Time for Reconciliation

There has always been division in humanity. Ever since Cain and Abel we have seen jealousy, fear, envy, distrust and misunderstanding. People have always had prejudices, which means pre-judge or to form an opinion that is not based on fact. Sometimes it is an unconscious bias against a person, race, or gender. It does not help that the media loves to stereotype people and people groups. None of this is new. In Galatians 3:28 is says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Even two thousand years ago people were labeled by race, gender and class.

When I was ten, we moved from Mexico to New Jersey. As a third culture kid and new to a small community, I stood out like a sore thumb. I tried my best to fit in, but the US culture was foreign to me. I had a number of misunderstandings with other kids, mostly because I really did not know any better. Somehow, one of the boys I had made an enemy of was the playground bully. He was also a third culture kid as he was originally from Puerto Rico. He called me out to a fight one day after class. I had no interest in fighting him and had no idea why he wanted to beat me up. I was much more interested in being his friend since I understood him more than the kids who had only lived in one place all of their lives.

As I walked home that day, a group of kids had gathered to watch the beat down. I had made up my mind to talk some sense into Nelson. When I approached him, I asked him why he was mad at me. He said I had called his mother a name. Besides not knowing what the name was, I denied ever saying anything about him or his mother. Apparently someone just wanted me to get beat up. Unfortunately, since a crowd had gathered, Nelson needed to do something to keep his reputation intact, even though he believed me. Choosing not to get a black eye, I decided to duck and run. Nelson landed a blow on my back as the crowd cheered and heckled me as I ran away.

The next day I approached Nelson to let him know that I had not said anything derogatory against his mother. It was not who I was. We talked for a bit and eventually reconciled our differences. We became really good friends for the next couple of years while I lived in the community. If I had not sought to reconcile with Nelson, I would have missed out on a friendship. While God does call us to reconcile with each other (Matthew 5:23-24), His ultimate desire is for us to be reconciled is with Himself. We are called to be ministers of reconciliation, where we are helping others be reconciled with Jesus. We are to help others know Jesus as their Lord and Savior so they can also be sons and daughters of God.

 Action for the day

Is there anyone you have an issue with? Anyone who has wronged your or you have wronged? Today, make the decision to reconcile with them. Raise the white flag of peace and go make it right with the other person. Maybe it is a family member or old friend. Maybe it is a co-worker or a child. Whoever it is, put on the mind of Christ, set aside any pride and make amends.

Prayer for the day

Jesus, thank you for loving us and reconciling with me. Thank you that you did not leave me as a sinner and an orphan. But I am now Your child and a royal priest. Father, I ask you to help me reconcile with those who I have wronged. Give me the courage to say I am sorry and let this bring You glory. Let this be the first step in our reconciliation, but also reconciliation with You. It is in your powerful name, Jesus, that I ask these things. Amen.

Advertisements

A Relevant Word

The idea of witnessing is often an intimidating notion to many Christians. Lacking the spiritual gift of evangelism makes it even more daunting to many, adding to feelings of failure in this area of witnessing to unbelievers. The truth is, so much of evangelism is written from the standpoint of those who are naturally gifted, and thus who are quite at ease of introducing the gospel. Having said this, evangelism can often come across as a contrived plan for those who are not so naturally gifted, leaving one feeling pretty awkward.

One of the keys to evangelism that Les has found is finding ways to introduce the relevancy of the gospel and what real Christianity is about. He connects the gospel with a subject that he is interested in and relates it to his daily life. One of the areas he is passionate about is finances and the economy.

As Les meets people, the conversations often flows in a number of directions, most notably what’s going on in politics and how our everyday life is being impacted. This usually leads to a discussion about finances and the state of our economy. Because of Les’ interest, he has seen doors open up to talk about morality, integrity, the state of our family in today’s society. Without a moral compass, standard and foundation, we will drift as a people and a nation. It’s also easy to see how crazy our world is getting with global debt and outright conspicuous consumption spiraling out of control.

