Christmas Light

You really can’t miss one of the main ways that people show they celebrate Christmas, whether secular or religious; the lights. They’re on houses, trees, businesses and light poles.  People drive many miles just to see what a particular house or street has created this year.  For people of faith though, light means many things.

Light helps us see our way:
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.”  Matthew 3:1-12

Light should fill our lives:
“Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.”  Colossians 3:16

Light is meant to be shared:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 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 others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Light means hope and promise:
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”  Isaiah 9:2

Light begins with Jesus:
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.””  John 8:12

As you look around you and enjoy the sights of the season I encourage you to take a look at your life.  Are you shining light with the words you say and things you do? Are you teaching your kids what it means to be a light, even if that light is just about being a kind, considerate and loving person?  Are you focused on the darkness around you or on what the light shows?  Are you sharing a kind smile, a helping hand, a little love or even a little hope with someone?  Are you giving someone a reason to smile? Are you smiling at the surprises and holiday cheer that you see?  Are you sharing the message and story of the First Christmas?  Are you hanging lights and decorations to bring a smile to someone?

Yes, the holiday season has created many a grump, and there are plenty of reasons to be grumpy. But I believe that being grumpy is a choice, as is being filled with Christmas cheer.  Will you choose to spread light or darkness this Christmas season?

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Revealing the Impossible

I’m so excited that December has arrived and we’re quickly approaching one of the best holidays of the year: Christmas. This month on the blog we’ll be taking a look at Christmas, the new year and also this month’s topic: revelation. Today I want to start off with talking about a Christmas related revelation: that of possibilities.

The story of Christmas in the Bible shares of a virgin woman, her soon-to-be husband and a baby that grows up to be the most incredible individual ever born, one who defies all logic and typical human limitations (because He’s more than just human). Even taking a look at the story of Christmas in reference to Santa we find a tale of one individual who visits every house around the world in one night and delivers presents (or coal) to everyone.

Both the spiritual Christmas story and the cultural one have taken the concept of what’s logical and technically possible and turned it completely upside-down. Virgins could not get pregnant in those days and even today it’s simply impossible for one individual to visit every house in the world in less than 24 hours. Yet that’s exactly what these stories tell us.

We know that the birth of Jesus happened with divine intervention and that Santa doesn’t really exist, but both stories challenge us to see beyond what we logically and physically can do and understand. Logic and facts are great, but sometimes what we need to do, especially when it comes to spiritual things, is look beyond what we know to be possible. Sometimes what we need most, and what we need to believe in most, is what others may see as an impossibility. And sometimes we need to not accept what others know as fact or logic, but find a way to make it happen. It may take years and lots of help to make it happen, but just about anything is possible, especially with God.

What impossibilities do you need to make possible in your life today?

Crossroads of Success

Life in general challenges us, so when it comes to success we often find that we’re more challenged than we want to be. If you’re struggling with life or success, know it may get worse before it gets better, but I know that God will be with you through whatever you go through. One of my favorite verses in Jeremiah showed up this week in my readings and it got me thinking about God’s timing in life. Take a peek:

“This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask where the old road is. Ask where the good road is, and walk on that road. If you do, you will find rest for yourselves…” Jeremiah 6:16

This verse is telling us a couple of important things about life and our success journey:

1-think through decisions
2-ask for help
3-take action

It may feel like you’re approaching a new crossroad every day, feel like you’re all turned around and confused, not able to find rest anywhere. I can empathize-I’ve been there many times myself, everyone has. So often it feels like we’re on a merry-go-round at these crossroads, just going in circles, not sure when to get off or where to go. Where do we find the clarity? How do we know which road to take?

Here are my suggestions:

1-realize what’s not working. Before you get anymore turned around, stop and take stock of your life. See where things are, what’s working for you and what needs to be let go.
2-consider where God has led you before. This has to do with your life purpose, the gifts God has given you and where you’ve found God’s presence strongest in your life before.
3-make a list of all possible roads. What ways could you go? Where could God lead you? Can you “map out” a plan for each idea? If you’re not feeling God strongly push you in one direction, and you can’t make a plan for the road, it’s probably not the way to go.

