I was flipping through radio stations last week and came across Christmas music. Yeah, one whole week before Thanksgiving, even. Why not? Stores have had Christmas items for sale displayed since Labor Day. But it doesn’t feel like Christmas.
Does it take party invitations or Christmas cards arriving? Making lots of plans for gatherings with family to make it feel like Christmas? How about putting up the Christmas tree? Or hanging some lights on the house? Going around and looking at other homes that put up lights? Do these activities make it feel like Christmas?
What if “Christmas” wasn’t a feeling but an attitude?
a settled way of thinking about someone or something
So using the definition of “attitude,” I should have a settled way of thinking about Christmas. How does one do that? It starts with a healthy view of who Jesus Christ is. Yes, the baby that was born in a manger who we celebrate at Christmas. But that same child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. And he started his public ministry that wound up killing him. That baby one day hung on the cross and died for our sins.
Having the right attitude of who Jesus is, generates the right attitude about Jesus and Christmas. That means you can get excited about Christmas all year long because that is where God’s love began: He loved us so much that He gave us his only son. And ya know, I can “feel” God’s love; therefore, it can feel like Christmas!
Let us look only to Jesus. He is the one who began our faith, and he makes our faith perfect. Jesus suffered death on the cross. But he accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing. He did this because of the joy that God put before him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne. Heb. 12:2 (ICB)
My grandmother had a painting in the hallway of her house that captivated my attention on more than one occasion. I would stand there and study the details of it, thinking, “Boy! That day is going to be something.” It portrayed the rapture. The moment when Jesus came back to earth to call his bride home. The painting showed people ascending into heaven from cars, an airplane, fields, and houses. The plane crashed because the pilots were both Christians. Some of the vehicles crashed too. It was as if the earth went chaotic in a moment. (The photo displayed is similar to the one my grandmother had.)
Since Jesus ascended into heaven, men have been looking for and anticipating his return. After all, He said he would. The Bible contains at least 100 scriptures concerning his return. There have been many books written about it and even some movies made. Countless sermons have been preached, encouraging people to watch, and pray, but most of all, be ready! I remember a word given in our church when I was about eight years old. The man said that Jesus’ return was so close it was as if He was already standing up. I got excited and put my shoes back on!
Matthew 24:36 – “But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son. Only the Father knows.” (MSG)
1 Corinthians 15:52 – We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. (MSG)
Matthew 25:13 – “So stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive.” (MSG)
Matthew 24:37-44 – “The Arrival of the Son of Man will take place in times like Noah’s. Before the great flood everyone was carrying on as usual, having a good time right up to the day Noah boarded the ark. They knew nothing—until the flood hit and swept everything away.
“The Son of Man’s Arrival will be like that: Two men will be working in the field—one will be taken, one left behind; two women will be grinding at the mill—one will be taken, one left behind. So stay awake, alert. You have no idea what day your Master will show up. But you do know this: You know that if the homeowner had known what time of night the burglar would arrive, he would have been there with his dogs to prevent the break-in. Be vigilant just like that. You have no idea when the Son of Man is going to show up. (MSG)
I look around and definitely see individuals preoccupied with life. They are more concerned with current politics with striving to be successful or famous. Trying so hard to earn more money or where their next meal may come from. They might even be more concerned with their relationship status. Satan loves this. He wants us to forget that Jesus Christ is coming back for us. He wants anything for us other than to be ready. It takes focus on our part. It takes keeping God first in our minds, hearts, and life.
In the days of Noah, very few believed that it would rain one day. It had never rained before, so why should they? Today, there are probably very few that believe Jesus will return for believers, for He has never returned previously, but we have been told that He is going to. We have a choice to either believe it and live accordingly or not.
I pray that you choose to believe me and, more importantly, believe God’s word and live your life ready to be caught up in the air with Jesus. If you don’t, you will definitely know the truth when the rapture occurs. There will be mass destruction and confusion everywhere around you. People will disappear right before your eyes. I, for one, have no desire to be here when that happens. I mark myself as “Ready!”
I’m not God. That’s for sure! For He is Holy. For He is pure. I have moments where I imitate him, but not consistently because of sin.
I want to be, for He is love. His Spirit is gentle as a dove. He accepts everyone for who they are. I have expectations that hurt and leave scars.
I don’t like it when my attempts to be like him fail. It makes me feel as though I want to die and deserve hell. Is that what God meant when He said, “You eat this fruit, you will die.”? Satan certainly didn’t want us to believe that and said, “it’s a lie.”