Most people intuitively know that there is something desperately wrong with our society and our world; at least those who are not blindly and wantonly rushing forward without a sense of conscience. They are looking for real answers and solutions in a world that is becoming more unstable and unsafe. Thank God for a gospel which offers peace that the world cannot give.

What’s your area of passion/interest? Marriage? Family and Child Raising? Business? Politics? Education? Each of these spheres represent an arena into which the gospel can enter and to bring transformation. We desperately need evangelism in every one of these aspects of society. It is about bringing the gospel into every area of society. God has uniquely made you and anointed you to be a light and salt in your sphere of influence. You are His ambassador. Today, be intentional to seek one person where you can start a conversation and share the gospel.

Action for the day

  1. Select one topic you love learning and talking about: Family, Church, Government, Education, Business & Technology, Media, Entertainment and the Arts.
  2. Spend a few minutes asking God how your passion for this topic can be used to open doors to share the gospel.
  3. Make a point to have at least one conversation today on the topic you selected. Watch how God opens the door to simply share God’s love with that person

 

Prayer for the day

Father, I ask you to take the things I am interested in and open a door to share Your love. May you give me time for a divine interruption to share the gospel with someone who does not know You. Bring to mind ways the conversation can relate to Your truth and Your love for the world. Holy Spirit, join me today as I look for that person I should share the gospel. I ask this in the powerful name of Jesus.  Amen.

Invest in a life

Cindy came from a Buddhist background and Confucius culture in East Asia until her second year at a graduate school in a Midwest college town.  There she first met Dr. Bill and Clarice. Dr. Bill was a retired school doctor for a large public university.  He found Jesus later in his life and felt commissioned to tell young people about Jesus so that, “they could start early”.

Cindy first met their daughter and her husband a week after her arrived in the U.S. She had a chance meeting at a local corn festival where they were distributing flyers for their church’s week-long revival meetings.  Cindy saw the word “church” on the flyer, and immediately told them, “thank you, but no thank you. I’m a Buddhist. I’m all set in my religion.”  Yet, they knew Cindy was new to the school, town, and country, had no transportation, no family, and probably would need some help at some point.  They gave Cindy their phone number and told her to call them any time if she needed any help.  Cindy left thinking she would never have anything to do with church or any of these overt Christians.

Dr. Bill and Clarice also hosted international students through the university’s international student’s office.  That night after they heard about their daughter’s encounter with Cindy at the fair, the family knelt down and ask God to send Cindy to their family so they could host her while in school.  Imagine Cindy’s surprise a couple of weeks later when she got a phone call from Dr. Bill asking her if she remember meeting a couple at the corn festival! Cindy had and they invited her over for a nice dinner.

Dr. Bill and his family had lived in Asia when he was in the Air Force. So they shared their travel stories and memories of that time. They also spoke about other topics and eventually the topic of faith came up. It was a pleasant conversation. At the end of the evening they invited Cindy over for dinner again and offered to take her grocery shopping each week since Cindy did not own a car.  Like many, Cindy had some negative encounters with Christians, but recognized Dr. Bill and Clarice were different. There was something special about them that continued to draw her to them.  While she wanted to be around them, her previous encounters had tainted her perspective. She suspected their hidden agenda to convert her to their cultish religion. She did not want to have anything to do with this thing called Christianity.

Yet, Cindy was touched by their hospitality and care, so she continued to engage with them. Her curiosity grew because she could see something different and that their faith played an important role in their life. Eventually, Cindy began attending church with Dr. Bill and Clarice. They gave me Cindy her first bilingual Bible, and three months later on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Cindy was baptized, died to her old self, and resurrected with a new life with Jesus.

