Monthly Archives: October 2013

HAPPY Hallows’ Eve!!!

halloweenCall me a contrarian, but I LOVE Halloween.

And I, for one, am not prepared to concede this holy-day to the enemy. Here’s why:

Halloween is a contraction of two words, Hallows’ Eve. 

“Hallows” (related to the word “holy”) is a reference to “saints” (having nothing to do with the Church conferring sainthood on dead people, but having everything to do with every one of us who loves, worships, and serves Jesus Christ). (See Ephesians 1:15 for but one example of the biblical usage of the word “saint.”)

“Eve,” of course, refers to evening, much as we use the word in reference to Christmas Eve.

Put it all together, and Halloween is in reality a “Holy Evening,” the night before “All Saints Day.”

Simply put, Halloween is the one night out of each year set aside for the dual purposes of (1) Identifying those precious saints of God, those committed Christ-followers who have had a significant, positive, and holy influence in our lives; and (2) Planning how we are going to honor them on the following day, November 1, All Saints Day.

This in the spirit of Romans 13:7, “Render to all men their dues… respect to whom respect is due, and honor to whom honor is due” (Amplified Bible).

Think of it this way: We have days set aside to honor our Mothers, Fathers, Presidents, historical individuals like Columbus, King, and others, our veterans, those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice (Memorial Day), etc., etc. 

All Saints Day is the one day out of each year to honor those who have encouraged us in our walks with Christ, including those who have…

Led us to faith in Christ,

Taught us His Word,

Set an example for us of godly living,

Encouraged us,

Prayed for us,

Counseled us,

Loved us,

Helped us along the way to take one more step in our spiritual journey,

Or perhaps the most important of all… Were there for us when no one else was.

Tonight is the night to identify these precious people, the unsung heroes of our personal faith, and to plan how best to honor them the very next day. 

We can honor them in so many simple and yet oh-so-important ways:

A card, a letter, a note, a phone call, a text message, a Facebook post, an email message, a gift. Some sincere expression of what these dear people mean to us, and how these individuals have blessed our lives.

What a beautiful concept. More than that…

…What a BEAUTIFUL DAY. All Saints Day. Preceded, as it is, with an equally beautiful evening. An evening devoted to identification and preparation. An evening called Hallows’ Eve!

So in the true spirit of this sacred holy-day, let me extend to each of you a heartfelt… 

…HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

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YOU are the Light of the World

Online GreetingI’m telling you… If anyone knew how to make someone feel affirmed, feel that they have value, that they have purpose, that they are significant, it was Jesus. This little PODCAST is going to be fun and oh so inspiring!

We began last week’s podcast with these words: “I cannot think of a more beautiful tribute to committed Christ-followers than Jesus’ words here in the Sermon on the Mount: ‘You are the salt of the earth.’”

Ditto for this week, referring to Jesus’ bright and majestic affirmation, “You are the light of the world.”

I honestly do not know what kind of a day you had today… But no matter what kind of a day it was, when you wrap your mind and heart around these words, “You are the light of the world,” Jesus will absolutely make your day, your week, your month, your life. YOU are the light of the world.

Please note that depending upon your web browser, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you, and HAPPY LISTENING!!!

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“YOU are the Salt of the Earth!”

Salt“You are the salt of the earth.” Trust me when I tell you that those 7 simple words were in reality the loftiest compliment, the highest praise, that Jesus could have conferred upon us, His people.

I promise you that you will be both encouraged and challenged as you listen to this week’s Safe Haven PODCAST.

Please note that depending upon your web browser, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

HAPPY LISTENING, and may God richly bless you as you do.

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Rejection: What Should I Do When It Happens to Me?

rejectionIt’s one of the saddest verses in all of the Bible, and yet (ironically) one of the most encouraging. Especially for one very special junior high student.

The verse to which I refer is John 1:11, which reads in the New Living Translation,

Jesus came to his own people, and EVEN THEY rejected him (emphasis added).

In other words, Jesus wasn’t only rejected by His own people. Jesus was rejected by nearly everyone.

A sad verse indeed. Yet a verse that means the world to at least one junior higher who shared with me that if he was given the chance to ask God any question, he would ask Him this:

How did you feel when you were all alone, when your friends left you?  What should I do when this happens to me?

Imagine those heart-wrenching words coming from a twelve year old. Far too young to feel the torment of rejection. But feel it, he did. He does. And truth be told, throughout his life, he will feel it again and again and again.

Just like us.

And I can tell you from personal experience spanning now some six decades, and having felt the rejection of more people than I can count, reeling from rejection never gets any easier. Especially when the person who rejects us is someone whose approval and acceptance we desperately seek, want, or need.

How would Jesus have answered this student’s question?

Before I attempt to answer on His behalf (something I am always hesitant to do), let me first frame the answer by pointing out the following:

The rejection of Jesus became for Him a fact of His troubled life, His entire life. From birth to death.

