Roaring like a lion

10407257_897267393625805_2613389422715980229_nThis past week has been a lesson in the meaning of this Christmas season and a show of the love of Christ.  Near a small town 30 minutes from my home, there is a small village instead another.  One made of tents and inhabited by those that are living on the margins of society.  God led my brother-in-law to visit them a week ago and opened his heart and many others of us, his family and friends, to open their hearts to the needs of these people.  Within a week, they went from wondering how to survive a winter, to having firewood, propane, clothes, blankets and fresh water….enough to last the winter and beyond.  My wife and I were able to give something of ourselves, some of the blessings that God bestowed on us, we were able to share with these kind people.

This week culminated in a Christmas party thrown in honor of the people of tent-city and in celebration of the birth of our savior.  While not everyone from tent-city attended a few did and were a blessing to all of us in attendance.

Let me quote one of the tent-city residents who expressed thanks to my brother-in-law and his family:

that day before you appeared into my life i contemplated and kept asking myself what am i good for. i do not have my babies and i am slowly dying. but dam i am in tears when i type this . dean you made me feel like a person and not some worthless piece of trash that will neve be anything.     ……   i just hope one day i can be back with my children and happy but dam i do not know how you done it but you saved my life the day you came down and for that thank you. so again . . i am happy and confident once again like i was prior to this situation.

The lives of my sister, my brother-in-law and all of us involved have been changed for all time with a prompting from God answered by a single person.

While thinking about the lives changed, I was listening to the song God’s Not Dead by the Newsboys and these lyrics jumped out at me.

Let love explode and bring the dead to life
A love so bold to see a revolution somehow.

God let his love explode and miracles happened.  His love flowed out and the blind could see, the crippled could walk again, and the dead rose from the grave.  With a simple act of love Jesus did all these things.   And by using us sinners, Jesus let his love flow and help these kind people living in tents in the cold.  None of these things would be possible without the love of Christ.

I feel emboldened now by the meaning of this time of year.  These events have helped me understand where God was leading me when I decided to live my life with abandon.

Now I’m lost in your freedom
In this world I’ll overcome.

Now the love of Christ has freed me to become who he has wanted me to be.  Based on the events of this past week, it’s been proven we can all loudly proclaim the chorus to that song.

My God’s not dead
He’s surely alive
He’s living on the inside
Roaring like a lion

lion-roar-roaring-teeth-mad-angry-

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While we were sinners, Christ STILL died for us.

jesus-with-sinnersA favorite verse of mine is:

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  – Romans 5:8

Notice what isn’t said in that verse.  It doesn’t mention that Christ died only for the clean or the healthy, it doesn’t mention that he died only for the good looking people.  It doesn’t mention that he died for just those that have a job and live in a nice house.  He DID die for those people AS WELL as all the others on the margin of society.  He died for everyone.  Why?  Because we are all sinners.  I am, you are, the person living in a mansion is, the person living under a bridge is.  We are all sinners.

Given that….why do we not translate that to our own lives?  Do we want to only associate with those that are well off?  Do we only want to be seen around those that are clean and come from a good home?  Are we only to be seen around those that are considered “wholesome”?

Let’s look at these verses from Mark 2.

That night Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to be his dinner guests, along with his fellow tax collectors and many other notorious sinners. – Mark 2:15

Levi, a tax collector (tax collectors were not held in high esteem back then, maybe much like today) invites Jesus to a party that is also being attended by many others, including some pretty awful sinners.  There were probably thieves, murderers, prostitutes and other unsavory people there as well as just normal hardworking, honest people.  But then look at what the religious leaders say;

But when some of the teachers of religious law who were the Pharisees saw him eating with people like that , they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with such scum?’  – Mark 2:16

See back then, the Pharisees and others who thought themselves “clean” didn’t want to be associated or seen with such people.  I think we often have much the same problem as today, not so much with the religious leaders, but with people in general.  I’ve seen a situation recently where some people invited some homeless people to a Christmas gathering, some of those people may even have had an unsavory past, but now they are just homeless, struggling to survive in freezing temperatures.  These people were invited, and then some friends and neighbors expressed concerns and stressed that those types weren’t welcome.  I have to think that sounds like something the Pharisees may have been thinking here in Mark 2.  “Why are those type of people hanging around Jesus?” or more likely, “Why did Jesus invite those type of people?”

