As another new year begins, it is time to reflect on the last 365 days. In welcoming 2010, we not only say good-bye to 2009 but also cross the threshold into the second decade of the new millennium. Regardless of uncertainty, fear and unsettling headlines, the pages of the calendar continue to turn. And they will until God says otherwise!
Reflection gives each of us the opportunity to look back and remember all the Lord has done for us and with us during the last year. Reflection is an opportunity to put events in perspective. In many ways, reflection provides that last piece of the year's jigsaw puzzle necessary for launching into the new.
I had to laugh when I
read this USA Today newspaper headline: "Psychologists now know what
makes people happy." I didn't know happiness was a secret to be discovered
by my noble profession! Curious, I kept reading. What were these exciting
If you are a student of the Bible, you won't be surprised.
Research only validates God's way of doing things.
The happiest people are those who spend the least time alone and pursue
intimacy and personal growth. When I read this, I immediately thought of Jesus.
He was proactive when it came to community. He poured His life into a faithful
band of followers and developed an intimate circle of 12 men. And through those
men, He established the church. The early church was all about community,
intimacy and personal growth.
Happy people don't judge themselves by what others do or have. That is, they
don't compare themselves with others. The Bible is clear that we are not to
measure ourselves by the yardstick of others, only by the Word of God. As we
obey God's Word and choose to please Him, blessing and contentment
Materialism is toxic for happiness. The parable of the rich young
ruler in Matthew bears this out. Despite this man's riches, he wanted something
more—eternal life. Jesus stressed the importance of keeping the commandments but
told him something more was required. He must sell his possessions and follow
Him. Sadly, the young man chose material possessions over Christ and walked away
Optimism is important, even in dark times. Because of Christ, hope abounds.
Jeremiah 32:17 proclaims, "'Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and
the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard
for You'" (NKJV). In the last chapter of Job, after Job suffers much and has
been tested, he cries out, "'I know that You can do everything, and that no
purpose of Yours can be withheld from You'" (Job 42:2). Over and over, we are
given biblical examples of people who refused to be downtrodden because of
circumstances or events. Their hope was in the Lord. The end result is rest and
Actions matter. It's not just what you believe or your outlook on life that
contributes to happiness. People who give to others and aren't
self-absorbed are more satisfied with life. No surprise here. God gave
His only begotten Son, the ultimate sacrificial gift. Giving is a biblical
principle whether it involves finances, service, food, shelter, time or talent.
The result of giving is blessing.
Happy people know their strengths and use them. We are stewards of God's
gifts and are to use them for His glory. When you move in those gifts and do
what God has equipped you to do, you are happy. Psychologists call this moving
in the "flow." People of faith "flow" in the Spirit.
People who feel gratitude are happy. We are eternally grateful for Jesus and
His sacrifice and for all God has done in our lives. Out of that genuine
gratitude flows happiness.
The strongest link to happiness is a willingness to forgive others.
The benefits of forgiveness are well documented psychologically. And for the
believer, forgiveness is not an option; it is a command from Jesus. We forgive
others because He forgave us.
The search for happiness will fall
short if it doesn't lead to the One in whom contentment can be found. Authentic
happiness is unrelated to events, money, power, fame or anything else our
culture associates it with. Happiness is a choice, as the Scriptures declare:
"Happy are the people who are in such a state. Happy are the people whose God is
the Lord" (Ps. 144:15).
This new year, make it a goal to choose happiness
by following the guidelines above. Look to God for your satisfaction and learn
to trust in His sovereignty and omniscience. Obey Him and believe that He works
all things for your good. Remember, His joy is available to you, and it is that
which gives you strength.
I despise airplane turbulence. Even though I enjoy
high-speed roller coasters, there is something about hurling through
stormy skies in a commercial jetliner at 37,000 feet that turns my
knuckles white. This is why I always ask for a window seat. Whenever we
hit rough air and the seat belt sign flashes on, I feel safer if I can
But that didn’t help me recently when I
was flying into Canada. I was not aware that rough weather was raging
below and that parts of Vancouver were flooding. All I knew was that
our journey though Canadian airspace reminded me of Doctor Doom’s
Fearfall—a theme-park ride I’ve enjoyed many times with my daughters.
