FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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Better Than a Burning Bush

In Exodus 3 we read:

 1-2 Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the west end of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God, Horeb. The angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn’t burn up.

Moses said, “What’s going on here? I can’t believe this! Amazing! Why doesn’t the bush burn up?”

God saw that he had stopped to look. God called to him from out of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

He said, “Yes? I’m right here!”

God said, “Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground.”

Then he said, “I am the God of your father: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:1-6, The Message)

Did you get it? The angel of God appeared to Moses. God saw that Moses had stopped what he was doing to look at the burning bush. Then…God called to Moses from the bush! He called him by name! Not once, but twice – “Moses! Moses!”

I know that I can’t be the only one that has ever wished that God would speak to me as clearly as He spoke to those in the Bible – that He would send an unmistakable angel and then call me by my name – Debbie! Oh, Debbie!

The Scriptures seem replete (aka brimming) with stories of when God spoke directly to people –

  • Cain (Genesis 4:6)
  • Noah (Genesis 6:13-21, 7:1-4, 8:15-17)
  • Job and his friends (Job 38:1-42:6)
  • Abimelech (Genesis 20:3-7)
  • Isaac (Genesis 26:24)
  • Jacob (Genesis 28:13-15, 35:1, 9-12)
  • Joshua (Joshua 6:2-5)
  • Samuel (1Samuel 3:4-14, 15:10, 16:7)
  • David (1Samuel 23:2, 23:4, 30:8; 2Samuel 2:1, 5:19, 5:23-24)

 

Okay, so those were the big names. But he also spoke to:

  • Jehu (1Kings 16:1-4)
  • Elijah (1Kings 19:9-18)
  • Isaiah (2Kings 20:4; Isa 6:8-12, 8:1-11)
  • Ahaz (Isaiah 7:10-25)
  • Manasseh and his people (2Chronicles 33:10)
  • Jonah (Jonah 1:1-2, 3:1-2, 4:4, 4:9-11)
  • Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:3)
  • Hosea (Hosea 1:2-5)
  • Haggai (Haggai 2:10-23)
  • Zechariah (Zechariah 1:1-17)

 

So why not Debbie?

I have questions, decisions to make. I want to be wise. I want to please Him. I want “my ways” aligned with “His ways.” Oh, how I have wanted a burning bush! Or at least a little sky writing!

Well, the truth of the matter is that He does speak to us. Perhaps not through bushes, fires and pillars of clouds, but He speaks.

He has indwelt us with His Holy Spirit – His Spirit who comforts us, brings us peace and helps us recall what we know about God so that we may accurately share our faith (John 14:15-27).

His Spirit Who counsels and guides us in our everyday lives (John 16:8).

His Spirit Who helps us when we pray by interceding for us (Romans 8:26).

And His Spirit through Whom He speaks to us! Yes, there are other ways that God speaks (e.g. through the counsel of the Godly, through Scripture, through other Christians), but a primary way is through His Holy Spirit that He has sent to live within us performing all those aforementioned functions – comforting, instilling peace, counseling, interceding AND speaking directly to us.

God wants to speak to us and, in fact, has to speak to us because He promised in Psalm 32:8 to instruct us and teach us in the way that we should go.

During Old Testament times the people had no choice but to rely on signs and the messages of prophets; they did not have the personal, intimate, indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit.

If you ask me, this indwelling is better than a burning bush!

Need to hear Him? Open His Word, get still and listen.


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She Didn’t Know

I love the story of Ruth from the Scriptures of the Bible.  A good love story is always a joy to read, and certainly Ruth and Boaz’s story is counted among the great love stories of history.  But that Ruth, a widowed woman left with her also widowed mother-in-law, is literally rescued by the wealthy kinsman redeemer, Boaz, is not even the best part of the story.

The best part of this story is actually what even Ruth didn’t know!

Scripture says that Ruth and Boaz married and had a baby boy named Obed.  Obed grew up and fathered his own son, Jesse.  Jesse grew up and fathered several sons, one named David.  Yes, the same David who slew Goliath, who became King and who was counted as a man after God’s heart.  Exciting?  Yes!  Fascinating?  Yes!  The best part of the story?  Nope!

