It is obvious to see headlights on a car during the evening hours; however, I would like to see headlights required for daytime use too. To explain, with so many varied colored cars, most of them can blend in with their surroundings. For instance, I have a pretty, soft lime-green van. I loved the color of my van when I purchased it; however, I did not realize that my vehicle blends in with grass until I barely saw its cloaked twin drive past me due to a vibrant fully-grown corn field in the background.
With the Fall season around the corner, it does not matter what color car you have because I'm sure there is a tree with foliaged leaves to match it. Even if you have a white car, you must be careful when snow hits the ground because your car looks like a moving igloo. Even black and grey cars blend in with the pavement depending on whether newly finished or faded from wear and tear over the years. Even more scary is a dark, shaded grey vehicle that could be mistaken for a funnel cloud in a stormy sky.
Although with a tad of an exaggeration, my camouflaged car-theory is similar to the principle of how Christians are to use the "Light" of Christ that lives in them. Now, before you stop reading because you think I have totally lost my colored marbles, Christians often hear that they should have their "Christ Light" on so that they will be a seen in a dark world. This seems pretty obvious; yet, I want to challenge my readers to go one step further and also be a "Light" in the "Light".
What? How can a light - light something already lit up? (Say that fast 10 times.) Well, although already spottable during the day, a car's headlights help the other drivers see him even better, and it can even encourage them to put their lights on too. Thus, a Christian needs to shine his "Light" for the darkness and shine his "Light" for the other "Lights" around.
First, being a "Light" in a dark world is walking the talk with non-believers. Specifically, mow the lawn for your neighbor who is a single mom with young kids; buy breakfast for the military personal sitting at the table next to you; or generously tip a waitress while addressing her by her name. In addition, remember those who work in your world to keep your life flowing easier. For example, extend little thank-you notes, yummy treats, or gift cards to your postman, waste removal employees, or dry-cleaners. Let them know how much you appreciate their hard work and they will see the Love of Christ in you.
Second, a Christian's "Light" can be an illustration to encourage other believers to grow their own "Light". Indeed, all believers have the "Light" living inside them (John 8:12); however, some find themselves stuck and spiritual growth has alluded them because they do not know how to fuel their own flame. Life's circumstances have knocked them down; Satan tries to blow it out with frustrations, anger, jealousy, or discontentment. He is the father of all lies who deceives a believer into thinking he has to hide it under a bushel; which only increases isolation, low self-esteem, condemnation, and negativity. The extra oil needed to keep that "Light" burning brightly can be seen through a Bible study, a prayer meeting, accountability/warrior partner, or a community group. We are to do more than just greet each other on Sunday mornings, we are to connect, be transparent, and ignite our fires!
When we come together in Christ, we feed our "Light" while helping to fan another's. May our daily "Christ Light" be a burning blaze for ALL to see God every night and every day.
***Note: Lines taken from "This Little Light of Mine".
Think back to when you were a little tyke. If you are in my age bracket, it may take you a few minutes to think that far back; so, I will pause and give you a moment . . .
OK, now tell me what was your favorite fairytale? If you are a boy, was it Jack in the Bean Stalk or maybe Aladdin? For the many girls reading this post, did you wish you were Cinderella or could you relate more to Snow White? We all remember the excitement of watching fairytales as we wished upon a star in hopes that our own fairy godmother would appear and make all our dreams come true.
Even the fairytales of today have the same message as they did years ago. There is always a pure and/or honorable main character who everyone loves, and who is usually mistreated in some way by a malicious, jealous, power-hungry villain. In the end, the hero/heroine overcomes the cunningly evil plot and victoriously lives happily ever after!
Interestingly, REAL life is not so far-fetched from the story line of a fairytale. As Christians, we are called to live honorable lives that are full of integrity (Philippians 4:8). Plus, we have a real enemy, a sinister thief who is on a mission to destroy us (John 10:10). Regardless of our circumstances, the best way to overcome evil (the father of all lies' plots) is with good (the Love of Christ). In today's world with all the scary events from terrorist attacks to violent riots in our own homeland, it is difficult to comprehend that God instructs us to respond in love. Yet, that is exactly how we are to respond:
Repay no one for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:17-21).
