Is Your Light Actually Darkness?

Have you ever heard pundits on the news and social media proclaiming they have the “high moral ground?” But on further examination of their beliefs, their thoughts are completely contrary to God’s best for our lives. Perhaps we should remember the chilling words of Jesus. He warned each of us, “Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness.” (Luke 11:35, NLT) Wow! The only “high moral ground” that exists anywhere in the Universe must be consistent with the Word of God, not the whims of man. There is no shortage of fuzzy philosophies and idiotic ideas flooding the internet and airwaves. Yet, the Bible is clear, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.” (Ephesians 5:6, NIV)

Everything Will Be All Right

We live in a world where people try to calm the concerns of others by saying, “everything will be all right,“ as if that statement was a magic wand of truth. How can everything turn out all right, no matter what you think or what you do? It’s absurd! In Matthew, chapter 20, when the chief priest told the guards who were guarding the tomb, “Tell people, His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep… (this) will satisfy (the governor) and keep you out of trouble.” In other words, “You can lie, and everything will be all right…” What do you think? Did things go well for the chief priest or guards? Hardly! The truth is “all things work for the good” for only one group of people on Earth: “those who love God and are committed to do His will and fulfill His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

When Blind People See Better

Sometimes people who have been blind to truth their whole life have more faith than those who always knew the truth. One day, two blind men followed Jesus right into the house He was staying in, because they heard He was healing people. Jesus turned and said, “Do you believe I can make you see?” Without missing a beat, they said, “Yes, Lord…we do.” (Matthew 9:28, NLT) They had no doubt. No wavering. Complete faith. Would to God we each had that kind of faith. Jesus said to His disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart… you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.” (Mark 11:22-24, NLT) 

Are You Prepared to Be Hated?

Have you ever verbally acknowledged the possibility that eventually people may hate you because you follow Jesus? Probably not. But Jesus said exactly that: “…all nations will hate you because you are my followers.” (Matthew 10: 22, NLT) It may not be a comforting thought, but nevertheless it’s still true because Jesus said it. Are you preparing your heart to be hated? Now, I didn’t say, “Have you decided on a strategy of saying obnoxious things in order to provoke people to hate you?” You won’t need to do something bad or insensitive to get people to hate you, because Jesus was saying, “All you have to do is just love Me a lot and represent Me well, and people will hate you.” I’m not paranoid, but I do keep my heart prepared to not let the hate in others smother the love in me.  

The Unexpected Life

How many of you grew up hoping that one day your life would be “mundane?” Mundane being defined as, “lacking interest or excitement; dull!” I know I didn’t. None of us want a boring, predictable life. I even coined a saying as a young Christ-follower, “If it’s boring it’s probably not of God.” Though that statement is a bit overstated, it spoke to my youthful desire that my commitment to live for Jesus would be exciting, powerful, and unpredictable. I don’t think I was naïve. I believe it was because I wanted to be fully alive. So, what does it mean when your life doesn’t turn out the way you expected? It may mean you had a life as God intended. But, what if your life is turning out the way you expected? Well, that might mean you need to raise your expectations and believe God for more.  

Prove By The Way You Live 

Perhaps no Bible character was more sold out to God than John the Baptist. It’s shocking to realize though, that John lived for years in a barren wasteland, wearing animal skin, eating only bugs and wild honey. His life was hard because His obedience to God was great. But, as demanding as his disciplined lifestyle was, John’s words were no less challenging. He said, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” (Matthew 3:8, NLT) Wow! “Prove by the way you live!” That’s quite a high bar. Jesus said something comparable though, “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16, NKJV) So, if how I live my life is the ultimate confirmation of what I actually believe, then may my life not close my lips. Especially because I believe my life is being read by all who know me.

Living Within Today’s Grace

Want to hear a great goal for your life? Learn to live within the grace God has given you, one day at a time. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow may never come, and God has given each of us the grace, hope, and peace we need for today. Perhaps that is, in part, what Jesus meant when He said, “Take no thought for tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself.” We’ve all been given enough manna for the moment and peace for the present. It begins by believing that because Jesus died for us, and God the Father is pleased with us, the Holy Spirit will comfort and guide us every day. My grace cup will always be full if I’m willing to believe it and receive it. None of us have been shortchanged. We’ve all been lavishly overpaid.

How Do You Make People Feel?

People will remember most how you made them feel: loved, judged, valued, or vilified. We trust people when they make us feel safe. When we believe they understand us, we call them our friends; even our best friends. When a person feels heard, they will listen to your advice. When a person feels known, they will want to know you. When they feel seen, they’ll want to hear what you have to say. That’s why the recommendation, “you could” is more Inspiring than “you should.” One statement is an invitation, making us want to hear more. The other sounds like an indictment. We feel critiqued, judged, and so want to hear less, even to erase what we’ve heard already. I should care how I make people feel. Why? Because God does.

“On Fire” vs. “Going Down In Flames” 

There’s a big difference between a person being “on fire” and someone “going down in flames.” Not all fire is created equal. In my youth I would say, “I want to burn out for Jesus.” Then I saw people burn out, and I thought, “Maybe I don’t.” When Elijah was “on fire” for God he was able to call down fire from Heaven, and God continued to use him in a mighty way. But, when he was hiding in a cave for fear of the evil Queen Jezebel, he was “going down in flames,” and God had to take him out of the game. Finishing well is the goal, not flaming out. The prophet Daniel wrote, “Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.” (Daniel 12:3, NLT) “God give us the wisdom that shines… forever.”

Prone To Wander 

Even though only one of Christ’s closest disciples, Judas, betrayed Him, each of His followers knew they were capable of doing it. They all asked, “I’m not the one, am I Lord?” (Matthew 26:22)  Deep in our hearts we each recognize our capacity to wander away from God. Every time I hear of a Christian leader falling into sin, I don’t think, “How could they?!” I think, “Oh God, protect me, and protect those I love.” The psalmist wrote, God “…was merciful and forgave their sins and did not destroy them all… he remembered that they were merely mortal, gone like a breath of wind that never returns.” (Psalm 78:38-39, NLT) I pray, as the old hymn says, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for Thy courts above.“ 

Running Off the Stage 

In 1983, I attended a Billy Graham conference in Amsterdam for 5,000 evangelists from around the world. Day after day, there was wonderful worship and powerful preaching. On one occasion, a Korean singer was singing a hymn on stage by himself. At one point during his beautiful song, he hit a flat note. Not a big deal. But for him, and apparently reflective of his culture, he immediately stopped singing, put his hand over his mouth, and ran off the stage. It was an image I will never forget. The whole room sighed. We all wanted him to come back. His slight mistake did not merit such a devastating response. I can imagine that he never sang in public again. He had tragically made himself a proverb, overreacting to a mistake each of us make, every day. “God, give us the grace to overcome, even when we fail.” 

Living in a Garbage-Free Community

Suzie and I had lived in our trash-free neighborhood for a year before we met a retired man named Bob walking around picking up garbage with a trash picker and putting it in a plastic bag. A couple of years later, I asked Bob what thought process he went through that caused him to start doing this kind community gesture. He said, “Four years ago, I spent a month walking by garbage and thinking ‘Why doesn’t someone pick that up?’ Then, one day, I decided I would be that person. Suzie and I had been walking around enjoying the fruit of his labor, but not knowing someone was actually making it possible. We estimate he’s picked up a mountain of garbage over the years. Whenever I see him, it provokes me to consider what acts of kindness can I do to bless others as well.