100% Satisfaction Guaranteed. Or, Your Money Back.

Not that long ago I was having lunch with some friends at a well-known chain restaurant.  Now, let it be known that I don’t frequent chain restaurants for many reasons.  However, if I could only give one reason it would be out of a fear for an overall lack of quality.  See, simple economics will dictate that often times quality is compromised for quantity.  The more one produces something, the less time they have to spend on each single item.  I understand there’s always an exception to the rule, and given into that understanding I decided to give this particular chain the benefit of the doubt.

The setting was pleasing, and the conversation was even better.  However, when my food arrived (nothing too complicated, bear in mind), I found the plastic lid to a disposable container IN my sandwich!  Go figure, my luck!
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I did, however, learn a few things from this obvious oversight:

At least I know my sandwich was portioned properly.  There is NO CHANCE this restaurant will lose money on over applying guacamole, or any other condiment for that matter.
I also became aware of the date the topping was set aside to be used.  And, much like the date on the milk carton gives you a sense of confidence, knowing that someone chopped up my jalepenos a few days ago gave me a sense of “fresh.”  Maybe.
While the intention was to control the quality of the food with a pre-portioned measurement to ensure consistency, the obvious oversight of the plastic material overruled my would-be satisfaction.  That would be called an “epic fail.”

Now, the restaurant’s response?  Well, unsurprisingly, they offered me a new one!

A new one.  As if I would like another pre-portioned, plastic-infused sandwich!  Ok, sure.  That’ll make me happy.  Actually, it won’t, but I don’t want to be seen as “that-guy” in the public setting.

As consumerists, we’ve become so accustomed to getting things right, or it’s free it’s almost maddening.  No, seriously.  Think about it.  Are we not allowed to make mistakes anymore?

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How many signs do we read at cash registers now offering to make things right?  If I don’t get my receipt, my meal is free?  If I wasn’t happy, management will offer me a new one, PLUS a discount, PLUS a coupon for next time!?  These promises eliminate the opportunity for ANY customization, whatsoever!

For many years I’ve served the public hand-crafted cocktails.  Yes, that’s a fancy way of saying “bartender.”  And, it is also the truth, because as the industry started to take a turn from a free-pouring craft into a portioned, inventoried, quality-controlled systematic flow I became less interested.  In reality, restaurants would prefer robots behind bars, accurately portioning all their liquids, and topping each drink with the precise amount of garnish over having one who puts thought, creativity, time and personality into the taste, appearance and unique quality of a drink.

From our food, to our automobiles.  Our homes, to our phones.  We demand quality, and expect nothing less than perfect.  One blemish and we immediately want a refund, discount, rebate or replacement.  I’m serious.  For awhile I worked as a salesman at a new car lot.  It wasn’t uncommon for a new car shopper to investigate the car for any scratch in order to get some type of discount!

“OUR MARRIAGES ARE UNDER ATTACK!”
Attack!  As in, there is a pre-meditated ploy out to get you married folk!  I’ve heard it pitched a thousand times.  And, mostly while sitting in church.  Many times preachers, pastors, and advocates will use this type of fear-mongering to defend traditional marriage and, therefore, advocate a stance against gay-marriage.  Many times, too, the argument is built under the assumption like this is something new.  As if “only in America” do we allow things like this.  Or, the pulpit vocalist will pump out statistics inspiring us to think that somehow moral-decay is becoming an epidemic, as if it was never an issue “back in the good ol’ days.”

Here’s the truth:

Marriage found its first oppressor right after its creation.  Yes.  Satan attacked God’s very first union of two.  We know the story, you know, with the apple.  Or, was it an orange?  Regardless, that age-old story of Adam abandoning his wife, Eve, therefore, subjecting her to the temptations of the Great Deceiver.  This, friends, was the very first attack on the sanctity marriage.  And, guess what, statistically back in those old days, Satan attacked 100% of marriages, and, sure enough, he won that battle.

So, in a sense, nothing has changed.  Satan still attacks.  However, he’s sharpened his tools.  Today, he uses even more clever devices, like the one I’ve begun illustrating: an expectation of quality.

