Hope you're having an awesome week! If you're not really having an amazing week, there's a 3-step plan you can fallow to instantly improve it
Ready? Buckle up your seatbelt!…Here goes!
Step one: Stop and think of five reasons you have to be super thankful to God right this very second! Think of them as fast as you can!
Step Two: Write 'em down…
Step Three: Praise God for each of these things!
Don't you feel better?!
"The captain has turned off the seatbelt sign…You are now free to move about the cabin."
Actually, I know some guys who really can't afford NOT to be encouraged! If they get discouraged, it's a long, dark way down. They do whatever they have to do to keep praising and thankful all the time! And you could make the case that they have a lot less to be thankful about than we do…
On Wednesday afternoon for the last several months, I've been volunteering at the MCCX (Morgan County Correctional Facility) right there where you turn to go Frozen Head State Park. It's the largest prison in our state. To tell the truth, if you had to go to prison, snuggled in that charming valley, the MCCX is probably better than one in the desert of Arizona or the cold, endless night of Alaska. But it's really a prison. They all wear the same drab clothes everyday. The food is starchy and boring. They all have numbers. Their numbers for some reason all start with a double zero…as in, "008547823". If I was in there I'd think about myself, "Well, whatever else you are, you're first of all a zero…twice!"
But there are guys out there who "shine with a light from above!" There are guys who have come to know Jesus and they love Him! You can see it on their faces! When I walk thru the compound, passing lines of guys as I go back to where we have our classes, I look for that light…As you greet guys, some have expressions of deadness. Some may look angry. Many look really tired and just worn down. But some have "it"! …that brightness…that joy…that peace…that only Jesus gives! You can way tell it!
Maybe the guys who love Jesus see something like a flicker of it in me maybe…because often, somehow even with guys you've never met, you look at each other and know you're brothers and a family!
Maybe they're just being kind, but the guys I have in my class seem like they can't wait for Wednesday! They all hug ya, ask you how YOUR week has been, (I never say, "Way better than yours!") They're super into the topics we are going to study that day!
I mean, I know they're in there for some terrible reason and at one time obviously they were and/or did something we don't really ever talk about. But something has happened! They've changed!
We are doing a twelve week class on Romans chapters six through eight, and how Jesus transforms a messed-up person into a holy person. And most of these guys are well on their way! One brother calls his wife, mother, and kids every Thursday in a conference call and they pray together for each other and for the week ahead for thirty minutes. Know anyone else who does that?
One of the guys I have has met every President of the United States since Nixon and had a former President as a professor! And some of his favorite Christian authors are the same as mine!
One brother started going by his middle name four years ago because he was reborn in Jesus in '09 and he wanted to start over in every way he could think of!
And they give themselves daily to keeping their hearts and minds filled with the encouragement Jesus gives!
Most evenings, different groups and churches will go out there and offer a worship and praise time. Lots of guys go to almost all of those. I asked some of the early arrivals on Wednesday if they go every evening. One brother said, "I used to, but now I only go to certain ones."
"Why?" I asked.
"Well," he said, "Lots of churches and pastors come out here and preach 'jail house religion'."
"Oh, you know", he said. "They preach at us, 'You're a sinner. You need to come to Jesus and get saved.' We're thankful they come and that they think of us. But we've done that. We want to grow."
"Wow!" I thought. I've been thinking about it since.
Just because a person is out there in…well…prison, people just assume things about them. That they're "lost sinners"…that they're "them"…that "we need to take the light to them"…
There are TONS of lost people in there! But there are also brothers in Christ who are walking with Him, learning from Him, and living for Him in a difficult place. I'm convinced that they are the ones who will reach the ones who don't know Him there.
What if people always saw you for what you were and not for what you are now?
Maybe you have people in your life who do see you that way. Maybe it's the hardest thing in your life.
On the other hand…what if you saw people who love our Lord the way HE sees them? What if you thought of them as Paul puts it... "chosen of God, holy, and beloved?"
Once there was a FORMERLY sexually immoral person who had been forgiven and cleansed in her heart by Jesus. She loved Him so much, she busted into a dinner, crying and snotty, to thank Him. "If this Man were a prophet, He would know what kind of person this woman IS," someone muttered.
Not "IS"!, dude! "WAS!"
He's more than a prophet! He's a Savior! And that's why she WASN'T any longer what she HAD been!
Jesus said to His dinner host, "Simon, do you see this woman?"
Nope. He sure didn't.
What if you saw God's folks the way He sees them? Including your kids?...Your mate?
And what if you saw YOURSELF the way Jesus sees you?
He loves you! (Revelation 1:5)
He is enthralled by your beauty! (Psalm 45:11)
He sings over you with joy! (Zephaniah 3:17)
Everyone one of us could say with John, "I'm the disciple Jesus loves!"
I'm His favorite!
If He gave me a number, it wouldn't start with zero!
Even if others only knew me as 008547823, to Him I'd be His # 1!