Challenge 54: Tell the Truth

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I love receiving my Living Social daily deals, always looking for some different type of outing for me and the hubby or the entire family. Last week I got a surprise: an offer for “Best Psychics in Town” who promised to give you a half-hour phone reading or a three-hour reading party “to provide you with in-depth information regarding your life, love interests, business, and more….” At the time nine people had paid for a reading, with 13 more days for others to jump at the offer. I wondered about these nine people, putting their trust in clairvoyants to get a handle on their lives. Were their lives so lonely, so full of anxiety and fear, that they saw the psychic offer as their lifeline, their way to travel the path meant for them? I wondered about their friends: what type of counsel did they give them, did they approve of seeing psychics, would they be attending the party or did they just believe they didn’t have a right to say anything against the psychic counsel because that “is not my place”?

Maybe they have friends like my friends and I were some time ago who simply believed “what’s right for you is right for you because what’s true for you is true for you.” We didn’t want to rock anyone’s lifeboat, trusting they would safely make it to the right shore. But we have all come to understand that relativism is an elixir causing you to be high-minded and unreasonable and takes you adrift. In fact, I was adrift. While I have only had one psychic reading (in connection to a story I was reporting on a psychic fair), I heavily engaged in the psychic art of astrology by following my horoscope daily and determining the strengths and weaknesses of my relationships based on astrological signs. And while there were hints of truths to these practices, the disappointment I felt from the times when the chance didn’t go my way was overwhelming. I would often go from disappointment to depression and hopelessness. I found myself crying out to whoever controlled these systems to please make the signs point in my favor. Often they didn’t, but I kept going back based on the times they did, looking for the stars to line up for me. This was my life as a teenager until my late 20s.

At 26, after a year away from the church in search of truth I had trouble uncovering while in church, I committed my life to Jesus by accepting Him as my Lord and Savior based on my comparative religious studies. Though I didn’t have all the answers I wanted, my studies kept pointing me back to the reliability of Christianity, particularly its God with whom I could have a personal relationship and who was ever faithful (Galatians 4:1-9; Numbers 23:19). I decided I no longer wanted to take a gamble with my life but to place my trust in someone that had a proven track record recorded among multiple sources over several periods of time.* Many have come to know that Jesus is the creator of all, which includes humans and the astrological elements of the moon and stars. Because I can talk to God and He will answer me, I decided to turn to Him, the creator, instead of His creations (Psalm 107; James 4:8). There is no way creations ever know more than their creator so you will always get what you need from the Source of all wisdom who decided to share some with His creations.

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17).

“But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” (Romans 9:20).

“For my thoughts [are] not your thoughts, neither [are] your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

When we look to creation instead of Creator we will be on a continual hunt for answers and, if not answers, for peace. With God, even when we don’t have answers we can have peace (Philippians 4:6-8). This is what we must tell others. They have to know, first, that there is a Creator of all; second, who He is; and third, what He has done and can do; and, fourth, that they can have a relationship with Him (Romans 10:9-10). They don’t have to turn to His creations but to Him for answers. The Apostle Paul gives us a great script to follow:

“For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this” (Acts 17:23-32).

We have the truth and we must tell it. We know that people seek psychics, astrology and other methods instead of God because many times they just have not been introduced to the great God of the universe and have not witnessed anyone whose life has been radically changed by God’s love. They need to know that God the Father sent Jesus to be the salvation for all humankind. They need to know that Jesus was born to die on the cross for our sins, that He was raised from the dead and sits in heaven making intercession for all who repent of their sins and believe and confess their belief in His sacrifice. This not only shields us from eternal damnation but provides us with direction while we are alive. We can hear from God through prayer and He will give us the direction that we seek and need. His direction is always accurate so we can fully trust in Him.

Take a Risk Challenge: This week be a witness and tell others who Jesus is and what He has done for you. Like with the Apostle Paul, some will talk about us and others will want to hear more. We will never know the impact we can have on others until we tell the truth. Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in a relativistic culture truly is a radical act of love.

*There are extra-biblical sources, such as the work by the historian Eusebius, which point to the truth of Jesus and the Bible. A good book is More than a Carpenter, by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell.

Challenge 53: Love Beyond the Expected

I drove to the drive-in lane at the bank to get money out of my mama’s account. She has me on as a joint account holder so I can handle business that she is unable to. This day she needed me to get money to pay for her lawn service. Though I didn’t have to take the boys with me because friends were at my home that I left them with, having to go to the bank during the day when I normally don’t altered my schedule a bit. But the help of friends, the bank being down the street and no line when I got there helped me not to feel frazzled. In fact, I was enthused when the teller sent me the money and I found a cookie and lollipop with the cash.

Cookie in Bag

She was there to serve my banking needs, but she went beyond her job duties and decided to do something extra to make my day. Indeed she made my day and this got me thinking how we, if just on our jobs, can do something for someone else above our normal duties. How can we make someone else’s day with some unexpected act.

On your job:
Buy donuts for a co-worker.
Get your boss his or her favorite beverage.
Get supplies for a co-worker.
Buy a token gift, like a plant, for a co-worker.
Bring or buy lunch for a co-worker.
Get a co-worker a snack.

At home:
Put a note in your children’s or spouse’s lunch bag.
Prepare an unusual, but favorite, lunch for your children or spouse.
Iron your spouse’s clothes.
Text a love note that they get in the morning before they leave for school or work.
Buy your children their favorite treat.
Place an encouraging scripture in a place they always frequent and are sure to look.

I know that working, parenting and other hats we wear can wear us out just doing the basics, but seek to go beyond your call to be a greater blessing.

