Red Cup Heart

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Two things you need to know about me. One, I love coffee. Like really love coffee. I used to drive 35 minutes in traffic to get the best cup of coffee I could find. LOVE coffee. 

Second, I have worked my entire adult life, 18 years, in the retail and service industry. I have seen some pretty rough Christmas shopping seasons. But I still love Christmas, and coffee.

At the beginning of November an alarming thing started creeping across my social media feeds. The Starbucks holiday red cup had come out, and to much dismay it was exactly that… red.

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No snowmen, no snowflakes, not even a cheery holiday phrase. Just red. The Christian twitter-verse exploded. People were upset at the lack of holiday cheer, some people were upset at people being upset at the lack of holiday cheer.

It made me stop and think for a moment. Do we as Christians truly display a spirit of thanksgiving? Even if the red cup controversy didn’t upset you, think about how many day to day trivial things we get fired up about. I would daresay that many of us have had our spirit of thanksgiving replaced by a spirit of offense and worry.

I am guilty of this too. As I enjoyed my latest Starbucks skinny peppermint mocha, in all of its offensive redness, I made a choice not to be offended. Not to be upset over things that don’t matter for eternity. To not be upset when lost people act lost.My worry, angst and graceless response to things needs to change and be gone.

Thanksgiving cannot just be a holiday, it has to reflect in the condition of our hearts.

The Apostle Paul says to us,

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!

It says in The Message for to “revel in Him”. That tells me we should be singing, dancing and shouting for joy! But we can’t revel if we are too busy worrying. This is not just Paul’s suggestion for a holiday. He is telling us to live a joy filled life;  so full of the joy of the Lord, that it splashes out and touches those around us.

But how? Rejoice? In a world full of violence, anger and fear. We should rejoice?

Yes. Even in the midst of fear, hatred and sorrow. Rejoice. Why?

Because it is NOT rejoice in the fear. Its NOT rejoice in everything. We are not to rejoice in the positive, or in spite of the negative. BUT we are to rejoice in the Lord, because He is the unwavering constant love in a world full of fear and hate and worry.

Back to those red cups. My local Starbucks gave me a few to play with. And I got a great idea. How we respond depends how our problems and offenses look to us. Check this out.

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View things through a lens of love. Our offenses, our troubles our issues. A few cheap stickers on a cup added some Christmas flair. But when we look at things through the joy of God, our problems also appear smaller, not gone, but under His control.

I want to challenge us all this season of joy and everyday after, to rejoice in the Lord. Choose to respond in the Spirit, in love. Let all fear and worry go, rejoice in the unwavering love of God.

The True Gospel

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Galatians 1:6-10

I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ.

Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.

Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.

Last night I asked the students what the word gospel meant. We got many answers, some of them close, some of them way off. I told them that gospel means good news, and it is not a strictly Biblical word. It can be applied to any “good news”. In fact we live in a world and society that routinely substitutes “good news” for the truth of God. Let’s take a quick look at 5 false gospels that teens are often confronted with on a daily basis.

  • DRUGS & ALCOHOL – Good news, you can escape all your hurts and pains!

The truth is that drugs and alcohol are merely band-aids for our hurts and pains. They don’t make them go away, and any temporary escape from them is only compounded by our reawakening to reality when the effects wear off. Quite often the choices we make while under the influence of this false gospel can make our hurts and pains even worse, and add even more problems. This is a false gospel.

  • PORNOGRAPHY & SEX – Good news, you can have pleasure without sacrifice and commitment. All that matters is you!

Pornography is a filter that will warp your sense of relationship, love, passion and sex. Trying to find joy in an act that was meant by God to be between a husband and wife, will only leave you emptier and wanting more. Pornography also devalues our humanity and has been proven to lead to abuse and relational troubles. It is also one of the leading drivers behind the sex trafficking trade. There is no good news that comes from pornography.

  • MONEY – Good news, money can provide security, and can provide status.

Money is not all bad. It pays for my house, puts groceries in the fridge, and helps us support missionaries across the globe. But saying that money will bring security and status is putting trust in something that is fragile and temporary. We are not beings tied to this earth and this life, we are meant to live forever. Money, possessions, and status are all things that fade with time. The only lasting thing we can put our trust in is the love of God.

  • POPULARITY – Good news, being popular means lots of friends, fewer problems and less confrontations.

Being popular is something that many students deal with on a daily basis, in fact it will continue to be something that we all deal with in our adult lives. But it doesn’t ease our problems. Having friends is wonderful, in fact it is necessary in order to navigate this life. But striving to be everything to everyone only diminishes our selves. Be who God made you to be, don’t worry about everyone, make friends, and keep them close.

  • GOOD DEEDS & SOCIAL JUSTICE – Good news, being a good person and fighting wrongs is enough.

Doing good deeds and fighting against the injustices of society in this world bring a smile to God’s face. Part of our calling as Christ followers is to help the hurting and the poor, and to protect the powerless. But to think that this alone is enough to make up for our sinful nature and bring us in sync with God the Father is false. We need to do good, and help those who can’t help themselves, but what we really need is the TRUE gospel.

  • THE TRUE GOSPEL – Good news, Jesus came, died and rose from the dead to give you life, a life filled with the joy of God and built upon the security that He will never fail or abandon you. All you have to do is confess, believe and live.

The true gospel is that all we need is God’s grace. We can’t work hard enough, can’t own enough, can’t have enough friends, or find our joy and hope in sex. What we need is what we don’t deserve, the grace of God.