Monday, November 23, 2015

Hope is On the Way!

After the turkey is eaten, football is watched and shopping and decorations unpacked, we begin the season of Advent. Advent is a time rich with restlessness, anticipation and eventually joy. There are still lots of things to get done, gifts to buy, houses to be cleaned and decorated, food that needs to be cooked, and family to visit. On our faith side it is the time to remember not just the birth of Jesus but also remember his journey as a prophet and teacher destined to light a way to God. If we are not cautious, it is easy to fall into the trap of just solely focusing on the birth of Jesus.  Yes a little baby Jesus in a manger is important but is not the only important piece of this advent puzzle. While Walmart and other stores begin putting up their Christmas seasonal items out now in June, while people begin to argue over the whole "Happy Holidays" I say "Merry Christmas" debate or diatribe, the world is telling us Christmas is coming and you better be ready. But our society doesn’t really tell us to be ready for the birth of Jesus but to be ready to buy stuff, take advantage of discounts, and an unspoken permission to eat more stuff. But now we as a faith family begin the season of Advent. Advent is a time of ready but not yet. It’s an in between time where we remember the past but look to the future. It’s a tension between the past and the future as we must live in the present. We desperately try to place Advent or Christmas on our timeline, but as followers of Jesus, we find like the birth of any child, it comes on their time: their schedule not ours.  In the decorating, present buying, family visiting, and tradition keeping of our lives, which are all important, we tend to forget God has His own timing and agenda for things. We tend to get so distracted that we forget Christmas is so much richer, more fulfilling, and a deeper meaning than just a baby, born in a manger in Bethlehem. We tend to rush through Advent and forget that the Christ child, the Messiah, is hope for us all. We forget that the birth of Jesus is only the beginning and we don’t even know how the story ends yet. So as we prepare for Christmas let us be mindful that as we celebrate the birth of Jesus there is still hope is on the way. Let us allow this Advent season be one of getting ready but not yet finished. Because isn’t the true meaning of Christmas something that comes from the heart?
Love, Serve, and Happiness


Monday, November 16, 2015

Love Where You Are? You Are Here

In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks it seems death, destruction and evil are raising its nasty head once again.  For some of us, this is just one more such event added to a list of death and destructions. For others, this is the first such event we have witnessed played out on news and social media. Either way it strikes shock, fear, hopelessness, and mayhem. It is unimaginable to most sensible people how anyone or group could attack innocent people with such fervor, violence, hatred and organization. There is no logical explanation for any attack on the innocent. We might find ourselves full of hate, anger, and rage which are all natural emotions when we see images of the attacks. So what do we do? How do we respond if we proclaim we are followers of Jesus? We basically have only two options: first we can accept what has happened, add it to the list of tragedies we have witnessed in our life time, and accept the fact there will be more added to the list as well. We can easily change our Facebook photo to red, white, and blue, move on with our life, and “do” nothing more than add another layer of callousness over our protected souls.  These can be great coping mechanisms if we are solely believers in Jesus but not if we are followers of Jesus.
If we are followers of Jesus our second option is to use Jesus’ life, words, and instructions in times such as these. I am reminded of Jesus’ last instructions to all His disciples before he ascended into heaven. Just like a coach giving a pregame speech to the disciples Jesus fires them up to change the world. Hearing the words of the resurrected Jesus, I envisioned the disciples running down the mountain fired up and ready to do exactly what Jesus told them to do. Instead they stood still looking up, frozen in time, doing nothing. We can’t blame the disciples because we are like that as well. Jesus’ instruction said simply to go love people. Jesus said go care for them, notice them, serve them, meet their needs, and love them as you would like to beloved. Do something don’t just stand here looking up. So what can we do in wake of the Paris tragedy or any other attack? We can stop staring at the sky, hoping for an answer, or waiting for someone else to come along. We can begin to love where we are. We might not be able to travel to France but we can begin to love here. We can begin to heal here. We begin by implement three vital habits. First habit is to be present for those we love in our life. Turn off the television, turn off the volume social media has on us, and focus on those whom God has placed in front of us today. Especially if you have young children in your life as they are sacred and are looking to adults for reassurance, safety, and protection. Second habit is to be prayerful. Pray for France. Pray for peace. Pray for the innocent families directly impacted by this horrible act. Pray that God’s grace, love, and mercy will be the light in a dark world. Pray with your children and grandchildren. Let them witness and participate in relevant faith. Prayer opens us up to Gods perspective. The last habit is to be perceptive. Stop looking up and look around you. You will find others that feel the same as you. Let there be strength, comfort and hope in community. It is unrealistic that you can directly help those in Paris but you can help those in our own community. When we do acts of kindness and love for others good wins over evil even if evil is manifested in another country. It demonstrates to the world that we as followers of Jesus are people of love, mercy, and forgiveness. These core virtues are contrary to those of the attackers. When love wins here, love wins everywhere. We must realize the opportunities to love that God places in our lives on a daily basis. God will not lead you somewhere He has no intention of using you. So let us stop looking up, let’s run down the mountain, and love as Jesus calls us to love. Then with the light of God’s love shining through us, on an individual basis, our dark world will become brighter: one life at a time.
Serve, Love and be Happy:


Monday, November 9, 2015

Just Go!

Many people use the Bible to prove a point, reinforce their own opinions, and proof text their values, morals and ideals. If one took an honest, open minded approach to studying the Bible for what it actually says instead of what we think it says or what someone else told us it says, we would find there are some things that are ambiguous at best.  While the Bible can be misused, misrepresented, and misunderstood there are certain things especially in the New Testament that Jesus made perfectly clear. We find in the scripture of Matthew, what is known as The Great Commission. Before leaving earth and ascending in to heaven Jesus leaves some very clear and specific instructions not just for those who were there at the time but for all people who follow Jesus.  There is a big distinction in knowing or believing in Jesus and following or being a disciple of Jesus. In the Great Commission Jesus says “go” and love. It’s really that simple. When we look at the life of Jesus that is exactly what Jesus did.  Whenever reading the Bible about Jesus it’s important to notice what is included but also what is omitted.  For example, the bible states that the son of God, Jesus, had no place to lay his head. It tells us Jesus had no home. We never read anything about Jesus buying a house, owning land, starting a business, or settling roots anywhere. We read just the opposite. Jesus was always on the go. He was always moving from town to town going to wherever there was a need.
 But honestly it is hard for us today to be on the go for Jesus. We prefer to stay at home. It is just safer, easier to control, and a lot more comfortable to just stay where we are. Jesus made it clear that love and serve were synonymous. When questioned when his followers ever showed their love to him, Jesus responded when you fed, clothed, visited, cared the least of the marginal people.  We hear the words of Jesus but our culture and our world tells us something different: “I was hungry and you went out to eat again. I was thirsty and you needed cold bottles of water. I was a stranger and you called the police. I needed clothes but you needed newer clothes. I was sick and you pointed out my behavior that led to my sickness. I was in prison and you said I got exactly what I deserved.”  The culture and environment we must live in bombards us with images and messages that are counter intuitive to Jesus instructions. We have opportunities daily to show our love for Jesus but we tend to only focus on ourselves.  We justify this sometimes by saying we are compassionate people. But compassion is a word that is action oriented. Feeling for people in need and not doing anything is not compassion. That is empathy not compassion. So we must begin to love people one at a time. Jesus met people all the time that was not a planned. We must share the love of Jesus as we go. The single most consistent proclamation of the Bible and what is at core of Jesus’ heart is that He loves people. Jesus loves all people regardless of any circumstance, bad decision, past or current situation. Every day we, as Jesus followers, have opportunities to do exactly that: love as we go. As we “go” to show our love for others, we are also showing our love for the One who loved us first.
Go love/serve somebody