FULLY ALIVE!

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


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What’s In a Name

This weekend I joined my sweetie at his family’s reunion.  It was something awesome and beautiful to behold – more than 300 family members being reunited or meeting for the first time; sharing stories, laughs and love and, of course (because we are in the South), engaging in this reminiscing over a scrumptious meal.  I especially enjoyed the family photos and the history that was documented from the early 1800s until present day.  The research included a history of the family name which, in this case was Irish and Korean!,

What’s in a name?  Shakespeare’s Juliet declared that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  Juliet was in love with Romeo, yet he bore the name of a rival family, Montague.  Juliet would argue that the name of a thing, or in this case a person, mattered not and did not affect who are what they really were.

But names are powerful.

Everyone recognizes himself or herself by name – family, given, nickname…  The power of a name and its value has long been immortalized in prose, poetry, history and religious ceremony. Some families devote much thought to the naming of a new baby.  Others, I fear, don’t spend enough, but that’s a personal pet peeve and, perhaps, another blog post.  Names are enduring and there are those, like the Kabalarians, who believe that the quality of one’s mind—thoughts, desires, opinions, likes, dislikes, reactions—can be measured by the linking of the most personal form of language, one’s name, to mathematics.  They suggest that when language is used to attach a name to someone this creates the basis of mind, from which all thoughts and experiences, strengths and weaknesses flow.

Scripture, too, suggests that names are powerful and important often having considerable influence on the development of that child’s character.  Names were not only descriptive but at times prophetic.  As an example, the name of the patriarch Jacob, or Ya’akov, means “usurper”; it describes both how he tried to usurp his brother Esau’s birth from the womb by grabbing his heel during birth (Ya’akov in fact derives from ekev, “heel”) and how he ultimately usurped Esau as the heir of their father, Isaac, and grandfather Abraham and stole Esau’s birthright. Similarly, the name of the prophet Samuel, or Shemu’el, means (according to some scholars) “the one about whom God heard me,” referring to his previously barren mother’s prayer for a child.  There are times, too, when special meaning was also attached to the name.  Consider Nabal, whose name means “fool.”  Abigail explains to her husband David in 1 Samuel 25:25, “For as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him.”

The most powerful name?  The name of the Lord!  Psalm 148:13 tells us to praise the name of the Lord; for His name alone is Excellent, and Proverbs 18:10 says His Name is a strong tower.  We may make the mistake of thinking God to be an “it” or a “thing” to which we pray, but He is Our Father, Our Master, Our Lord, Our Shepherd, Our Righteousness, Our Everlasting God, Our King and Our Savior.

In Luke 11:1, one of Jesus’s disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray.  Obliging this request, Jesus responded, “When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”  Wikipedia says that to hallow a thing is to make it holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate.” To hallow the name of God is to regard Him with complete devotion and loving admiration.  How do we do this? Consider, God knows us by our name.

Isaiah 43:1  “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

John 10:14-15  “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Jeremiah 1:5  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

John 10:3  “To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. ”

Essential to our ability to glorify God – to Hallow His Name – is having knowledge of God and knowing Him personally in view of that knowledge.  God knows us by our name.  Shouldn’t we know Him by His?

THIS WEEK begin studying the Names of God.  A good first step might be learning then praying specific names and attributes of God.  One resource might be found at http://www.navigators.org/Tools/Newsletters/Featured%20Newsletters/Disciple-%20Monthly/September%202014/September%202014/30%20Days%20of%20Praying%20the%20Names%20and%20Attributes%20of%20God.


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For the Birds

Last fall my mother gave me a bird feeder – one of the beautiful, hand crafted ones that had to be erected on a post.  For my birthday, my sweetie had it erected, and I have enjoyed it every day since.  I had him position it outside one of the kitchen windows so that I could watch while doing dishes (might be why I see it EVERY day – smile) and while eating breakfast and dinner (two times I most often sit at the kitchen table).

