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They will be so kind and merciful and good, that they will be a light in the dark for others who do the right thing. Psalm 112:4 (CEV)

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! Ephesians 5:8 (NLT)

Light. It’s comforting to the young mom after a night comforting a sick child; it’s calming to the sleepless heart after a night of storms; it warms the fingers and toes and brings a smile to those in the cold; it brings relief to the ship captain as he guides his cargo and crew safely into harbor; it provides needed nutrients for plants to produce their fruit. Life can not exist without light.

It’s no wonder Jesus and others use this analogy in reference to the church, his body. He knew the importance of providing light to those in darkness. Light has nothing to do with darkness because light by its very presence dispels darkness once and for all.

The world is full of darkness. We see it in the politics of the nations, the lies of its people, the deceptive tactics of the enemy. Darkness can creep into the church itself with words of condemnation, criticism and legalism. Religion based on rules and dogmas is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, ready to distract us from our real purpose of giving those around us hope, sharing the message of forgiveness, showing mercy to those who are lost.

We are called to be the light of the world. When we use the tactics of the world to respond to the issues of life, we become part of the darkness, not the light. People are looking for light, not more darkness.

Spread the grace of Jesus to those who need some light today. Our purpose is not to pass judgment; not to condemn; not to burden down with guilt. That is the work of darkness. Rather, spread light today to those around you who disagree with you. Rather than defending your cause to their face, talk over the issues with your father on your knees. Only he can change hearts.

PRAYER: Father God, it’s so easy in our culture to become messengers of darkness rather than beacons of light. Empower me today with your Spirit so that I can spread the light of your grace, forgiveness and hope to those seeking the light. Amen.


Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

When my son was in High School he loved sports. His favorite sport was basketball. He started playing in 5th grade and looked forward to basketball season all year long. What he lacked in ability, he made up for in passion. The unfortunate thing in our society is that we place far more emphasis on ability and don’t recognize passion enough.

During his junior year he was fighting for the final spot on the varsity team. He talked with me the night before he was to play a one on one contest with another guy. My son said how every time he went up against this guy he ‘knew he could beat him’ but always seemed to find a way to lose. He was very nervous.

I’m by no means a perfect father or parent. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and overlooked many opportunities to mentor and guide my kids. I’ll admit that what I said next wasn’t thought out well, or planned. We were in the car, driving home in the dark.

“You know,” I said, “Whether you win or lose won’t affect who you are as a person. I love you for who you are, not for your ability. Give it your best shot, but don’t base your self-worth on the points you score or don’t score.”

My son told me that my words would give him even more incentive the next day. He entered the contest with renewed confidence in his ability. The nervousness was gone.

My son lost the contest that day and the chance at a position on varsity. But he won something far greater; he won the assurance that his worth wasn’t based on the scoreboard or the win/loss column. His worth was based on who he was as a person. My words gave him the confidence he needed to enter the battle and the assurance that win or lose, he was valued in the sight of his father.

The same is true for each of us. Society tells us value is measured by ability and success is measured by money, status and power. God’s kingdom tells us otherwise, and our responsibility as Christ-followers is to build value in a person even if their actions are contrary to our comfort level.

Paul reminds the Ephesian believers that every word that comes out of our mouths should have the purpose of building each other up. Anything less is contrary to God’s calling in our lives. At the beginning of this section in his letter, Paul admonishes his readers to ‘live worthy of the calling’ each of us has. Part of that calling is to build one another up by what we say.

Guard your words carefully because everything you say will either build someone up and draw them closer to Jesus, or tear them down and push them away from the only true source of forgiveness and grace. Criticism, sarcasm, angry outbursts, swearing and bullying (adults and children) have no place in the life of a believer and are contrary to our calling.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me for the times my words have attacked your loved ones. May the words of my mouth encourage others and draw them to you. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.


Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. Luke 17:33

While going to Seminary I worked for one winter at a local downhill ski area. Most of the time my assignment was to ‘man the bunny hill’ tow rope. This was a pretty cushy job during the day because I could read while on duty.

This was also the hill where ski instructors would teach people how to ski. Their very first lessons usually started right in front of me. I’d never skied before in my life so I took this opportunity to learn the essentials by observation.