The best part of Ruth’s story is actually tucked in the Scriptures of the book of Matthew!

Matthew 1:2-16 (NASB) reads:

“Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram.  Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse.  Jesse was the father of David the king.

David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa.  Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah.  Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.  Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah.  Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel.  Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor.  Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud.  Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob.  Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.”

Did you see it?  Do you get it?

Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior came through Ruth’s generational line!

Ruth never knew.

There was a lot of “begetting” and “fathering” between Ruth’s baby, Obed, and Jesus but nevertheless, Ruth and Obed were essential generational links.

Ruth’s story offers many invaluable lessons for us; here are a few to ponder:

  • God is faithful.  The Scriptures foretold the coming of the Messiah.  The genealogy in Matthew makes clear that many generations passed before the actual birth of Christ, but just as promised, the Messiah came.
  • God rewards obedience.  Ruth experienced a long, hard season of loss.  Her husband died leaving her with her mother-in-law.  They were poor.  They were alone.  Ruth had to glean the fields (translation:  harvest the leftovers) for food.  She had no inheritance and was rejected by the closest relative expected to be her redeemer.  But Ruth made a commitment to her mother-in-law and to God.  God, in turn, rewarded her faithfulness, obedience, perseverance and commitment.
  • Ruth never knew, and we may never know.  We can only imagine Ruth’s simultaneous delight and relief when in Ruth 4:10 (NASB) Boaz said, “I have acquired Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, to be my wife in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance, so that the name of the deceased will not be cut off from his brothers or from the court of his birth place…”  Many of us can relate to her joy at conceiving and birthing a son (Ruth 4:13) NASB.  But Ruth never knew that Jesus Christ, our Lord, Savior and Redeemer, the Messiah, came through her generational line.  And we may never know the generational line or influence that flows from us.

Three passages best summarize the lesson for us:

Galatians 6:9    

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”

Colossians 3:23-24

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

Luke 6:22-23a

Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.  Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.

Be faithful.  Obedient.  Persevere.  You just never know!


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Taste Buds

Taste Buds. Also known as gustatory cells. Sometimes confused with papillae. Filled with very sensitive microscopic hairs called microvilli.

Okay. More than you want to know or even feel that you need to know? I get that. Just glad to have them? I get that, too! Without them a ripe peach, a juicy steak, even the quiche that is in my oven at this very moment just wouldn’t be the same! It is our taste buds that allow us to experience the joys of things that are sweet, salty, sour, and bitter.

Through the years my tastes have changed somewhat. As a child, I didn’t like okra; now, I love it. I used to like bananas; just don’t now, though. Beets, however? Never did and suspect I never will!

Why those particular tastes have changed for me, I am not sure. But guess what – God changes our taste buds. Probably not so much when it comes to things like okra, bananas and beets, but when the new life of the Holy Spirit resides within us and begins to grow His influence in our submitted lives, we change! Our tastes change! Again, not so much with regard to food, but certainly in regard to our desires, thoughts and passions.

Philippians 2:13 (NLT) teaches that “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.” God’s work is to align our “tastes” (desires) with His “tastes” (will) for our lives. His desire is that our thoughts, will, emotions, attitudes and passions be progressively transformed to align with His so that we carry out the plan He has crafted for us – a plan for our good (Jeremiah 29:11), a plan to glorify Him.

When I was a child, my parents would put beets on my plate. Yuck! I didn’t like the smell, color or fact that the nasty juice from them spilled over onto the other good food on my plate! My parents would implore me to just try them; take a bite.  They believed my tastes would change, be renewed even to like beets.

When we “taste” God’s plan (accept Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives and submit to the Holy Spirit), we will see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8); the spirit of our minds is renewed (Ephesians 4:23).  Renewed minds begin thinking God’s thoughts.  Renewed wills begin desiring God’s ambitions.  Renewed spirits result in emotions, attitudes and postures that align with God.