His own mother was ostracized by her community because the word was whispered around that she got pregnant outside of marriage. Knowing that Joseph was not Jesus’ father, some concluded that Mary had been raped by a Roman soldier. Others merely concluded that Mary had violated her engagement by cheating on her husband-to-be.

Jesus carried that stigma throughout his adult life. His enemies even used it to cheap-shot Jesus when they mocked Him by asking Him (John 8:19, Amplified Bible),

Where is this father of Yours?

They took another shot at Him in John 8:41,

We are not illegitimate children and born out of fornication.

Implication: We’re not illegitimate children, like you!

What a hateful and hurtful thing to say.

Next, imagine this: When Herod heard that Jesus had been born in Bethlehem, he immediately ordered every Jewish baby boy two years of age and under to be barbarically butchered in a vain attempt to kill the baby Jesus in His crib. You talk about rejection. Just imagine what it would be like a) to be hunted by the government as an enemy of the state, and b) to have on your conscience the deaths of dozens of baby boys, all because the authorities were trying to kill you!

We know that Jesus’ own brothers rejected Him (John 7:5).

The Romans, of course, eventually killed Him.

But what about the crowds? The masses of people who dogged His every step? Study the story carefully and you will discover that every single time a crowd formed to follow Him, they eventually walked away. As soon as Jesus failed to give them what they wanted, they turned tail and left Him all alone.

Perhaps the most poignant scene is in John 6, just after Jesus miraculously multiplied the loaves and the fishes. The thousands came back the next day in order to receive their next free meal. When Jesus basically told them that His purpose was not to be seen as some sanctified Meals on Wheels provider of free lunches, they walked. In the wake of the rejection of these thousands of freeloaders, Jesus sullenly turned to His twelve disciples and asked what must have been a gut-twisting question,

Will you also go away? And do you too desire to leave Me? (John 6:67, Amplified Bible)

I’ll give you just one more. Did you know that Jesus was even rejected by His Heavenly Father?

It’s true. When Jesus voluntarily took upon Himself our sins while hanging on the cross, in that terrible moment Jesus paid in our place the penalty that you and I deserve. God the Father, being so absolutely holy that He cannot even look upon sin, turned His back on His Son and abandoned Him to the white-hot fury of His wrath, as Jesus essentially went to Hell so that we wouldn’t have to. 

In that moment of absolute agony, Jesus cried out from the cross these words that ought to send chills down our spines:

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? (Matthew 27:46, New Living Translation)

Put that all together, and let me ask you: How would Jesus answer a junior high student when asked this all-consuming question,

How did you feel when you were all alone, when your friends left you?

He would probably say something like this:

It hurt. It hurt me deeply. In fact, the pain I felt every time someone rejected me was by far the worst pain that I ever felt.

And that pain hasn’t stopped. Every day, all around the world, there are people who hear about me only to reject me.

Every day, all around the world, there are people who once claimed to love me, to worship me, to pray to me, who for whatever reason abandon me and walk away.

There is no greater pain in all the world than to love someone, only to have that love rejected. There is no greater pain in all the world than to have created someone, and blessed them with this miracle that we call life, only to have them reject their Creator.

So believe me when I say that I hear your question, and I “get it.” I know up close and all-too-personal the pain behind your question.

I never wanted the people I created to reject me. And I certainly never wanted them to reject each other. And I definitely never wanted them to reject you.

I can only promise you that I will never reject you. It’s a promise that I made to you, and a promise that I will keep forever. My promise goes like this: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake (or abandon) you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Let me ask you: How would Jesus answer a junior high student when asked this all-consuming question,

What should I do when this happens to me?

I believe that Jesus would answer that question something like this:

You are my friend. You will always be my friend. And as your friend, I am going to answer your question as honestly as I can.

I know that you are hurting. Pain is never pleasant. But your negative pain can be turned into a positive purpose if you’ll consider these few ideas:

First, allow the pain of your rejection to remind you of the pain you can cause others when you reject them. 

The neat thing about pain is that pain keeps us sensitive to the feelings of others around us. Our pain can help us to be a little more patient, a little more understanding, a little more compassionate, and quite a bit more gentle in our responses to others. 

So the next time you treat someone else in an insensitive, unkind, hurtful sort of way, you may be causing them to feel the same hurt that you are feeling now.

Second, allow the pain of your rejection to remind you of the pain that I feel each and every day. Your pain is a window into my soul. You will now be able to relate to me on a much deeper personal level than you ever could if you never felt the pain of rejection. You and I now share something in common. I know all about your pain, and now you know about mine. In a sense, you and I now share an intimately personal experience. The bond that we can now build between your heart and my heart is worth the pain of rejection.

And third, please, please, please allow the pain of your rejection to become a power motivation in your life never, never, never to reject me.

There will be times when you will be tempted to think that I have failed you, or let you down. Maybe there will be a prayer that I don’t answer, a relationship that I don’t fix, a problem that I don’t solve. You may be tempted to get mad at me, or fear that I am mad at you. You might even be tempted to think that I have rejected you. But know this: I haven’t!!! It’s just that my plans for you and my thoughts about you are so great that there will be times when it’s hard for you to understand them, or you will feel the need to question them. I get that. It’s OK. You have my permission to question all of those things, and to tell me exactly how you feel. But I promise you that I will never, ever reject you.

