Positive Focus for 2019

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As the New Year approaches it offers us a great opportunity to readjust, refocus and reconsider our priorities and goals. I encourage you to take some alone time to mediate and pray about how you want to approach 2019. Here are some points to ponder as you prepare for the coming year.

Word for the Year – Choose one word to focus on throughout the year. It will help you stay grounded and observant as you consider all that God wants to teach you in relation to that word.

This year my word is Truth. I want to seek the truth, speak the truth, live the truth. I also ask the Lord to lead me to a verse that goes with my word for the year. My verse comes from Jesus’ words, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 This year I plan to dwell on both the word and the verse and consider all it means in my life and my community.

Three Priorities – Consider three priorities for the coming year. Write them down and every month revisit these three priorities and consider how they are playing out in your life.

My three priorities for 2019 are:

FamilyEngage Positive Parenting Initiative and Writing

What are your three? Share them with several other people, so that they can ask you about them and keep you accountable.

Seven Questions to ask yourself – As you transition from one year to the next, it is healthy to take an honest look at yourself and consider what needs to change in order to move forward. Here are seven questions to contemplate:

  1. What are the important lessons I learned from last year?
  2. What areas or habits do I need to change from last year?
  3. What new habits do I want to start this year?
  4. What are some of my dreams for 2019? What is it that I want to accomplish?
  5. What positive changes will I need to make in order to reach my goals?
  6. Who are some people I want to invest in or mentor this year?
  7. Who are some people I want to get to know better this year?

 

My dad often shared this simple phrase, “Everyday in every way you’re getting better and better.” Yes, we should all be bent on improvement! Let’s move forward, not backward, as we start the new year. I hope it is a great 2019 for you as you focus on the potential of what God can do through you to be a positive influence in this world.

Photo by Alessio Lin on Unsplash

Lavished!

 

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During this Christmas week, let’s turn our eyes to the love God lavishes on us. Last week, we looked at the beauty of God’s love as expressed in the Hebrew word, Hesed.  This unique term portrays the Lord’s love for us in such a gracious and powerful way in the Old Testament, yet in the New Testament (which was written in Greek) we see another descriptive word identifying God’s love.

The Greek language has several different words for love: eros which is sensual or passionate love, philia which represents brotherly love, and storge denotes a natural affection. Yet it is the term agape which expresses a strong, altruistic and sacrificial, God-type love.

The apostle Paul elaborated on agape love in his first letter to the Corinthians. Perhaps you are familiar with his description, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” What a beautiful picture of how we are loved by God!

Now we tend to throw the word love around to mean all sorts of frivolous things:

“Oh I love your new outfit!”

“I love cake-mix-flavored frozen yogurt with sprinkles on top.”

“I love the beach.”

“I love this new book!”

What we typically mean is that we really, really, really like something or feel a type of surface-level affection for it. Sometimes we equate love with how we’ve been treated by a parent or a friend or spouse. But God’s love is beyond what we see in human affection. When we examine the definition of love that Paul gave us, we see a love defined beyond this world. We can scarcely comprehend the depth of God’s love. Earthly comparisons of altruistic love leave us lacking in the understanding of the height and breadth of the love of God.

Unfathomable love! John, the disciple who called himself “the beloved one,” wanted Christ’s followers to know how wonderfully loved they are by the Father.  To God’s beloved children (that’s you and me) John wrote:

 

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  I John 3:1

 

Lavished! Did you catch that word? Lavished; bestowed profusely. God is not guarded or stingy when it comes to His love for us. His love pours out in generous measure. Stop and drink this truth from John into your heart. Allow it to permeate your being. You are lavishly loved with the sincerest, most powerful love imaginable.

That’s what Christmas is all about, God lavishing His love upon us by sending His only Son Jesus into this world, so that He could offer His life for us. What great love! What an unspeakable gift! Thank you Lord for your agape love for us! We celebrate you this Christmas!

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This blog is an excerpt from Unfailing Love. To learn more about this book and the $5 special this month click here.

Unfailing Love

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Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens,
   your faithfulness to the skies.
 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
   your justice like the great deep.
Psalm 36:5

 

The unique and beautiful term David used in this Psalm to express God’s love was the Hebrew word  Hesed.  This is a very rich word; rich with depth and meaning and truth. Hesed  is considered one of the most important terms in Old Testament theology and ethics. It has three basic meanings which all interact together: strength, steadfastness, and love.