Since we were allowed free lift tickets and rentals on the day of our shift I decided to try skiing. Using the new knowledge I’d gained by watching the ski lessons I ventured out on the hills, starting, of course with my very own bunny hill. In time I graduated to the bigger hills and, although not an Olympic caliber skier by any means, felt pretty confident that I could tackle the big hills. I prided myself on the fact that I’d never fallen. Not once.

One night a group of friends invited me to go skiing with them and I took them up on it. I was a bit nervous on the first few runs but was pleasantly surprised of my own confidence…that is until the offer of ‘ski tag’ came along. The group decided to play tag on the slopes and invited me to participate. The object was just like regular tag. The person that was ‘it’ would have to catch up to and touch another member of the group.

The game required speed, some level of ability, and most of all…risk. Since I saw no way to refuse the offer and keep my male ego intact, I joined in on the game. That night I completely shattered my pride-filled record of ‘never falling’. Numerous times! However, I had never had as much fun skiing as I did that night.

Many times we approach life in the same way I learned to ski. Some of us never move away from the tow rope booth. We are content to watch from the sidelines. We gain knowledge on how to ‘do life’. We are even given opportunities to use that knowledge. But fear or lack of confidence keeps us warm and safe inside the guard shack.

Others of us take the opportunities to join in the game. We strap on the skis. We join the crowds. But we cautiously protect ourselves from any harm as much as possible. Maybe we’ve been hurt before and don’t want to risk hurt again. We could still harbor bruises from people who have been critical of us. We’ve believed the lies others have told us about our inability to pursue our dreams. Sometimes the loudest voices come from deep inside our own souls.

Be willing to take some ‘spiritual’ risks in your life. Do something you have always wanted to try but were afraid of failure. Dust off some of those dreams you have had in your past and ask yourself, and God, why you shouldn’t try to fulfill them. Then begin the process of pursuing that dream. It may not happen, but at least you have tried. Don’t let the fear of failure handcuff you. Don’t let the fear of failure or the words of others limit you. Jesus says that if we play cautions, protect all we have, and never be willing to take some risks in life, we end up never gaining the best he has for us.

PRAYER: Father God, I confess to you that I still struggle with stepping into the ‘game of life’ for you. I’ve let my past, or the fear of failure limit me for far too long. I ask that you would empower me to take some risks for your Kingdom. Empower me with confidence and wisdom to use the gifts you’ve given me for your glory. In Jesus name I pray Amen.

 


He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done. Proverbs 19:17

In our times of uncertainty, the credit rating has become huge in determining if we will reach our goals. It wasn’t long ago that a mediocre credit rating could give you all the money you thought you needed to get all those cool toys you wanted. But easy credit led to debt because we borrowed way more than we could possibly pay. Now our dreams for dream home have changed to a hoping for a home at all; rather than the shiny sports car we just hope we have enough money to keep our 15 year old sedan running one more year; and Christmas…tighten your belt because even Santa is having trouble these days.

Financial institutions are afraid to loan money these days because so many of us are in debt that they can’t take the risk. Those with good collateral or an outstanding credit rating get the money they are seeking at the best loan rates.

God’s economy doesn’t work anything like mans economy. God’s economy isn’t built on what we have or what we’ve done in the past. God’s economy is built on who He is and what we do with Him.

Proverbs 19:17 isn’t so much about money as it is how we treat each other. Sometimes our actions towards one another are built on the philosophy of ‘what will I get in return for this.’ At the very least, when we do something nice for someone we expect a ‘thank you’. If we don’t get thanked we feel slighted and may think twice about doing something for that person again.

Relationship Credit Ratings also ask the question, ‘What have you done to me/for me in the past?’ It’s easy to be kind to kind people. It’s easy (and sometimes safer) to avoid angry people. Angry people hurt people and none of us wants to be hurt. Being kind is as risky as loaning money to a person with bad credit. The result can be the same. You get burned and feel like you’ve been taken advantage of.

As Christ-followers we need to take a different look at kindness. Each of us has a ‘Love Bank’ within us. We take from this bank to do kind things for others. When that kindness is returned we deposit it back in our bank to share with others. Sometimes though, our tank runs dry. We are in abusive situations, we are hounded by the guilt and shame of our past, we’re overworked, underpaid and so deep in trouble we can’t see the end of the tunnel.