But let’s see how Jesus responds,

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor — sick people do.  I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough.” – Mark 2:17

Well there ya go, Jesus for those that needed him.  Can we be more like Jesus and help those that need help?    Are we blessed so we can be a blessing to others?  God often uses those on the margins, the insignificant to do great things.  Do we walk by them without offering even a smile?

Christ died for us, even though we were sinners and didn’t deserve his love for us.  But he loved us anyway.  It’s the least we can do, love someone that no one else will.

 

Do Something Amazing in Your Day

The Lord replied, ‘Look at the nations and be amazed!  Watch and be astounded at what I will do!  For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.’  -Habakkuk 1:5

These words were spoken to the prophet Habakkuk when he cried out to God wondering where he was in his day and his world, which was filled with violence and corruption.  God responded with these words, “Watch and be astounded at what I will do!”  Isn’t that an amazing statement?  I can picture God sitting on his throne saying, “Just wait and see….this is gonna be cool!”

While I am striving to live with abandon, I am presented with so many opportunities to do amazing things.  I believe that God puts before us each day, situations where we have the opportunity to be a blessing to someone, to do something amazing in the name of Christ.  Something that will be glory to His name.  God is moving, he’s not waiting around seeing what we will do, but we are part of his plan.  I want to look for those opportunities that come before me each day.  Say a kind word to someone, help someone with something they are struggling with, pray for someone, work hard and cheerfully at something that is not fun.  I plan on doing something amazing in my day.

God is in charge and he has a plan.  Even when we in the midst of trouble and God seems silent and distant, he is moving.  His plan is in motion.  Just watch and you’ll be amazed at what God will do.  This is gonna be cool!

Year of Thanksgiving

As we begin this week where we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States, I see many participating in the week-long (or some do month long) posts of what we are thankful for.  I propose we do this year round, each and every day.  Why not?  We have so much to be thankful for.  In this year long celebration of Thanksgiving, I propose that we remember each day something that we are thankful for.  If we start each morning giving thanks, we’ll get the day out on a good start.  If each time we find ourselves in a difficult situation and we can pause for a moment and give thanks for something small, I believe it will make that difficult situation even just a small bit easier.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever – Psalm 107:1

What will I do?

How will I be participating in this?  Just a few things I hope to do more of this year:

Start each morning with a quick thank you.   I want to wake up each morning and just simply say thank you.  Thank you to a God that has given me another morning to celebrate life, to serve him.

Say thank you to someone in my life.  This could be my wife, my children, a coworker, a friend, or just a stranger on the street.  Saying thanks to someone else lets them know they are appreciated, will brighten their day as well as yours.  It will keep you looking out for those areas in your life where someone has done something for you that you can be thankful for.  When you’re eyes are open and actively seeking these moments, you’ll be amazed at how many there are each day.

Be a person that others can be thankful for.  As I was writing this section, I was listening to a song by the Newsboys called, Live with Abandon.  When I listened to the lyrics, they made me think of how I can be a blessing to others.

Chasing after this world makes me tired
Praisin’ my own name leaves me dry

There’s gotta be so much more to life than this
A higher calling that I missed
I want my life to count, every breath

As I thought of how to be a person that others can be thankful for, these words struck me.  I don’t want to be that person that serves and gives with an attitude of “Look at me and all that I do”, but I do want my life to matter, I want to make every moment of my existence matter to someone.  Then they sing the chorus and the answer strikes me:

I wanna live with abandon
Give you all that I am
Every part of my heart Jesus
I place in your hands
I wanna live with abandon

If I live my life with abandon in the pursuit of Jesus, God will be sure to make me a blessing to others.  To be that person that others can be thankful for and I can draw closer to God.

Just three things on that list, but three things that can make a big difference to the world we live in.  I hope to document my progress as I try to do better in those areas.  Why not join me?  Join me in having a year of Thanksgiving!