As pointed out, we demand quality.  When something is broke, we just get a new one.  I’m amazed at how many people I know drive a brand new car.  When I see on facebook the flashy pictures titled, “my new ride,” part of myself cringes.  I think, “oh boy, I hope they can hold on to the payments.”  What’s even more nerve-racking is typically I find these people on a restless mission to always “upgrade” their devices.  It’s not a good thing to become so obsessed with quality.  Here’s the problem it may present:

If we have a high-quality car that carries us to the best gym in town and, afterwards, we purchase only the finest brewed coffee (or, latte) then return to our climate-controlled castle so we can relax, briefly, under our precision-tuned shower-head before carefully applying only the most pure cosmetics so we can endure our plush work environment, using the latest in technology and communication, then when things begin to go wrong in our marriage what’s our first response?  I WANT A NEW ONE!

I want a newer model!  One that whines less, and is adjusted perfectly.  I want less consumption, and more options!  I want to not have to deal with all the WORK associated with this old piece of JUNK.  I’M WORTH MORE THAN THIS!

The reality is, the more we pursue comfort, precision, and perfection in our lives, the less inclined we are to actually FIX that which may not need much fixing at all.

Satan has, once again, manipulated the simple truth of love, and layered it with conditions, complications, qualities, and, therefore, inspiring us to shift our focus from the finesse to the flaw.

Perhaps a quick reading of God’s Word would have us understand that we are all imperfect and all in dire need of a Savior.  And, it is only He who can make all things new.  (Truth)

How?  Cling to Him.  Attach yourself to Jesus, and allow Him to manage the discomforts, the imperfections, and even the impurities.  I promise, you will be amazed at the work He does–not in the stuff that bother you, but rather, in you.

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The Name Above

I recall my mother telling me the story of why she decided to name me Justin.  She was walking in a park while she was pregnant with me when she was overwhelmed with an internal thought–as profound as it would be if it were actually someone’s voice–instructing her to “call her child Justin for he will bring justice to all these things.

Now, as cool as I think that is, I do feel like there’s a bit of a bar to reach there.  I mean, seriously?  What justice can I bring?

Nonetheless, according to behindthename.com, Justin comes from the latin name Iustinus which was derived from Justus.

Justin Martyr – not exactly a handsome fellow…

Several early church saints were named Justus including Justin Martyr, who was beheaded in the 2nd century due to his Christian philosophical belief–yikes!

I’ve held a rather opinionated belief that when naming a child the parent should take into careful consideration the name they opt to give them.  I recall reading a book by Farrah Gray titled “Realionaire.”  Farrah, who’s name means ‘burden bearer,’ was the fifth(? – I am pulling from memory) child to a single mother.  He grew up in an impoverished urban city, but refused to give up on his dreams.  By the age of 14 he made his first MILLION dollars!  In short, his story and his motivation are certainly nothing less than a profound inspiration.

In his book, he shares his mother’s sentiment on naming children, which is strikingly similar to my own.  As a result, I’ve become quite fond of the name Farrah.

Now, unfortunately, not all of us get to CHOOSE our names, unless we’re a celebrity (Prince, Madonna, etc.), but that doesn’t mean we can’t redefine them!  In fact, my wife, Corylene, has a name that has no known origin or meaning.  Yet,  I try to encourage and tell her, “hey, perhaps your name has no meaning because we’re ready for YOU to define it!?”

In the days prior to Jesus’ birth, the Jews took very seriously the naming of their children.  It was customary to name the child based on a prophetic inspiration, or even a family tradition.  Consequently, you have the meanings of names like David (beloved), Jeremiah (Yahweh is uplifted), and Moses (son or deliverer) all being quite prophetic in value.

Etymology of ancient names and Biblical names can become quite valuable.  Consider the lineage from Adam (the first man) to Noah, and more importantly, the meaning the names:

Adam – Man
Seth – Appointed
Enosh – Mortal
Kenan – Sorrow
Mahalalel – The blessed God
Jared – Shall come down
Enoch – Teaching
Methuselah – His death shall bring
Lamech – Despairing
Noah – Comfort and rest.

If you place these meanings on a line you get a sentence that reads:

Man (is) appointed mortal sorrow, (but) the blessed God shall come down teaching. His death shall bring (the) despairing comfort and rest.

That’s impressive!!  The Gospel is found in the names of the lineage of the first man to the flood!  By the way, this is also the first portion of the lineage of Christ!