Please don’t make the fatal mistake of rejecting me. When times get tough, let’s hold onto each other like never before. And I promise you that together, we’ll get through it just fine.

Wow. Quite the question from a junior higher to God. Thank you for being brave enough to ask it. I only hope and pray that my answer gives you some measure of the comfort of God’s grace and peace in your life.

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The Key That Unlocks the Doorway to God’s Blessing

right:wrongIs it really true? 

That the gateway to God’s blessing in my life opens wide when people say hateful, hurtful, spiteful, or malicious things about me? Or when they treat me in a hateful, hurtful, spiteful, or malicious way? Simply because I desire to live a righteous life, rather than an unrighteous one?

In this PODCAST, you are about to learn how blessedly true that really is.

Please note that depending upon your web browser, it might take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

HAPPY LISTENING!!!

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To All of My Many Pastor Friends…

pastor appreciation monthA brief word of blessing from my heart to all of my many pastor friends, the unsung heroes of our faith… Pastors who selflessly, sacrificially, and tirelessly serve their flocks without ever expecting or asking for anything in return. God bless you all!!!

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The Search for the Holy Grail

last supperGet ready to be encouraged. Super-encouraged, truth be known.

I say this because THE THING that everybody wants (and I say “everybody” without any fear of contradiction, without any worry of exaggeration)… THE THING that everybody wants is readily available, and ours for the asking.

It’s just that so many people have no idea what it is they really want. But trust me, we all want this…

You could call it “The Search for the Holy Grail.”

The Holy Grail: defined in two ways by our friends at the Webster Dictionary website: 

1. In its formal usage: The cup/chalice from which Jesus supposedly drank in the Upper Room during the Last Supper, sought after (some would say) protected throughout the Middle Ages by the Knights Templar.

Which is NOT the Holy Grail to which I refer.

2. Informal usage: Something that we all very much want, but that is very hard to receive or to achieve.

Which is indeed the Holy Grail to which I do refer.

However, I would dispute the part about “very hard” to receive or to achieve. 

As we are about to discover in this PODCAST, it’s not hard at all to find and to enjoy that Holy Grail — that which we all so desperately want and need (even if we don’t realize what the “that” is for which we are so desperately searching).

Please note that depending upon your web browser, it may take up to 60 seconds for the podcast to begin to play. HAPPY LISTENING!!!peace

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From My Daughter: Thinks That She Thinks in the Middle of the Night

63632_246539705476446_756233330_nI could not be more proud of my darling daughter, Ashley. She just posted this on Facebook. And she generously gave me permission to hijack it for this blog. The kind of thing that would make any dad shed a tear or two. It is well-worth a read! 

Nora slept in our bed last night. 

While I was laying there, taking my sweet time to fall asleep, as I often do, I kept thinking about how much I loved the sweet, little bundle next to me. 

Then my mind jumped from that warm, happy place to the worst place imaginable where I kept thinking over and over, “What if something ever happened to her?” 

I then devised a plan, a series of plans, that I would, of course, never actually be able to follow through on. Plans like never letting her leave the house, interviewing every person that may come into contact with her to make sure they are worthy of her, or the most practical of all: simply not allow her to grow up. 

As I slowly had to let those ideas fade away, I began to realize what a shame it would be if any of them were possible. I would never get to see my little girl become a woman, I would never be able to see her develop her own likes and dislikes, I would never have the privilege of hearing her opinions, I would never get to witness her fall in love. 

I then began to wonder, and then ultimately decided I believe, that God must feel the same way when it comes to us. 

How He must long to create a protective bubble around us, and how His heart must break when we do things that hurt ourselves and others. 

And all the while He is waiting, just like I will always wait for Nora, with a heart full of compassion, forgiveness, and love. 

Knowing that I have a Father God who cares for me even more deeply than I do my precious child is so comforting… not to mention humbling! 

And then I took this thought process and applied it to a bigger picture. I have had people ask me in the past, and upon occasion wrestle with the question myself, of why an all-powerful, loving God would allow pain and hurt in this world. I know that I may never have a complete answer to that, and there are many who have a greater grasp on this subject than I, but I did get a clear look at a small part of the picture. 

In the same way that I will have to let Nora grow up and have free-will, in the same way I will have to let her become the person she decides to be, and in the same way I will have to allow her to one day make her own decisions that may be potentially devastating to herself and/or others, God has given us free-will. He let’s us grow into the people that we decide to be, and allows us the opportunity to make decisions that could be potentially devastating to ourselves and/or others. And He does that out of love… just the way I will with Nora… Always waiting with a heart full of compassion, forgiveness, and love, ready to step in at a moment’s notice to help her pick up the pieces, and with the hope that she may learn, grow, and be better for it. 

I know that some people don’t and will not agree with me, and that’s okay… These are just the thinks that I think in the middle of the night.

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