Last week I was challenged to look around to see the evidences of God's grace in my life as opposed to all of the crap. This seems to be a theme in my life of late. I must say that it was really great taking the time to see all of the areas where God is moving in my life. It was great to pause and see that God was at work both in my life and through my life. This week's challenge is similar to that one.

There is a Chinese Proverb that says, "Don't curse the darkness; light a candle." On Sunday I had one of those incredible conversation with my best friend that I only have with him. With him I was able to be raw, vulnerable and unapologetic in my bluntness. We talked passionately about theology, politics, ministry and life in general. Those talks always lead me into deep thought. It is one of those things that I love but I hate. I love them because it gives me time to pause, reflect and to be introspective. I hate it for the same reasons. My tendency is to become very introspective and over think everything. Initially it led me to "curse the darkness". I began to have a pity party with me as the only invited guest. It was ridiculous. But then on Monday I got a phone call. I initially was confused. I thought to myself, "I am pretty sure I am not the Pastor on call today" because for some reason I thought the number was from our "on-call" number. It was a call from a person who wanted me to give an acquaintance of hers a call. After talking with this acquaintance my whole perspective changed.

Where I had been focusing on poor ol' Ray, my perspective changed to another person. When I shifted from me to "we" I began to see the evidences of God's grace. I began to see things differently. Then I was struck by a simple yet incredibly profound revelation. It dawned upon me that whenever I spent time focusing on me--where I was the center of my life--I focused on the problems. On another level, I focused on the darkness and I cursed it. However, when I put the Gospel--and its call on me--at the center of my life that all changed. I saw that my life is most useful and effective when it is spent lighting candles than when I curse the darkness.

See the thing that I love about this proverb is it does not disregard the darkness. It does not tell me to think positively and the darkness will flee. No. It says, in that darkness while it surrounds me to light a candle. When I light that candle my perspective changes.

Will you join me this week in this challenge? Can we commit to lighting candles in the darkness?
The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger, and mosquitoes and silly people.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

While reading in Gospel Coach by Scott Thomas and Tom Wood today, I was reminded to take sight of the evidences of God's grace happening all about me. My tendency is not to see the evidences of God's grace in my life, (or the sun that shines and warms and lights)  but rather it is to see the areas that are not going well--the areas I don't understand or that with which I am not in full agreement (the evil, pain, hunger, mosquitoes and silly people). I was challenged to see the areas where God is moving. I was challenged to see all of the great things that Creator God has allowed me to join him in doing. Today, I was challenged to say no to seeing all of the problems in my life but to reflect upon the things that are going well!

I asked my best friend if he would join me in a challenge for a week--I pose the same question to you: Will you join me in a challenge? This week, can we be conscious of God's grace in our lives? The authors say:

To see evidences of God's grace, one could start by reflecting on the list of fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). How has God demonstrated himself through the fruit flourishing in your life? How have others illuminated the gospel through demonstrations of the fruit of the Spirit? You may find evidences of God's grace in places you've never looked.  (Gospel Coach, pp 180-181)

This week while at work, instead of complaining about the boss, can we look for evidences of God's grace? This week while at home, can we complain less about our spouse of kids and look for evidences of God's grace? This week, can we enjoy the warmth and light of the sun without constantly wondering about the things that we don't understand? Can we, for just this week, lean into love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? I know we can! Do you accept the challenge?

This week, may we be people of the Gospel. This week, may we live loved and love freely. This week, may we be the change for which the world waits!
Independence Day! Each year as a nation we remember that we are free. We take time to pause and reflect on freedom. Back in 1776 there were men who threw down the gauntlet and bravely declared that we, on this day, declare that we are free from imperial oppression.

However--as a black man--I can never think about this day without thinking about how odd it is that those men would declare their freedom while denying freedom for my ancestors. It makes me think about me, today.

In what areas am I blind to the contradictions in my own life? I know, for instance, that I am a man who believes that we should do all that we can to care for this one earth that we have been given. All the while driving a 1998 Nissan Maxima that most certainly adds to the destruction of our ozone layer. From one side of my mouth I declare that I believe all Americans are equal and deserve equal protection under the law. But I am afraid to go all the way with that conviction when I am talking with my friends who I know do not fully embrace such a belief. Finally, I say that we are each made free in Christ yet I am constantly held paralyzed by my own fears and anxieties.

Today, as I pause to thank those imperfect men for their courage and their convictions, I also pause to ask God to free me from my own contradictions and biases. Lord, may the freedom that we celebrate be fully realized today. May your kingdom (your rule and reign) come fully on earth as it is in heaven. May all people be free and live into the calls and destinies that you have ordained. May we, free men and women, never feel secure or rested in our freedoms until we have done all we can, said all we can and sweated all we can for another's freedom.

Happy Independence Day. Live into your freedom that--I believe--is most fully realized in the finished work of Christ on the cross at Calvary.
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