****(If you have not seen Frozen, stop reading, watch the movie, and then come back to finish reading this post)
Keeping with my child-like mindfulness, the best example that illustrates this type of love, is in the fairytale Frozen. In this story, Anna's heart is accidently struck with her sister, Elsa's ice powers. Anna's only chance of melting her frozen heart is an act of true love. At first, the viewer typically believes it will be the dashing and handsome Kristoff's true-love's romantic kiss that will save Anna; however, it is her ultimate sacrifice that shows the true meaning of love. To explain, while desperately struggling to reach Kristoff, she turns away from "the hero's kiss" that she thinks will save her and chooses to stand in front of the evil Hans' sword to save Elsa's life. Amazingly, instead of dying of a frozen, cold heart, Anna's unselfish act saves her, her sister, and her town.
Even more exciting than that Biblical correlation, is the Troll's song in the movie. With these powerful lyrics, "People make bad choices if they're mad, or scared, or stressed. Throw a little love their way and you'll bring out their best. True love brings out their best!", we can see that even little acts of kindness come with a powerful love-punch that can touch the soul (Proverbs 10:12). Thus, when we choose to respond to evil with good acts that show the love of Christ for anyone who make bad choices, we can save ourselves, our family, our friends, and our country!
I have a recurring dream that I am flying. Although the dream varies in characters or scenery, the main concept of personal flight remains the same. Now before you close your eyes and envision me soaring through the air, arms stretched out wide, I must warn you, my dreams are not normal (and for those who personally know me, you are not surprised). Anyways, in my dream, I start to run (again for those who know me, still no big surprise there), and as I continue to run, my body begins to weightlessly rise-up. As long as my legs are moving, I am able to stay airborne. If I wish to fly over a tree or house, I run faster, and if I need to land, I slow down my pace and lightly float effortlessly towards the ground.
It occurred to me that many people love to fly in their dreams and, of course, in real life too. My husband, Paul is one of those people for he even chose a career that keeps him flying the Friendly Skies (wink). Interestingly, Paul and I met while working for two different airlines, and it was our mutual interest in flying that created a bond that has lasted over 30 years.
So, why the interest in flying? Although I cannot say with a 100% certainty, I believe God has an extra bit of adoration towards His creation of flight. To explain, there are several accounts in the Bible that lead to this hypothesis. First, there are at least 10 bible verses about flying and 58 verses about wings. Not to mention, He designed numerous varieties of real life animals with the ability to fly. Plus, we must not forget about the spiritual beings mentioned in the Bible such as: Seraphs, Cherubs, Angels, and the six-winged Four Living Creatures (ex: Isiah, Ezekiel, Genesis, and Revelation).
More importantly than God's creation of wings and the physics that allows flight to take place, one cannot mistake His poetic use of wings and how they illustrate His love, His protection, His strength, and His power. Foremost, He will cover you with His pinions, and UNDER His wings you may seek refuge (Psalms 91:4). This verse shows He is our protector and under each feather layered on His Holy wings, we can take shelter. Next, we find His strength and His power when we soar ON eagle's wings (Isaiah 40:31). This verse helps us visualize the rising hope we have when we trust Him to renew our strength as we fly through the troubles of this world.
In spite of the fact that I cannot fly (other than when I run in my dreams), I know that when I feel weary, I can rely on the promise of soaring in His strength; or when I feel scared, I can seek protection under His mighty wings. Although . . . the Bible does reveal that we will receive a new (Heavenly) body when Christ returns, I am just hoping mine comes with a set of wings (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 2 Corinthians 5:1).
During the 70’s, a famous television program called, The Brady Bunch found its way into the homes and into the hearts of Americans. The Brady’s were one of the first TV blended families. Carol was a lovely lady who was bringing up three very lovely girls while a man named Brady was busy with three boys of his own. As the song continues, . . . and yes, I can hear the lyrics echoing in my head, “Till the one day when the lady met this fellow and they knew it was much more than a hunch”. Hence, they formed a family and became the Brady Bunch.
Admittedly, I could probably recite every episode, and while I have many that I consider to be my favorites, there is one episode that always flashes back to my mind when I read a certain story in the Bible. It is the story of Jesus and two sisters named, Mary and Martha. Jesus was in their home and Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet intently listening while Martha was distracted with serving. It is amusing how a sound or word can trigger a memory. Therefore, whenever I hear the verse, “Martha, Martha”, the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42), I think of the episode where Jan the middle daughter is jealous of her older sister Marcia. Interestingly, the episode is entitled, “Her Sister’s Shadow” and has been more recognized by Jan’s grumbling, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” because of all the attention her sister had been getting at school.