That ride lasts only a few seconds, and it is firmly
bolted to the ground. The turbulence over British Columbia lasted half
It was 11 p.m., and I couldn’t see anything outside my
window except horizontal rain. I kept reminding myself that the pilot
was using radar and other high-tech instruments to avoid crashing into
the side of a mountain. But my knuckles did not believe this. I
clutched the armrest, prayed and—for a few seconds—wondered how my wife
would plan my funeral.
Of course the plane did not break apart
in mid-air. When we descended below the cloud cover and the lights of
the city became visible, all my color returned. I breathed a prayer of
thanksgiving when I heard the familiar sound of wheels touching the
You may not share my fear of turbulence,
but all of us have walked though scary times in life when we couldn’t
see the path in front of us. Many people I know are going through such
times right now because of the economic downturn. Some are facing job
loss, financial hardships, foreclosures or unusual spiritual challenges.
Churches, too, are finding it hard to
navigate change. More people than ever are in a season of transition
because old business models don’t work, and ministry paradigms are
shifting. Some of us find ourselves digging our fingernails into the
armrest while the plane is bouncing all over the stormy sky. And when
we look out the window we see nothing but darkness.
I have found comfort in the words David
penned after he escaped from Saul’s pursuits. He wrote in Psalm 18:4-6:
“The cords of death encompassed me, and the torrents of ungodliness
terrified me. ... In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to
my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for
help came into His ears” (NASB).
In describing God’s
just-in-the-nick-of-time rescue, David borrowed vivid imagery from the
day when God opened the Red Sea to deliver His children from Egypt.
“The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered His
voice. ...Then the channels of water appeared, and the foundations of
the world were laid bare. ...He sent from on high, He took me; He drew
me out of many waters. ... He brought me forth also into a broad place;
He rescued me, because He delighted in me” (vv. 13-19).
David’s transition wasn’t easy. In the
most difficult moment he noted that God had “made darkness His hiding
place” (v. 11). We must remember that darkness is not a sign that God
has abandoned us. It became stormy just before the Red Sea split open.
Yet God was working behind the scenes, even when the clouds were black
and the wind was violent.
If you are in the midst of a transition,
hold tightly to His promise as you enter this new year of 2010. You can
trust Him. Better things are still to come. In yet a little while He
Don’t focus on your job crisis, the bad economic news,
your lack of options or the bumpiness of the ride. Call upon the Lord.
When His lightning flashes, He will split the obstacles in front of you
and make a dry roadbed in the midst of the sea. He can make a way where
there is no way.
Ask the Lord to transport you. Eventually you will hear
the sound of wheels touching down on the wet runway. You are helpless
to make this transition on your own, but your Deliverer will safely
carry you from your present crisis into a broad place of future
J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma. You can find him on Twitter at leegrady.
I frequently stay in hotels during my ministry travels.
When I am in my room, I always put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the
door so nobody will bother me. Hanging this sign on my hotel room door
is acceptable. Putting it on my life isn’t.
Have you ever noticed that God does not always do things
on your timetable or in ways that are convenient to you? Paul told
Timothy that as a servant of God and a minister of the gospel Timothy
had to fulfill his duties whether doing so was convenient or
inconvenient (see 2 Tim. 4:2).
The last 10 years weren't just about terrorism and recession. Amid the storm clouds, God was working in profound ways.
We didn't know what to call it—was it the '00s?—yet we've just passed through quite a decade. We had natural disasters (the 2004 Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina in 2005), financial meltdowns (bank failures and 10 percent unemployment) and global conflict (9/11 and the war on terror). It brought doom and gloom on one hand and technological breakthroughs on the other. What a ride it has been.
How has God been working during this tumultuous season? Here's my list of seven megatrends that marked these last 10 years:
1. Third-World Christianity kept growing. There are now about 600 million Christians in Africa. Protestant Christianity grew 600 percent in Vietnam in the last decade. In China, where a 50,000-member megachurch was raided in Shanxi province a few weeks ago, there are now an estimated 130 million churchgoers.