I’m grateful for second, third, fourth, and more chances to get it right. It’s a daily challenge, a yearly struggle, and a lifetime fight. There is grace for the times I fall short of the Glory of God, It’s for everyone through Jesus. I know his grace is so odd.
We don’t deserve it, yet it is there for us to receive, if upon Jesus Christ and his forgiveness, we believe. I’ll keep trying with his help to be like him, for God is love. The world needs me to obtain, conquer sin, and rise above.
Football is a game of inches. The playing field may be 100 yards long, but an inch can make the difference in a win or a loss. A couple of weeks ago, the Chicago Bears played the Washington Commanders. Time was running out. This was going to be the last play of the game. Justin Fields threw the ball to Darnell Mooney, who was stopped just inches from the goal line, and thus instead of winning the game, the Bears lost. And in the year 2000, the Tennesse Titans lost the biggest game of any professional football season, The Superbowl, by 1 yard to the then St. Louis Rams. 12 little inches.
Many great writers have made parallelisms between life and the game of football. Today is my turn. (Not that I consider myself one of those great writers.) You may be at this moment in the game of your life. You are fighting to win, be victorious, to be an overcomer. You might be considered the underdog, and if you read my blog post a couple of weeks ago, you know how I feel about underdogs. People may even be betting against you while telling you you’re going to make it. What God has called you to do may look like it will never happen. You may be thinking the game is over.
You might find yourself with time about to run out, but in your heart, you know there is still just enough time to reach the goal. Your enemy may be taunting. Telling you, “Stay down! It’s over!” And in the flesh, it may look true, but the truth is this; the game isn’t over, and you have a secret weapon. You have on your team the power of almighty God. Remember, you are not in the game of life alone. Jesus is right there and knows exactly what you are going through because he was in the game and won. He overcame even death, death on a cross.
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. Heb. 13:5b (NIV)
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Phi. 2:8 (NIV)
So stay on the field. Stay in the game. You don’t have a backup player to come into the game and do what God has called you to do! You are anointed for the task at hand. You got this! You can do it. Look at where you are on the field. It’s 1st and goal.
$100.00 to the first 50 people that “like” and “comment” on this post to show my appreciation to my readers!*
Do I have your attention? Did you think, even for a moment, this could be an easy way to get $100? Scams are everywhere lately. Most of the ones I get come as text messages requiring me to click on a link and render my payment method to fix my account. I got one this past week that said my October payment for a subscription couldn’t be processed. My heart leaped for a moment, and I almost clicked on the link.
Many scams are written with fear built-in or hope to hit it rich without working hard for it. They remind me of how satan talks to us. He will tell us perhaps a half-truth but not the whole truth. He will dangle something we desperately want in front of us and make it seem so easy to obtain. Like he said to Eve in the Garden of Eden, Then he lied to her by saying, “You will not surely die.” (Gen. 3:4) He even tried to tempt Jesus.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. Mat. 4:1-11 (NIV)
The devil tried three separate times and ways to get Jesus to stumble. Some say he tempted him in the big three: the pride of life, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes. It’s important to note how Jesus overcame satan;
Jesus knew the word of God.
Jesus did not respond with his knowledge and reasoning but quoted scripture. Doing so is so powerful!
Jesus resisted the devil, and he fled. (James 4:7)
Whether it’s a scam or the devil’s temptation, do not act out of fear or as a quick way to alleviate a desperate desire or need. Think about it, and check to see if it aligns with God’s word. That will require you to know what is written in the Bible, which will require you to read it. Remember this:
If it’s too good to be true, it usually is!
The tester wants you to pass. The tempter wants you to fail!
You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44 (MEV)
*(This was only an example of this post meant to get your attention, and no money will actually be paid out. Sorry, but I do appreciate everyone who reads this post.)
I knew how life was supposed to be lived, but I struggled every day to meet that challenge. I failed to finish high school, failed at being a husband, and now, as a father. So I found myself, despite the weather, on the side of an off-ramp, begging for money.
I understood it was hard for passers-by to give. They didn’t know my story. I looked normal; therefore, they wondered why I didn’t have a job instead of sitting there. As if I liked doing it. They probably thought I was just lazy and didn’t know about the mental illness I struggled with, which made it difficult to concentrate. Employers expect so much, and I found it hard to remember what I should be doing—I needed help!
