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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Spiritual Labor

As we look ahead to this weekend and Labor Day here in the US, I thought we’d take a look at a few verses from the Bible about work and what God says about work.  A few of the results caught me by surprise, so as we head into the new month we may take time to dive deeper into a few of them.

Work:
“He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23

“The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do.” Deuteronomy 28:12

“Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!” Proverbs 14:23

“I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned.” Ecclesiastes 2:18

“Whatever you do, do well.” Ecclesiastes 9:10a

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zechariah 4:10a

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9

“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval.” 2 Timothy 2:15

“When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned.” Romans 4:4

“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” Romans 12:11

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24

God and work:
“But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.”” John 5:17

“On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.” Genesis 2:2

“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.” Psalm 127:1a

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4

“For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” Isaiah 64:4

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” Romans 1:16

“God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.” 1 Corinthians 12:6

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

What are your thoughts on (spiritual) work?

Thanksgiving Reflections

Thanksgiving is just a day away and I’m looking forward to it!  I love what it means, the gathering of family and friends and of course the opportunity to eat!  Today I wanted to share some verses of thanksgiving, verses that speak to what we have to be thankful for, and even verses to challenge us and keep us humble.

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.”  Psalm 1:1-2

“”These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.””  John 16:33

“”For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”” Jeremiah 29:11

“But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 15:57

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things.” 1 Chronicles 29:11

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for all we have, for the very gift of life, and for the gift of God in our lives.  Things could have gone so much differently for us, we could not have a God who’s so involved in and invested in our lives.  We could have fewer blessings and promises that we can depend on.  We could not be able to see the workings of God in big and little ways in our lives and the world.  We could be less individual and more similar.  We could all face significant challenges and threats on our lives.  And most of all we could be without hope in the future and in a permanent home in Heaven some day with God.  And those are just a few of the things we can think about this Thanksgiving as we gather around the table.

The Pilgrims created Thanksgiving because they were thankful for the most simple of things: being alive.  They were thankful to have found friends in the Native Americans and in their own ability to survive and work on thriving in a new world.  They weren’t celebrating billion dollar successes, curing serious diseases or finally helping world peace happen.  No, the were just thankful to be alive.  This Thanksgiving I encourage you to take time to be thankful for the big and little things in your life.  Everyone has something to be thankful for, even if it’s as simple as being alive.

A Purpose of Hope

As we start out this month looking at the topic of purpose, one of our greatest purposes and callings in life as people of faith is to share hope with the world.  So today I’ve got some verses of hope to share with you.

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble in dread before them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

“I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.”  Psalm 16:7-8

No power in the sky above or in the earth below-indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:39

“For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6

“Jesus [said] “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die….”  John 11:25-26

“My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.”  Psalm 62:7

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.”  1 John 4:9

What words of hope would you share today?

Reminders of Love

Sometimes what we need is to be reminded that we are loved.  Life can be one frustration and disappointment after another and that gets old pretty quick.  So today I have a few verses of love and encouragement to remind you that you’re not alone.  What’s your favorite verse that reminds you of this?

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17

“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” 1 John 4:11-12

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.”  1 John 3:11

“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.”  Proverbs 17:17

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 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 46:1-3

“If you look to him for help, he will put a smile on your face. You will have no need to be ashamed.” Psalm 34:5

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor.” Proverbs 21:21

“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

The Legacy of Memory

Today in the USA is Memorial Day, a time for us to remember the soldiers who died while fighting for our freedom. People have been dying in battle for thousands of years for hundreds of countries and kings, this isn’t something new. Nor is it new to honor our dead, that’s also something that has been done for years through the graveyards and memorials, not to mention naming babies. For the people who have passed while fighting they don’t have much say on how they go out of the world, on the people they see last, things they do last, and their last wishes.  Most of us don’t have a whole lot of choice in it, yes we can say that we don’t want to be kept on life support, and our life choices like smoking, drinking and reckless driving can have an impact on how or how soon we die, but that final moment is usually out of our control.

But what about our last message? A few years ago the book “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch was huge. It’s about the professor’s last lecture before he passed away with pancreatic cancer, encouraging students to really think about what their future holds. And it’s about what he thought would be his last chance to really give the world a message.

The memories we have of others are often all we have of them, and for friends of Jesus it was the same. They only had what they could remember of Him and the stories they wrote down. No one sticks around forever, but we do have a choice in the legacy we leave.

While you’re out celebrating Memorial Day with BBQ’s, picnics, parades, family and friends take time to think about how people will remember you and what legacy you’ll leave on this planet. If you were to die today would people remember you for the difference you made in the world, for the great times you had together and for your faith? Would they remember how miserable, lazy and hurtful you were? Or would they not even remember you at all?

Choose to be a good memory, to leave a positive impression on the world, and make it a better place for the next generation.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

Love in Light

We’ve talked this month about love and the power it can have in our lives.  Love is a choice we each have to make; will we love ourselves, will we love our families, will we love our partner, will we love our kids, will we love our coworkers, will we love strangers?  The choice we make determines what kind of life we’ll live.  Will it be a life of light and possibilities, of victories and successes, of helping and supporting, or will it be a life of darkness and judgments, fears, shame and disagreements?

When we choose to add love to our lives, when we choose to help others rather than hurt them, and when we choose to contribute to the growth of the world, we’re choosing to shine a light on all that’s good, on the hope for a better tomorrow, on the belief that people are inherently good and not out to get us.  But when we choose to hate, to judge, to corrupt, to waste, to condemn we’re allowing the darkness to take a stronger hold on our world.

Holly Gerth said it well: “The only way to get rid of darkness is to add more light.”  If you’re tired of seeing the news reports, if you’re tired of seeing people hurt, if you’re tired of seeing the destruction of the world, the only thing to do is let in more light, share more love, invite God to make a difference and spread hope in a struggling world.

What choice will you make this week?  Will you be light or dark, love or hate, acceptance or rejection?

“I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.” John 12:46