Being the first Christian in a Buddhist family that had a deep ancestor and idol worshipping tradition proved to be a real challenge.  While Cindy and her family fought over her new faith, Dr. Bill and Clarice prayed for her and her family. When Cindy was graduating, her non-believing family came to attend her graduation, and the two sets of parents (her parents and Dr. Bill and Clarice) finally met.  Cindy’s parents were not Christians, but they were deeply appreciative of Dr. Bill and Clarice’s love and care for me.  They were also grateful for them for being the surrogate parents to me while she was so far away from home.

Twelve years later, in God’s timing, Cindy’s mother decided to give her life to Jesus.  Since then, salvation came to her extended and immediate family like domino dropping; her cousins, aunts, uncles, her only living grandparent, her sister, niece, and most recently her father.  They abandoned the idols they used to worship. Now they worship the living God, not any idols. It all started with a family who decided to take the action to love a stranger from a foreign land.

 

Action for the day

Today be on the look-out for someone you are able to invest in their life. Maybe it is someone younger who could use a mentor. Maybe it is someone who is older and needs companionship. Maybe it is someone you meet in the fast food line. Ask Holy Spirit who He would like you to invest your life with. Imagine the domino effect when one life is changed, a whole family and generation can be changed.

 

Prayer for the day

Jesus, thank you that you see us. Thank you that you want us to invest in each other’s lives. Today, Father, point me to the person I should be investing my life with. Let my live be a living sacrifice to You and bring Your love to the earth. Let your love shine through me and touch those around me. Let me have an impact on families, not just individuals. I pray this in the name above all names. The name of Jesus. Amen.

Journey of Influence – Idea 7

Well, today is the last day of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. I am amazed that I have been able to keep up a daily routine of publishing a blog. That in itself is an accomplishment. Before I get to the next idea, I wanted to share a bit of why I took the journey. I had been writing a book for the past 5 years and finally finished it and was picked up by a publisher. It is in the final processes of publication and should be available for pre-release by early December. Everything I have written this month has been tied to the book. I plan on continuing the blog and building out a community to share ideas about having more positive influence in the world. Thank you to everyone who has liked or posted so far. It has been a fun month. Now onto todays blog.

We have all heard it. A cliché that rings true but is sometimes difficult to live out. Actions speak louder than words. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms defines this phrase as “what you do is more important than what you say, because the things you do show your true intentions and feelings.” We see this concept lived out every day in every aspect of our life. How many of us have sat through a meeting at the office or someplace else and all people wanted to do was talk. Talk, talk, talk. But nothing would get done.

Earlier in my career, I was responsible for building a succession plan for the leaders of the organization. I was to identify the right people who could step into a role if the leader were to expectantly leave their position. It seems like a simple enough task. You get into a room, talk through everyone who has the right skills and capabilities to assume a bigger role at some point in the future. You then put the name(s) on a list and work with them to continue to develop. Inevitably the next year would roll around and the same names would be on the list with the same areas for improvement. Nothing would get done, even after talking about it.

We also see this concept of all talk and no action in our political environment. How many politicians promise the world and when they are up for re-election nothing they promised got accomplished? Relationships also have this issue. You can tell someone you love them all day long. However, if your actions don’t reflect what you are saying then the relationship will be doomed. The thing is, actions are what people see. You don’t have to say a word if you are showing people the love of Christ.

When I lived in Moscow, Russia, I had a friend who was moving apartment. They needed some help, since their company was not going to move them. I had a driver at the time, named Andre. I asked him to drive me, not to do any moving. It was my friend and didn’t want to abuse the relationship. My friend did not have that much to move, so I only needed to take one car load to his new place. My driver was quiet the Saturday we moved, but I didn’t think anything about it. The next Monday, Andre thanked me. I asked him, “what for?” He proceeded to tell me that he had never seen anyone freely serve someone else like I did when I helped his friend move. That was not something he had ever seen in Russia. It made a big impression on him and my action was impactful to him. So much so that he began asking questions about my faith and even ended up getting a bible.

Our actions are noticed. When we profess a faith and belief in Jesus Christ, we get put under the microscope. Our actions must match the words people hear from us. Even if we don’t say a word, our actions should point others to Jesus. Others will notice and eventually ask you about your actions. The door will open to share your faith!

