Dark Days

I have become more aware lately of Dark Days that we all tend to face…the reality is that we are either entering dark days, living in them, or coming out of them…but for the most part, we are all facing them or leaving them behind, but we all tend to have them.

These days can come in many forms, disappointment, despair, distress, doubt, depression…no matter the description, dark days can truly break us down and cause us to question a lot of things.  We feel that we are alone in our battle…maybe it didn’t go the way that we had quite hoped.  Just speaking Biblically there are many stories in scripture that we see similar stories.

Job, obviously had some dark days…he lost everything, but in the end he realized that God had always been working on his behalf. When the world came against him, Job trusted and praised God.

Peter didn’t plan to deny Christ, even when he was told he would, yet, when the time came, Peter denied Christ three times and found himself in some of the darkest of days.

Uncertainty, doubt, depression can overcome us and leave us feeling less than stellar on many days, and if we begin to rest in those days we find ourselves even deeper than we could have ever imagined.  I don’t think that Mary thought that her bringing a baby boy who was God’s own son into the world would happen in a stable, but yet it did; and the reality is, no matter our circumstances, light can still pierce the darkness.

That light…Jesus.  Jesus is the light that has already pierced the darkness for us, but we many times allow things to cast shadows and leave us in a false darkness, not realizing that He is right there with us.  Today, remove those shades, and allow the light of Christ to crash the darkness in your life. No matter how difficult the struggle that you face, God can and will work through the circumstances to bring you out of those dark days.

The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t always the train.

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Distracted Living

Let’s face it…almost all of us have a cell phone.

Lately I have been noticing something more and more in my own life, and honestly, I have seen evidence of it around also…that is the increased usage of cell phones, more specifically, smart phones.  They’re all the rage…they’re in just about everyone’s hands from 10 to 90, and the reality of it is that it has our attention.

Many of us (myself included) feel lost without our phone attached to us in some way…we almost can’t function without our phone.  We spend more than 4 hours a day focused on that small screen looking up news, texting, calling, browsing social media, and more.  A recent study showed that the average American adult uses the cell phone 4-5 hours a day and sends and receives around 1,000 text messages daily…

Where this really started to hit home for me is that I have realized that my phone usage has begun to be such a part of my daily routine that even my prayer life has taken a hit because of this modern marvel.  This began to bother me, because Prayer should be something that we are focused continually on.  In fact, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul tells us that God’s will for us in Jesus is to, “Rejoice always, Pray continually, and be thankful in all circumstances.”

When we begin replacing these things, they begin to suffer…we begin to allow these things to take a back seat to posting that new Facebook status or Instagram post. No matter how many times we post something and say, “#Blessed” or “#Thankful”, it isn’t the same.  We must rejoice always and be in constant conversation with God…that is His will for us in Christ.

It also tells us to be thankful IN, not for, all circumstances…that means we may be going through a difficult time, but that isn’t time for us to take it to Facebook and let everyone know how awful our neighbor is or how bad we have it…it is a time to hit our knees and pray, being grateful and rejoicing that God has given us an opportunity to see Him work in our lives.

Let’s drop the distracted living, put down our phones, and turn to Christ.  If we want to see things improve in this world, we must take steps to remove the distractions that take our focus off of Him and allow Him to lead us….it’s hard to see where He is leading you with your head down in your phone.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life…no one comes to the Father except by me.” – Jesus (John 14:6)

Who do You Want ME to Be? Becoming a Prisoner for God…

Who do You want ME to be?  A question we should all ask God everyday…

“ 1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

— Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV)

Paul wrote these words from prison, so if anyone knew what being a prisoner was all about, Paul would definitely be the guy.  “As a prisoner for the Lord…” began Paul…what did he mean?  What does it mean to be a prisoner for the Lord?  What is Paul getting at when he begins this paragraph?

Lets look at it for a minute…Paul, a man who knew what it was to persecute the church, who had put people in prison for claiming the name of Christ; was now, himself, suffering the same fate as many he had put away…imprisoned for the carrying the name of Christ.  But as he accepted this, he wrote to the church at Ephesus, “then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” What is that call?

Paul had written before that the call on a Christian’s life was one of mimicking the life of Christ (Romans 8:28-30).

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

— Romans 8:28-30 (NIV)

By looking back to Psalm 139 where we see David claim to be fearfully and wonderfully made, and also note, ”You knit me together in my mother’s womb…”; we realize that God knew each one of us before the world knew us, therefore we are all part of the group of the known, we are ALL predestined to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, and therefore called.  What is the likeness of Christ?