Paging through a
botanical magazine last winter, I found myself marveling at the beautiful
flowering trees and exotic plants pictured inside. In a moment of sheer
inspiration, I decided it would be awesome to have more in my yard than one
scruffy pine tree surrounded by a few faded wood chips. Whether impetus or
impetuous, this surge of enthusiasm compelled me to order the "Jasmineflowering tree" so exquisitely displayed on page 5.
I was jazzed.
In fact, I couldn't wait to get my plant.
Weeks after I had placed the
order, however, my excitement was beginning to wane. "Where's my tree?" I
wondered. "Spring will be over next week, and I still don't have an
Finally, a package from California arrived.
Staring blankly at the way-too-small parcel, I decided it must be the invoice or
perhaps the all-important stakes needed to support my new tree. As I opened the
little brown box, I simultaneously surveyed the area around me, looking to see
where the rest of my delivery was hiding.
After carefully unveiling the
mysterious arrival, I stared motionless into the shallow carton. Finally, in
disbelief and agitation, I drew out a package of tiny, unimpressive
My initial excitement quickly dissipated. "You've got to be
kidding me," I moaned. "They actually expect me to plant these dead flakes?" I
simply could not imagine that I would have to WORK to obtain this tree.
Suddenly I came to a sobering realization: That's how many people would
like to go through life—wanting results without doing the work, expecting a
harvest without planting the seeds. Unfortunately in God's kingdom it doesn't
work that way. In fact, most of what God accomplishes on Earth today starts in
When God wanted to send a deliverer to save mankind, He sent a
seed and placed it in a plain human package. No wonder those who had so long
awaited the coming of the Messiah were less than impressed to see an ordinary
baby instead of a king.
And what about the teachings of this infant
grown to full stature? He taught that the kingdom of God was like a seed which,
when planted, would grow gradually: "first the blade, then the head, then the
mature grain in the head" (Mark 4:28, NASB).
In other words, Jesus
told us that the dealings of God would almost always involve a maturing process.
God gives us seedlings of promise that must be nurtured and cared for until they
can stand tall like an oak tree.
So many times we get discouraged when we
don't see quick results from our labors. We may even become so frustrated that
we are tempted to stop and quit. But God's Word helps us remember this
principle: The plantings of the Lord begin in seed form.
In Old Testament
times when Zerubbabel was rebuilding the temple, people laughed and scoffed as
they compared the fledgling work to the majesty of the original built by
Solomon. But through a messenger the Lord sent reassurance: "Do not despise
these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin" (Zech.
Right now you may have a beautiful picture in your heart of
what you long for. You may even have dared to ask God for great things and have
sensed His promise to you of success.
But when you opened your hands to
receive, all you found was seeds—small, unimpressive conceptions. Don't be
discouraged! Remember that seeds contain life and have within them the very
essence of your promise. If you plant them in good soil and invest yourself in
the nurture and development of them, they will grow and bloom forth with
Today, hear the Holy Spirit whisper to you, "Do not despise the
day of small beginnings, for I delight to see the work begin." Plant your faith,
my friend, and watch and see what God will do.
The poll results are counted. Charisma readers chimed in on their favorite and least favorite holiday songs.
Long before the advent of iTunes and political correctness, Christmas music was about, well ... Christmas. People actually sat around fireplaces or gathered in churches and sang carols that made overt references to the birth of Jesus.
Nowadays, however, some radio stations play holiday music 24 hours a day that rarely mentions the reason for the season. We hear lyrics about snow and winter weather (even though Christmas is hot in most parts of the world), overcoats, shopping, sleighs, Santa Claus, reindeer, toys, holly, elves, bells and chipmunks.
The Bible tells us that on the night Jesus was born, an angel appeared to some shepherds in the fields and told them the good news. When the angel finished delivering the message that the Saviour of the world had come to Earth, "suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!'" (Luke 2:13-14, NKJV).
It was 1957,
Christmastime. Elvis was my favorite singer. And Christmas was my favorite
holiday—except for this year. Daddy's job with the Santa Fe railroad had moved
our family—Daddy, Mother, my two younger sisters and me—from our small, friendly
town in Kansas to a strange, dusty town in the southwestern desert.
