The Advantage

advantageFor a brief period of my professional life I was involved in sales. As part of my training, the company sent me to a week-long school to introduce me to the finer points of salesmanship.

Throughout the training, one phrase was emphasized time and time again: The advantage to you is . . . After making that statement to the prospective client, I would finish the sentence by highlighting the distinguishing characteristics of the product I was selling.

From a Christian perspective, you can complete the phrase several ways. The advantage to you is that by becoming a Christian, you can:
• Know Jesus as your Savior
• Be assured of a home in Heaven
• Find comfort in His Word
• Depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance
• Be reassured and find strength through prayer
• Have hope even in times of sorrow

Most viewpoints have both a positive and negative side to the argument. The real “advantage” can be understood sometimes by also considering the negative side: How would my life be different if I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus?

What are the positives and negatives of your life, and what are the advantages you’ve discovered?

The Day After the Elections

how-do-i-vote-everything-you-need-to-know-by-state-73091Americans across the United States turned out yesterday in record numbers to vote for the candidate of their choice. There has been vigorous debate over opinion, platforms, and positions, and hopes and dreams for the future were the deciding factors in the polling booths.

I did my civic duty and voted for the individuals who I thought were the best qualified; however, as I voted I did so with the knowledge that the political process has its limitations. The answer to the problems we face as Americans is not found in a political party.

Regardless of whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or an Independent, your party affiliation is powerless to exact the change that is needed. This change will only occur when people begin to thirst for the presence of God.

Please read the verses below, and then read them again and repeat them aloud to God as a prayer for our nation:
• 2 Chronicles 7:14: If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
• Proverbs 14:34: Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.
• Psalm 85:6: Will You not revive us again so that Your people may rejoice in You?

Before we can change as a nation, we must first change as individuals. Ask God to change you, so you can be the change America needs.

Opportunity is a Port of Unity

opportunity tagsIt’s a verse that I think is intriguing, but not because it is full of mystery; not because it is difficult to understand; but, because it is so rich in meaning: “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).”

I saw something for the first time the last time I read this verse. It is the word “opportunity.” If you section the word, you can see it: OP-Port-Unity—Our Peace: Port of Unity

This is the opportunity that Paul spoke of when he wrote to the Ephesians and said: “Jesus is Our Peace (OP).” He was discussing the law and grace with Jews and Gentiles, and he said the peace of Jesus is the Port of Unity:

“But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In His flesh, He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace (Ephesians 2:13-15).”

Two chapters later, Paul emphasizes the importance of the peace we have in Jesus:

“I urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us (Ephesians 2:2-4).”

Look at the Op-Port-Unity principles in Colossians 3:12-17:

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”.

Instead of looking for what is wrong, use this week as a time of opportunity to focus on Jesus as Our Peace (OP) and to become a Port of Unity.

Can You Spare 8 Seconds?

fishbowl_goldfishHow focused is your focus? This might seem like a strange question, but it’s one that calls attention to a survey that considers a person’s attention span. Studies have found that the attention span of individuals has decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to a mere 8 seconds in 2013.

Are you still focused? It has probably take you 8 to 10 seconds to read what I’ve written so far, so I want to make sure I have your attention before I hit you with this next finding: The attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds. That’s right, a goldfish has a longer attention span than most people.

There seems to be a correlation between the proliferation of external stimuli and the deterioration of an individual’s attention span. Cell phones, iPads, iPhones, big screen TVs and video games play a large in role in small spans of attention.

To make sure the Ephesians were giving appropriate consideration to his admonition, Paul encouraged them to: “Pay careful attention to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise— making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is (5:15-17).”

Can you stay focused for another 8 seconds and “pay careful attention” to 8 characteristics of a worthy walk (Romans 12:9-16)?
• Love without hypocrisy
• Abhor evil
• Cling to good
• Be kind
• Be fervent in spirit
• Rejoice in hope
• Be steadfast in prayer
• Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

If you live your life within the confines of a fishbowl, 9 seconds might be a healthy attention span. I suggest, however, that each of the 8 items above is worthy of more than just a goldfish’s concentration of 8 seconds. How about 10 seconds? Can you focus on each of them for 10 seconds a piece and consider their role in living the life defined as a “worthy walk?”

Give it a try—you’re better than a goldfish!

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?”

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.”

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.