Holiday Season Pain

Since my past experience with holiday season pain, I am sensitive to the emotional and spiritual needs of people during the HopeforHolidaysholiday season.

I believe “holiday season pain” can be the worst. I also believe this time of the year strikes a chord of caring and great concern because I understand the heartbreak caused by the death of a loved one during the holiday season.  For me, it was the death of my mother the day after Christmas. Although the holiday pain is not so piercing now, I still remember it as if it was last night, although it has been 11 years since I experienced the “first” worst day of life, December 26, 2003, 12:01 a.m.
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Thanks!

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Keep running!

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnare us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.                         —Hebrews 12:1-2

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I’m certain several of you watched the 2012 Olympics and enjoyed seeing the athletes compete. Consider, in particularly, track and field.

Did you see any of the athletes stop running prior to the end of the race? Although they knew the possibility of coming in last, no one gave up. They kept running to the finish.  At least I didn’t see anyone give up. Did you?

 In order to make it to the Olympics they had to have a “made-up” mind…an absolute resolve that said I’m in the race to run, and I want to win. It’s a chance of a lifetime to win the gold! Therefore, they trained and exercised to be physically fit. They worked hard to achieve their goal. They believed in themselves; others believed in them and cheered them on.  They remained focused and motivated. They didn’t allow negative thoughts, doubt and unbelief to keep them from running. The spirit of defeat and hopelessness didn’t overwhelm them to the point of giving up. Of course, they knew from the start that everyone couldn’t win the gold, but they didn’t lose hope.

The above is an analogy with spiritual significance and truth. However,  I’m convinced that as Christians, we have an advantage in running our race. In the above passage, Apostle Paul encourages us not to give up by reminding us of all those before us who are now in the Faith Hall of Fame (chapter eleven). Their faith should motivate and inspire us. They are our invisible witnesses cheering us on. However, they did not have the advantage we have today—the Cross.  You probably never thought about Jesus’ death on the cross as being an advantage for us.   Relating to Jesus’ earthly race of endurance that ended in death on the cross, but resulted in victory for us through His resurrection is our greatest motivation to keep running in life’s Christian race. He is the Source of our faith, and the only One who completes it. He empowers us to stay in the race! Once we make up our minds to stay focused on Him, not get distracted by the naysayers and spectators on the sidelines, but instead stay in spiritual shape, we can keep running to the finish line. Still, it is our personal responsibility to do whatever it takes to stay in life’s marathon of faith—such as rid ourselves of everything that weighs us down, and the sin that trips us up and causes us to fall. If we fall, get back up and keep running! We must believe in Jesus Christ and remember all those in the Hall of Faith are cheering us on.

Best of all, in this race, we are all winners if we keep running. Stay spiritually fit through much prayer, praise, worship and the study of God’s Word.  Jesus is our role model. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Study Him. He stayed focus on His goal—He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside the Father’s throne.

Keep running! The Holy Spirit will remind you of the glorious future that awaits you when you finish the race, and receive your reward…a gold medal? No! better than that…eternal life!

 Here’s the truth: You are in a win-win race! Keep running!

Spiritual Garage Sale

Garage sale

Garage sale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since I had the day off (July 4th) National Holiday, I decided to do some much-needed cleaning…throwing away unnecessary stuff that I’d stockpiled for too long. I know. Usually this type of cleaning is done earlier in the year, and it’s called “spring cleaning.”  Oh, well. I’m late; had a lot going on in life.

If you’ve done any serious cleaning, you know you’re going to find something that you talk yourself into keeping.  And, if you’re a writer…OMG!  I have so much paper!  Anyway, in a box of papers I found this, which I don’t recall reading before.    Just felt inspired to share it… You may have read it somewhere before…

 

A SPIRITUAL GARAGE SALE

By Karen D. Gill

 

I said Lord, my finances are dwindling and I wish I could have a garage sale.  It would bring in some extra needed cash.  But, I just moved and all of my old stuff, extra stuff, and unwanted stuff are gone.

“You can still have a garage sale” He said, “How Lord?” I asked. “You still have some stuff around that needs to go away.”  His soothing voice was very clear.  So I perked up my little ears and asked Him to tell me.  This is what I received.

Go into the attic—your mind.  Shuffle around in all of those little compartments and pick out all of the useless thoughts, vain imaginations, doubts, and fears and take them out.

Go through the living area—your life. Pick up all those things you do that are not pleasing to me.  Those things that waste your time and take you from seeking my face. Take those out too.

Go into the basement—your heart, your soul, your foundation that deep place that holds your very being.  It is dark, so turn on the light of my Spirit so you can see. “Oh Lord, I don’t like the basement,” I cry. “It smells funny down there, it’s damp and musty, and it scares me!”