Many times I was too stubborn to taste those beets (or any other questionable food).  Sometimes I missed out on good things because of that stubbornness.  Admittedly, I am sometimes too stubborn to submit to God and accept His Word and His plan.  How about you?  Oh what we miss when we think we know best!  The more we surrender to God, the more we are transformed and conformed to the image of Christ.

Oh, taste and see.  Indeed, He is good and His plan for us is good!


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Was I Robbed or What?

Make no mistake about it. Satan is a liar (John 8:44). He is also a thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).

He came last Tuesday.

But he did not steal, (kill or destroy) my joy. I gave it to him!

Yes, as soon as he showed his face, I threw up my hands and gave it to him. Without a fight.

Of course I didn’t recognize that right away. As a matter of fact, I spent several hours and engaged in several conversations discussing how he had robbed me. Interrupted an otherwise glorious morning and stole my joy! It was a beautiful, sunny day. I had a plan and a list, and I was working both. The skies were blue, my steps were light and peppy, I had checked two things off my list and was well on my way to number three.

Then, out of the blue, Satan showed up bringing with him several demons from the past.

What?

I handed my joy right over to him. I let him take me back to a dark place. A sad place. An overwhelming place. For a few hours I settled into that place – rolled around in the muck and mire, had a pity party and resigned myself to the fact that “this” would never be over, would never go away, that there was just no end to “it.” I even texted my girlfriend that “this” was a gift that just kept on giving.

So what?

Thankfully, my Father reminded me of some things!

First, He reminded me of Who He is – all powerful, almighty and all knowing (Psalm 147:5, Isaiah 40:28, Luke 12:7)! He was not caught off-guard or by surprise. He knew just what was going to happen every minute and moment of Tuesday, and He already had a plan.

Secondly, He reminded me of who I am and where I am – that He is mindful of me (Psalm 8:3-4) and that He is with me, upholding me (Isaiah 41:10), protecting me (Psalm 20:1, 140:4), helping and delivering me (Psalm 46:1, 34:19).

Thirdly, He reminded me that while He fights for me (Exodus 14:14), I am to always be alert and am to resist the devil and stand firm in my faith (1 Peter 5:8-9). I am to be dressed in full armor at all times so that when (not if) Satan comes, I am ready and able to stand (Ephesians 6:11-17) not turn tail and run and not surrender! I am to remember that in all “these” things I am more than a conqueror through Him (Romans 8:37) and I can be strong and courageous not trembling and dismayed (Joshua 1:9)! My enemies have been subdued under me (Psalm 18:39).

Now what?

I reclaimed my joy!

And I encourage you to do the same. When we belong to Christ, the enemy never has the final word over our lives. We are secure in God’s hands (2 Chronicles 20:15).  He fights for us but we are to be ready at all times so that when Satan comes, we stand!

 


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Where Are You Empty?

In Unmasking Satan: Understanding Satan’s Battle Plan and Biblical Strategies for Fighting Back, author Richard Mayhue wrote, “When General George Patton counterattacked Field Marshal Rommel in World Ward II, Patton is reported to have shouted in the thick of the battle, “I read your book, Rommel! I read your book!”  Patton had, we understand, studied Rommel’s Infantry Attacks and knew the German leader’s strategy; Patton planned his moves accordingly.

If we read God’s book, we know two things – the schemes and strategies of our enemy, the Devil and the love and power of our Father, God.

We know that Satan is a powerful adversary and, to be effective in our battle, we do well to take stock of him. We know that he lies (John 8:44); deceived (2 Corinthians 11:14-15); frightens (2 Timothy 1:7); schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11); tempts (Matthew 4:3); controls (Ephesians 4:26-27); steals, kills and destroys (John 10:10); prowls and devours (1 Peter 5:8).

As Max Lucado reminds, we also know that “Satan will attack weak spots first.” Jesus fasted for forty days and nights. As the Son of Man, He was very hungry. The devil came to Jesus to tempt Him, knowing His weak spot and saying, “If You are the Son of God, tell these rocks to become bread.” Matthew 4:2–3. Max writes, “Forty days of fasting left Jesus famished, so Satan began with the topic of bread. Jesus’ stomach was empty, so to the stomach Satan turned.”