Not that long ago I was involved in a rather lengthy (and, often heated) study on John 1:1 with a couple Jehovah’s Witnesses friends of mine.  While we spent so much time discussing the merits of the indefinite article, “a,” and whether or not it’s present in the original Greek Scriptures, what I have learned recently through this study on the preeminence of Jesus Christ is that outside of the grammatical structure of this verse, the verse itself is profound in Jesus’ deity!

Check this out:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

That, of course, is John 1:1 (JW friends, bear with me.  The inclusion of the indefinite article “a” is irrelevant at this point).

The Greek word for ‘Word’ is the word, “logos.”  It’s actually where we get our modern-day word, “logo” from.  Think of all the effective logos in our day.
With the exception of just one of the above logos, even though no words are present, they all represent something rather easily and immediately.  Apple Computer Company in particular has branded itself with incredibly limited usage of actual “words” at all.  Take a look at the back of your iPod — unless you opted for Apple’s free engraving feature, the only representation on the backside is the “Apple logo.”

The Greek word logos is exactly that.

It means to be a representation or an expression so that we may see.  Thus, we get the suffix –ology.  (To study/reveal).

So, what John was actually saying (at that time, in the Greek) was, “In the beginning was the representation of God.”

Let’s jump back to an incredibly familiar verse, the first verse in God’s love letter to us, Genesis 1:1.

In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.

Now, make the connection.

In the beginning God… (Genesis 1:1)

In the beginning was the Word… (John 1:1)

Combined:  In the beginning [was the representation of God] creating the Heavens and the Earth.

Does it add up?  Well, Colossians 1:16 provides the litmus test.

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

Yes.  God, by way of Jesus Christ, created ALL things.  And, Jesus was (and is) the revealing nature of God.  (Colossians 1:15).

Jesus, Himself (as the Son of Man) even said so.  Here’s a paraphrased version of John 14:9-14 (but, may I suggest reading it on your own as well):

Phillip, don’t you know me considering I’ve been with you the amount of time I have?  Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.  Don’t you understand that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?  These words, and the authority of them is not of my own, but of the Father’s — meaning, it is He who makes this possible!  If you have a hard time comprehending that, then at least believe because of the works of the Father through His son.

A few quick things I’d like to point out here (and I’ll reference the verse so you can look it up independently):

1)  Notice how Jesus, again, points out the revealing of the Father by way of the Son.  (verse 9)

Colossians 1:15 indicates also that Jesus is the image of the invisible God.  But, what does that mean since we have already been given indication of someone being created in God’s image…Adam?

Adam was made in the image and the likeness of God (made with qualities of God, made to be infinite like God).  Jesus IS the image of God.  Never are we given any indication that Jesus was, first of all, made, and secondly, to be like God.  In fact, the Scriptures overwhelmingly support Jesus being God.

2)  Jesus shares with Phillip (and us) that God works from within us.  His miracles are shown through us! (verse 10)

3)  Even Jesus gives credit to the Father!!  Doesn’t boast in Himself (even though He could!) (verse 11)

Now, to drive this whole thing out of the park, the next three verses sum up the whole reason for this marvelous connection.

John 14:12-14

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. (13) And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (14) If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

All authority is contained in the name of Jesus (Yeshua).  What else does the Scripture suggest about His name?

Well, Romans 10:13 says everyone is eligible for the salvation that comes from the name, Jesus.  It further states that in order to receive His gift, you just need to simply call.

For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Whoever calls.

Acts 2:21, 1 Corinthians 1:2, Joel 2:32 and Psalms 116:4 all echo this sentiment.

Acts 4:12 sheds a little more light on this empowering name.

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

There is NO OTHER NAME that can save you.  The salvation that God offers, by way of His Holy Name (Yeshua), is unique and unlike any other.  In fact, it is the only TRUE salvation.

Let’s put our etymlology-caps back on for a minute.

Do you realize the word “name” appears in the Old Testament 800 times?!  One of those occurrences is in the form of a personal pronoun: in the family tree of Noah.  Noah had three sons, Ham, Shem and Japath.  However, it is in the lineage of Shem that we find the Messiah!  Shem is the Hebrew word for “name!”  It’s a bit weird to name your son name!  What shall we name him Noah?  Name him, Name!  Suddenly, Noah looks like a caveman in my imagination!