When it comes down to it, the best thing to remember is that each day is a new day, God is abundant in forgiveness, and there’s almost no mistake that’s too big to fix or learn from. Even if you go down the wrong path, God will give you opportunities to learn while on that path that will benefit you when you get on the right path. And above all else, don’t forget to ask God for his guidance. He’s the only one who really knows what’s going on and where you’re heading. He’s a big God, and is willing (make that jumping-up-and-down excited) to work with you on your life, both the big and the small. What will He show you today?

Finding Confidence in God

One of the biggest challenges to our lives and successes has to do with the fact that we’re sometimes insecure people, or lacking in confidence. Yes, each of us has little things that set us off or raise red flags and make us question, even if there is no need to question, even though we’re confident, strong people in every other area of our lives. Many of us have insecurities around whether we’re important or not, whether it’s at work, in a relationship or to our children. Whether we’re young or old, we sometimes feel that we’re not important, it’s unfortunately part of being human.

Ezekiel 37:14 says: “I will put My spirit in you, that you may live.”
Psalm 89:17 says: “You are their amazing strength. Their power comes from you.”
Jeremiah 31:25 says: “I will give rest and strength to those who are weak and tired.”

God gives us life, gives us the strength to become the best version of ourselves, and the encouragement to get through the times of doubt. This week, know that you do matter. Who you are, what you can do, your dreams, your goals, your hopes, your dreams, who and what you call home, these things all matter. To you, to me, and most importantly to God. He’s your biggest cheerleader and greatest coach, the voice of reason and little flame that spurs you on to do better.

If you’re struggling with confidence or feelings of insecurities, turn to God and ask Him to show you the confidence and strength that He revealed to so many leaders in the Bible who didn’t start out as amazing leaders. And don’t forget to tell someone this week that they matter to you, you may think they know, but they may not. Your vote of confidence in them and acknowledgement of their ability could be the encouragement they’ve been needing.

Giving Thanks For Today’s Victories

As we think about Thanksgiving less than 2 weeks away I was reflecting on a Thanksgiving devotional I’m receiving and it reminded me that sometimes we give thanks even when the battle isn’t over yet. Take a look at a passage from Genesis about Miriam and Moses and the Israelites from right after the Red Sea crossing.

“Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord: “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; He has hurled both horse and rider into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song; He has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise Him— my father’s God, and I will exalt Him!”” Exodus 15: 1-2

For Moses, Miriam and the Israelites their journey was just beginning. They just left Egypt after the 10 plagues (and being slaves for many years), and got away from Pharaoh’s army who drowned thanks to God in the Red Sea, both of which are excellent reasons to celebrate. But what many weren’t thinking about in that moment was exactly what would come next: where do they go? What do they do? Now that they’re free, what next? This was just the beginning of their journey, and yes, they had reason to celebrate, but there’s so much more to go.

The thing about victories is that very rarely do they happen in one fell swoop and that’s it. In most cases victories are earned step by step, for example you lose weight by not buying the cookies at the store this month, cutting down on the ice cream next month, and buying more fruits and vegetables each month. There’s no rule book that says victories have to be earned all at once, in fact, it’s better to earn them a little at a time, and to celebrate them as you go along. Yes, you should celebrate when you lose a lot of weight, but you should also celebrate when you lose those first 10 pounds and keep them off.  If you’ve been struggling with your relationship, yes, you should celebrate when you really resolve years of issues with your partner, but you should also celebrate when you get through a week without yelling at each other.

Giving thanks isn’t just something we do on Thanksgiving or when we reach the Promised Land, it should be something we do each and every day. Giving thanks and celebrating the little victories help the challenges we each face become a little more manageable. They make it a little easier to get up each day, knowing that yesterday had at least one redeeming quality to it (whatever thing you found to be thankful about that day, even if it was just that the bread wasn’t moldy and you could make lunch for the kids).

So what step in your journey are you thankful for today?

