Halloween: A Curse for the Nyctophobic

afraid-of-the-dark-copy21Some people love the night and its darkness, and there are others who are petrified of the dark. If you have a strong aversion to the night, you might have nyctophobia—the fear of night or darkness.

When you consider the biblical contrast between light and darkness, you can see that it might make good sense to be nyctophobic spiritually–to hate the darkness:

• Jesus said some people love the darkness than the light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19-21).
• In John 8:12, you can find one of the “I Am” statements of Jesus: I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.
• In Romans 13:11-13, Paul said we need to be aware of the time and be ready to discard the deeds of darkness.
• When he wrote to the church at Ephesus, Paul encouraged them to “Walk as children of the light (Ephesians 5:7-9, 11).”
• In a time of horrible persecution, Peter reminded believers that God has “called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (I Peter 2:9-10).”
• According to John, loving the light and shunning the darkness is the key to walking with God: “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (I John 1:4-6).”

The opposite of nyctophobia is photophobia—a symptom of intolerance to the visual perception of light. Are you more tolerant spiritually to the dark or to the light? Because they are polar opposites, light and darkness cannot coexist.

Jesus discussed the issue of light and darkness with his disciples: “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).”

I encourage you to be the light in this world of darkness.

Who’s Your Daddy?

ar131489176261418“Liar, liar, pants on fire” is a childhood chant that challenges the integrity of a story-telling individual. Some people are so prone to lying, they can be labeled as a mythomane: A person who has a strong or irrestibile propensity for exaggerating. pinocchio

The fictional character most often associated with telling a lie is Pinocchio, and Charles Ponzie is a good example of bad business practices. His deceitful methods gave birth to the phrase “Ponzie Scheme.”

Lying and deceit was a problem long before Charles Ponzie and Pinnocchio. Jesus addressed the issue in John 8:44: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”

The words of Jesus in which He just identified Satan as the father of the lie is a strong contrast to God the Father and Paul’s description of Him as the One who “cannot lie (Titus 1:2).” Lying is inconsistent to any discussion of God because it would be a corruption of His holy nature.

Lying and deceitfulness are questions of integrity. Because your life is scrutinized by others who are watching for inconsistencies, honesty is the best policy.

When you examine your life, does truth reign or are you a mythomane? This may be a clue to the question: “Who’s your daddy?”

Advice: Is It a Trick or a Treat?

adviceLike many of you, the internet has become my go-to-source for information. My most recent search for an answer involved this question: How much money will Americans spend on Halloween?

The answer was a surprise to me. It’s the number 7 followed by 9 zeroes. That’s right, $7,000,000,000. Evidently tricking and treating is the serious business of tricking the American public into treating retailers to the tune of $7 billion.

Dumbfounded that people can be found so dumb, I searched a little more, and I discovered that the National Retail Federation released an interesting survey that studied how consumers seek advice before they make a purchase. The top four items on the survey are revealing. Before making the decision to purchase an item, respondents used the following methods:

• 75.5% would seek Face to Face advice
• 30.8% would Read Product Reviews
• 25.9% would use Email as a resource
• 22.6% would send Text Messaging to get information

As I thought about the findings above, it occurred to me that many people use the same methodology before they decide to follow Jesus. The Face to Face method is one that John thought was important, and his Gospel lists several life-changing face to face encounters:

 Jesus and Nicodemus (John 3:1-21)
 Jesus and the Woman at the Well (John 4:1-42)
 Jesus and the Man born Blind (John 9:1-41)

Paul and Silas were adept at giving product reviews: “On arrival, they went into the synagogue of the Jews, and the people there were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Consequently, many of them believed (Acts 17:10-12).”

When people within your circle of influence seek advice concerning Christianity, is your life a convincing testimony of who Jesus is? After they investigate the claims of the Gospel based on their observation of you, are they willing to invest their lives?

Kind of a scary thought isn’t it?

A Rarity: 40 in 7.125 billion

incognitoSince his last name is unknown, I’ll call him Incognito—Thomas Incognito. Because he is one of the 40 people in a world of 7.125 billion to have a very rare blood type, he is an anonymous celebrity in the field of hematology and has been called the “man with the golden blood.”

The blood that flows through the veins of Thomas is classified as Rh null, and it’s extremely rare; compatible for anyone with a rare blood type; and it’s precious for those needing a transfusion. For some people, Thomas’ blood can be the difference between life and death.