In the New Testamant the word for name is onoma (Greek) and it appears 200 times.  What’s worthy of noting is that in the 1,000 occurrences of the word name in the Scriptures, not once does it refer to The Lord in the plural.  It’s always singular.  Take a closer look at Matthew 28:19

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

All three personas of the triune God (the trinity), but only one name.

It’s that powerful!

The name of salvation.

The name of the Messiah.

The name above all names.

Jesus.

Thirteen and Luck.

Not that long ago, I was boarding an airplane with my son, and I had explained to him that on the ticket it identified our seats as ‘17A’ and 17’C’.  So, while we were walking down the aisle, I had him view the aisle numbers and count.  “10….11….12….—14?,” he asked.

Since we were in a bit of a hurry to find our row, I shuffled him a few more rows and collapsed onto our seats in row 17.  After fastening seat-belts and securing our luggage, I began to explain that on planes there’s no 13.  And, then I reached the limit of my explanation, for there really is not reasonable explanation.

Jesus had 12 disciples, making Him either #13 or #1.  Either way, someone was #13.

To the Jews, 13 signifies the age at which a boy matures and becomes a ‘Bar Mitzvah,’ and, interestingly, and perhaps related, according to Rabbinic commentary on the Torah, God has 13 attributes of mercy.

Interestingly, the calendar year is broken up into 12 months, making the 13th the beginning of a new year.

This is an oil on canvas painting of George Washington receiving the first US flag from Betsy Ross, painted in 1950 by Walter Haskell Hinton.

Thirteen is also the first of the ‘teens,’ again, marking something new.  And, may I suggest it is also the beginning of repeated numbers, meaning “twelve” is unique, but “thirteen” is really just the combination of “three” and “ten.”  Again, marking something new.

Our country, America, declared its independence with 13 original colonies, and is also the number of guns in a gun salute to one of the US military.  Interestingly, while the original ‘American flag’ consisted of 13 stars (one for each original colony), the number of stars increased as the number of US States increased.  However, the original number of stripes–13–has remained the same.

Colgate University also considers 13 to be a lucky number. They were founded in 1819 by 13 men with 13 dollars, 13 prayers and 13 articles.  (To this day, members of the Colgate community consider the number 13 a good omen.) In fact, the campus address is 13 Oak Drive in Hamilton, New York, and the male a cappella group is called the Colgate 13.

However, trivia aside, I always felt it was a bit silly to pay so much attention to the number 13.  In fact, many times I find myself filling up at pump #13, and intentionally trying to end my dollar amount with $0.13 because I feel the number is left out!

In any event, I hope this letter finds you in good fortune (notice, I chose the word ‘fortune’ rather than ‘luck.’)  As luck would have it, though, I did find $20 in my pants this morning, which calls to mind that old adage, “luck is merely the intersection of preparation and opportunity.”  I prepared to surprise myself by forgetting the $20 bill, and therefore, gave myself the opportunity to be surprised when I reached into my pocket!

I used to work at a bar with a small casino attached to it.  So, often times I would find myself serving the gamblers as well.  Although, it was a rather easy job (bring a beer to a gambler, change a hundred, toss an empty bottle), it was a bit more difficult to me not being a gambler.  Some would enter and ask to know which machine has been paying out lately.

A typical Keno screen

Other’s would question their luck, or ask me if I’m lucky and then suggest picking their Keno numbers.  Again, this is an illusion that ‘luck’ is an essence that floats around like a butterfly, never knowing where it’s going to land, but lands, definitely, and then embracing this chosen individual with it’s blessing.  It’s rather silly, don’t you think?

Some will comment, “Oh, you don’t have to worry about your diet, you’re lucky.  You’re skinny and healthy.”  Could it be, perhaps, that I’m skinny and healthy because of my diet?  Could it be that because I chose to pursue a college education that I’m, therefore, more qualified for the job?  Ultimately, could it be because of the conscience decisions I made in the past that I have the celebrations and the sorrows I do today?

Now, I’m not trying to eliminate the avenue for God’s divine reach.  He certainly has the ability to reach into our lives, transform them, and work in us in a way we’d never expect.  How do I know?  Because he did to me!  While some would regard my intersection with Corylene as pure luck, I see it as nothing less than God’s divine working.  But, before I leave that, let’s consider the similarities of luck and God’s work.