 

Thanking God for One of the Greatest Gifts

God gives us many gifts and blessings throughout our lives.  Starting with the gift of salvation right down to the gift of a beautiful day.  The gift I want to acknowledge and thank the Lord for today, is the gift he gave to me 22 years ago today….my wife.

My wife Holly and I started dating in 1988, we were married in 1992 and now 22 years and 4 kids later, I can look back and say that God’s gift to me was absolutely perfect.  It wasn’t like that shirt you may have received on your birthday that was slightly too big or perhaps the wrong color, but you wore it anyway.  It wasn’t like the video game that you finished in a week and put it back on the shelf never to look at again, it wasn’t like the fancy dinner that you were taken out to to celebrate some event that you enjoyed, but then was gone and forgotten in hours…..no it was like none of those.  It was the gift that has lasted these 22 years, the gift I never grow tired of, the gift that I won’t take back because I outgrew it….no it is the gift that changes,  but gets better as we age, the longer we are married, the stronger we become.

The other side of that, which we often forget to mention, is that we are prepared as a gift to our spouse.  God gave me as a gift to my wife.  I need to be aware of that and make sure that I treat her like someone deserving of a fine gift….and make sure that I am that fine gift.  Oh, none of us are perfect, we all have our flaws, but if we think each day that God gave me to her and her to me as gifts, that God created us for each other.  If we think that way each day, we’ll be conscious of when we are not acting like that fine gift we were meant to be.

When you enter your marriage, one prepared by God, it can do nothing else but succeed.

We received an anniversary card this year that says’ something that truly stands out to me.

Because God has chosen you for each other,
Because you have made Him your partner in marriage as well as in life,
Because your deep faith allows Him to work in your hearts in beautiful, all-knowing ways
Yours is a marriage abundantly blessed with love and joy…

What a great thought to leave on this day. God has chosen us for each other.  We have asked him to be a central part of our marriage.  We are married because God chose us for each other.  Because of our faith that God will help us through the rough spots.  Our marriage is and has been abundantly blessed.

To my wife, Holly, who I know reads my posts……I love you more and more each day.  I thank God for the wonderful gift he gave to me all those years ago and I pray that I can be the gift to you that God intended me to be.   Love ya babe!

Things to Do During Challenging Times

Everyone of us will walk through challenging times in our lives…..over and over to be sure.  It may be a temporary challenge that lasts only minutes.  Or it could be a lifelong challenge that plagues us throughout our days here on earth.   No matter what it is, it can seem the most important thing in life at that moment.  It can overwhelm you emotionally and physically if you let it.  How do we cope with those times?  Well here are a few thoughts I have on this.  And trust me, this is a list I need to refer back to over and over again myself.

  1. Count your blessings.  When we look back on what God has given us already we will often see how God has moved before in a similar situation.  We can see that God has not forsaken us and that he is always with us.  Counting your blessings will keep us from becoming discouraged.  When we forget this, we tend to concentrate on the problem and fail to notice the good things we should.  We will put a focus on what needs to be done and forget what God has already done.   I posted a few years ago, my year end recap and the focus was not to look at the negatives that happened the prior year, but to focus on the good things that happened and those that came out of those bad situations.  It’s amazing how much goodness can come of tough times when you take the time to look back and reflect.
  2. Concentrate on the good things.   I like to look at this and see what good God has created out of a bad situation.  This is often easier to do in hindsight than in the moment, but if you take the time to remember times past where God has made good out of bad, you’ll be able to see the potential in your current situation and you’ll trust that God has a plan.

    In 2011, I posted about one of my favorite quotes, “God tears a man down, just to lift him up.”  God doesn’t cause bad things to happen, but he allows us to be put through the fire so to speak, to strengthen us.  In that old post, I give you the story my professional career has gone through over the last 15 years or so.  Looking back on my professional career, there were a few times when a bad situation came upon us as a family, one that we felt at the time was going to be impossible to overcome.  And without fail, God brought us back from the “brink” each time, making us stronger.  I would tend to gravitate back to the edge again, but that is through my own failings, but each time a lesson was learned and we came out stronger in the end.

