Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Morning Munch No. 18 - Headlights and the Holy Spirit

As I was driving home Saturday night, taking the back country roads and weaving between farms and admiring the festive homes and lawns decorated with twinkling lights and Christmas decorations, God taught me a lesson.

The truck in front of me wasn't small, in fact, it was one of the biggest trucks I've ever seen. Because of the size, I couldn't see around it and was forced to simply follow the truck the rest of the way home being content to only see this big truck's bumper, tailgate and window and maybe a little bit of light from the sides of his truck.

Speaking of lights, the truck had light ropes that flashed when braking. Like this little gem below.

So classy.
Anyway, I was borderline frustrated with this monstrous vehicle because it made me go a little slower than I would have gone on my own and, again, I could only see his big truck, nothing in the path ahead of us.

That's when it hit me. Not the truck, thankfully, but the realization that this giant of a truck was like the Holy Spirit. 

Sometimes, in our walk with the Lord, you can't see the next hundred steps, but God allows you to see the next one. Sometimes the walk to our destination, our finished product (He's bringing us to completion, you know), is slower than we would like and sometimes He seems to be putting on the brakes for no reason other than He sees further down the road than we can (and that's enough for me to trust Him... at least it is right now in my blog. In reality, it might be different as I'm learning absolute surrender). Therefore, if we're following Him we need to trust Him, He's most likely preventing an accident or wreck that involves deer, trees and Christmas yard decorations. What a mess that would be.

God doesn't say faith is a leap into the dark; it's a leap into the light. The light of God's revelation, God's knowledge.  -Michael Durham    
"Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." -Psalm 119:105

God doesn't promise us an entire army of people holding flashlights to light our way, or a future of sunshine that shows exactly what's ahead on our weaving road that is our walk with Him. But He does promise to be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path, which means we see one or two steps ahead--just enough to take the next move in following Him.

He promises grace for this moment and if we're following Him today, He'll lead us exactly where He wants us tomorrow. 


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why I'm not shopping on Black Friday

Don't get me wrong, I love bargains as much as the next guy, but sometimes I think Black Friday shows the blackness of our hearts.

People spend days thinking about and planning a day of feasting with their family and then the next thing you know it's 3 a.m. Friday and they're standing in a line outside (insert store name here) waiting to get that awesome deal on a 52" television or sleek computer or that one toy the child can't live without. 

Let's just get something straight: the child can live without it. Families can live without an enormous flat screen television. Teenagers can live without having the newest computer.

You know what people can't live without? Water. Food. Medicine. 

On Friday, as millions of Americans run into stores to do early Christmas shopping and collect as many sale items as their cars will allow them, many children and families across the world are wishing they had the one thing that would keep them alive: water. 

Did you know that last Christmas Americans spent $584 billion? Americans alone... which (obviously) doesn't count the rest of the world who celebrate with gifts. While only $20 billion a year would give the whole world clean water? The whole world.

So this year, instead of spending money amid the hustle and bustle of stores around town, I'm taking the money I would have spent on Black Friday and putting it toward clean water for the world. It might not be much and it won't change the reality of poverty, malnutrition or the devastating affects of life without clean water, but it will make a difference. 

Watch this short video and keep it in your heart all season (and year) long:

Alternatives for Black Friday:

The list is endless, but start by making memories with your family. They won't always be around, so cherish the time you have with them. Some of these ideas involve money (and giving it away) and some don't, but all involve making memories and redeeming the time we are given on this earth.
  • Forgotten Christmas. A ministry of Gospel for Asia, you can purchase gifts (including Bibles, chickens, mosquito nets, water wells and purifiers and more) for people in Asia. Click here for more information and to give.
  • Family movie day. Grab the popcorn, make hot chocolate and settle down for a long winter's nap (or just a day full of Christmas movies). 
  • Family game day. See above. Only substitute movies for games. 
  • Make Christmas gifts. Instead of pouring out your money, pour your heart into a handmade gift for friends and family. Pinterest has a plethora of ideas, or you could think of your own. Don't believe the lie that you can't do it or that whoever you're making it for won't like it - everyone appreciates thoughtful gifts, especially in this day and age of materialistic consumerism.
  • Serve others. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter or check out this awesome list of RACK - Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, pick some and make it your goal to out-serve others. With a goal like that, who can lose?
  • Buy to end poverty. There are many awesome ministries who have taught women (some of whom are widows) to make paper beads and necklaces, ornaments and more. Katie Davis taught women to make paper beads out of her Amazima ministry. Bead for Life has a great selection of necklaces, shea butters and lotions and an ornament, all providing great opportunities to check names off your Christmas list while helping the world.
  • Read. If you need an idea for what to read check out the November/December issue of Real Truth Matters Magazine and be encouraged by reading stories of believers from around the world. 