Although Jesus was correcting Martha for complaining about Mary not doing any work, and Jan was whining about how everything came so easily for Marcia, we can take lessons from both these women. First, Martha was so occupied with hosting that she forgot about the value of fellowship, and Jan was so fixated on comparing herself to Marcia that she neglected to see the things that made her special.
Honestly, I have seen both a Jan and a Martha attitude inside myself. For example, I delayed a walk with my sons the other night to clean up the dinner dishes. Sadly, I chose duties over quality time, and when we finally got outside, our walk was shortened due to a storm on the horizon. Plus, turning 50 years-old and receiving that dreaded AARP membership enrollment has amplified my insecurity about getting older. Thus, I negatively comparing myself to other women instead of appreciating my laugh-lines and wisdom spots.
So, how do we avoid the “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” comparisons or the “Martha, Martha” mixed priorities? Simply, spend quality time in Christ’s presence. When we take the time to read, pray, sing, and praise, we find that our true value emanates from “HIM, HIM, HIM”.
***Brandy Bunch http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0531099/
SPOT THE CROSS- PART II
(Previous: Spirit of Truth, Spirit of Grace, Spirit of Love)
Several weeks ago, I posted three sure ways to help people Spot the Cross in you! How did you do? Were you able to speak the truth even when a little white lie would have been easier; did you forgive a hurt that you have held inside your heart for years; or were you able to find ways to show the love of Christ through deeds that helped someone in need?
As you continue to allow the Holy Spirit to guide you on these three attributes, I wanted to offer three more qualities that will indeed show other’s to Spot The Cross in you.
1. Spirit of Holiness – Although we will not reach perfection in this life, we do have the ability to choose Holiness. Choosing Holiness begins when we obey The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17). These laws are more than guidelines to help the believer live a life that is honoring to God, they are actually a type defense that helps us avoid a life of pain caused by poor choices. Moreover, God is our All-knowing Guide, thus when we follow His laws, we demonstration to others that a life of obedience is truly more freeing than it is demanding; not to mention, definitely more rewarding.
2. Spirit of Comfort/Affirmation – Comforting those who are hurting when others turn a blind’s eye or speaking words of encouragement when the rest of the world chooses to criticize are ways that a Christian reflects the love of Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:4 & 1 Thessalonians 5:11). In addition, Christ told the disciples that He would send a Comforter who would be with them as they conveyed the Gospel to all the earth (John 14:16). Today, we have the same Spirit living inside us, enabling us to be an inspiration that eases the wounded soul.
3. Spirit of Wisdom – Having a Biblical knowledge in one's head is only useful when a person allows the Spirit of Wisdom to speak into his mind. To explain, a person who is able recite the Ten Commandments because he was once taught to memorize them as a child is not the same as having the wisdom to apply them to his life. Thus, when we believers hear the Holy Spirit’s promptings and choose to follow them, we are making wise choices for ourselves and for those in our lives. Furthermore, the book of Proverbs has 40 verses that illustrate the difference between the foolish man and wise man (The Proverbs Project, example: Proverbs 10:8). Yet, above all, let us not forget the wisest thing to do when we lack wisdom is to just ask God (James 1:5)!
Reflecting the Spirit of Holiness, the Spirit of Comfort, and the Spirit of Wisdom are three more ways that a believer can advertise his connection to Christ. The impact of the Spirit indwelling inside of you is brighter than an enormous bonfire after a high school, championship football game for this Light is an eternal blaze burning the words, “SPOT THE CROSS” for everyone to see.
**The Proverbs Project, Compare & Contrast – stronginfaith.org.
How does one “Spot The Cross”? Should he spot the wooden cross that is at the front of the sanctuary in a church displaying the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, or is it a shiny golden necklace dangling around a lady’s neck? Moreover, is it a huge bumper sticker easily visible on the car in front of you at the traffic light, or is it on the muscular arm of the man sitting next to you on the airplane intertwined with other colorful tattoos? While it is quite common to optically SPOT THE CROSS with one’s eyes, it is my hope that this post will help people SPOT THE CROSS inside of you.
Although The Holy Spirit can be seen in many ways, this post will focus on three characteristics that will illuminate the bright, imaginary, neon arrow-shaped light in you that points to our Savior.
