Evangelism, family life, trust, Uncategorized, worship

The “In Crowd”

Be_Our_GuestMany years ago, when my children were young, The Disney company had a slogan that shaped the values of the entire organization. That slogan was, “Be Our Guest”!  There was a song written with the same title that was song by one of the Disney characters that would fill my children with excitement and glee every time they heard it. When they heard the first couple of bars of the song, “Be… Our… Guest…”, they would stop whatever they were doing and start dancing and singing. The next thing out of their mouths were, “Mommy, Daddy, can we go to Disney World?” That’s powerful marketing.

This theme set the tone for every activity in their parks as well as the company at large. The Disney brand was recited and emulated in businesses throughout the world. They became a company known for the excellent way in which they treated their guests. Walking onto the Disney property, guests immediately feel secure that the proper preparations had been made to ensure that all of there expectations would be met and possibly exceeded. Branding is powerful. It drives everything.

The Shepherds Brand

Psalm 23:1 is a passage of scripture that I have read many times and even memorized. I was taught to recite it as a child. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…”. Many of us can quote these familiar scriptures, but I wonder if they really make for change in our lives. I recently re-read this passage in another translation. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.”  Upon reading that phrase, “in want”, I realized that my relationship with the Shepherd Jesus was also based on branding. Living under the Shepherds covering represents a well thought out plan by God the Father to make perfect provision for all of my longings and desires. Just like a person paying for a ticket to enter the Disney park has expectation for a time of family fun and connection; we have been purchased by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross which grants us access into everything we need for life and godliness. When we are abiding in the Shepherd, we don’t have to be in want.

To be “in” is a present tense phenomenon that requires faith for today. Just like the children of Israel, I must trust God to provide for my daily needs. Storing up manna for fear of lack only causes things to go bad. John 15:7 says:

“If you remain in me (abide in me), 

and my words remain in (abide in) you, 

ask whatever you wish and it shall be given unto you.”

People are always talking about “out”; coming out, outspoken, outsourced, but perhaps the real key to peace and joy is being “in”. In the secret place. Abiding under the shadow of his wing. Psalm 91:1-2 says:

“I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge, 

my God in whom I trust.”

Disney’s brand offers you a world of fun as long as you stay in the park. The Shepherd’s brand offers abundant life as we live in Him. Acts 17:28 says,

“In Him I live and move and have my being”

“In”, is a function word used to indicate inclusion, location or position – within limits.

My children were not disappointed when we vacationed at the famous theme park. They squealed with excitement when we walked through the gates and they realized that they were finally “in” Disney World. Maybe we should do a little more dancing and celebrating the fact that we are “In Christ”. Our marketing strategy of love, joy, peace etc. should make people long to be a part of the “in crowd”.

I like being part of the “In crowd”. How about you?

Evangelism, Gifts, Holidays, Love

Something Special (Just for you)

Have you ever heard someone say, “for me?! Oh, you shouldn’t have..” as an excited response to a gift they had been given? The response sounds like they hadn’t expected the gift or that the gift was not necessary, when in reality, they were jubilant that someone had taken the time to think about them and put together a gift that was designed specifically for them. When someone takes the time to give us a gift, it affirms the fact that someone sees us, that they have been thinking about us, and that they value us.
The holiday season can be difficult for many because it stirs up deep loneliness. In a time where all about them is bustling and preparing for times of connection with friends and family, they feel barren and empty, longing for someone to have thoughts of them while planning for that special gift to be given.
My heart goes out to people that struggle with loneliness because many of them have stopped hoping. They stopped believing that there would be anything special prepared just for them.
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I imagine that was how the Samaritan woman felt in John 4. The scriptures tell us in verse 4 that Jesus had to go through Samaria. In a time when Jews had no dealings with Samaritans, Jesus made it a priority. To the casual reader, it may appear that Jesus sat down at the well simply because he was tired. Yet Jesus sat down with intentionality. He had a special gift to deliver to a special person.
Sometimes we are not prepared for the gift because we feel unworthy. We are afraid to be vulnerable to the familiar rejection we may have experienced in the past. That was how the Samaritan woman felt when Jesus asked her for a drink.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])
Jesus answered her,
“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:9-10)
 
As the holiday season winds down, let’s think about the gifts we can give with the same intentionality as Jesus had with the Samaritan woman.Just because the holiday season is ending it doesn’t mean we can’t continue to give gifts.
 Jesus told the Samaritan woman that he would give her living water so that she would never thirst again. We can give this same gift not just to our family and friends, but to all whom we encounter: The persons we meet while standing in line, The grocery store clerk, The senior citizen whose family and friends may have all passed away…
I pray that as we approach a new year we will have the same urgency as Jesus did, saying,
“I must go… I must tell everyone I meet that there is a special gift waiting just for them.”
Gift giving season is not ending. In fact, a new one is just beginning.

Christine James is a wife, mother and pastor at CareView Community Church. This is her first blog. She is glad you came.