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”

— Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)

Jesus took the role of a servant…the same role we are called to, service.

Paul was explaining that we should all live a life worthy of the call, a life that would cause others to take notice of a difference…a life that is similar to that of Christ Jesus himself.  Paul then goes on to tell four ways that life can be achieved:  Humility, Gentleness, Patience and Bearing one another’s burdens.

Paul states that we should be humble, not proud…the life of a servant is one of humility.  To serve others, they must come first in our life…not second to us.  If we consider ourselves to be better than another, we will never serve them, because we don’t feel they are worthy of that…but Christ humbled himself to wash the apostles feet…shouldn’t we practice that same humility when it comes to others?  Shouldn’t we lower ourselves to the level where we can be most effective in touching someone’s life?  Humility is putting yourself last.

Along with this humility we are to have is Gentleness.  What Paul is stating is that we much approach each other with a gentle spirit…do not look for a fight, look to stop the war; don’t go into a conversation expecting confrontation…go in expecting reconciliation, expecting peace.  Be kind, practicing the golden rule – do unto others. Serve others, give without expecting in return, be kind, be gentle, be Jesus to the world.

Third, we are to be patient…which is one of the hardest things for a person to do, especially when they feel they have been wronged.  People have trouble with patience, because being patient means looking past faults…looking past disagreements…looking for the good in another, so that we don’t react in a way that is detrimental to our relationship with them…in a way that can ruin even the best of friendships.

And Last…bearing one another’s burdens.  When we band together as a group of Christians, no one can pull us down…no one can take the joy that comes in seeing someone we love come through a tough time in their life, only to enjoy the fruits of their sufferings.  Paul told the Ephesian Church that they needed to bear with each other, because no one can do it alone.

Paul then states that all four of these must be unified within the Christian so that the full work of the church can be completed.  You must find a way to take these four principles and apply them as a unified group to your life…it’s the only way a prisoner for the Lord can survive.

Not only do we need to unify these principles, but we also need to unify as a body of Christ…we are all called to the same purpose…we are all called to be Christ to the world.  Too many times these days the Church is only out for what they can do for themselves…the members are loyal, but their view of the church is the four walls they enter every Sunday morning…for us as Christians to change the world…we have to unify peacefully and work toward the same cause.

What are you doing today?  Are you loyal to the call on your life?  Are you willing to unify with the church as a whole in bringing the name of Christ to the world?  Or are you content sitting back and missing the blessings that will come your way when you choose to live in the way Paul did…in unity with his brothers and sisters in Christ.  Paul explains it in further detail over the next few verses…

4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

— Ephesians 4:4-6 (NIV)

Seven “one’s” to show us that it is all about becoming ONE in unity.  Become one with the Church today, become unified for the cause of Christ…become one prisoner who is devoted to joining with other prisoners to serve the ONE who thought we were worthy enough to die for us…ask God who He wants you to be.

Signs of the Times

I’ve spent a lot of time studying lately on scripture that leads us up to the return of Christ…and something interesting that I came across recently got my attention…

In Matthew 24 we see Jesus answer his disciples when they ask what the signs of the end of the age will be, and Jesus lays out a number of things…but I find a few things interesting here that I wanted to share this week.

Verses 4-14 show us a very vivid answer to the question of what we can expect to happen…but he opens the statement with two very key instructions: 1-Pay attention that you are not deceived and 2-Do not be troubled or alarmed.

Why would Jesus instruct his disciples to pay attention about the deceptions that may happen around them? Why would he tell them not to be alarmed? Because, deception will pull you away from where you are supposed to be…almost like smoke and mirrors of the enemy to keep your attention away from what is really going on around you.  When you are alarmed and surprised by the things happening around you, you have a tendency to find yourself trying to fix what is happening….but Jesus says, these things must happen.

This leads me past the “beginning of sorrows” into the meat of what Jesus is saying…the troubles we see and hear about have to happen before the end…but in verse 10 we can see exactly where we may be…I found this verse intriguing given the climate around us in the world today…

“There will be many who are offended, many will betray one another, and many will hate one another.”

We need to stop joining in the battle of the offended, stop being surprised by what is going on around us, and start loving as Christ loved, knowing that the world will turn to their own ways…but a couple verses later we see the promise for those in Christ.

“He who endures to the end, he is the one that will be saved.” – Matthew 24:13

Endure to the end, and stop being distracted and alarmed by what is happening around you today….Jesus told us it would happen and that we would see things happen, but encouraged us to endure to the end…Stay strong and love one another, do not be deceived and do not be troubled.