1. Spirit of Truth – When we speak the truth, people will see the cross. “Honestly is the best policy” may be a secular saying; however, the Bible is quite clear why the truth is so important. (ex: Proverbs 19:5, Psalms 101:7). Specifically, a lie destroys relationships and creates a path of deception where more lies are needed to hide the first one. Thankfully, “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32) is more than Biblical words on paper, it is a promise that when obeyed creates a lifestyle of Christ-honoring integrity. A believer who is reliable and trustworthy reflects their Savior. A person will sense that if he can rely on you, then he can rely on the God whom you worship. Hence, encouraging him to SPOT THE CROSS!
2. Spirit of Grace – This may be the toughest area for Christians to display the cross. We want God’s grace for ourselves; yet, we have a difficult time extending it to people who upset us, aggravate us, test our patience, or even intentionally hurt us. Once again, Biblical truths can be found throughout His word (ex: Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 11:6). Justly, God requires us to extend grace to others regardless of the infraction. Since, He is our example, true unmerited grace becomes a bright beacon on a foggy night by the beach that ultimately dissipates evil and creates a moon-glowing path to SPOT THE CROSS!
3. Spirit of Love – Love never fails. . . Never gives up. . . Never runs out. . . (Song: “One thing Remains” by Passion). When we show Christ love, we are reflecting His image (1 John 4:8). This type of love is not just done with words, but it is displayed in action. Be the person who helps the neighbor with her three young boys when she needs to run to the store; sit and have coffee with someone who is struggling with personal issues and just listen; buy a meal for the military personal who sitting in the same restaurant; or be the person who gives up his seat on the bus for women, children or the elderly. Remember, although words are valuable, it is our actions that are a priceless way to SPOT THE CROSS!
As the Holy Spirit dwells in you, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Grace, and the Spirit of Love are ALL available and make it possible for people to SPOT THE CROSS in you!
Look for three more characteristics of the Holy Spirit in my next post.
To Be Continued. . .
As I mentioned before, a writer has the freedom to create words that do not exist. This is probably my favorite part of writing, especially, if I think I can make a reader smile over my new, made-up silly word. Simultaneously, my ultimate goal would be to discover that my cleverly unique word is being used in everyday conversations. For example, I am still patiently waiting for Christ-A-Tarian to hit the social media frenzy and receive millions of views that cause people to use it as a way to describe themselves and their need to feed on God’s word daily. Maybe, one day while in a coffee shop, I will overhear another patron talking to her friend about how she has decided to become a Christ-A-Tarian!
Anyways, to continue with my point, I recently heard a new word: Christ-Esteem¹, and although I did not create it, I immediately liked it and knew it was worth mentioning. Now, we have all heard of the word, Self-Esteem² which according to Vocabulary.com is:
“How you feel about yourself — your self-worth or your pride in yourself . . .The "esteem" part of self-esteem comes from the Latin verb aestimare, meaning to value. The "self" part is self- explanatory, referring to you, yourself. So think of self-esteem as how you value yourself”.
Thus, Christ-Esteem is how Christ values you. How awesome is that! This use of the word is incredibly freeing. To think, I can view my worth through how Christ values me. My Christ-Esteem comes from knowing who I am in Christ. It is not my job, my money, my family, my home, my car, my children, my education, or even my writing ability that can define my value or self-worth. Nothing can replace how My Savior views and loves me. Notably, Psalms 139:13-14 (ESV) states:
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well”.
Now, pay attention to the last part of this scripture, “My Soul Knows It Very Well”. If we stop for a moment and realize that this truth is deep inside of us, we will remember to not let the things of this world tell us otherwise. Therefore, while I patiently wait for a representative from Vocabulary.com to contact me and request my permission to put my new, God-honoring word, Christ-A-Tarian on their website, I will continue to remind my Self-Esteem that it comes from my Christ-Esteem, and I am worth it!
1. LifeChurch: Pastor Craig Groeshel, “Playlist: Scars to your Beautiful”.
2. Vocabulary.com: Self-Esteem. https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/self-esteem
With today’s technology and social media frenzy, it is important that we stay up to date with the lingo. For example, when posting, texting, or even talking the youth will use abbreviations such as LOL, OMG, SMH (Mike Bongo used this one during last weekend’s sermon – LOL!), TBH, and the reason for this blog – BFF.
LOL –Laughing Out Loud.
OMG – Oh, My God.
SMH - Shaking My Head.
TBH – To Be Honest.
BFF – Best Friend Forever.
Now, since I like the number three (once again a plug for a previous written blog, “Three Times a Charm”), I found it interesting that Jesus had three close friends. Although, He had twelve disciples and many more whom He loved, Jesus had three people who were His special friends.
