Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Cardboard Testimony

It is very common to see people holding cardboard signs with messages. Of course it is probably most common for those who are homeless. In this way they can get a message across that they need help. The cardboard sign is a cheap and easy way to let their need be known. But is it effective? It must be because so many do it.
However, cardboard messages have taken on a new twist. People also use cardboard signs to speak other messages, like: messages of protest; messages that they are selling something; messages for garage sales; messages about lost pets; I even came across a sign that read, "Family kidnapped by ninjas; need $4 for karate lessons."
One way our church used cardboard testimonies is to set up a series of verses from the book of Romans along our walkway during Halloween. The idea was that as the families came up to the church to get candy, they would read the different signs. The signs read: Romans 3:23- "For all have sinned and fall short of God's glory." Romans 5:8- "For God demonstrates His love for us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 6:23- "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ." AND Romans 10:9- "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
Our blog group topic this week is "My Cardboard Testimony." If I were to write my testimony on a cardboard sign, what would it say? What would it look like? I am not the most creative person in the world, but I think I would want it to be in bright colors, with a picture of the cross on it. The bright colors to get people's attention, and the cross to remind everyone that we are saved only by Jesus' death on the cross. Now then, what would the text be? The text would be simple, like the statement of the blind man who Jesus healed. His testimony was straight forward: I was blind, now I see, and Jesus is the one who healed me.
For me, I think I would state that I was lost in my own selfish ways, surrounded by friends who were leading me down the wrong path. Finding Jesus helped me to get on the right path and make something wonderful of my life. So the text would say:
"I was lost in my sin, but now I am found in Christ.
I know I am living the life God has for me!"
How about you, what would your sign say?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's None of Your Business

Have you ever been told, “It’s none of your business?” What does that make you think? What does that make you feel? For most people, it either makes them feel left out and unappreciated, OR it makes them all the more curious and they want to find out what is none of their business.
Reflecting on this made me think of how people might say this to me because of what they are doing in their lives. Meaning, that what they are doing is not what they should be doing, and so they don’t want me, or others to know. They say, “It’s none of your business.” The truth is, even if it is none of my business, God knows what they are doing. We are told in Psalm 139:1-4, “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. God knows when we lie down and when we wake up. God knows our thoughts and the words that we will speak.” Everything is God’s business, and God knows what we are doing.
But there is a sense in which other people should know our business. Matthew 18:15 tells us, “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and tell them their fault, between you and them alone. If they listen to you, you have gained them back.” This is talking to us about accountability. We have lost the sense of accountability in our individualistic society, but we are to be there for each other in love, and help each other stay strong. That is why James tells us in the book of James, chapter 5, verse 16: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” Again, we are there to keep each other on the straight path by confession and prayer; all in the spirit of love and support.
What are your thoughts?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Living a Joyful LIfe

Happiness and joy both exhibit emotional responses within us. But even though we know they are different, we don't know how to differentiate them from each other. Because of this we sometimes don't know how to separate them in our mind. As our blog group tackles the topic "How to live a joyful life," let's talk about how we can and should let God help us to separate them.
Let's start with happiness: Happiness comes from good experiences and fills us with good emotions. You have fun with your family and you feel loved. You get a raise and you feel more secure and appreciated. You buy a new car and you feel excited that you are able to enjoy this new toy you have. But what about when bad things happen? I don't know too many people who are happy when bad things happen. You get a bad health diagnosis and you are scared. You have a life crisis; you might feel depressed. You have an argument with your spouse, or kids, or friends; you are not at peace. And if someone is happy when something bad happens, you look at them with concern.
On the other hand, joy can happen at all times of life. As Philippians 4:1 says, "Rejoice in the Lord, always; again I say rejoice." How is this possible? How can you be joyful always? Joyful when bad things happen? Joyful when you have a crisis? Joyful when a loved one dies? The answer is yes. We can be joyful always. The reason for this is that joy isn't based on emotions, joy comes to us by God's Spirit.
The Bible tells us that joy is a "fruit of the Spirit." So when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are filled with God's Spirit. The Spirit plants the seed of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. As we let God work in and through our lives, this fruit grows in our lives; including joy. Joy comes from knowing that God is with us in all things and at all times. Joy is knowing that God cares for us in the most difficult of
times, and walks with us in our pain. Joy is knowing that God can make good come out of the bad. This is why we can be joyful at all times. This is how we live a joyful life.
The foundation of a joyful life is having a relationship with our creator, God. A life built on this foundation is a life that will have security, and love, and hope, and peace. A life that experiences this deep personal relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, will be joyful because it will never be without options or help. While our emotions are up and down, which leads us to limited experiences of happiness, joy exists with us abundantly and permanently.
Do you have a joyful life? Do you know that God's presence is with you at all times? Do you have this foundation? I pray that you do. Blessings.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

How Do You Relax?

This is an interesting topic for me this week, because I am on vacation. We often think of vacation as a time to relax. If that is true, why do so many people get back from vacation and say that they need a vacation? Relaxing is not about the stopping of work, but the ability to enjoy what you are doing, and be at peace. When you are away from work, you still have issues at home; or you are busy with many events that you do while on vacation; or maybe it is a working vacation. The point is, whether you are at work or on vacation, most of the time the schedule is filled with things to do. Or even if you do nothing, is that really what relaxing in about? Most people when they do nothing get bored. Boredom isn’t the same as relaxation.
So how do I relax? By doing what I enjoy. When I am sitting quietly reading a book, or playing catch with my son, or playing a game with my family, I am in relaxation mode. In these times, God blesses me with the ability to be free from stress and worry. And yet, I relax another way as well. This other way is in my times of meditation with God. When I take the time to be still before God, and let God’s Spirit minister to me, and let God fill me with His peace and love, I move to an incredibly relaxed place. So much so that after this time, I don’t even get mad at others, regardless of the situation.
Relaxing is about not allowing life to get to you. Relaxing is about enjoying what you do. Relaxing is about being at peace. May we all find ways to relax in our busy lives. Blessings.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

My Current Most Profound Insight

One definition of "insight" is to understand the inner nature of things. The last couple of years I have had the opportunity to mentor many people from my church. I have been grateful to God for giving me insight into their thoughts and lives which has helped me to guide them in their spiritual growth and help them to make good decisions.
But an even bigger insight that I feel I have experienced is in regards to relationships. As we live our life, we are challenged with pressures, and stresses, and hardships. We are pushed and pulled in so many directions, and by so many people. This drain can leave us weak and unable to deal with the problems of life.
God has placed it on my heart and in my mind to encourage people to be in good relationships. What I mean by good relationships is to have many relationships with people who energize you, encourage you, and build you up. When you are with these people, you feel blessed, and when you leave them, you feel uplifted and more excited about life.
As I talk to people, I am realizing more and more that this is not happening. Too many relationships are dysfunctional and draining. People are not being intentional about setting up times to be with those people who are good for them; whom they enjoy. But God wants us to be in these relationships. God wants these relationships to dominate our lives. God wants us to have these relationships because they will help to keep us healthy, and will lead us to live fruitful and "joyful" lives.
How about you? Who are the people in your life you love to be with? Who energizes you? Who encourages you? Who builds you up? Are you intentional about being with them? I encourage you to do so. This is my "insight." What is yours?