1.  Both appear to be the work or result of an external force – one that supersedes our grasp or possibly even our understanding.

2.  Both require a level of faith.

3.  Both, often times, become apparent only after an event, in a way, post-result.

Now, if I may add a fourth, and perhaps most pertinent, reason; that, both, can result in either a positive or negative outcome.

Consider, for a minute, Roy Sullivan.  Ok, certainly not a household name, but maybe if I told you that he holds the record for being struck by lightening the most he becomes a bit more interesting.  Turns out, in his lifetime, Roy was struck seven times, and the interesting thing is that it wasn’t lightening that ended up taking his life.  Turns out he accidently shot himself in the stomach.  Poor guy.  What a way to go, especially after defeating lightening seven times!

Roy lived in Virginia and worked as a park ranger in the Shenandoah National Park.  Now, being amongst nature can certainly increase your chances of being struck by lightening, but being in Virginia, apparently, can significantly increase those chances, too.  Turns out, in the entire country, the South-East coast is the ‘hot-spot’ for lightening flashes.  So hot, that even Roy’s wife was stuck once!  Wow, out of all my friends on facebook, I don’t recall any of them updating their status claiming a personal experience with lightening!

Status Update: I wass strucckk by lighttteening today.  Kinnnda tinnggless.

Now, as you read more about Roy, and may I suggest for convenience, just plug his name in Wikipedia.com’s search engine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Sullivan), you’ll find that by the fourth strike, he began to feel a bit ‘[un]lucky.’  So much that he started to carry a jug of water around all the time.  In fact, after one lightening incident he was able to extinguish the flames on his head with his water jug in his truck.

I mention Roy, and his oddities, because here’s a man who would more than likely suggest he’s rather UNlucky.  However, consider the opposite: maybe it’s because he’s SO lucky that he was able to withstand seven strikes of lightening?  Really, who are we to say what is and isn’t good luck?  Or, perhaps, God’s divine reach?

I indicated three, actually four, similarities in luck and God’s working.  Roy would indicate that the lightening, in his life, was certainly the work of someone, or something, beyond his grasp, perhaps even his understanding.  It’s safe to assume that if he had any control over this situation at all, he would have elected to NOT be struck.

That being the case, he undoubtedly began to question God’s intention.  What’s the meaning of all this?  If, perhaps, he was not a believer in God, then certainly we could expect some type of divine rationalization (or even irrationalization) for this unique set of circumstances.  Therefore, the element of faith enters.  I’ll explain the element of faith a little later.  And, finally, it’s really only in the aftermath that we (and Roy) are able to put some of the evidence together in efforts to understand what just happened.

In 2001, I was a victim to a violent robbery at a pizza store in Wilmington, NC.  It was a friday night.  I was one of the last delivery drivers on duty, and it was near the end of my shift.  I was given the opportunity to go home early, but I decided to try and get a few more deliveries in before the end of my shift.  After all, it was a really good night for tips!

A little after 10:00 PM, I returned to the store, entered through the side-door (not visible to the carry-out customers, and therefore, utilized commonly by the delivery drivers), and approached my tip box.  Just as I was going for my keys to unlock my tip box and begin sorting my bills for check-out, three men entered the store, rather suddenly, too.  What caught my attention was that within seconds, they were behind the counter.  Before a thought as to why they were possibly behind the counter could begin in my head, I saw one man raise his hand to expose a gun, draw back the trigger and fire a bullet at another co-worker.

They just shot Nate!

As I panicked, I dropped to the floor, buried my head in my arms and closed my eyes.

Do you recall playing hide-n-seek with your friends, or brothers and sisters when you were younger?  Did you ever get the feeling that you weren’t visible to others if you, yourself, couldn’t see anything?  Many times, while playing, I’d hide in a cupboard, or under a table, and while sitting on my butt, I’d hug my legs, bury my head between my knees, and close my eyes.  It was as if supernaturally I acquired the ability to be invisible if I just closed my eyes.

Eventually, well, really, in a matter of seconds, one of the men made it to the back of the store.  He had the store manager in is control.  She was crying excessively.  Lisa may have been 25 or 26 at the time.  She had a young son and a husband, and worked at Domino’s as a store manager.  It was a good job for her and her husband.