Take a Risk Challenge: Choose at least one over and beyond act of love you can do for a co-worker, family member or even a neighbor. Doing something extraordinary (beyond your ordinary) is truly a radical act of love.

Challenge 52: See “I’m in Love with a Church Girl”

I'm In Love With A Church Girl
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). This is what I tell girls who meet bad boys and think they can influence them to be good. They invite them to church, play gospel music in their presence and seek to constantly talk about the Lord. But will their holy inundation really bless the hell out of the bad boy? Well, it seems like the movie “I’m in Love with a Church Girl” thinks so. The movie is described as “a powerful, inspiring story of the love between a man and a woman, a gift of second chances, and family at home and in church that never stop praying and believing.

“The film stars international rap and hip hop star Jeff ‘Ja Rule’ Atkins (‘The Fast and the Furious’), Adrienne Bailon (The Cheetah Girls), Michael Madsen (‘Reservoir Dogs’), Toby Mac (dcTalk), Martin Kove (‘Rambo’, ‘The Karate Kid’), Stephen Baldwin (‘The Usual Suspects’), hip hop artist T-Bone, and Vincent Pastore (‘Good Fellas’, ‘The Sopranos’). From gospel star Israel Houghton and Pastor Galley Molina, the film is based on true events in Pastor Galley’s life.” Watch the trailer, but beware that the film is rated PG for thematic elements (selling drugs), a scene of violence (with guns), some suggestive content and brief language.”

Perhaps I’m wrong that Adrienne Bailon’s character believes her holy inundation can and does change the bad boy, played by “Ja Rule”; I didn’t have the chance to see the film before its national release this Friday, October 18, and there is only so much that you can tell from a trailer, but I do know this: In order to “… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” you must be prepared so you don’t position yourself where “bad company corrupts good morals” (Matthew 5:16; 1 Corinthians 15:33). So you aren’t swayed to the bad side and you are the one doing the influencing, you must put on the whole armor of God; walk after the Spirit so you won’t fulfill the lust of the flesh; be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove; and don’t think you are so strong that you don’t have to be on guard (Ephesians 6:11, Galatians 5:16; Matthew 10:16; 1 Corinthians 10:12). Being suited according to God’s Word prepares us to engage folks in the world so we aren’t sucked into the world. Our salt doesn’t lose it savor and we don’t hide our light under a basket (Matthew 5:13-15).

Though I recommend you see “I’m in Love with a Church Girl” because it seems like a good feel good movie with elements of reality and you need to know if my speculation is correct, I want you to make sure you are well suited to help impact this world for Jesus Christ by taking this week’s challenge.

Take a Risk Challenge: See “I’m in Love with a Church Girl” and examine it against the above scriptures to see how you can effectively love an incorrigible rebellion. Loving someone who seems like they are impossible to change by using God’s methods is truly a radical act of love.

Challenge 51: Love Through God’s Reign

Yesterday, the closing lecturer at my Bible study summed up our group study on the presence of God by telling of the time when he was leaving his home in South Africa and coming to the United States for college. He was scared. He asked some people to pray that God would be with him. They prayed Hebrews 13:5 over him and he has clung to that verse ever since:

“[Let your] conversation [be] without covetousness; [and be] content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (emphasis mine)

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This is one of my favorites, too. It comforts me knowing that God is right with me wherever I am. But there are greater implications than His just being there. He is there for a reason and that reason is to reign. We often forget the purpose of God’s presence in our lives. The Holy Spirit lives within us, but we are warned not to quench or grieve Him. Quenching the Holy Spirit means that we are putting out His fire to fuel our thoughts, speech and actions, and grieving the Holy Spirit is extremely saddening Him because we quenched Him. When we quench and ultimately grieve Him, we have not allowed Him to reign and are essentially denying His presence in our lives.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13-NKJV). Yes, we can, but we, first, must acknowledge His presence; second, yield to His presence, allowing Him to reign; and, third, watch Him operate in us to do the impossible of consistently loving others. We need God to help us consistently love others. Folks can wear on our nerves; they exasperate and frustrate us and we just want to stop loving them, at least for a little while. I haven’t seen anywhere in the Bible where we are told to take a break from loving others, but our flesh screams this to us. Someone who keeps challenging our love with thoughtlessness, selfishness and downright meanness doesn’t deserve our love, we say. We want to (and sometimes do) tell them where they can go and how they can go there. Those of us who are less obvious in moments of carnality would just begin ignoring the person, not taking their calls and, while in their presence, simply speaking and politely smiling or just walking away. But when God’s presence manifests in your speech and actions then that signifies that He reigns in your life (Romans 6:12-18).

As believers in Jesus Christ we should want God to reign in our lives so that burden of leadership is not on us. Jesus’ reign in our lives also allows others to see what a mighty God we serve. If we allow Jesus to reign through how we love others—one of the greatest commandments—I have no doubt that we would see an increase in Christian conversions, not just those coming into the faith but also those whose views have changed positively toward Christianity (John 13:34-35). We must love the way God directs and can do so when we allow His presence to fully manifest in our lives. Jesus reigning in our lives enables us to radically love others just as we should.

Take a Risk Challenge: Obey God when He tells you to love someone this week so God’s presence will clearly manifest in your life and indicate that Jesus reigns in your life.

My One Thousand Gifts List

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Wearing shorts in October
Seeing my nieces and nephew
Watermelon in October
80 degrees in a Michigan October
My Natural Health Tour
Satisfied Natural Health Tour customers
The Lord’s chastening
An apology letter and full confession to a friend
Apple picking at a friend’s home
Apple products from picked apples (cider, juice and apple cheesecake)
A kind and supportive husband
My God who speaks clearly to me
God’s peace
Bible study revelation about God’s presence=God’s reigning
A new hairstyle