Challenges for shoppers:

I'm not against shopping or deal-hunting (I can't tell you the last time I bought something that wasn't on sale), so if you find yourself shopping for bargains on Black Friday, here are a few challenges for you:

  • Live the Gospel. Be sacrificial and aware of those around you, treating others better than they deserve, just as the Lord treats us.
  • Don't complain. Set an example for those around you (especially if shopping with family) and stand out from among the crowd so easily beset with negativity.
  • Smile. Never underestimate the power of a turned-up mouth. 
  • Strike up a conversation. While waiting in line, reach out to a stranger and strike up a non-confrontational conversation. Topics could range from what they're shopping for (and for whom), their Christmas traditions, where they go to church or how you can pray for them. Always be ready to give an account of the Hope that lies within you. 
  • Choose joy. If something happens that goes a little outside your plans, try to take it in stride and choose joy over anger, sadness or even frustration. 
  • Spread Christmas cheer. Elf says the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear, but I think spreading the joy of our Savior's birth also comes by doing what He said, which includes extending grace to others and offering Christ-honoring words of encouragement, love and respect to others.
  • Remember who you represent. As believers we are ambassadors for Christ and aren't just representing ourselves or our families, but Jesus as we walk through our lives (which includes walking the aisles of the packed department stores). Arm yourself with patience and a loving attitude and seek to glorify God more than gain the best earthly bargain.
  • If you really want to get radical... don't buy anything for yourself. When I was growing up, my mom wouldn't let me buy things for myself after November 1 because it was too close to Christmas. I still like to apply that simple rule - it keeps the focus on others, as it should be during this blessed time of year.

"And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
(1 Thessalonians 5:14-18 ESV)


Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday Morning Munch No. 17 - A Favorite Verse

Today's MMM comes straight from the Word of God. It's one of my favorite Scriptures and it's the last verse in the book of John.

The Gospel of John is stuffed full with miracles of Jesus, testimonies of His mercy toward sinners and His plan to save them from Satan's captivity. Healings are listed in beautiful detail throughout the book as well as Jesus' teachings and cruel road to the cross where He died our death before trampling over sin and death by rising victoriously from the grave.

With all that in mind, read the last verse of John:

"Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."
(John 21:25 ESV)

Does that blow your mind like it does mine? Were all of things things Jesus did (teachings, miracles, healings, acts of love and service to others, fighting for the poor and defending the weak) written down the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

The world is huge and it couldn't hold all the books that would be written! No matter how many times I read that my heart dances around with the realization (yet again) of how big our God is!

Whatever you're facing today, whatever this week looks like for you, just remember you have a God who is bigger than anything looming in your path and He will fight for you and do only what's best.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Morning Munch No. 16 - Be an acorn

Going through an old journal last week was overwhelmingly encouraging as God highlighted things He had done, prayers He had answered, ways He had grown me while reminding me of so many things He had taught me through the years. Things so significant they were written out and documented forever.

One of those things was this excerpt from  Elisabeth Elliot's Passion and Purity, one of my all-time favorite books.

"Think of the self that God has given as an acorn... it is a marvelous little thing, a perfect shape, perfectly designed for its purpose, perfectly functional. Think of the grand glory of an oak tree. God's intention when He made the acorn was the oak tree. His intention for us is "...the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." Many deaths must go into our reaching that measure. Many letting goes. When you look at the oak tree, you don't feel the loss of the acorn as a very great loss. The more you perceive God's purpose in your life, the less terrible the losses will see. 
We (she and her future husband Jim) were being asked to trust, to leave the planning to God. God's ultimate plan was far beyond our imaginings as the oak tree is from the acorn's imaginings. The acorn does what it was made to do, without pestering its Maker with questions about when and how and why."