I turned my head to see if she was injured just in time to see the assailant strike her face with the pistol.  I jolted.  He caught me, and immediately, I was staring at the barrel of a stub-nose revolver.

Get up!

I jumped to my feet.  He began asking about the camera tapes, and the hidden safe, and where all the money was.  As polite as I could reply, meanwhile getting beat in the back of the head by a pistol that I was increasingly becoming convinced was going to go off, I informed the man that we don’t utilize any security cameras, not do we have a hidden safe, or even a visible safe that we utilize.  Each night, after the store closes, the store manager, and the closing driver, drive to the bank and deposit the excess cash, leaving, at best, two hundred dollars in the store.  The intention, behind this thinking, is to deter theft.  A lot of good it was doing now!

The tragedy ended within minutes and I was left unconscious in a small pool of blood on the cold, concrete floor of the Ogden Domino’s Pizza, Store #8944, in Wilmington, North Carolina on March 16, 2001.

Now, what I learned about that night in the months to follow was evidence that, really, it’s God’s working, and not luck.

Verse to consider:

Romans 8:28..

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

At The Top!

Take a look at this:

Lone Pine State Park, Kalispell, MT

Pictured left is (almost) the top of the city of Kalispell, Montana.  It’s taken from Lonepine State Park and it was just days after arriving to this beautiful Northwestern city with my brother in 2008.

It’s rather typical – at least for young men like us – to assess a new environment and immediately want to get to the top.  Think about it.  You’re on a hike.  The trail bends slightly to expose an overlook to the deep ravine and what do you do?  You approach the edge.  It’s natural to want to be on the top.  To reach the highest point.  To say, “I did it!”

As a child, I recall visiting New York City several times.  Each time with a desire to climb a new skyscraper.  I remember standing on the sidewalk outside of the Empire State Building and looking up!  The building is so tall you can’t see the top from the ground!  And, of course, what follows?

“Let’s go to the top!”

It’s an internal desire of mankind’s to want to reach a little further.  Consider this short list of man’s epic climbs:

In May of 1953, two climbers reach the top of Mt. Everest (the world’s tallest mountain peak),

In July of 1969, an American astronaut becomes the first to climb out onto the surface of the moon, and

In May of 1872, the first American woman climbs the political ladder and runs for the office of the US President!  (Most people tend to forget the achievement of Victoria Woodhull).

Granite Peak, Montana

Granite Peak, Montana

In Montana, the “top” is considered to be Granite Peak, measuring over 12,800 feet in elevation!  This unique mountain was the last to ever be conquered due to its unpredictable weather patterns and technical climbing.

For the vertically inclined, much of the above information may be helpful in accomplishing some new (and adventurous) goals.  And, while this may be the beginning of establishing some new “tops” in our lives, the important question is: where is Jesus in all of it?

 

Is He at the top?

 

Consider, for just a minute, how you began your day.  What was the first thing you noticed?  Your alarm clock?  Your child crawling in bed with you?  Your dog or cat?  The sound of an automatic coffee maker?

Chances are, as we are approaching the Summer season, no matter what your first activity was,  you woke up with the sunlight.

God begins His love-letter to us (the Bible) in Genesis with the following:

“Let there be light”, and there was light.  And God saw the light and called it good, and God divided the light from the darkness.  God called the light Day and the darkness Night.  So the evening and the morning were the first day.

(Genesis 1:3-5)

Three take-home truths about this passage in Genesis include:

1)  God created Heaven, Earth, Light and Time.

2)  The Earth had no form, prior – and, still, at this point in time.

3)  God simply SPOKE everything into existence.

Notice how there’s no mention of the sun, or the stars, or the moon.  Just light.  In fact, it’s not till the fourth day that God created the sun, stars, and moon!  So, LIGHT predates the sun!

Now, consider John’s record of the Gospel.  Turn to John 8:12.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.

(John 8:12)

What-truly-is the source of life?  The SUN or the SON?

Birth of the sun: Day 4.

Now, let’s take a break from science, and talk diction (yes, words).

Protoevangelism.  Do you fancy a guess to it’s definition?

PROTO means “first,” or “the earliest form of,” and,

EVANGELISM means “delivering the Gospel (the good news).”