Cover Songs

In the Music Business I have noticed lately that there are a number of songs out there that have been redone recently by different groups.  Some have a good quality to them, but we all know that it is hard to replace the original.

What I have realized in thinking about this is that there are many different versions of  the same song, but the original always seems to be the best copy because it has the artist’s original intentions for the song.  The original is the purest form of the song, it always seems to be the best and most preferred version for the listener…especially the listener that loves music.

That being said, there are often good cover songs out there, songs that remain pure to the artist intentions, and sometimes you will find a version that compares very closely to the original, but again, there is just something to be said about the original.

In thinking about this, however, I also realized that there is a preference for some to the first version of the song that they heard.  If a younger generation hears a song by a new artist that is a cover, but have never heard the original, sometimes they tend to prefer the version that they heard first.  Many times it tends to be the first version that is heard that becomes the one that is hard to overcome when hearing other versions….this leads me into a discussion that takes place within the church.

There are many versions of the scripture that have taken hold within the church today, and honestly, I understand the debate…but let me ask this question: Is the Word leading them to the One, True God?  This is not a debate about which scripture to use…in fact, what I want to discuss is that we are to be examples of Christ to the world…in essence, we are his cover song.

Is your life echoing the original, or have you messed with the tune and tried to make what was perfect better? Are you living a life that resembles Christ or are you trying to become a different version of Christ? There was only one version of Christ, and that version came to this earth and lived a perfect life, put it all behind him and endured a cross that was intended for you and I…and we are simply asked to live a life that resembles Him to the world.

Since we are the cover of the original, we may look and sound similar, but we are not the original…rather than trying to improve on the original, I would challenge you to try to look and sound as close to the original as you can, so that others can see the truth about who He is. The fact remains that the original was the purest form of what we are to be in this life we have on earth, and there is not a single one of us that can do it better than Him…so stop trying to form your own version of the Gospel, and live out the life that resembles the original artist. The Original was Jesus Christ Himself…do others see Christ at work in you? Or do they see you working to try and improve on Christ?

Just a thought.

“I Just Don’t Get it…Why Lord?”

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”

“Why did this person have to die?”

There are many questions that we sometimes ask; especially in times when we thought things should have been different.  We just don’t understand why things happen the way that they do in this life…that being said, we must look to the scripture for answers.

One of the best examples that we can find is the story of Job.  Job was a man who served God…he was a man that caught the devil’s attention and one that Satan wanted to cause to fall away.  Let me start by reminding you, if Satan is challenging your faith, you need to stay strong, you wouldn’t be on his radar if you were already living a life for him.

So why do bad things happen to God’s people?  Because Satan wants to try and make anything happen that will cause us to question our faith.  He took away Job’s family, his home, and all his belongings, but Job stayed strong through the testing and fire.  Are you staying strong in your trials today?  Scripture tells us in James 1:2-4:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

The testing that comes from Satan will produce a sturdy faith that will stand firm no matter what storm we face if we will keep our focus on God.  Job stood firm, chose to continue following God, and when he became weak and questioned God, we see that God answered him, reminding him of who He (God) is and when all was said and done, Job was doubly blessed by the trial he faced.

Remember:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:26-28

God will help you through, don’t let these trials tear you down, but let them become a blessing; both for you and for someone else.

Life…Filtered

Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Instagram…

All of these apps for our smartphones have become a way for folks to put aside the reality of life and almost put on an alternate reality in many cases…

Before you get mad, let me explain. It all has to do with filters.

Each of these has a way to alter reality and make it more appealing to our audience…we can change the lighting of a landscape, we can remove blemishes from our faces and add a dog face if we so desire.

What it comes down to is that we can take what we feel is ugly and turn it into something that we think people will be drawn to…something that they will talk about…but are we being real? Or simply just trying to mask the ugliness of life?

We tend to try and do this with sin as well…we see the ugliness in our lives and we try to cover it up by “filtering” it.  We try to cover it with a story of how it’s ok for us to do this or that because “God wants us to be happy,” or “God didn’t design us to be boring.” But the truth is, he does want us to be happy, but not by covering up the world and hiding who we really are.  In fact, the best filter that we can put on is Christ.

Jesus is like a permanent Snapchat beauty filter. He removes the blemishes from our lives, takes away the dark and the sin and leaves us beautiful before God.  He has smoothed out our wrinkles and made us look brand new because of his sacrifice.  Stop trying to find things to cover your sin and allow the blood of Christ to wash them away.

Live life unfiltered by the world so that the savior can work with the beauty that is the real you…allow him to be your filter….there is nothing more beautiful than when others can see Christ in you.