has reported on it, people have blogged about it, facebook and myspace updates about everyday on it and just a “water cooler” type of buzz that has been infectious not in the disease but in the misinformation about it.  This swine flu has shown me one thing that is unequivocally true about this world and most of its inhabitants…they listen to anything the media and others say and then react to it.  I know that as a Christian, God has not called me to be reactionary in the way I live my life.  Not even on a Spiritual level, but when I react to situations in my life I let circumstances dictate to me how happy I am, how happy I make others around me and am just generally controlled by things other than Jesus.  We need to be the light of the world and this is not just wearing a sandwich board in the downtown area of town and screaming “turn or burn” to people passing by.  It is to have such a relationship with Jesus that we don’t react to situations as far reaching as swine flu or maybe with a coworker that just likes to push our buttons or when something traumatic happens to us in life.  The reason why I know this type of “light shining” will work is the proof of the reactionary nature of the world we live in.  Most people are just reacting to the things that happen in life instead of acting on them.  I am thankful that this flu has not been the pandemic it was first thought it could be, but look at the reaction to people because I really believe it can be an open door for seeing people move from reactionary in life to living a life with Jesus that is “actionary” (if that is even a word) 🙂