I’ve spent hours watching the birds.  Cardinals, Blue Jays, Chickadees, Wrens, Robins, Sparrows, Goldfinches, Titmice,  Thrushes, Eastern Bluebirds, Blackbirds, Wood Peckers and Mourning Doves.  And those are just the ones that I recognize!  Now, in case you are wondering, yes, I feed them a variety of seeds and nuts which is why I have so many feathered visitors.  Over time I have noticed the character and habits of some of the frequent visitors.  I thought the Blue Jays and Cardinals were aggressive until those Rusty Blackbirds and Brewer’s Blackbirds came along.  They are larger, louder and quickly take over the feeder – so much so that I’ve since purchased another smaller feeder that I hung from the limb of a tree in my backyard.

Yes, I’ve noticed greedy birds, aggressive birds and persistent birds. But after days and days of watching – morning, night and early evenings, I’ve never seen a bird having a nervous breakdown.  A panic attack.  A pity party.  A worry session.  Even when they have come and found the feeder almost empty because Momma Bird Debbie didn’t refill it yet, they peck at the scraps, fly away and return later – still singing.

What’s my point?  Matthew 6:26 (KJV) tells us to, “Behold the fowls of the air…”  In other words, Stop.  Look.  Learn from the birds.  The passage continues, “…for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.”  They don’t plant, so they don’t harvest.  The Message translation describes the birds as “free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God.”  And while the King James translation of this passage ends with a question – “Are ye not much better than they?” The Message translation concludes with a powerful declarative statement – “And you count far more to Him than birds.”

Matthew Henry’s commentary on this Scripture reads, “There is scarcely any sin against which our Lord Jesus more warns his disciples, than disquieting, distracting, distrustful cares about the things of this life” while Barnes’ Notes tells us to, “Put confidence, then, in that Universal Parent that feeds all the fowls of the air, and do not fear but that He will also supply your needs.”

If we read ahead in Matthew, we find two verses, 33 and 34, that conclude this section of the Scriptures, and we are wise to read them in conjunction with verse 6 for they provide the closure to verse six’s lesson:

            33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

            34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day

is the evil thereof.

Let’s go back to Matthew Henry for the clarification. “Thoughtfulness for our souls is the best cure of thoughtfulness for the world.”

Bottom line, our worries about the world – hair, clothes, shoes, house, vehicles, job titles, degrees, relationships… – all those things that we believe define us and all those things that we mistakenly label as NEEDS rather than WANTS, do us no good.  Those worries only cause us stress and rob us of peace and joy!  And here are two bonus lessons for you.  Lesson 1:  The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10, NIV).  Lesson 2:  Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10, NIV).  And guess what he wants most?  Your joy!  Not your stuff!  He wants your joy because he knows that that is your strength!

I would say that worrying about the world is “for the birds,” but that’s not even true.  Behold.  Look.  Learn from them.  You count far more to our Lord than the birds.  Seek Him and His Kingdom.  “That’s a good way to starve,” you say.  No, that’s the best, the right, the only way to surthrive this world!  Seek Him first and all “the other” will be added!

THIS WEEK BEHOLD the birds.  Look.  Learn from them.  Act on your new learning!


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In a Flash

Summer, one of my favorite seasons, is almost here!  Already it is hot enough to be summer; today the temperature climbed into the upper 80s, but that’s a good thing because I like to stretch summer out as long as possible.  When the hot days come early and linger well past the official end date on the calendar, I consider ALL those days SUMMER.  But even when I do that – milk out a few extra days or weeks, summer is still just too short.  Always, it seems, I am left wondering, “What happened?  Where did it go?  I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to!”  For example, last year, we never made it to the ocean.  Not even once.

This summer will be different, or so I have promised myself.  I am making plans – plans that include time at the ocean, time walking on the beach, time sailing, time fishing, time watching the dolphins, time eating freshly caught seafood and time hot air ballooning!  Yes, summer seems to come and go in a flash, but I have a plan to milk everything out of it that I can.

Life comes and goes in a flash, too!  Never thought I would say that.  Remember being a child and waiting for your birthday?  Or Christmas?  Or recess?  Or the last day of school?  Time drug.  Time crawled.  Time slept.  My mother used to tell me to just wait, though.  She said, “When you get older, time will fly.”  “Just get to be 30 years old,” she said, “and you will see the years coming in multiples of five, possibly ten.”  She was right.  You go to bed one night and you’re 29, but you wake up 40.  You roll over for another snooze, and you wake up 50.  After 50?  Well, I won’t depress you “young’uns,” and those of you who are over 50?  Well, you already know.

