Encouragement, Leadership, Small Groups

It Has Been An Interesting Year

It has been an interesting year with earthquakes, floods, early snow storms and extended power outages.  We have seen very little recovery in the USA economic situation and the same in most other nations of the world.  As the Berlin wall fell, we are seeing Middle Eastern long-term leaders fall and witnessing an unprecedented prophetic call to the Muslim world for salvation.  Twice the Lord’s return was predicted and twice faithful followers of this false prophet were left wondering, losing confidence in their leader.  We have weathered the “no hell” storm and the “universal salvation” debate.  It’s been a wild and unpredictable year.

But, you know what?  Jesus is still Lord and we are still saved, that we know for sure.  Perhaps you have weathered storms of your own.  Jesus is still Lord and you are still saved.  In fact, as you persevered, your faith was strengthened and your resolve was one of spiritual tenacity.  As you now look back over 2011, it is time to evaluate.  Where did you see direct answers to prayer?  What testimony do you carry in your heart due to God’s faithfulness?  Where did you struggle?  What seemed impossible to you at the time and how has God worked in you through this “impossibility?”  As you take a critical look backwards, what life lessons have you learned?  Can you now see why you had to go through certain challenging situations?  Do you realize a present benefit of perseverance and patience?  What scriptures carried you through the year?  What words spoken by God’s messengers became life-giving seeds of hope?  Hold these in your heart as you press forward.

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.  (Matthew 24: 13, 14)

Children, Encouragement

Christmas Reflections at O’Hare

“It’s an icy winter night, and O’Hare International Airport is in bedlam.  All flights are canceled.  Visibility is poor to fog, frost and freezing rain.  Thousands of people are clustered at the ticket counters; some clamoring for redress, others wrapped in stoic silence.  Children are crying, the PA system is blaring, and the defeated are bellying up to the bar.  I’m in mild turmoil.  How can the Good News be proclaimed in Dallas if the weather won’t shape up in Chicago?

Across the aisle sits a middle-aged black woman cradling a child.  It’s more than a serene smile playing at the corners of her mouth.  She’s laughing.  She’s actually laughing?  Intrigued I cross the aisle and find myself staring at the woman.  She looks up.  “Ma’am, you’re the only person in this place who seems to be together.  Would you mind telling me why you’re so happy?”  “Sho,” she said.  “Christmas is coming and dat Jesus – He makes me laugh!”  (From: Souvenirs of Solitude by Brennan Manning)

Dat Jesus – He makes me laugh.  What a great phrase.  We need to see beyond all the disappointing news from around the world; news that lends itself more to fear than to laughter.  Can we actually be not so serious and more child-like in this season so that we might find laughter?  Let’s rejoice and laugh over “glad tidings of great joy.”  Christmas is coming…allow God’s laughter given to us through His Son to fill you with comfort and joy.

Children, Encouragement

The Best MultipurposeToy Ever

Did you know there is a National Toy Hall of fame in Rochester, NY?  I didn’t.  Every year a new member is inducted into this toy hall of fame.  In 2005, the cardboard box was inducted.  What kid doesn’t love to play in a cardboard box?  But, one of my favorites was the toy that was inducted in 2008 – a plain old stick.  The stick was picked because of its “all-purpose, no-cost, recreational qualities.”  It is portable and versatile and “fosters learning creativity through play and imagination.”  It’s the perfect price; it’s all-natural; there are no rules or complicated instructions for use.  It can be a horse, a gun, a sword, a slingshot, a fishing rod or a snowman’s arms.

Many years ago when my two sons were very young, daily they brought home sticks.  With the many toy options they had, sticks were one of their favorites.  Most times, while playing outside, they each had a stick in hand.  All around the world I have observed children playing with this universal toy.  A single stick and a little boy or girls imagination can provide hours of incredible fun.  From my own childhood, I remember playing ice hockey with a stick and a smashed can for a puck.

I do not suspect your children want you to wrap up a stick for Christmas.  I could only imagine the disappointment on their faces.  There is, however, one Gift (the Creator of those sticks) that is greater than any other, our Heavenly Father’s Gift of gifts – His Son, Jesus.  It’s what Christmas is all about.

Encouragement, Small Groups


I love God’s word and the many principles we can derive from it.  I could not live life without this book, the Bible.  It is an amazing, wonderful, up to date and, as well, revealing the future kind of book.  There is no other earthly volume like it.  To have the privilege and freedom to take time with this book on a daily basis is so life-giving and life-altering.  Such was the case from a passage I read recently.  It was actually, of all things, Levitical guidelines that were so striking to me and answered a long-term question concerning enabling the poor among us.

God told Israel that when they were harvesting a field and they “overlook a sheaf,” they were not to go back to harvest it.  When they beat the olives from their trees, they were told to not go back over the tree a second time.  They were to do the same with the grape harvest. Why?  God said to, “…leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow.”  (Deuteronomy 24: 19-22)  Again, why?  Was it a welfare program?  Weren’t they enabling the poor and needy to continue to be poor and needy?  Actually, quite the opposite was true.  It was done as a reminder that they were once slaves in Egypt.

Why help the immigrant, the fatherless or the widow in your community?  Don’t some of them choose not to work?  God desires to remind us that we were once a “slave” to foreign beliefs and systems.  We once walked in darkness, were also poor and needy (at least spiritually) and resided as foreigners outside God’s kingdom.  As the Lord calls us to serve someone or give money to help them, remember this verse so that we are reminded of where we came from.

Encouragement, Leadership, Singles, Small Groups

True Success

Some years ago I wrote the words “True success” in my Bible beside Jeremiah 9: 23 & 24 which reads, “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight, declares the Lord.”  Does God give us wisdom, strength and riches?  Yes He does, but He does not delight in them and neither does He desires us to boast in them.  What then does our heavenly Father “delight” in?

He delights in the one who knows and understands Him.  He delights in the one who knows that their Father is the One who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth today.  Success is not found in a higher degree of education, in business or profession, in money, in the number of Facebook friends we have amassed or in how we perceive others perceive us.  Success is knowing and obeying God.  Mother Teresa once commented to the American press that she was never trying to be successful by this worlds standards, only obedient to her Savior’s call.  Powerful words from someone who impacted thousands; someone who was truly “successful.”