  3. Believe what your heart tells you.  Develop a habit of letting what is in our heart become more real to us than what we see, think or feel.   We know in our hearts that we can trust God completely, but our heads often tell us to worry.

    We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.  He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward.  Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven.  – Hebrews 12:2

    We know in our hearts that God has a plan and that despite our best efforts to come up with something better, God’s is always the best.  Looking back in hindsight, we know that it is true, we just need to remember that when we are in the midst of the storm.

  4. Choose to think about what God can do instead of what we cannot do.  We can’t fix situations, but God can.  This could be through divine intervention or simply giving us the tools, strength and wisdom to do so ourselves.  But either way, God can do it.

    But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience.   And God is faithful.  He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it.  When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.  – 1 Corinthians 10:13

    God will provide a way out, it may not be the way that we think, but God will provide one.

  5. Turn over your problems to God.  God can solve the problem, he will provide an answer.  He can do what we cannot.  We know in our hearts that it is true….so why not turn over those problems to God.

    Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you.  He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.  – Psalm 55:22

    Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you. – 1 Peter 5:7

    This sounds easy, but it is tough.  Probably one of the toughest things I have had to do.  I felt this article answering the question, How can I turn all my worries and problems over to God, explains this much better than I ever could.

  6. Release the weight of worry.  Again often easier said than done, but we can rest in the great promise of Jesus himself:

    Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke fits perfectly and the burden I give you is light.”  -Matthew 11:28-30

    The rest that Jesus promises is love, healing and peace with God.  He doesn’t promise the end of all problems or labor, but with a relationship with God changes the meaningless, wearisome work and problems into spiritual purpose and productivity.

 

A Christmas Blessing

As I had my morning coffee this Christmas Eve, I was reading through some news sites and blogs and was amazed at what I saw, news about retailers sales figures this Christmas, the latest news about the A&E and Duck Dynasty controversy, Planned Parenthood releases a 12 days of contraception video (really???!).  I saw blog posts on why we should be buying this or that technology this Christmas, I saw videos that play at the heartstrings (Apple I’m calling you out here with your Misunderstood commercial) but still miss the point of this time of year.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a scrooge, I love this time of year — the gifts, the lights, the songs, the TV specials.  I love Santa Clause and all the goodness he represents.  I love all the fun and excitement the children have on Christmas morning.  But do we still remember why this exists?  I think it’s all about the blessings.  The blessings that we are to others when we give them a gift or simply our time.  The gift that God gave us in his Son, the greatest gift of all.  It’s about the blessings, not receiving, but giving.

St Nicholas

As I said, I love the idea of Santa Clause.  Looking back at the origins of Santa, we go back to St. Nicholas, a fourth century bishop famous for giving gifts to the poor.  In one legend, he gave bags of gold, in secret so as not to embarrass the recipients publicly for accepting charity, to three daughters who could not afford their dowry and would most likely become prostitutes.  St. Nicolas was a blessing to those he helped.  St. Nicolas devoted his live to Christ, he could help himself but to be a blessing to others.  

War on Christmas

I don’t like the term “War on Christmas”.  I don’t think it’s accurate.  I think what we have is a situation where we as Christians are neglecting the true meaning of Christmas.  We are falling into a trap where we are keeping the blessings to ourselves, being recipients of blessings, but not being a blessing to the world.  So what can we do today, in this age of commercialism and selfishness? 

  • Wake up each morning and ask yourself….Who Can I Bless Today?  God will show you.
  • Be forgiving.  Not just on Christmas or Thanksgiving, but year round.  Be difficult to offend.  Be quick to forgive those in your family and circles of influence.  Be giving and forgiving to those on the margins of society.
  • Change lives one day at a time.  Even a small contribution can add to a great difference in those that receive.
  • Reflect back on your life and count your blessings.  Be thankful for all that God has given us.  What if God only gave us what we thanked him for?

Small steps, but each reflect a blessing that you can be to others.  Who cares what the media says, what political correctness deems we can or can’t say or think, what those non-believers and cynics say we “must” believe…..if we take small steps, despite their efforts to squash the meaning of Christmas, we can be a Christmas blessing all year round.

God Bless all of you and Merry Christmas!