Friday, December 14, 2012

There is Hope – His Name is Jesus

When the headlines break – when they sicken, anger, or frighten us – you can be sure of two things.

1) You are not alone in that you have an entire nation of people experiencing the same crisis in their own ways – finding out through an email, jolted by a newsfeed sent to their phone, shocked by a call from a friend or a nervous-sounding anchor interrupting with “breaking news.”

2) No matter what…there is hope.

Tragedy that affects the innocent is a deeply saddening thing – always difficult to process or bear. When the innocent victims are children…the mind races, the spirit drops and prayer is fervently lifted. It shakes us to our core – as individuals and as a nation. The enemy knows where to hit us – most often where we think we’re not vulnerable. A small town. Places we trust. Our staples. Our children. Today, a little elementary school in Connecticut will join forever the ranks of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora Colorado’s Century 16 Movie theater and countless other places both in sorrow and infamy. 

We are too often reminded why our nation needs Jesus Christ! 

This is why the mission of our church—New Venture Christian Fellowship--and the other 350,000 churches across the United States have a significant and critical responsibility.  We are called to be Ambassadors of Hope to a hurting world.  And yes, there is an Answer! There is Hope – a real and tangible hope that we can grasp firmly. His name is Jesus. As much as He is the answer – He is also the “how” that equips us to get through these heartbreaks and empowers us to reach out to others. There is an urgency we too often forget. In this sad moment of remembering why the message of Christ is so desperately needed, we merely need to be prayerful, passionate and above all, fully committed in getting that message out a pained and sickened world.

Our Lord says

“…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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land”
(2nd Chronicles 7:12-14).

Praying for Hope, while knowing we have it…

Praying for Healing, our nation needs it...
Tell someone else today who needs to hear it from you.

Let’s get busy! 

Unwrap Your Joy

What an amazing time of year it is!  As we’re running errands, planning get-togethers, cooking meals and wrapping gifts,  it is my hope that we don’t forget to take joy with us.

I heard a powerful statement the other day: “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?”  Within moments it was evident to me that God can use as little as 15 words to vault me into a more highly sensitized awareness of “I’m still breathin’ thinking”..  Not only do these words carry a poignant message of gratefulness and humility, they also come with a challenge that I hope we all as Christ followers are challenged to consider.

Just for today…designate a couple moments to reflect on what you’re grateful for.  Keep an ongoing “gratitude list” to remind yourself of both the calming and chaotic moments of life, that we’re really more blessed than we often consider.

Reflecting further on  these thoughts, my own gratitude list immediately grew. My top gratitude list items include…  

  • My great God, who daily affords me “Mercies which are new every morning” (Lam 3:22,23)
  • Jesus – who not only is the Lord of the universe… but the King over my life! Wow, simply… amazing!
  • My wife of 25 years and best friend - Laurie, and an amazing son that I’m so proud of and grateful for  - Shawn Jr. (see picture)
  • For one of the most loving and amazing groups of people you’ll find anywhere… the incredible family of New Venture Christian Fellowshi
  •  Having a place to call home, a bed to sleep in, food in the cupboard
  • Health (for me - that’s a miracle and a real big deal!)
  • Vehicles
  • And the list goes on…
But then I thought…if this was all I was grateful for, I’d be forgetting all the countless other blessings the Lord graciously gives to me… and they’re everywhere! James 1:17 says: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father… Although our circumstances may change from time to time, our joy doesn’t have to.  During these busy moments (be it at Christmas time, or just everyday living), take time out for God. And start counting -  your blessings. 

A wise person once said that the quickest way to realize you’re rich is to count our blessings. Thinking about that – I’m feeing like God’s answer to Donald Trump or Bill Gates about now!   The Bible says that “the JOY of the Lord is our strength” (Neh. 8:10). Begin with how you’ve been blessed and you’ll get there a lot quicker. Are you ready? Let’s start counting… “Two eyes to see, two hands to write, one mind to believe, one heart to love and one life to live out His message”. Feeling better? Don’t stop now – there’s a long list left to go.

May your joy light the world this season and always!