His voice is strong and firm, “It is not pleasant, and there are hurts, scars and open wounds that are festering.  The mold of unforgiveness grows there.  The hate, anger, and bitterness need to go.  Out with them.  But return, for we are not done here. That unforgiveness must be removed.”  I cried out, “Lord, it’s all over, little spots, in crevices; it really hasn’t been that long since I cleaned it and it just keeps coming back. How can I just make it stop?”

His voice calmed me as He spoke, “Take this bottle of “I Forgive You”, and as you clean then spray it on.  It is something that you will have to do daily and keep under control.”

Well, what a collection I now have in my garage. “What now, Lord, what am I going to with it now?” I am appalled by what I am looking at! It is all unwanted garbage.

“My child, give it all to me, I want all of it” He again spoke with a soft voice.  “I will cover it all with my blood, the blood shed at Calvary, it is already bought and paid for, just hand it all to me.”

As I picked up each thing and handed it to Him, it melted under His precious blood.

“One more thing my child,” He said as He reached out to me. “Those hurts, scars and bruises, pour this healing oil on them. And just bask in my presence. And you will find I have replaced all you have given me.  I have given you Love, happiness, kindness, joy, patience, goodness, peace, gentleness, and self-control. You have done well, and I am pleased.”

Yes, a garage sale was a good idea. I think I will do it again soon!

Make the Light Prevail

Darkness

Darkness (Photo credit: Roberto F.)

Sometimes the darkness that surrounds us brings dread and doubtful thoughts of never seeing the light of day. And unfortunately, many give in to the hopelessness that pierces their soul.  Then they are held hostage, caught in the mental crossfire between optimism and pessimism.

Felix Adler says it like this:

An optimist is a person who sees only the lights in the picture, whereas a pessimist sees only the shadows.  An idealist, however, is one who sees the light and the shadows, but in addition sees something else: the possibilities of changing the picture, of making the lights prevail over the shadows.

But may I encourage you? As a Christian believer of Jesus Christ, know this: Not only should you be an idealist seeing the possibilities of changing the picture, of making the lights prevail over the shadows, you have been given the authority to command the change through the powerful energy the Light radiates through your life (John 1:9; 8:12).

A Powerful Testimony!

“One of the most wonderful things about being a Christian is that I don’t ever get up in the morning and wonder if what I do matters. I live every day to the fullest because I can live it through Christ and I know no matter what I do today, I’m going to do something to advance the Kingdom of God.”  —Chuck Colson

Wow! What a powerful statement! Shouldn’t this be the declaration of all Christians? Reading this quote enlightened me, and inspired me to share my perspective.

Being a Christian presents us with some amazing opportunities to end our search for significance— because I was recreated in Christ to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). I can be confident that what I do matters. I am making a difference in my sphere of influence. Getting up morning after morning wondering if what I’m doing matters can cause discouragement, especially when I don’t see the desired outcomes immediately.

Moreover, since my search for significance has ended and I live my life through Christ, my daily reality is filled with potential and purpose.  Therefore, I am intentional about the decisions I make every day. Thirdly, I’m certain about my call—be a witness of Christ in whatever I do. I resolve that I am going to do something to bring others into this magnificent Kingdom that I am a part of.  I want someone else to experience relationship with the King.

Mr. Colson’s life is a testimony to God’s power to forgive, redeem, and transform lives.

His transformation reminds us that we should never give up on people, the fulfillment of God’s plan and purpose for their life. God’s desire is to see lives changed…souls converted and reconciled to Himself through faith in Jesus Christ.  Mr. Colson’s life was also a perfect example of Romans 8:28 being manifested in the life of born-again believer of Jesus Christ.  God will take the unpleasantness and even use the bad decisions that we often make, and cause them to work together, and bring about the good that He’s invested in all of His creation.

It is my sincere prayer that the legacy and work Mr. Chuck Colson started will continue.  As a volunteer with Prison Fellowship, I know the impact this ministry has made in my personal life and that of inmates I’ve had the opportunity to minister to.