What we need to make progress on this journey called life is a bank account that is endless. Proverbs says that when we show kindness to someone; no matter who it is; no matter what they have done to us in the past; no matter how ungrateful or undeserving they are, we should do it as though we are lending to God. Our actions may not be appreciated by others, but they will be by God.

When we do good things for ‘bad people’ we are drawing off the Love Bank of God. His ‘bank’ has unlimited assets. Every time we make a withdrawal from God’s bank account, He promises to reward us! Be kind to each other as though we were being kind to God. Consider what He has done for you when you interact with those who may not be pleasant. You will reap the rewards of God’s love when you do.

PRAYER: Father God, I thank you today for your great kindness and love. I confess to you that there are some days, and some people who I have a real hard time being kind to. They have hurt me, taken advantage of me and judged me unfairly. Empower me by Your Spirit to show them kindness because of you and not based on their Relational Credit Rating. In Jesus name, Amen.


After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10

The story of Job is rich with lessons for each of us as we travel this journey called life. Here’s a man who ‘did everything right’ yet lost everything he had for no apparent reason to him. He’d lost his children, all of his wealth and the intimacy of a relationship with his wife. As he sat in emotional and physical agony his so-called friends show up and give him all sorts of answers as to why things happened the way they did.

All of their wisdom really could be boiled down to this: “Job, you messed up. You are a miserable sinner that God is punishing for your pride and arrogance. Why not just confess your sin. Everyone knows that tragedy only come because of our sin.”

They were wrong of course. We have the advantage of reading the entire script for the drama and seeing all that was going on backstage. Job was an innocent man. His trials were really the result of satanic attack. God himself was testified to His innocence and holiness backstage of the drama where only heavenly beings could hear.

Job is rich with lessons for our journey of life. God is in ultimate control of all that goes on in our lives. He allows things to happen. Painful things. Tragic things. Things that bring agony for a time. While He doesn’t explain Himself, we can know from the story of Job that although the agony is horrific, it isn’t always because of our sin and it is temporary. Even if it is sickness it is temporary because as Christ-followers were aren’t home yet. Our home is a place absent of sickness, pain, tears and death.

There’s another lesson we can learn from Job. It’s a lesson about prayer. After all his friends offered up their meaningless wisdom, God appeared to the three of them. Job was vindicated and his friends chastised.

After God was seen for who He was, the Bible tells us that Job prayed for his friends. There is no indication that he was healed of his pain or restored until he prayed for them. Imagine the scene. Job is still sitting in a pile of ashes. The piece of pottery he used to scrap his boils was laying nearby. All those involved were awestruck by the very presence of God. Then, in the midst of Job’s pain he prayed for his friends!

When we are in pain and agony we may hold that pain in because we wrongfully see pain as a sign of weakness. We may ask our friends to pray for us. But Job prayed for his friends even though he, himself had yet to be healed.

As we travel this journey called life there are many setbacks and hurdles along the way. Things that will hurt us to the point where we question if we can continue on. You could be suffering from the consequences of your own sin or poor decisions. You could be bearing the physical and/or emotional bruises of abuse. There could be no known reason for why you are in the place you are.

In the midst of your pain, don’t forget the pain of others. Job’s friends were wrong. They were judgmental, critical and compassionless. We all run across those people during our lives. People we’ve trusted laughed with and loved. Yet when times grew bad they turned on us. Follow the example of Job and pray for others in the midst of your pain.

Sometimes, in order to do this you will need to forgive others for their insensitivity. Sometimes you will need to overlook the fact that they are just plain wrong. Only you and your God know your heart. Never lose sight of the fact that while they can’t see your heart, you can’t see their heart and/or motives either.

After Job prayed, God blessed him. This wasn’t a small blessing. Job had all his wealth and more restored to him. I believe that one of the reasons he was restored so completely is because of his humble willingness to pray for those who mistreated him. This can only be done through the strength of God. Don’t let the pain of your own life cause you to overlook the pain of others.

PRAYER: Father God, I don’t understand why I have to endure some of this pain that you have placed along my path. I am so tired of so-called experts who offer all sorts of advice while overlooking my own pain or understanding my agony. Help me to forgive them and pray for them. Give me words of encouragement I can offer them even though they can’t return the favor. Thank you for being in complete control of all I do and am. Help me to trust you in the darkness. Amen.

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