Instead of celebrating a white Christmas with the typical warm and fuzzy
sights, sounds and smells I had known each year at Grandma and Grandpa's big
festively decorated house, I was thrown into a strange brown land with
neighborhoods of small row houses near the train tracks and neighbors who spoke
Last Friday, two historic events
occurred. A signing ceremony for D.C.'s same-sex marriage law and a blizzard
that blanketed the Northeast and left everyone in the capital physically isolated
except for the almost-too-frequent weather updates on TV and radio. Ironically,
the two events bore a strange similarity.
Their similarity was the level of local
media coverage along with the real sense of isolation that most citizens felt.
We either trust in both these situations that "big brother" is looking out for
us or we become concerned and questioning.
I could sense heaven's ecstatic joy last weekend when I visited a multiethnic church in Montgomery, Ala.—birthplace of the civil rights movement.
There were two very separate worlds in Montgomery, Ala., when I lived there as a child. I lived in the white world, on the east side of town in the Dalraida area. Everybody at Dalraida Baptist Church was white. All the kids at Dalraida Elementary School were white. The only black people I saw in my neighborhood on Green Forest Drive were the maids who arrived each day to clean houses.
I was oblivious to what was happening in Montgomery in 1964 when I started school. No one told me about Martin Luther King Jr., who fueled the civil rights movement from his pulpit at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church downtown. I didn't know about the bus boycotts, the lunch-counter sit-ins or the 1963 bombing of a church in Birmingham that killed four black girls.
"Stay connected this week! Stay connected this week! There is something that you are going to have to praise your way through. ... Do not disconnect from Me. Do not disconnect from My throne room. Do not disconnect from where you are. Do not disconnect from each other. Stay connected so you can press on through what you'll be going through.
Last week, the worldwide summit on
climate change in Denmark encouraged some and terrified others. During the past
few years, the debate among many informed people has not just been focused on
whether or not the globe is getting warmer, but about how our nation should
respond to the perceived international threat.
A few years ago Tony Perkins, president
of The Family Research Council, and I decided to tackle the question of climate
change and evaluate popular proposals based on two things: 1.) a measurable
return on investment and 2.) the value of human life. Our thoughts are
catalogued in the book Personal Faith, Public Policy. Based on our
study, we are very concerned about the direction that our current
administration may be seduced into following in the name of saving the planet.
Unfortunately for the U.S., there are always wolves dressed in sheep's clothing
--- supposed "saviors" that may lead us astray.
Christmas season is so hectic we can sometimes feel like contest winners who are
given 15 minutes to grab $500 worth of free groceries. But though not every
activity we engage in during this special time is a spiritual one, we can learn
to treasure the moments of preparation by keeping the right perspective.
First, there's the planning. How am I going to afford it all this year?
This question bounces around inside my head like tennis shoes in a dryer for
about a month before the season actually begins. When I'm driving or showering I
click out the number of names on my list and how much I can spend on each
person, how I can make or bake some gifts to offset the cost of others, which
names must go to the top of the list, who will just have to understand, and so
on. At some point in my mental calculations, the Holy Spirit breaks through and
reminds me that where God guides, He provides.
Then there's the
bake-a-thon. Every evening after work the kitchen fills with a cloud of flour.
Nuts are chopped in one corner of the room, trays are stacked in another,
gingerbread boys and sugar cookies are decorated on the kitchen table, and rows
of filled, jellied, balled and candied cookies are cooled and stacked on another
counter. They may not be perfect, but I'm comforted by the knowledge that man
does not live by bread alone!
Next the tree must be bought and old
decorations dragged out of their boxes. My son is delighted to find the special
ornament he made in school last year—long since forgotten. He solemnly tells the
history and genealogy of each hand-made item. "We got this one when I was very,
very young," he—still a young boy—tells his even younger sister. "And I made
this one before you were born."
The tree must go up. And no matter how
perfectly full and even-branched it looked on the lot, I can't seem to turn it
to find the perfect vantage point. Plus, the bottom of the trunk, instead of
being straight, appears to be shaped at a right angle to the rest of the tree.