Action for the day

Today, make sure your actions reflect the gospel of Jesus. Be kind to someone who is sad, give to someone who is in need, help someone who is in trouble, console someone who is hurting. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Bring your neighbors garbage can in, take a friend to coffee, offer to pick someone up for work, encourage someone who is down, drop school supplies off at a school. The actions are endless.

Prayer for the day

Jesus, thank you that you are the role model of action. You willingly chose to die for my sin, the ultimate action, the ultimate sacrifice. Your whole life on earth was full of both words and actions. Today, Father I ask that my actions would mirror my words. Let my actions bring glory to You. Show me opportunities where I can be your hands and feet. I am ready to put my words into action. Thank you for the strength and ability to share your love with the world. Amen.

Journey of Influence – Idea 6

Jeff is a Director at his company and had an opportunity to take on a leadership role at at new location. He jumped at the opportunity even though the commute almost doubled for him. Having recommitted his life to Jesus, he decided he would live out Romans 1:16 and not be ashamed of the gospel.

Routinely, he would arrive at the office early in order to beat the traffic. On those days, he would sit in his car and spend a little quite time with Jesus, praying and reading the bible. One morning a long time employee who had also recently transferred to the new location pulled in next to him. When he looked over, he saw Jeff reading his bible. A man of faith himself, saw Jeff’s devotion to God and decided that morning he was going to like working at the new location.

Everyone that Jeff works with is aware of his faith, even though he does not go around beating people over the head with his bible. His quiet countenance and care for people is what others first notice. One day at the end of the shift, a young employee walked into his office and asked if Jeff would take a few minutes to have a talk. This young man was known to live a fast life, partying and having a good time. Jeff asked, “you are giving notice are you?” The young man told him that he had no plans on leaving and he loved his job. What he wanted to talk about was God. He was tired of the fast lane and wanted Jeff’s help to understand what he could do to make a change in his life.

They spent over an hour and talked well past closing time. The young man left and didn’t bring the topic up again, even though Jeff made a point to check in on him over the course of the next week. About three week later, Jeff gets a text on Sunday with a short video attached. It turns out the young man had accepted Christ and the video showed him being baptized. Because Jeff was not afraid to read his bible at work and let others know he is a follower of Christ, it opened the door for a lost young man to come into a personal relationship with the Lord.

Action for the day

Today is the day for you to make sure others know you are a Christian. You don’t need to yell it from the rooftop, but make sure you are not hiding your faith. Some ways to do that are:

  • Bring your bible of a devotion to work and read it at a break or lunch
  • If you have a whiteboard, write your favorite bible verse or pin it on a cork board
  • Get an armband with a bible verse or an encouraging word
  • Share an encouraging bible verse with someone who is having a difficult day

Prayer for the day

Father, give me an opportunity to show others who you are. Let my obedience be noticed by others and open that door for a conversation about You. Let me be a example of Your glory to those around me. Let them see You in my actions and behaviors. I ask this in the holy name of Jesus, Amen.

Journey of Influence – Idea 5

Every city has a different way of driving. Just because you know how to drive in one city, does not mean you know how to drive in another. This is most true in large cities. Atlanta driving is different from Dallas driving. Which are both different than L.A. driving or Boston driving. There is, however, one trait that seems to be consistent no matter where you go. The only exception might be Japan, but we won’t go into that right now. The trait is an impatience with the other driver.

Whoever gets behind the wheel feel like they should be first. The notion of selfies has permeated every generation when it comes to driving. All drivers are consumed with what is best for them and too many forget they are on the road with thousands of other drivers. Watch how many people cut each other off during the commute to or from work. How many horns get blasted and watch the animation from the drivers around you. Even the most considerate people like to drive in the fast lane and go below the speed limit. This type of selfish action tends to bring the worst out of people.