So, it literally means, “the first occurrence of the Gospel.”

Many Christians tend to consider the absolute first occurrence of the Gospel to be as early as Genesis 3:15.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and your shall bruise His heel.”

(Genesis 3:15)

There is certainly much to say about this passage, but for now we’re just going to focus on the promise within.  This is God speaking to the serpent (Satan), who just lied and deceived Adam and Eve.  God is referring to the coming of The Messiah.  However, many Jewish scholars find “protoevangelism” even earlier!

Then God said, “Let there be light;” and there was light.

(Genesis 1:3)

In Aramaic, the word for light is ‘nahora.’  Nahora is considered to be one of the secret names of The Messiah by these early Rabbis.

Are they incorrect in applying the name Nahora (light) to Jesus?

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

In Him (Jesus) was life, and the life was the light of men.

(John 1:4)

Arise, shine; For your light has come!  And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.

(Isaiah 60:1)

“The sun shall no longer be your light by day, Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; But the LORD will be to you an everlasting light, And your God your glory.”

(Isaiah 60:19)

The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it.  The Lamb is its light.

(Revelation 21:23)

Remember, in Genesis, God divided the darkness from the light and called it the first day.  And, ever since we’ve had the same thing happen.  Each day is signified by the arrival of the sun’s light.  Therefore, everyday begins with “the Light.”  It’s part of God’s natural order!

How do your days begin?

Do you thank God for the LIGHT (LIFE) of your day?

Notice how God, in His creation of things, created light and not darkness.  There is no darkness, only the absence of light.  Death is not the opposite of life.  It is simply the absence of it which is why when Jesus tells us HE is the life (John 11:25), He is also reiterating that there is no life outside of Him.

To be absent Jesus, is to be absent life.

The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

(Job 33:4)

The word for “life” found in Job is also the same Hebrew word found in Genesis 2:7:

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

“Khah-e,” is the Hebrew word for “life.”  And, interestingly, it is plural.

Yes, God gave us two lives:  1) Spiritual and 2) Physical.

When Adam sinned, he died spiritually.  This is clarified in Ephesians 2:1,

And you [He made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins.

Therefore, the light of day should be a reminder that Jesus is here!  He is sharing His light (life) with you!  Be thankful!

Just as a new day begins with sun light, new life begins with Son Light!

Now Go Tell At Least Three People

In my early twenties, I decided I’d try one of those “pyramid-deals.”  You know, one of those “this isn’t a get rich quick scheme, this is the real deal.”  Or, this one’s better, “I started as a stay-at-home mom in my part-time, today I make (insert lavish dollar amount) and I’m still a stay at home mom…working part-time!”

I recall the motivational orientation.  (Flashback begins)

Que the 90’s upbeat dance music (let me add “cheesy,” too).

Now, put yourself in a hotel banquet room, with about 100 others.  Clapping.

The lights dim.  Except for the make-shift stage.

Some guy in a Miami-vice suit jumps up front with one of those stupid wireless microphones attached to his ear.

His overly enthusiastic smile is enough to make you want to chew your own face off!  (Kinda makes you wonder how you ever got there, better yet, how ANYONE ever got there).

THIS CAN BE YOUR LIFE!

Anyway, after a 30 minute rags-to-riches testimonial, and an unparalleled changing of this man’s life, juxtaposed with picures of the Carribean, the big cruise ship, and the new Porche (you know, it’s always the same picture of the Carribean, isn’t it?), you begin to think, “I want that life.”

“I can do this.”

“I just need three friends.”

“Yeah, piece of cake.  I’ll be the next motivational speaker!”

Three months later, where are you?  Or, let me personalize it, where am I? I’m on the phone trying to get the auto-pay option discontinued.  I have boxes of materials stuffed away and a long list of friends needing apologies.

The truth is, none of that should have any real lasting appeal.  Be thankful that’s not your life.  Did you know that the overwhelming majority of lottery winners end up right back in debt within years?  (See this article, if interested).  It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?  Maybe that’s why it’s been said that if all the world’s wealth was divided up evenly amongst the population, within a few years, we’d all be back in the same spots.