Someone is going to need muscle surgery after holding it up until it is finally
braced into the stand! But once the tree is in place, I realize my Herculean
efforts paid off—the end result is a delight to my children and a perfect symbol
of the Trinity.
Before you know it, it's Christmas Eve. I'll send the
children on an errand to some corner of the house while I search through
packages to find new socks for them to wear to church. Bows will be tied, faces
washed, shirts buttoned, and belts fastened, and we'll rush off to church for
the candlelight service.
I'll straighten my daughter's burning candle
over and over, worried that hot wax will drip on her arm. I'll tell my little
boy to shush a thousand times—until the beauty of the candlelit church and
singing choir fills us with a silent sense of awe.
But that's not the end
of the preparations. Driving home, I'll worry about putting toys together.
Instructions become destructions in my hand. It's a good thing the Master
Carpenter is there to direct me!
I'll reassure my daughter for the
millionth time that Santa will not get burned when he comes down the chimney.
We'll fill plates with cookies, and the children will argue over which ones are
Santa's favorites. We'll carefully decide where to place the notes and cookies
so Santa won't miss them.
After the children have been shooed to bed a
dozen times and warned that Santa won't come if they're awake, after the last
bows have been fastened to the packages, when the whole house sparkles with the
aura of candlelight and shiny wrapping paper—I'll rest.
I'll stare into
the glowing embers of a dying fire and recall the sweet scenes of the previous
weeks, the treasures of my heart: my daughter's hair filled with flour and her
tongue hanging out of the corner of her mouth as she vigorously rolls cookie
dough with her toy roller pin; my son's eagerness to give me the gift he made at
school; the excited squeals when we lit up the tree; the children wrapping tiny
gifts they bought with pounds of paper and tons of tape.
And in those
moments of reflection, I'll think about the reason we did all the planning and
shopping and baking and decorating in the first place. I'll think about the most
important treasure of my heart—Jesus—and I'll thank God for
This year, don't let all the demands of the holiday season get
you down. Try to treasure each memory you're making, and in the midst of your
busyness, take time to reflect on the greatest treasure of all—Jesus, the Savior
and Redeemer of the world.
I gave away my second daughter last weekend, and it wasn't any easier this time around.
I've never met George Banks. That would be impossible, since he is the fictional dad played by Steve Martin in the 1991 film Father of the Bride. But I feel I know George because I've watched this sappy comedy so many times. I watched it again last week just before my second daughter's wedding.
I guess the film provides a mild form of therapy. It helps me deal with my loss. Despite what they all say ("You're not losing a daughter! You're gaining a son!") I started to feel an uncomfortable lump in my throat at least 72 hours before the ceremony.
In April of 2006, during the worship service of a conference at which I was scheduled to speak, an unusual presence of God began to settle upon me. The heavier God's presence became, the more caught up in a heavenly realm I was. I found myself in the middle of an IMAX or 3-D-like experience. It was as if I were in the middle of an action movie.
Last week was momentous in the battle for marriage in the U.S. It was a little like riding a roller coaster. On Tuesday, the D.C. City Council finished their first of two readings of their proposed same-sex marriage law. The reading passed by a margin of 11 to 2. The council seems determined to prevent the people from voting on this issue. Their rationale is that "civil rights" is not something that should be voted on by the masses. One councilman, who represents a strong, pro-marriage ward, looked visibly shaken. He spoke with a quavering voice. Ironically Harry Thomas, Jr., son of a former city council member, stated that he would not allow anyone in his ward to be "disenfranchised." Undoubtedly, he meant to say that he did not want anyone to experience discrimination.