Portion of contents taken from The Colson Center website: www.chuckcolson.org

To read tributes visit www.chuckcolson.org/tributes/

Don’t fret over the guilty

The book of Nahum is not a popular Old Testament and the author is not one of the Major Prophets because the book is very short in length—only three (3) chapters. However, there is a powerful message that can build our confidence in the character and power of God. Nahum predicts and describes Nineveh’s fall. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, a powerful empire during ancient times. The Assyrians were cruel and ruthless enemies of God’s people. But Nahum said:

 “The Lord is slow to get angry, but his power is great, and he never lets the guilty go unpunished. He displays his power in the whirlwind and the storm. The billowing clouds are the dust beneath his feet.” -Nahum 1:3

Few people can stare into the face of such raw power as that of the Assyrian empire and come away unimpressed. Nahum did so only because he had seen a far greater power—the power of a God whose wrath could shatter rocks. If God was angry, how could Nineveh stand? Nahum’s absolute confidence in God is underlined throughout his book. Nahum sounds unintimidated, almost lordly. He spoke with confidence because he knew God’s character.1

Like Nahum, there’s a sense of boldness and unintimidating confidence when you know a far greater power—the power of a God that spoke the Universe into existence, which we marvel at to this day. Yet, this same powerful God is a loving Father who delights in caring for us and obligates Himself to protect and provide for His people…those who trust and obey Him as their Lord and Savior.

Those who are confident in God’s power and love are not intimidated by others who parade themselves as equal in power to the only living and true God of the Universe. So, like Nahum, we can speak with confidence because we know God’s character.

Too often we fret over the guilty—those who take advantage of others—exploitation, extortion, and oppression. Too often we give up and retreat disheartened by the pain caused when the guilty go free. Too often we compromise our values and succumb to the influence of those guilty of promoting immorality, hatred and injustice. Too often we are guilty of being entertained by the slanderous remarks about those trying to enhance the quality of life for the poor and disadvantaged. Too often we are guilty of joining forces with those who devise plans to set themselves up as the great powers that be—do not fret over the guilty, neither be afraid. Trust in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

Remember, the LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. Therefore, make sure you’re not among the “guilty.”

More important, if you find yourself among the guilty, there’s a way out. Jesus Christ.  He died on the Cross among the “guilty” although He was innocent. He was crucified with the guilty so that everyone could be declared “not guilty” although we all deserve the penalty of sin. Yet, God’s love is so incomprehensible that He made it as easy as ABC for us…. Admit/Acknowledge your guilt (I am a sinner). Believe in your heart that His Son, Jesus Christ died for our sin, and that He rose from the dead. Confess (declare) with thanksgiving by faith He is your Savior and Lord by asking Him to come into heart,  take control of your life and change you from the inside out.  It’s that simple to start your journey to learn more about God and become confident in His character just as Nahum.  As a result, you won’t have to fret over the guilty.

1NIV Student Bible Journal

Are you listening?

1 Heaven is declaring God’s glory; the sky is proclaiming his handiwork.
2 One day gushes the news to the next, and one night informs another what needs to be known.
3 Of course, there’s no speech, no words—
their voices can’t be heard—
4 but their soundextends throughout the world; their words reach the ends of the earth.

Have you ever been talking to someone you thought was listening to you only to find out they weren’t?  How did you know they weren’t listening?  You knew they were listening because they didn’t respond, or their response was irrelevant. How did that make you feel? After all, you believed that what you were saying was important.  You believed that the person you chose to share it with would be interested in what you had to say. Right?   Chances are they weren’t listening because they were distracted by their personal concerns, ideas, and issues.  Whatever the reasons for their inattentiveness, you were made to feel as if what you had to say was unimportant; it didn’t demand their attention. That is not a good feeling.  We all want to believe that when we engage in serious conversation, we will get the respect and appropriate response from the other person, as they listen to what we have to say. We shouldn’t have to scream and yell to get someone’s attention!  On occasion, our body language or facial expressions say, “Listen” to what I am saying.

The heavens speak the loudest at sunrise and sunset declaring God’s glory. Although these majestic moments are silent, their splendor screams glory to the heart that believes and knows there is a God.  While man has been given the gift of scientific knowledge to explain these cosmic occurrences, when we behold the beauty of these wondrous signs of time changes throughout the globe, it should be evidence to remind us that God is in control of the Universe; and we should give heed to what He says and desires for us, trusting that He is well able to take care of His own. After all, it’s His world!

Everything was created by him, everything in heaven and on earth, everything seen and unseen, including all forces and powers, and all rulers and authorities. All things were created by God’s Son, and everything was made for him. God’s Son was before all else, and by him everything is held together” (Colossians 1:16-18).

Yet the question remains, “Are we listening?” Do we listen only when the roaring, destructive winds hurl heavy objects across blackened skies, and flatten the places of complacent comforts? Or do we only listen when the downpour of torrential rains floods our homes and streets bringing mobility to a halt? Or do we only listen when winter blizzards cover cities and shut down commercialized camaraderie? The One who wants to interact with His most precious creation, which He built for the purpose of communing with, desires that we listen attentively to what He has to say; and that we recognize His glory and honor Him with our lives. I pray that we listen while His voice can be heard in the silent splendorous of a sunrise or the majestic moment of a sunset.  I pray that as we listen, our response will be an emphatic, “Yes, Lord!”