One bright and sunny Sunday morning, a couple waiting for a green light gave me a $10 bill. I remember thinking, “Oh wow, they’re generous.” The following Sunday, they did the same thing. Now they had my attention. Whether they knew or understood me, they reached out to help me. They gave me the ten dollars the third week and asked, “Hey, we’re on our way to church. Would you like to go with us? They have free snacks, good music, and you’ll hear a positive message from the word of God.” I replied, “Church people don’t want me in their building.” They quickly came back with, “Our church accepts everyone.” I thought, Why not? I could at least get some food and use the bathroom.
The people at this church were friendly, and they actually shook my hand. I used the bathroom, grabbed some snacks, and my hosts got some for me, also. We found our seats, and the service started. The music was loud, upbeat, and positive. I didn’t know the words, but I liked it. Then they took up the offering. But this church was different and announced that if you needed help, feel free to take any cash out of the bucket when it came by. I couldn’t believe what I had heard.
Then they showed a video of the senior pastor. He preached a message about love, God’s love, and how it was for anyone, even people like me. For the first time in my life, I felt hope. I responded to the pastor’s invitation to accept this loving God into my life. There were tears, but they were cleansing. After the service, my hosts had me meet the local branch pastor. I told him what I did, and he hugged me and welcomed me to the family of God. Then he paused, looked at me, and said the church had developed a new program to help people in my situation.
Now I have a job, working for the church, working for people that understand me and my struggles. I contacted my ex-wife, and she is happy for me. She is even considering allowing me to see my kids. I still see the couple who used to give me $10 but giving me the opportunity to hear a message from God was worth so much more than the money.
The above story flashed through my mind while sitting in church last Sunday. April and I had just given a man sitting on the side of an off-ramp $10. I suggested inviting him to church, and April wisely said, “Build up a relationship with him for a couple of weeks.” I’ve been praying for him and looking forward to the coming weeks. Who knows what can happen by meeting someone’s physical needs first? After doing so, they might be open to an invitation to come and hear about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. There are many ways to build the kingdom of God.
But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? Romans 10:14 (MSG)
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. John 3:16-18 (MSG)
I don’t usually open with scriptures, but I need to today to set the stage. I love this true story from the Bible. It speaks of love in action and adequately uses of “words of knowledge.”
John 8:1-11Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
One could write about a lot from this passage, but I want to focus on one part. Most theologians, of which I do not consider myself to be one, honestly I had to look up how to spell it, agree that when Jesus bent down and wrote in the dust, he was writing the sins of the woman’s accusers.
So one might ask, “How did Jesus know their sins?” Yes, Jesus was the son of God, but he was the son of man when he walked the earth. Here is the answer; Jesus was filled with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
16-17 The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the skies opened up and he saw God’s Spirit—it looked like a dove—descending and landing on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.” Mat. 3:16-17 (MSG)
The Holy Spirit filled Jesus the moment the dove landed on him. With the infilling comes power, as Jesus foretold his disciples before he ascended into heaven. Part of that power is knowing things about people. Sometimes, something they don’t want you to know. This is called; “word of knowledge.” This gift of the Spirit is sometimes needed to lead you on how to pray for someone, to get someone’s attention, so they will hear what comes after the supernatural event. One should not focus or get hung up on the gift when it is demonstrated but instead focus on what God wants to do.
I once got word of knowledge concerning a man and a woman in our church who weren’t married to each other. The Holy Spirit whispered, “affair.” After the initial shock, and I didn’t tell anyone in the church, which would have hurt them tremendously, but I prayed for them. A few weeks later, the woman’s husband was offered a job out of state, and they moved. God wanted me to pray, potentially preventing their desires from overtaking them. Am I special? Am I a saint? Am I a super Christian? No! The Holy Spirit chooses who to give this gift to, when, and where. (see 1 Cor. 12:11 but not now. After you finish this post.)
It is humbling to know things, to be used of God. So take it seriously, and be responsible with what you know. Jesus used his knowledge of the woman’s accusers to demonstrate forgiveness and love. Do you think the woman went away unchanged? No. She left forever changed, and no doubt shared her story with everyone. Be filled with the Spirit of God, and be open to being used by God to help change lives for eternity.
Yes, the title of this blog post is a very famous line from the popular M. Night Shyamalan movie, “The Sixth Sense.” If you have seen the movie but didn’t see the twist coming at the end, like I didn’t, then you, too, were shocked to find out the truth.
I go through life doing my best to take care of it. In the process of doing so, I encounter a lot of people. They all have different stories they can tell. They come from different walks of life and make different decisions, yet I see them.
No matter how someone lives their life, there is only one decision to be made when they come to the end. Where will they spend eternity?
Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences. Heb. 9:27 (MSG)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Rom. 3:23 (NKJV)
The answer to that question is straightforward. If one has accepted Jesus Christ, then his actions on the cross, dying for our sins, cover any and all sins; therefore, the recently deceased will live forever in heaven.
If the recently deceased have not accepted Jesus into their life and have asked for forgiveness, then they will die forever in hell as payment for their own sins.
With this being the case, as I am living life, conducting life, if I encounter a person who doesn’t know Jesus, then I, in fact, see dead people. This is why we who have seen the light and have the hope of the gospel need to look for any and all opportunities to share the truth of Jesus with them. They deserve to know there is a better way to live. They should have the chance to live life and to live it abundantly.
16-17 It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else! God’s way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: “The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives.”
Ignoring God Leads to a Downward Spiral
18-23 But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand. Rom. 1:16-23 (MSG)
I have moved at least thirty-five times in my life. No, my father wasn’t in the military either. Thirty-one of those relocations took place after I was eighteen. No, I wasn’t in the military. Changing circumstances in life prompted most of the moves. So, needless to say, I know how to pack. And I am extremely good at it. Quick and organized. (I’m not soliciting for a job to help someone move!) I have lived in five different states. I think one of them was the state of “Confusion!”
Here is one of my secrets to packing: place the items you will need first in your new location into boxes with fluorescent duct tape on all four top right corners of the box. This would include towels, bathroom items, sheets, and electronics like the alarm clock. Once the truck is unloaded, set up the bed first and make it. Then when you are tired and ready to sleep, you can shower and go to bed because it is prepared for you. Those bright tape boxes are easy to find. That info is free. No need to send me any money for that professional moving advice!
I have been known to pack and unpack all my boxes in only 24 hours. One fundamental way to make that happen is to live light. No collectibles to speak of and only a few sentimental items, and the rest is pretty much only the things I need to get by in life. Things don’t weigh me down.
One can make an easy comparison between moving and living life. I have seen people so weighed down by issues, hurts, and disappointments in life that they are almost entirely paralyzed. They struggle to move through an entire day. Jesus didn’t want to see people like this, so He invites us to give the things in life that can be difficult to carry ourselves and to give them to him.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me, and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Mat. 11:28-30 (MSG)
This isn’t simply a well-known verse but an invitation to allow Jesus to take what burdens us, and when we do seriously give them to him, then forget about them. I know it can be challenging because the pain is cut deep, and letting it go seems impossible, but Jesus offers to carry it for us because He doesn’t want to see us suffer. He knows what they did or said wasn’t right, fair, or just, but He still says, “Give it to me.” So take him up on his offer. Stop packing your pain in boxes and moving them from place to place. You will feel better and live life lighter with less of a load.
My father taught me the love of playing pinball as a young teenager. He was good. When my parents added other fun items to the “game room,” located at the back of our house, they bought a pinball machine. The rule was that my homework had to be done first before I could play, which became a great motivator to finish up fast!
If you have ever played one, you will recall the dings and buzzers, the fast action, the heavy steel ball that, at times, could move lightning fast, and of course, the flippers. Those two rubber paddles at the very bottom could keep the ball moving unless, of course, it managed to just slide between both paddles. That’s when your game was over unless you had more balls left.
Sometimes, shaking the pinball machine in a certain motion would help you get the steel ball to go where you wanted it to. But if one shook too hard, the game would end, and you would see “TILT” lit up.
Life can be likened to that steel ball in a pinball machine. It can move fast and bounce from one side to the other while noisy sounds are being made around you, and yes, it can even get stuck sometimes. You try so hard to keep things going as with those flippers but inevitably, life will end by losing control or with a full tilt!
While playing pinball, there can be times when people are standing on the sides of the machine rooting you on, or worse, perhaps yelling out instructions on how to play the game. It helps to go through life with friends and family members that love you, care about you, and only want the best for you. They are like those paddles that help you keep things going. This past week I saw one of my friends whom I have not seen in three and half years. Our visit was short but pleasant.
We always talk about life, people in our lives, people he wants in his life (a wife), and of course, God. We encourage each other to continue to follow God and, more importantly, allow Him to continue to do a good work in each of us. Neither of us wants to see the other lose at the game of life or end up tilted. Jesus is a great friend as well. Not only is He always there, He has no hidden agendas, and only tells you what you need to hear that will draw you closer to the Trinity of God.
Thank you, God, for good friends, and for your Son, Jesus. They are indeed a blessing from you.
There are companions who harm one another, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Pro. 18:24 (NET)