Disenfranchisement, however, is exactly what is happening to the average voter in D.C. The council feels that it has a right to vote on this issue, but it will not allow the citizens to vote. They also chafe at the fact that the District does not have a genuine vote on the Hill - it only has a shadow congresswoman. Sadly, there was only voice for democratic justice on the council --- Marion Barry. The former mayor correctly told the group that the city council had not gone far enough in allowing liberty and true democracy to have their way. As a result of the fact the city is "deeply divided," he announced that he would be working for a popular vote on the issue.
to be a consummate Christmas shopper. By the time December hit, I was way ahead
of the game. I would have a mountain of bargain finds, admired goodies and toys
to die for tucked away on a shelf just waiting to be wrapped and stowed lovingly
under the tree. I found that shopping ahead spread the financial burden
throughout the year and helped me avoid the last-minute holiday shopping
Sounds like a plan, doesn't it? I thought so, too, until several
years ago. Something happened that made me rethink my supposedly brilliant
It was the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
not a creature was stirring, but I felt like a louse! The tree looked bulimic —
only I was the one who had binged. Brilliantly wrapped packages were
bulging from every available nook and cranny.
I slumped to the floor and
thought, "We have only two children. There's enough here for
My husband and I stared at each other. We realized that
things had gotten out of hand. We had to ask ourselves: What message are we
giving our children?
One by one we started dismantling the swollen pile.
This present can wait for a birthday, this one for next Christmas, this one for
a special reward for hard work.
Finally the stack looked
Right then and there, we made a decision. In the future,
Christmas gifts would be limited to three types: (1) A gift really desired; (2)
a needed item; 3) something educational. Of course, our children hated the idea
and hoped we would eventually come to our senses.
we've seen a change. No longer is Christmas an endless list of "wants." There is
a new emphasis on cherished gifts. This represents a stark contrast to the
disturbing trend among kids today to feel entitled to get whatever they want,
whenever they want it.
As I've listened to children move through the
hallways of our house, I've heard the chatter of "more." "We have more videos
than you." "I have a CD player in my room." "You don't have your own phone
line?" "I'm asking for a laptop." "You need a cell phone to look
They get it from their parents. My favorite is the mother who
proudly boasts that her daughter will outdo everyone in the neighborhood. She
will have the best of everything -- before everyone else. The daughter knows
this strategy and is horrified if anyone beats her to the material
Not understanding her conscious intention to overload her daughter
with "stuff," I naively asked, "Aren't you worried you're spoiling her?" The
blank stare she gave me was enough to answer my question.
One summer the
hot ticket was a scooter. Everyone on our block ran to the stores to buy one. My
kids asked, but they knew what was coming: "Tell me again why I should run to
the store to buy you a $100 item?"
Materialism not only distorts the
meaning of Christmas but also creates ungrateful kids. It's time to stop the
madness. Instead of a new scooter, take your kids to a soup kitchen and let them
serve. Visit a homeless shelter or a hospital children's ward, and put things in
I know what I am saying isn't new, but we need to hear it
regularly. It's so easy to indulge our kids this time of year. But we need to
examine our motives.
Is our overindulgence related to guilt from being
absent or unavailable? Is it an attempt to communicate love, compete with
others, create an identity or look successful? Is it the result of idol worship,
a lack of self-restraint or misguided thinking?
When I see kids quickly
open presents and throw them off to the side without even a thank you, I know
something is wrong. When little Suzie tells me Christmas was no fun because she
didn't get what she wanted, I am concerned. The Grinch hasn't stolen Christmas;
our ungratefulness has.
Christmas is about God's giving His Son as a
glorious gift to mankind. Don't clutter that gift with so many others that He
gets lost in the fray. This season teach the children in your life to cherish
the gift they already have — Jesus.
I tell my friends in Latin America that my Spanish is peligroso—dangerous.
I took three semesters of Spanish in college and spent
hours practicing conversation with a Nicaraguan immigrant a few years ago. But
when I travel in Latin America these days, my mantra is: Mi español es muy
peligroso. My Spanish is very dangerous.
On my first visit to Guatemala, for example, I discovered
its most popular fast-food restaurant, Pollo Campero. It means "country
chicken," and (with apologies to KFC) it is the moistest, tastiest, most
delectable fried chicken on the planet. You will smell it on flights from
Guatemala to Miami because people like to take boxes of it to relatives.
Several weeks ago I (Mahesh) was sitting in my library when I suddenly heard a noise behind me. I turned and saw an angel right there. He was young-looking, majestic, awesome, and full of strength, joy, and vigor. He was smiling, but there was the fragrance and atmosphere of battle all around him. He was a warring angel, and he had just come from battle.