Yet in Thy Dark Streets Shineth

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I get it. Sometimes we have difficulty letting go of the season. I was thinking that this year we should try something different. We could try doing Christmas—and then when it’s over, we could wait until next year to do Christmas again. My good friends—who also happen to be my neighbors—kept their Christmas lights up, and even the tree up, until June last year. June! It was so cute. They still turned the lights on every night. When summer rolled around, we were trying to decide if it was a late Christmas celebration or an early one for the next year.

When they came over for Bible study one evening, I teased them, “Tonight you will be visited by the Ghost of CHRISTMAS IS OVER, PEOPLE!”

Then again, I’ve heard a lot of people judge when it’s time to take down the Christmas tree by how dry it is and/or whether or not it’s currently on fire. Counting my blessings. Since my neighbor’s tree is fake.

I do understand how tough it can be to get motivated to take the decorations down and put them all away. Decorating? So exciting. But taking them down is rather a bummer. Last year I tried, “Okay, Google: Take down my Christmas lights,” but…nothing. There really should be an app for that.

Still, you know what? My neighbors might just have it right. Their twinkling tree and all the shiny lights on their house lit up our neighborhood most of the year. Maybe I’m the one who needs to adjust my thinking about what’s seasonal and what’s not. The truth is, my neighbors don’t leave their Christmas decorations up because they’re lazy about taking them down. They leave them up because they love Christmas. They really, really love Christmas.

The pre-Christmas celebrations started long before there was a first Christmas. Seven-hundred years before Christ, Isaiah wrote, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness,” (Isaiah 9:2). Then in verse 6 he wrote, “For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (CSB)

This? Oh my, this is something to shine about. Jesus confirmed it when He said, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven,” (Matthew 5:14, 16 CSB).

Light up the neighborhood. Light up the world.

We sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” every year. It’s a song sung to the city where our Jesus was born and it includes the phrase:

“Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting Light;

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight.”

The everlasting Light that shone in Bethlehem is still shining. Our Father doesn’t want us to pack away our thoughts of our Savior’s coming like so many Christmas decorations. We’re to shine Gospel-light-living through our streets and through our world.

So let’s do it. Let’s light it up in every season.

And if you’d specifically like to see it lit up come summer, head on over to my neighborhood. We’ll leave the lights on.

No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light.  Luke 11:33 NASB

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Yet in Thy Dark Streets Shineth – insight from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for the Messy to Meaningful series, with My Purse Runneth Over coming soon. Edie Melson and Rhonda have a new book as well, Unruffled—Thriving in Chaos.

Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: What are ways you can light up your neighborhood and world?

Influencing with Pumpkinality

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden…let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify you Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14, 16 NASB

How can you tell it’s fall? The answer:  Pumpkins. Not necessarily pumpkins in the garden. No, it’s about much more than that. It’s pumpkins on every store shelf in every form you can think of—and some you never thought of. And some you’d rather not ever have thought of.

Pumpkins on every front porch. On tables. In baskets. Arranged, prepared, decorated. You’ll find pumpkin in your breakfast pastry. In your lunch soup. In your dinner salad. It’s in your coffee! We eat, sleep, breathe pumpkins. Literally “breathe” because the number of pumpkin-scented candles, perfumes, air fresheners and the like is getting more impressive by the autumn-minute.

Pumpkins have been tinted and whittled, glittered and frittered. That doesn’t even count the fake ones. Fabric, metal, wood—will that be paper or plastic? They’re sculpted, whipped and crafted. We have pumpkins for every personality. Anyone else close your eyes at night and see orange? We’ve got pumpkinality!

There have also been a few disturbing turns for pumpkins. Chicken pumpkin taco. Really? Seriously, why? Pumpkin potato chips. Pumpkin pizza. Those are all ideas that should’ve been squashed. (Squashed? Mercy, there’s even pumpkin in our humor. “Pun”-kins?)

What’s with the extreme pumpkinization of our society? And I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’ve been sucked in. Willingly, even. Well, not the tacos, chips or pizza. But the rest? Wholeheartedly, all in.

It’s good to remember that our society can be influenced. And that it needs to be. Not really for pumpkins—though I confess, I do love them. But for Jesus. For truth. The kind of influence that counts for eternity.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” He wasn’t talking about Jack-o-lanterns when He said, “A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven,” Matthew 5:14-16, HCSB.

Put your pumpkins in a basket, fine. But not your light. It’s meant to be shining, influencing—pointing a lost world to a saving Christ. We’re to shine by sharing the Gospel of Jesus, and by the way we live to bring Him glory.

First Peter 2:12 says to “conduct yourselves honorably” among unbelievers. The next verses get a bit more specific about that conduct. Verse 13 says to “Submit to every human authority because of the Lord” and in verse 17, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor,” (HCSB).

I’m so much more wholeheartedly “all in” when it comes to shining the light of Christ in this culture. I don’t want to be remembered merely as the lady with the pumpkins on her porch. I would much rather be known as one who lives and influences with integrity, and that one who can’t quite shut-up about all things Jesus.

Meanwhile, when it comes to squash, I won’t try to tell you what you pump-“kin” and “kin-not” do. But I’ve heard you can even make it into pie. Wow, there’s an idea.