In 1994 an Australia singer debuted her first album, God, in the US. It went gold and made Rebecca St. James an instant hit. On her first album she had a song called You then Me. Just a few of the lyrics are:

 

 

 

 

It’s my turn, it’s not your turn

It’s my turn, get outta my way

It’s my turn, go on complain

I’m comin’ through anyway

 

Don’t ask me why I’m like this

But lately I’m wonderin’ ifIt’ll come to pass

That the last shall be first and the first shall be last

Then the voice says.

 

Here’s the way it oughtta be

You then me then you then me

Well, I pray one day we’ll all agree

And take it you then me then you then me

Life could go you then me then you then me

 

It’s easy, you wait then go

It’s easy, so make your move

It’s easy, don’t clown around

Could’ve gone six times by now

But no sir, you gotta be a pain

Or is this your own way of sayin’

We should all cool down

And be more like the man who was born back in Bethlehem town?

What would happen if we actually adopted an attitude that we don’t have to be first? That we don’t have to cut people off. That we really don’t need to be mad at the stupid move another person does behind the wheel. What if we showed them a little bit of Jesus? What would happen if we stopped being selfish and being a little selfless during our commutes? I bet that kind of kindness would be repaid multiple times throughout the day. Go ahead, try it and see what happens.

Action for the day

When you are driving today, make the choice to be selfless. Let another person go first at a four way stop. Allow a person to enter a busy intersection. Let someone cross the street. Don’t honk your horn, don’t give anyone a friendly gesture, don’t yell at another driver. Instead, smile, wave, and be friendly. Be courteous and watch how your kindness gets passed forward. Today, make a difference in someone else’s commute or drive around town.

Prayer for the day

Heavenly Father, you want us to be selfless. You role modeled selflessness when you sent Your Son to die for us. Help me bring You into the car with me today. Help me to have the mind of Christ as I drive and interact with other drivers. Let the Kingdom of Heaven invade the roadways, tollways, freeways and parkways. Let Your peace flood every car that gets on the road. I thank You that You can do all this and more. It is in the powerful name of Jesus that I ask this. Amen.

Journey of Influence – Idea 3

Most of us need reminders to do something. If it is not on our calendar, the chances we will forget goes up exponentially in proportion to how busy we are. While busyness is an epidemic and a key factor for Christians saying they don’t have time to pray, there is another option.

Out pastor had a real burden for the next generation. At the end of a series of messages he asked the congregation to join him in praying for the next generation for the next 30 days. He asked everyone to get out their cell phones and smart phones and set a recurring alarm at 4:12pm. When the alarm went off, everyone should stop what they are doing and pray.

My wife and I loved the idea and set the alarm right there in the service. Each day it would go off and we would stop where we were and say a prayer. It was right in the middle of the work day, so I had it going off during meetings and other inconvenient times. That did not daunt my resolve to stop and pray each day for the next generation. I knew, I was always going to spend a few minutes with God, even when the rest of the day was hectic. We enjoyed this practices and went well beyond the 30 days our pastor has asked us to join him in prayer.

One day, a few months later, my wife and I were refinancing our home. We were at the closing signing all of the documents when both of our alarms went off. We promptly silenced them and proceeded to finish up our task. The lawyer who was helping us asked us if we needed to get it, believing it was our phone. We told him it was just an alarm and it was fine. Since he had heard both of our phones go off, he was curious and asked “an alarm for what.” We proceeded to tell him it is a reminder for us to pray for the next generation. He asked us if we wanted to stop right then and pray. We jumped at the opportunity and proceeded to pray out loud.

That was not the last time I had an opportunity to share what the alarm was about. Eventually those at work began to ask once they repeatedly heard the alarm go off at the same time. What was meant to remind me to pray for a specific item opened up doors to share the gospel with others. I was surprised how many doors it opened for a conversation about God and His goodness.

Action for the day

Today decide to pray for something. It could be a friend, a child, your child’s class or school, your city, state or the country.