Personalize it for a minute.  Do you receive a “refund” during the tax season?  Meaning, instead of paying into the tax coffers, do you receive a hypothetical “bonus check?”  I worked with this young woman once who told me she got an $8,000 tax refund one year!  The irony was, just earlier she was complaining about not having enough money to fix her car.  I told her that $8,000 divided up over 12 months is over $600 a month!  The truth is, if she had been a better planner, she would have set up a cushion for an unexpected expense.

I guess one of the positive impacts of the “pyramid-dream” (let’s forgo calling it a “pyramid-scheme,” shall we?), is the emphasis it puts on PLANNING.  Yes, to get the future you dream of, you need to PLAN.

What’s your plan?

No, not financially.  Because, as you are already aware, money doesn’t buy you happiness.  However, as a good friend of mine recently counter-argued, “no, it may not buy you happiness, but it can buy to access to happiness.”  Really?  Is money required for access?  As if happiness is a theme park and only those who can cover the cost of admission get to partake?

Hardly.

Just earlier this morning I was at the school yard watching my son run to the entrance door.  As usual, I drove up to the playground, walked him across the street, and lifted him over the fence.  Then, over the next minute, as he runs toward the door, we engage in a battle of who can shout “I love you” loudest.

“I love you, Dad!”

“I love you, Vince!”

And, this goes on until he reaches the door.

Today, he got to the door, and as he usually does, he got the last “Love You” before heading into the building.  However, anticipating his “Love You,” I shouted before he did.  He laughed and walked in, but then behind the door, through the window, I see him wave “I Love You” in sign-language!

He won!

This was happiness!

Purely, happy.

And, there was no financial figure involved.

As, I climbed back into the truck and turned toward home, I prayed.  I told God that I was happy and thankful for the happiness that was overwhelming every fiber of my body.  I told him that I am honored to be the dad of the beautiful children He gave me, and that I am amazed at how much He loves me!  You see, God loves me so much that He sent His beautiful son to endure a death I couldn’t so I can receive a life I don’t deserve.  His son was beaten, bruised, and bloodied for the sins that I committed.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

-2 Corinthians 5:21

I can’t imagine sending my own child to anywhere NEAR the persecution of the cross, let alone for the sins that another committed.  Yuk!

Yet, He did.

Because, He loves.

It’s because He loves, I write.

I speak.

And, I live.

It’s not because of he who is in the world, but because of He who is in me.

God has a plan, too.  And, like the “pyramid-dreams,” you should tell at least three people!  Jesus calls it “the great commission.”

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

-Matthew 28:18-20

Some Christians would be better calling it ‘The Great Omission,” however, as they can hardly muster up the energy to proclaim their King.

Again, what’s your plan?  Are you part of the Commission, or the Omission?

Let’s draw a metaphorical hypothetical and find out.

You awake in the middle of the night to a roaring fire across the street.  The lot next to your neighbor’s house lit up and in just the time you jumped to the window the flames have already begun crossing the fence.  Within minutes your neighbor’s house is going to be caught up in this fire!

Your mind races through your friendly neighbor, his hospitable and loving wife, and their beautiful children.

Do you:

1)  Run out immediately, kick down the door Chuck Norris style, run up the stairs and save them?  Or,

2)  Let someone else worry about it?

Think about it for a minute.

Jesus called us to be disciples.  To lead.  To be the light of the world.

Where are we leading people?  Into the light!  Into safety.

See, Hell is an all-consuming fire (and don’t even begin to dismiss that argument claiming God isn’t hateful and wouldn’t send anyone to Hell!  Because He’s not hateful.  And, He doesn’t send anyone to Hell.  They choose it).  If we don’t warn others of the encroaching FIRE, they’re likely to BURN.  Seriously.  And, it really IS that simple.  People have a tendency to complicate religion, but really, Jesus made things quite simple.  There’s life and there’s death.  No middle.

You don’t have to be a trained fire-fighter to warn people of fire.  And, if this doesn’t offer total reassurance, you don’t even have to fight the fire (although, if your profession actually is a firefighter, please continue to do the awesome work you do!)!

As Jesus warns in Matthew 25, be as the homeowner on the lookout for the thief.  That is, be prepared!  Get your soul protected with the armor of God, and let Him extinguish the flame.  Just be on the lookout for others, and show them the light!

You are the light of the world.

-Matthew 5:14