TWEETABLE
Influencing with Pumpkinality – insight from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for the Messy to Meaningful series, with My Purse Runneth Over coming soon. Edie Melson and Rhonda have a new book as well, Unruffled—Thriving in Chaos.

Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: What effective ways have you found to share “all-things Jesus”?

When No One Seems to Notice

by Ava Pennington @AvaPennington

Ministry can sometimes be discouraging work in the best of times. It may become even more discouraging when we’ve poured ourselves into our calling and no one seems to notice our efforts. Or maybe we’ve worked and worked . . . and someone else gets the credit for what we’ve accomplished.

As Christians, we know we serve to glorify the Lord. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world . . . let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16 NIV). The goal of our work is to glorify the Father, not ourselves.

Still, it’s natural to want someone to notice and acknowledge our efforts. We all need encouragement. Certainly, the Bible exhorts us to encourage one another.

But the Lord knows our hearts. He knows our motivations. I’ve found God will frequently allow periods of anonymity or discouragement in my life to reveal my motives. If I’m ready to give up because of a lack of recognition or appreciation, that tells me my motives have been all wrong.

It’s no accident that among the hundreds of named women in Scripture, there are also more than one hundred references to unnamed individual women or groups of women. Immortalized in Scripture for all time, yet virtually unknown apart from being identified by their circumstances. It doesn’t seem quite fair.

Yet nothing escapes God’s notice. He knows who they are—each and every one of them. And he knows who we are, what we’re doing, and why we do it. Jesus reminded his followers that “even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30 NIV). In Genesis 16:13, Hagar was amazed that God knew all about her, and she called Him El Roi, the God Who Sees.

So the next time you’re discouraged because of a lack of recognition or appreciation, there’s only one thing to do. Run straight into the arms of El Roi. Take comfort in knowing the Lord sees all you do and will reward you in His time and in His perfect way.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:9-10 NIV).

So who are we really serving? Paul reminds us in I Thessalonians 2:4 (NIV), “We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.” And in Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV), he wrote, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

When we’re in ministry the recognition and pay may not be much, but we can look forward to a retirement plan that’s out of this world!

For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward his name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. Hebrews 6:10 NASB

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When No One Seems to Notice – insight from @AvaPennington on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

© 2010 Martin Alan Grivjack Photography Martin Alan Grivjack Photography

About the authorAva Pennington is an author, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) teacher, and speaker. Her most recent book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God, is endorsed by Kay Arthur of Precepts Ministries.

Ava has also published stories in 30+ anthologies, including 25 Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her articles have appeared in numerous magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse.

She is a passionate speaker and delights in encouraging groups with relevant, enjoyable presentations. For more information, visit www.AvaWrites.com.

Join the conversation: Have you ever struggled with a lack of recognition?

Pointing to Him

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I burned my right index finger on the toaster the other day. Man, did that smart. It might not have been so bad if I hadn’t kept aggravating it. Do you know how many moves in everyday life require an uninjured right index finger? It was on the very tip to boot. The typing tip. And I’m a writer. That means every j, u, n, m, h and y was painful, not to mention my 6’s and 7’s. There are heroic people who deal with real challenges every day, of course—nothing like my wimpy one. The difference is that I’m no hero. I won’t even pretend.

That little finger-wound not only interfered with typing, but it affected buttoning, stirring, tapping, zipping—poking, picking, pulling and pinching. It’s my lip-glossing finger, my microwave button finger, and an absolutely essential part of making that tiny violin motion when I need to let someone know they’re whining.

Okay, so I’m usually the one who’s whining, but think about it. I had to make coffee with only 90% of my usual fingerage. Imagine trying to make coffee with that kind of deficiency—without having my coffee first. Tricky. I realized I had barely begun to whine when it came time to do my hair. A hairbrush seems to require at least ten fingers. You might be surprised, too, to find that running your fingers through your hair isn’t nearly as satisfying without all ten runners.

And what do you do when you eat something finger-licking good but you only get to lick nine out of the ten fingers? You can probably guess just how incomplete that feels. Even button-pushing was hindered. In this day and age, a gal needs her button-pushing finger to be ever operational. It’s one thing to have your driving hindered, but I didn’t have my radio button-pushing finger. Driving with the radio stuck on a sports show? For me that really is painful.

At least I could still point with that pointy finger. And it’s a good thing, because I always have something worthwhile to point out—no fingers required. That something is that everything in life should point to Jesus. If others are not encouraged to look to Jesus by what they observe in my life, there’s only one person to blame. All fingers point back to me.

Jesus stepped onto this planet as the Light of the world, crushing the darkness of sin by his redemptive work on the cross. Then the Light said to us, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV)

No bowls about it, we’ve been commissioned to shine His light, all glory pointing to Him.

His radiant glory. The point of our story.

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Thoughts on pointing to God from author @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 12 books, including Fix-Her-Upperco-authored with Beth Duewel, and a hilarious novel, Turtles in the Roadco-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for a new book and TV series titled, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer. Rhonda enjoys speaking at conferences and events from coast to coast and serves as a consultant for Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown, mostly-coffee-drinking children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: What points you to Christ?