It’s no different for us. Satan will attack our empty places first – the holes in our souls that crave intimacy, love, attention, success, wealth…even food.

Remember though, our battle plan book, the Bible, not only tells us Satan’s strategies, it also tells us how to equip for the fight – and how to win! It tells us how to fill those holes!  We must read and plan our moves accordingly!

Where are you empty?

Look to God to fill those holes. Bring your weaknesses to Him before Satan brings them to you!

Resources

Lucado, Max. (2015). God is with you every day. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Mayhue, R. (2001). Unmasking satan: Understanding satan’s battle plan and biblical strategies for fighting back. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel.


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Catching and Spreading

I guess this is the season when germs, cold and flu are on our minds. That Satan and the evil spirits he commands, much like germs, are EVERYWHERE, is an analogy that has remained on my mind this week.

A “thought question” from my weekly Bible study asked what it meant to resist the devil. That seemingly simple question plunged me into thought and reflection. Scripture tells us to resist Satan (1 Peter 5:9) and he will flee from us. We have to look a little more deeply at the Scriptures and think a bit more deeply about ourselves and how we live our lives to understand exactly what resisting looks and sounds like.

My thoughts turned back to my earlier germ analogy. Most of us want to resist a cold or the flu. Sure, if we get sick, we can scurry to our local drugstore and have our pick of over-the-counter meds designed to soothe our ails – coughing, sneezing, body aches… If our symptoms seem to exceed the relief that the OTCs offer us, our personal care physicians stand ready to prescribe pills, drops, ointments and syrups.

All that sounds well and good, but going to the doctor takes time, buying meds cost money and while meds solve one problem, they sometimes cause others. (Ever listen to those drug commercials – “may cause cramping, nausea, hair loss, severe diarrhea…” Seriously?) You get the idea. So, the best course of action is not to catch a cold or the flu in the first place!

I wrote earlier about washing your hands to avoid the spread of germs. But the truth of the matter is that all the hand washing in the world is no guarantee that you will not get sick. We can do our best to minimize the number of surfaces we touch, saturate ourselves with hand sanitizer and scrub with soap and warm water until our hands are literally raw. Germs are still out there! Scientists tell us that what you can’t see can hurt you.

Using high-speed imagery, MIT researchers analyzed the trajectory of the “fallout” from a sneeze. The force of a sneeze can send 100,000 germs across a distance of 5 to 32 feet. While most of the larger, heavier drops fall quickly to the floor or other surfaces under the influence of gravity, the smaller and lighter particles are less affected by gravity and can stay airborne almost indefinitely as they are caught up in and dispersed by the room’s airflow. Droplets that remain airborne can continue to travel through ventilation systems, ending up even farther away. Two points: If you are around sick people, be mindful of what you might catch. If you are the sick person, be mindful of what you might spread!

The sin analogy raises two additional points for us. If you are around sin, be mindful of what you might catch. If you engage in sinful behavior, be mindful of what you might spread!

Just as we can “catch” the flu bug, we can “catch” bad habits. An off color joke here, a trashy movie there, a swear word later, a “little white lie,” etc. While there’s some controversy about whether Frank Outlaw, Lao Tzu or Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny,” whichever wise man spoke these words, he must have been thinking of Proverbs 4:23 which teaches us to guard our hearts. All that we say, all that we do, all that we are flows from it. What we watch, what we do, we become. Watch what you are catching.

As Christians we must also be mindful of what we are spreading. Matthew 5:16 says we are to let our lights shine before others so they may give glory to the Father. Ephesians 5:8 teaches that we are to walk as children of light while verses 1 and 2 of this same text remind us to be imitators of God. 1 Peter 2:21 says we were called to follow Christ’s example – to live lives that reflect Him. Our lives are to be a testimony for Jesus – that He is alive, that He has changed us, that He changes lives. Saint Francis of Assisi is credited for saying, “Preach the gospel and, if necessary, use words.” In short, we are to preach Jesus through our lives – what we do, what we say, how we behave, where we go, how we deal with struggles… Why? The world is watching, and our lives are the most powerful testimony of the Christ that we say lives within us. What are you spreading?