The funny thing, though, is that we make plans for summer, and for Christmas, and birthdays and even for recess – who we will play with, what games we will play, which boys we want to walk past, which girls we will talk to…   But are you making plans for the most important time?  Where you will spend eternity!  Are you planning to go to Heaven?  If you answer, “Yes,” what exactly is your plan?  If it isn’t relying on Christ alone, you need another plan.  Works, good looks and being nice aren’t enough.  John 6:44 (NIV) teaches that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day,”  and John 14:6 (NIV) makes it clear that Jesus is “the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through” Him.

Even our best laid plans for the beach may go awry.  Life happens.  Things come up.  Plans have to change.  But we can have every confidence in God and the plan that He has laid for our salvation.  Instead of trusting our goodness and crossing our fingers and hoping we go to Heaven, we can trust Jesus and His goodness because He alone is God’s way of salvation.  When we place absolute faith and trust in Him, turn from our sinful way and follow Him, we know that we will live with Him in Heaven.  And not just for a summer.  Forever!

Now while some Christians would disagree, as I read and understand the Scriptures especially the teaching of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:8, at death we immediately – in a flash – enter the presence of the Lord.  Paul led a life full of danger, and he knew that at any moment his life on earth could end. But he faced death with hope that we can share: “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord”  He further declared, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23).

One last thought.  Summer is always best when shared – with family, friends, special loves.  I’m thinking Heaven will be extra special when shared, so don’t just plan on going alone.  Plan for others to meet you there.

THIS WEEK share the Gospel (click the tab above to visit our Salvation page) with others – friends, family members, absolute strangers!  Let’s plan for a heavenly crowd!


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Lord, Hear Our Cry

The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.  So, as presidents have formally done every year since 1952, President Obama on today, Thursday, May 7, will issue a proclamation urging our country to “turn to God in prayer and meditation.”

No one can seriously question whether our country – our world –  needs prayer.  We are troubled and in trouble.  Just read the headlines or watch a little television as I did earlier today.  Within an hour I heard stories about teens committing suicide because of cyber bullying, women swindling money from unsuspecting men by purchasing fake pregnancy tests, celebrities posing in the nude, men scamming hundreds of thousands of dollars from senior women desperate for love, Syria continuing to use chemical weaponry and families searching for lost loved ones in Nepal.

But I have mixed feelings about this day.  I am not sure we need a National Day of Prayer any more than we need a Black History Month or a Veteran’s Day.  Some things, some people, some history as well as some practices, like praying, need to be a part of every day.  They need to be habit.   I am also skeptical in 2015 of the government’s involvement in prayer.  Yes, the day is part of our country’s heritage born from the first call to prayer in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation to the call to prayer by President Lincoln when he proclaimed of a day of “humiliation, fasting and prayer” in 1863.  Those days, those times and those prayers seemed different to me.  It seems there was a time when our country was led by those who truly believed in God, who consistently sought His guidance and faithfully asked Him for wisdom and direction.  Such was the case not just for our national leaders but also the leaders of our cities, towns, communities, schools and churches.  These days?  Not so much.

But according to the National Day of Prayer website, this day “has great significance for us as a nation as it enables us to recall and to teach the way in which our founding fathers sought the wisdom of God when faced with critical decisions. It stands as a call for us to humbly come before God, seeking His guidance for our leaders and His grace upon us as a people.”  This statement is how I have made peace with the day.  And the spirit of this statement is what I pray everyone will embrace – but not just for a day, for always and every day.

The web has been inundated with “model” and “sample” prayers shared for this special day.  These actually might be the first misstep.  Rather than recite a prayer scripted by someone else, I encourage you to embrace the theme of this year’s National Day of Prayer – “Lord, Hear Our Cry.”  Cry out before the Lord sharing what is in your heart.  Don’t worry about the “right” words, embrace the right attitudes – humility and gratitude.  Don’t fret about the “right” posture, pray as the Holy Spirit leads you – standing, sitting, opened eyes, closed eyes, prostrate on the floor.  The theme is not, ‘Lord, Look at Me,’ but rather, “Lord, Hear Our Cry.”

Matthew 6:7 (ESV) reminds us, ““And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.”  On this National Day of Prayer, pray freely.  Pray openly.  Pray passionately.  Pray from the heart, and know that “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17, ESV).