Thomas Incognito may be the “man with the golden blood,” but as a human there is a limit to what he can do and to how many people he can help. There is only one other person who has lived that had blood rarer than the blood of Thomas. Jesus is His name, and His blood is the difference between life and death:

• Acts 4:12: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
• 1 Peter 1:18-19: “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
• 1 John 1:7 “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

While I’m thankful for people like Thomas Incognito—people who give of themselves to benefit the lives of others, I do not have the words to fully express my gratitude and praise to God for the eternal benefits of the life-changing power of Jesus Christ.

A fitting conclusion to my thoughts are two lines from an old hymn by William Cowper: “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins; And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.”

Bashful or Bold

umbrella-raven-maYou have probably benefited from the use of an umbrella at some time or another, so you know what one is and what purpose it serves. You may not, however, know much about the Umbrella Revolution that began on the streets of Hong Kong in September of this year.

The focus of the protest centers on the demands of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, who assert the rights of the public to nominate future candidates for city government posts. Protesters have shouted “mo hou hip,” or “don’t be timid” to encourage those among their ranks to stand their ground against police action and the tyranny of Beijing.

When I read this report, “mo hou hip” resonated with me, because “don’t be timid” is at the heart of what Paul said to Timothy: “God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment (2 Timothy 1:7).”

The young protesters in Hong Kong are taking a stand for a cause that is much bigger than they are. They see long-term ramifications in the anti-democracy actions of Beijing, so they have chosen to stand against the oppressive actions of the government.

Their “mo hou hip” mindset reminds me of another person who took a stand in spite of the odds. When David carried supplies to his brothers who were fighting the Philistines, he was dismayed when he heard Goliath blaspheme God and mock Israel’s army. David’s bold challenge to his brothers was, “Is there not a cause?”

Even though David spoke Hebrew and not Cantonese, his message to his fellow Israelis was the same. It was “mo hou hip.” It was “do not be timid.” It was “stand and fight.”

When you are forced to face the trials of life, remember that God has not given you a spirit of fearfulness. He has given you a spirit of power, love, and sound judgment. God’s message to you is “mo hou hip.”

A Call to Action

LEODue to recent events and what I perceive to be a heightened level of danger directed toward people who wear the uniform, I encourage you to pray for both our military personnel and Law Enforcement Officers (LEO).

Many faith communities will recognize and pray for the military on Sunday, November 9th to honor veterans in advance of Veteran’s Day (November 11th).

I ask you to join me and designate Sunday, November 16th as Pray 4 LEO Sunday. Feel free to copy the graphic on this page.

The theme verse I’ll use is I Timothy 2:1-4: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

Please pass this on to pastors you know, your church, and through your email and social media (Facebook, etc.).

“. . . that we my live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness . . .” and for the safety of those who protect us.

Baseball, Peanuts, and Superstitions

Take-Me-Out-to-the-Ball-Game-logo-FINAL-285x300During the Royals and Giants game on Wednesday night, I started eating roasted peanuts that were salted in the shell. When the 5th inning came to an end, I went to the cupboard, grabbed the peanuts, a soda, and returned to my chair. I popped the first peanut in my mouth and almost immediately the pop returned to the Royals’ bats.

If I was truly superstitious, I would eat from this same bag of peanuts for the remainder of the World Series. Baseball is a sport that is noted for its superstitions. Wade Boggs was one of the more superstitious players:

• He had to eat fried chicken before every game.
• On the nights he was in the lineup, he had to take batting practice at exactly 5:17.
• When he warmed up for a game, he would field 150 groundballs—not 149 or 151.
• Before he stepped into the batter’s box, he’d write CHAI (Hebrew for LIFE), in the dirt.

The superstitions of people have been a matter of discussion for thousands of years. Even the Apostle Paul addressed the issue with the philosophers on Mars Hill (Acts 17:22-24): “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious.”

The word “religious” is a Greek word (deisidaimonesteros) that means superstitious. The problem with the “men of Athens” was not that they worshipped too little, but they worshipped too much. These people had an altar for every god they could think of, and they even had one to “The Unknown God.”

In Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, he said the conundrum is not that God cannot be known, but that people choose to not acknowledge Him:

“God’s anger is revealed from heaven against every ungodly and immoral thing people do as they try to suppress the truth by their immoral living. What can be known about God is clear to them because he has made it clear to them. From the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly observed in what he made. As a result, people have no excuse. They knew God but did not praise and thank him for being God. Instead, their thoughts were pointless, and their misguided minds were plunged into darkness. While claiming to be wise, they became fools. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for statues that looked like mortal humans, birds, animals, and snakes (Romans 1:18-22).”

How do you acknowledge God in your life?

Essential Communication

scrabbleI would imagine that most everyone who reads this blog has a cell phone. Not so long ago, the cell phone was thought of as a convenience, but it’s now considered to be an essential device for daily communication.

In a sense, the same can be said for prayer. Some people think of it as a convenience, while others recognize its true importance. It is the essential means through which we communicate with God.

The importance of prayer is seen in the words of Philip Yancey: “If prayer stands as the place where God and human beings meet, then I must learn about prayer. Most of my struggles in the Christian life circle around the same two themes: why God doesn’t act the way we want God to, and why I don’t act the way God wants me to. Prayer is the precise point where those themes converge.”

Several years ago I began to use the word PRAY as an acronym to guide my quiet moments with God:

Praise: Sing praises to God, sing praises; Sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is King of all the earth (Psalm 47:5-7)

Repent: Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way (Psalm 139:23-24).

Ask: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Yield: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

As Yancey said, “If prayer stands as the place where God and human beings meet then I must learn about prayer.” I hope this PRAY acronym will help you learn more about prayer, and help you spend more time using this essential means of communication.

A Life of Purpose

life-purposeA recent Gallup poll surveyed the happiness levels of Americans and has found that the levels are at a four-year high. Almost 60 percent of Americans say they feel happy, and they do not have a lot of stress or worry.

The Center for Disease Control looked at another aspect of life and found that about 40% of Americans haven’t discovered a satisfying life purpose, and almost 25% of Americans report they do not have a strong sense of what makes their lives meaningful.

The quest for happiness and the search for meaning have different results. Researchers agree that when a person engages in a single-minded quest for happiness he discovers a pot of dissatisfaction at the end of his rainbow.

This was the sad case of the prodigal son. Victor Frankl showed an understanding of this paradox when he said: “It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.”

Frankl’s understanding of meaning, life’s purpose, and happiness was formed under the harsh conditions of a Nazi concentration camp. Frankl wrote of his experience in the 1946 best seller Man’s Search for Meaning. He had come to the conclusion that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing—meaning. His fellow prisoners who had found meaning in the dire conditions of the death camp were much more resilient than those who had not.

Frankl’s conclusions have been supported by research that shows the value of having purpose and meaning in life:

• It increases overall well-being and life satisfaction
• It improves mental and physical health
• It enhances resiliency, and self-esteem, and it decreases the chances of depression.

The Journal of Positive Psychology reported on research by Jennifer Aaker of Stanford Graduate School of Business. Aaker and her colleagues, found that “Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker.”

The Apostle Paul knew a little something about givers and takers: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

How about you? Are you a giver or a taker? When you find the answer to this question, you may find your purpose in life.

9 in 1

9in1175x175Gal. 5:22-23 says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

When you read the verse above, did it register as plural or singular? When you read the phrase “fruit of the Spirit, did you think of more than one when you read the list that followed?

The Greek word for “fruit” is “karpos,” and it is in the singular. Even though there is a list of 9 graces, they are a unit of 1; and, they are already yours through the presence of the Spirit of God.

According to 1 John 4:8 and John 14:23, God is love, and His love is present within His children. With this in mind, think of this analogy: Love is the tree and these 9 graces are the fruit that it produces.

This may be what Paul had in mind when he said:

“It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” The fruit of the Spirit is the result of God’s divine power at work in you, and the words of Peter support my statement: “May grace and peace be yours in abundance through full knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord! His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the full knowledge of the one who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has given us His precious and wonderful promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, seeing that you have escaped the corruption that is in the world caused by evil desires (2 Peter 1:2-4).”

When you put the words of Peter under a microscope, you can see:

• God’s grace and peace is available to you—in abundance!
• Everything you need for life and godliness is already at work in you and is accomplished not by your strength but by His divine power.
• God does not make mistakes, and He has called you by His own glory and excellence.
• God has given you the gift of His precious and wonderful promises—claim them!

9 in 1: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; these are the fruit of the Spirit. Is this fruit seen in you?