So here's to being more like an acorn.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My Two Dads

This is a picture of my dad and I when I was a small child. A very small child. Only a few minutes old.
This is more recent.

My dad is one of the greatest people I know. His heart for the Lord and the intensity of his pursuit of Him as the supreme treasure is an example I don’t take lightly. He and my mom raised my sister and I to love God and others, laying ourselves down for the betterment of the group, to do what’s right—come what may, to make wise choices, choose friends carefully and to always, always remember where strength comes from.

Today I watched my dad serve others. This is not a new thing, he does it as often as he breathes, but I saw something different today as my dad distributed freshly smoked ribs and chicken to neighbors on either side of us.

As he called the neighbors to ask if he could bring them something, their responses struck my heart. “Well, Stan, that’s right neighborly of you!” (And with that I was transported to a different era, where neighbors cared for each other and said things like “that’s right neighborly.”)

He is cautious and careful in decisions; always striving to be a wise steward of all God has given him, including money, time and family. He is a strong leader, a man’s man who knows how to work and plan to get things done in an efficient, productive manner. He has the gift of mercy and extends grace as he’s been given from the Lord, but he doesn’t mess around when it comes to sketchy behavior or having hard, but benefiting, conversations.

My dad loves me. He tells me that 8,293,471 times a day and I’m learning what a gift that is.

But here’s the thing I remembered as I admired my dad’s intentionality in serving our neighbors. I have another dad. One who is even better than the first, though at times I can scarcely take that in.

My other dad loves and serves others even more than the first. He goes to great lengths to prove His love, including sending His only Son to a cross formed from a tree He made, setting the stage for a grand story of redemption and reconciliation that brings even the hardest sinners into His family if they accept His pardon offered.

That’s where I came in. He adopted me. Now I have two dads—an earthly dad and a heavenly one. Though they can hardly be compared to each other because of God’s holiness, Jesus Himself makes the connection.

“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:11-13 ESV)

What a great Father. Believe Him for big things for He is bigger than our comprehension and delights in blessing His kids, just like an earthly dad.

I realize some people don’t have the greatest relationship with their earthly dads and some even carry scars so deep because of their past encounters with or the absence of their father, but I encourage you to not carry that same view of your earthly dad to your heavenly Father.

He promises to never leave you or forsake you, to lead, guide and protect you and to be your refuge, strength, comfort and salvation if you trust Him.

For those of us with amazing earthly dads, remember that as great as they are the Lord is so much more. Cast your affections on Him and He will pour Himself into you. Give Him your heart, you can trust Him with it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday Morning Munch No. 15 - Present

I woke up in the middle of the night battling sickness for about two hours. 
Yesterday my heart was heavy for our nation.
Last week I was writing an article for the magazine.
The list goes on.

These few things have a common thread: prayer. 

Prayer was the action taken during each of the aforementioned items. When I was sick, I prayed. When my heart was overwhelmed I went to the Rock (Psalm 61:1-2). When I was writing I sought the Lord. 

Today I am thankful for God's presence. He is not a far-off God who must strain His ear to hear us. No, He is a God who has come down to us, who is with us continually and is our present help. 

"God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble." --Psalm 46:1

There are situations that sometimes propels us a little faster to the throne of grace to obtain mercy and help than others, although we are to be in a ceaseless flow of communication with our Savior (1 Thessalonians 5:17). And when that happens we should remember that any strength we may have is not our own and that God is our ver present help in trouble. He is with us. Because of that exceedingly great and precious promise, we have hope and won't fear.

"Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling." --Psalm 46:2-3

I pray you take courage today and remember that no matter your circumstances, battles, obstacles and desperate situations you have a Present Help--One who loves to be near you and longs to be sought by you.

If you are doubting, remember Jesus' very name signifies that He is with you, not against you and not far off-- Emmanuel: God with us.

He is with us 

"The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress." --Psalm 46:7
"Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." --Isaiah 41:10 
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
When you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you." --Isaiah 43:2-3

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." --Matthew 28:19-20



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