To explain, several times in the Bible, one can find Jesus choosing the same three men to be with Him a part from the rest. Can you guess who they were? It was Peter, James, and John who are what we would call in today’s era, Jesus’ BFFs.
Of course, I found three different scripture accounts that show Jesus had a special relationship with these men. One example is found in Luke 8:51, when Jesus went to heal Jairus’ little girl. “When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother” (NIV).
Next, we can find Jesus taking the same three with Him up a high mountain to pray (Luke 9:28). These three men had the privilege of being chosen to see the Transfiguration of our Lord and witness a conversation between Jesus and two icons of the Bible, Moses and Elijah. Talk about back stage passes with bragging rights (OMG)!
Finally, Jesus illustrated that these three men were definitely within His inner circle for on the night He was betrayed, even though He took all His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane, it was Peter, James, and John who He took farther into the Garden to keep watch over Him while he prayed (Mark 14:32-33).
Jesus was a popular guy, and if He was on Facebook today, the site would probably crash due to all the friend’s requests on His page. While having lots of friends can be fun, it is important to have a few close friends who truly know you and are going to by your side. Our friends will not be perfect or without flaws just as Peter, James, and John disappointed Christ too (TBH – for example, they fell asleep in the Garden twice when Jesus needed them the most); yet, they did love Him and know Him the best.
Ultimately, my prayer is for ALL who read this blog to choose a few BFFs who will walk along side of you during the good times and the bad. God in His infinite wisdom designed us for relationships - our relationships with others (our BFFs) and our relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who are our SFFs (Spiritual Friend Forever)!
ONE BODY, ONE SPIRIT
By Keith Snow
We were born in Paris,
or near Corpus Christi.
Raised in Harrisburg,
or even New York City.
All types of skin shades
with many different faces.
We’re from diverse cultures
and represent various races.
ONE BODY, ONE SPIRIT!
Some folks are poor.
A few have riches.
Plenty push papers,
others dig ditches.
Humbly and patiently,
we walk towards unity.
Giving each other love,
to bind our community.
Come together in our faith.
Put our differences aside.
We must always reconcile,
seeking truth, not lies.
Supporting each other
and grow to be like Christ.
Each person does their job,
showing grace and sacrifice.
This poetry piece was written for and read to Living Water’s Congregation.
** Keith Snow is a Central Sterile Technician and Poet who is a member of our church. He is a husband to Barb Snow, and father to Greg Snow. As a member of LWCC’s Creative Worship Team, he uses his talents to build the body of Christ.
Who Do You Say that I Am?
Recently, while watching "God’s Not Dead 2", Grace, the main character in the movie shared her testimony with Tom, her lawyer on what led her to become a Christian. She told him she saw a sign outside a church that said, “Who do you say that I am?” I had already seen the movie for this was my second time watching it, and I had remembered that particular scene; however, this time it seemed to reach further down into my soul for I felt the question being directed at me too. “Who do you say that I am?”
My obvious first answers spoke about my relationship with Christ for He is my Comforter, my Rock, my Strength, and my Advocate, my Shield, moreover, He also represents the Word, the Bridegroom, the Vine, the Foundation, and the Light (these are just a few from an endless list of all names, titles, and characteristics that all exemplify our Lord). Yet, these initial responses did not seem to satisfy my pondering soul. Even though at the end of the movie, Grace gave her answer in a court of law, I wanted to seek Him and discover how does He want me to answer that particular question?
The best place to find answers is of course our Bible, and believe it or not, this same question is found in three of the gospels, Matthew (16:13-16), Mark (8:27-30), and Luke (9:18-20). I love the message of three (read my other blog entitled, “Three Times a Charm”) because when God wants to get a message across, or in this case A Cross (Holy Pun intended!), He repeats it at least three times. See, Jesus is “The Christ”, He came as the Messiah-the living Son of God to be the Savior of the world (Spoiler alert if you did not see the movie-Grace testifies at the end that He is the Christ).
Although all those other names listed above represent Him, I believe this is Who He wants me to declare to all who will listen: “He is My Christ, My Messiah, My Savior, He is My Christ, My Messiah, My Savior, He is My Christ, My Messiah, My Savior”. Say it three times!
**Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” (Luke 9:20 ESV)
God’s Not Dead 2 (2014). Directed by Harold Cronk; Pure Flix Entertainment.