Ask, Seek, Knock: Success Steps

In thinking about one of our topics for the month, success, today I want to talk about a passage you’re probably familiar with, Matthew 7:7-8: “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” This passage about asking, seeking and knocking establishes a great guideline for us to consider throughout our days and what goes on in our lives.

Ask:
“‘No one has ever seen, no one has ever heard, no one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.’ But God has shown us these things through the Spirit.” I Corinthians 2:9-10
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5
“Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.” Proverbs 12:15

First, asking is important because it means we’re willing to admit that we don’t know everything and are willing to learn. However we’re not always great at asking questions. Too often we ask the wrong questions, questions that don’t give us the answers we need because they’re not the right questions. We can get too busy asking things like “why me” and “how could you” instead of asking questions that will help us get the necessary answers and find solutions and help for our questions. Second, James 1 makes a point of letting us know it’s good to ask questions. God doesn’t criticize us for asking questions, only for thinking we know more than He does.

Seek
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Romans 8:35
“Your laws please me; they give me wise advice.” Psalm 119:24
“The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.” Psalm 29:11

Asking questions is important because they give us directions to learn and move in. If we don’t ask questions we’ll never be able to figure out what we don’t know and what God wants us to do with our lives. Once we’ve asked the questions we hopefully receive some wisdom and knowledge to use. We start our search with the knowledge that God will not be separated from us by the challenges we face and will give us the strength and peace to learn what we must.

Knock
“May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed.” Psalm 20:4
My father taught me, “Take my words to heart. Follow my commands, and you will live” Proverbs 4:4
“It is very sad that people leave the world just as they came. So what does a person gain from ‘trying to catch the wind’? They only get days that are filled with sadness and sorrow. In the end, they are troubled, sick, and angry.” Ecclesiastes 5:16-17

In the very action of knocking we’re going from learning to doing. You can’t knock without taking action. There’s not much good to asking the right questions and getting advice unless you do something with it. Throughout the Bible God encourages us to be wise and live lives that reflect the wisdom we’re given or find. Don’t waste your life, your lessons and your abilities, choose to make something of it all if not for you but because your lessons and your willingness to knock may be the difference between life and death for someone.

What questions will you ask, learning will you do and actions will you take this week?

Seeking Mercy, Finding Healing

I thought today we’d take a look at the story of Bartimaeus in Mark 10:

“Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
“Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.
But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”
So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.
“My rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”
And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.”

Bartimaeus’ story reminds me of many of our lives. So many of us are crying out for some attention, even something as simple as just to get a word in edgewise. With the wonderful inventions of technology we’ve been given the ability to connect with more people than ever, which both helps and hurts our cause. It’s easier to get an apology to a family member, communicate a message of love to our partner or learn something that could further our lives. That doesn’t mean that they’ll listen of course.

Which is exactly what Bartimaeus experiences in the beginning. But Bartimaeus doesn’t give up. He persists in sharing his message, believing that he knows the truth and that Jesus can help him. Maybe Bartimaeus would have run into Jesus another time, but more likely this would be his only chance to connect with Jesus. Fortunately we usually get more than one chance to make things right.

So Jesus hears Bartimaeus and decides to listen. Then Jesus, who knows everything, asks Bartimaeus what could be considered an obvious question: what do you want? Sometimes it’s important to ask the stupid questions to make sure we’re on the same page. In Jesus’ case, He was checking Bartimaeus’ faith and heart out.

Bartimaeus just wanted a little attention from Jesus, what he got was a whole lot more. Sometimes when we turn to Jesus for help, or reach out to others, we get a whole lot more than we asked for. He may have been happy to just have been noticed by Jesus, happy for people to stop telling him to shut up and just listen to what he had to say, but I’m sure Bartimaeus’ dream was to see again. Maybe you’ve been asking Jesus for a job, but He’s got something bigger and better for you. Maybe you’ve been praying for a relationship to be fixed, when God’s got a better one in store for you. Maybe you want healing, but God wants to do something bigger with your life story. I can’t answer for what God will do in your life, but I do know that like Bartimaeus you have to get out there and start seeking if you want to find.

What about you? What are you seeking? Will you join me this week in being open to what God could have in store for you?