The word Hesed cannot be fully understood unless all three of the meanings are incorporated. Generally the word “love” carries a bit of light hearted, fluffy affection, but when we put love together with steadfastness and strength we understand the enduring nature of God’s Hesed – type of love, even toward those who seem weak or undeserving.

Hesed implies loyalty, mercy and generosity. It also infers personal involvement and commitment beyond what the law requires. For example, a husband and wife are legally bound to each other, yet their relationship transcends the legal document and represents a bond and commitment to each other. The prophet Hosea spoke of the Hesed between God and His people, “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD,” Hosea 2:19-20.

Not only does God demonstrate this enduring love and kindness, He wants us to know and  understand His hesed love for us. Consider the words God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah saying:

This is what the LORD says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness (hesed),
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 9:23,24

This Holiday season, my prayer for you is that you will experience the comfort and joy of His Unfailing Love for you.

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This blog is an excerpt from Unfailing Love. To learn more about this book and the $5 special this month click here.

 

Photo at the beginning of this blog is by Chris Meads on Unsplash

 

Light of the World

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Many years ago when I taught science, I enjoyed teaching my students about the spectrum of light and the rainbow of colors that appear when light is refracted.  Whether it is a rainbow, a sunset, a prism or cut glass, refracted light always reveals the same order of colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet (Roy G. Biv). It’s unchangeable and consistent.

Isn’t it interesting how many of the characteristics of light seem to reflect certain attributes of God?  Just as the spectrum of light is unchangeable, so our glorious God is immutable and unchangeable. The Bible says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” It’s no wonder that the beloved disciple John uses the metaphor of light to describe God.

 

God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.

 

Darkness can’t overtake the light, but light drives out or dispels the darkness. Throughout scripture, light refers to holiness, purity and truth, while darkness is compared to evil and sin. God is completely holy and represents absolute purity. There is no sin in Him, not even the smallest portion. Darkness is a place where things are hidden, but when God shines His light in our lives, He not only reveals sin, but He also offers forgiveness through Jesus. He opens our eyes to see things we may have never seen before and guides us down a new path.

 

He lights up our spiritual eyes to see.

 

May we bask in the radiance of His love, as He lights our paths and guides our way through this dark world. This Holy season points us to Jesus – the Light of the World. As we enjoy the lights and splendor of Christmas let us joyfully reflect on the One True Light and turn our hearts toward Him.

 

Praise you Light of the World. Thank you for the warmth of your love and the light of your wisdom. Continue to lead us and guide us along Your path. Shine your light on the dark corners of our lives. Help us to shine your light so that others may know your love.

 

Photo by Charlotte Coneybeer on Unsplash

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A portion of this blog is an excerpt from my book Unfailing Love.

Love Came Down at Christmas   

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Untouchable – that’s how we could describe many of the  lives of the  rich, famous and powerful people in our culture today, whether we are talking about notable athletes, popular Hollywood celebrities or important politicians. With prominence comes isolation from the public, and a guarded distance from “normal people” – and understandably so. But that is not how God is toward us. He deliberately allowed Himself to be approachable, knowable and touchable.

Christmas reminds us that God is relatable. He didn’t choose to enter the world with pomp, popularity or great riches. He came as a humble baby, born in a stable and placed in a manger. He who was from the beginning, came to this earth as a touchable human being. The beloved disciple, John, so eloquently described the relatability of Jesus in the opening lines of his first epistle.

 

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.

 I John 1:1-2

 

Oh the beauty of the Christmas story! Jesus chose to be seen, heard and touched. I love how John described Jesus as the Word of Life. Think about the power of our words. They reveal our thoughts and let people know what is going on inside of our hearts. Our words communicate the very essence of who we are. In a similar way, Jesus revealed who God is. Jesus communicated God to the world. Just as God used words to speak all of creation into existence, Jesus (the Word) brought salvation into existence. Jesus is the Word of Life. He was there at the creation of life and through Him we have eternal life.

This week, I want to encourage you to reflect on I John 1:1-2. Think about the love God communicated to the world through His Son Jesus (the Word of Life). Perhaps you are familiar with the words of the old hymn first published in 1885 (written by Christina G Rossetti.

 

 

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, Love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

 

For the next few weeks, I want to continue to focus on the theme, “Love Came Down at Christmas.” How joyful to fill our hearts and minds with the love of God and to allow His love to flow through us during the Holiday season and throughout the year!

 

A portion of this article is an except from my book, Unfailing Love.

 

Photo by Roberto Nickson (@g) on Unsplash