When I was a kid and faced with the potential consequences ("consequences" nothing...I mean I was faced with getting punished!) for my actions, there was often that moment that every kid dreads. I had to tell my dad or mom what I did. Now look, they already knew what I did; they were teaching me to own what I did. Anyway, at those fateful and fearful moments, my dad would often say “tell the truth and shame the devil!” This was never easy to hear for it reminded me that God is pleased with truth and the devil is pleased with lies, and even though lying seemed like a “get out of jail free” card, it was really an “out of the frying pan and into the fire” card. Guidelines are easier when you are a kid. As adults, how well do we do when faced with the gray areas and the white lies of life? Do we have resolve? Is it strong? What is it based upon? Can God bless us when in those gray areas?
As Charles Dickens opened his classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities, he wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” He went on to explain the contradictions of his own culture. Here we are generations later, and we can easily say the same thing. Our culture is filled with wonder, technology and advancement, as well as suffering, misunderstanding and false narratives. One group of our culture that finds itself right in the middle of all of this is those who are transgendered. For many, the idea of being transgender is not only foreign but perhaps even highly doubtful. For others, being transgender feels natural and needs not only recognition but respect as well. This truly poses a dilemma of understanding and acceptance for many on all sides of the matter. So, how do we, how should we as Christians approach such a sensitive and passionate part of our world? Where should we stand? Why should we stand there? How should we approach those with whom we may disagree?
The world is full of provoking and it is NOT A GOOD THING. First, there is the provoking that takes place among children by way of demeaning and bullying those who seem weaker or different. Then there is provoking on an adult social level as those on various sides of issues regarding personal freedoms and beliefs poke and prod one another. And let’s not forget the provoking on a political level as those on opposite sides of the aisle name call and cast aspersions at one another. Basically, provoking stinks! Now that we have proclaimed that provoking is a problem, there is a verse in the Bible that tells us to provoke one another in a good way. So, how does that work? What are we supposed to say or do and how are we supposed to do it? Can there be a positive place and purpose for provoking?
Whether we think about it or not, we all leave a legacy behind us as a result of our life and experience. Sometimes that legacy can be rich with wisdom, accomplishment and example, and other times our legacy can be a sad tale of unfulfilled potential, broken dreams and a trail of “if only” and “why didn’t I?” The thing is, we choose much of what our legacy will look like! What if you thought about your legacy in the context of leaving something behind of great value to your grandkids? Aside from material things to give them physical comfort in life, what would you want them to learn? What would you want them to know so that their lives could blossom with fulfilled potential and with true contentment? Even if you don’t have grandchildren, let’s suppose that you do and are writing them a letter with words of wisdom…what will you say?
It is the Christmas season. It is a time for happiness, giving, receiving and appreciating. There was a time not so very long ago when the main focus of the Christmas season was the birth of Jesus as the world’s Savior. We are past that now, thanks to our political correctness, and Jesus is very much an afterthought of the holidays. Well, here today Jesus is NOT an afterthought. He is NOT a divisive figure who offends people by his mere existence. No, here today Jesus is recognized as the Savior of humanity, the centerpiece of God’s plan and the King of Kings. As we honor the birth and life of Jesus today, we will do so by highlighting some personal conversations he had with various people he encountered throughout his three-and-a-half year ministry. In so doing, we will tell a story that is rarely told. Merry Christmas!
Prayer is a staple of religion. If you don’t follow any particular religion then perhaps you meditate. The point is, humans by and large are tuned to opening their minds to some kind of external power or tranquility. For many, this opening of their minds provides a sense of security and peace as they feel heard, accepted and cared for. So, is prayer a commodity that should be passed out to and encouraged among the masses? Is it an elixir that can be taken to cure what ails you? How does prayer even work? What are its key ingredients and what is its process – or is there one? Can prayer, will prayer, change your life?
Complaining. Everybody does it. Sometimes, well...actually occasionally, we complain from a positive perspective for the purpose of effecting change and that’s good! But most of the time we complain because someone or something is irritating us, or putting pressure on us or challenging us or contradicting us. Most of our complaints are not for the purpose of truly solving any issue; rather, they are for the purpose of being heard, of having our position or circumstance or opinion verified. We complain for attention, for sympathy and to reinforce our ego. We often use complaining as a tool of destruction against those we oppose. For the most part, complaining doesn’t sound all that productive. So, what do we do about it? How do we stop our complaining or transform it into something good?
Last week we began talking about what it takes to actually change the world around you – what it takes to not only have a dream for change but to begin that process of change. We talked about Nehemiah, a little known figure in the Old Testament, who not only had a ridiculously big dream for change, he worked the idea and recruited the masses to help him progress towards making that dream a reality. Today we finish the story as we catalogue the principles and techniques Nehemiah used to accomplish what seemed impossible. Not only did Nehemiah achieve something magnificent, he also left clues and tools along the way for us to pick up on and use to apply to the changes we want to effect in our own lives.
Everyone wants their world to be better. Everyone has dreams and ideas they see as transformative - even innovative - yet the vast majority of us never do anything about those dreams and ideas to bring them to reality. Why the lack of effort? Because it is hard, because it takes thought, energy and determination and most of us are not convicted enough by our dreams and ideas to be willing to commit all of that effort. Occasionally someone stands apart from this typical reaction and actually thinks, acts, leads and accomplishes their dream or idea. Today we will talk about a little known man in the Old Testament who did just that. His dream was laughable, his mission was ridiculous and his enemies were determined to stop him, yet he focused and fought with all of his being and changed his world in the process!
Human nature is a funny thing. We live in an age of instant gratification, an age of virtually no waiting for anything. We send a text, a tweet, a message or we post, and our expectation is for an almost instant answer or follow or response or reaction. What we want we not only assume we can get, we assume we can get it immediately in just the right color, brand and style. Getting and having have become so easy and expected that we have begun to overlook the value of patience, waiting and doing without. Human nature IS a funny thing. In this age of abundance, we are experiencing a very high rate of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Why? One reason is that we have all but forgotten the preserving and healing power of gratitude. It’s really simple - for happiness and contentment to flourish, they require gratitude to be their constant companion. Let’s take a look and see how it all works…