  • Get out your cell phone or smart phone
  • Set an alarm to go off at 3:17pm every day
  • Commit to pray at that time ever day for a month
  • Share how God shows up during the month on that specific topic.

Prayer for the day

Heavenly Father, you never forget us. We are always in your thoughts and long to spend time with us. I thank you for that kind of love. Holy Spirit I ask you to let me know what I should pray for over the next thirty days. I commit to spend a few minutes with you and ask you will use this to open up doors of conversations with those around me. It is for your glory and honor that I pray. Amen

A Journey for Influence – First Step

Listen to the news, read the blogs or follow along on social media and you get a picture that the culture in America has changed. It has changed dramatically in the last ten years. Where it was once acceptable to be a Christian and follow the teachings of Jesus, there is now condemnation and ridicule. One of the major reasons is that followers of Christ have lost their place of influence in the media, government, educational institutions and business. Too many sit on the sidelines, willing to let someone else fight the good fight. Too many watch as the culture continues a downward spiral into darkness and are content to complain about the changes instead of doing something about it.

While it is easy to sit idly by and complain about the changes, many of us don’t even know where to begin. How do we put our faith into action? How do we make a positive influence on those around us? Many choose to serve at the church. While serving at the church is important, it is not where the gospel is needed most. If you were looking for where the sick people are, you would not go to a fitness gym. You would go to a hospital. So if you are looking to serve those who do not know Jesus or who do not have a personal relationship with Him, the church is not going to be the best place of influence. It is the easy place, and as I said, it is a very important place. However, to have the greatest impact and influence you will want to get out from behind the walls and engaged your community and workplace.

It sounds easy right? Not at all. Choosing to intentionally engage everybody for a positive influence for Jesus is one of the scariest steps a person can take. If it was easy, all Christians would be fully engaged. The sad reality is too many of us just do not have a clue where to begin. We hear our Pastors tell us we should “go make disciples of all nations,” and ask “what would Jesus do?” We are given role models like David, Paul and the twelve disciples.  These are such high standards, that too many of us feel completely inadequate measuring up or the task seems too big.

I have good news. God does not expect us to do these things from day one. He does not expect us to be like the heroes of the faith from our current position. All He asks is that we fear Him, love Him and put that faith into action. He desires us to serve the “widows and orphans” and “the least of these.” All it takes is a first step. We don’t learn to walk when we are first born. It takes time; it takes years. We should not expect ourselves to make disciples of any nation until we have learned how to walk and run. What we can do is decide to make a difference in one persons’ life. Then another and another. One at a time.

So today, choose to put your faith into motion. Choose to have a positive influence on one other person. Through last seven days of this blog challenge, I will share different ideas you can use to go out and make a difference in the world. While it does not need to look exactly like the ideas put forth each day, choose to do something. Each day will highlight a different action you can take. Let God guide you through this journey and ask Him to give you the courage, you will find you are making a huge impact on the community and world around you.

Get up from the couch, open the door and step out into a life of influence. Step into a life that has eternity in mind for those in a hurting and needy world. With Jesus at our sides, we can accomplish anything. Welcome to the journey!  Today’s activity is to begin with this prayer.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your faithfulness and for loving us so much that You sent Your only Son to die for our sins. We want to see our community changed to reflect Your glory. Help us as we begin this journey of saving our community. You desire your righteous to rise up and bring comfort to a hurting world. Let me be that person. Give me the courage I need to make a difference to those around me. Give me the strength and dedication to take meaningful action every day. Show me where You want me to engage and may my actions bring You glory. May my actions be a sweet fragrance in Your throne room. I go forward with You in front of me and with You as my rear guard. Protect me from the schemes of the enemy so I may have a positive influence to those in need. As I go out, Father please go before me and prepare the hearts of those I am to engage with. Open their ears and doors of their hearts  so they feel Your presence and love. Give me the right actions that will make the most impact on other’s lives. It is in Your power and authority  I pray these things. Amen