FULLY ALIVE!

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


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Know When to Stop Talking

There is an old saying, “Never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut.”

It’s good advice.

As an educator, I talk.  As a good friend, I talk.  As a professional learning consultant, I talk.  I was even paid – quite well – for this last one!  As a matter of fact, I remember taking my mother with me when I had to facilitate a two-hour session with teachers, principals and district administrators.  Mom had never seen me at work.  While eating dinner after the session mom asked, “Is this what you do for a living – talk?”  Laughing (and knowing it would be a challenge to really explain my job to her), I simply said, “Yes, and Mom, they pay me well to do it!”  She and I both laughed.

I know that I am not alone in liking to talk.  My postmaster often asks me how to help her get her second grader to stop talking.  Seems that almost every day the teacher sends a note home about Amber’s talking.  I know a lot of teachers who send notes about students they have labeled over talkative.  And while I have mixed feelings about talkative students (for the most part I say, let ’em talk!!!), we do need to know when to stop talking!

James wrote, “You must understand this, my dear brothers.  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…”  (James 1:19 ISV)

Many consider the book of James to be a New Testament version of the Old Testament Proverbs – practical wisdom for a life of faith as a child of God.  And like Proverbs, James does not offer suggestions but, rather, commands.  Directives.  Imperatives.  “You must understand!”  There are no options.  “Everyone!”

Probably more than any other New Testament book, James provides the clarity that we need to live our faith.  In the every day.  In all our actions and interactions – including our speech and including knowing when to stop talking.

Look at teaching from two other books of wisdom – Proverbs and Ecclesiastes:

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”  ~Proverbs 10:19

“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise…”  ~Proverbs 17:28

“Be not rash with your mouth…Therefore let your words be few.”  ~Ecclesiastes 5:2

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”  ~Proverbs 18:2

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”  ~Proverbs 13:3

What’s the big deal about talking?  James sums it up best:

“For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.   For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,  but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?” (James 3:2-11 ESV)

The Message translation of these same Scriptures makes it even clearer – “We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths.  By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it.  This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer.  This can’t go on!”

Indeed, it can’t go on.  Rather, we should aspire to live quietly (1 Thessalonians 4:11 ESV) perhaps taking Job as an example.  He begged, “Teach me, and I will be silent.” (Job 6:24 ESV)  Apparently Job knew that the talker is not learning.  It is in stillness, silence and a posture of listening that we learn.  And when we learn…  Wow!

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Ancestry

Though in its sixth season, I’ve only recently noticed advertisements for the American genealogy documentary series, Who Do You Think You Are?  The show premiered in 2010 and follows a celebrity as he or she traces his or her family tree to understand where he or she came from.  While dropped by NBC after three seasons, the show was picked up by TLC and has become quite popular – so much so that there is even an accompanying book bearing the same title.  The book honors the exploding craze of tracing one’s ancestry and is designed to help viewers of the show research their own roots.

Genetics researcher, C.C. Moore, believes that within a few years we will see a type of universal family tree.  DNA analyses have become quite popular and can be used to confirm what previously was only suspected by some.  Writer, Maud Newton, suggests that we are all trying to “figure out who we are by looking at these people who are long dead,” and we are “trying to find out about ourselves.”   Indeed it must be fascinating to discover one’s connections to history.  Whether linked to medieval royalty like actress Valerie Bertinelli or to Oregon Trail pioneers like celebrity Kelsey Grammer, revelations about one’s roots surely have tremendous emotional impact.

Admittedly, I have my own interest in family history, especially it seems as I age and family members are dying.  I’ve thought of so many questions that I wish that I had asked my grandparents and great grandparents, and I wish that I knew more about who they were and where and how they and their parents lived.

On the Mount on Olives, Jesus told the crowd before Him that He knew where He came from but also where He was going (John 8:14).   While tracing ancestry and learning about where we came from is fun and exciting and can actually yield valuable information, we must not fail to give thought to where we are going.

It is not uncommon for us, as Christians, to experience doubt about our salvation.  When we consider Jesus then consider ourselves including our many weaknesses, shortcomings and failures, “our heart condemns us” (1 John 3:20)  God does not want us robbed of peace because of doubts.  He does not want us guessing whether we will spend eternal life with Him.  He wants us sure of our salvation.   He wants us confident in Him and in our relationship with Him and so He assures us in His Word.  John wrote, “These things I write unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life”  and “that our joy may be made full” (1 John 1:3-4, 5:13; Hebrews 4:16; Romans 8:1-3).

Assurance of salvation rests on four pillars, all found in Scripture:

1.  God cannot lie.  In His Word God promises to save all who believe upon His Son.  (Romans 10:13; Acts 2:21)

2.  On the cross Jesus bore all our sin, endured God’s wrath, paid the price and canceled our sin debt.  (John 19:28-30)

3.  Scripture says, “We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us.”  Assurance comes through the inward witness of God’s Holy Spirit, the Keeper and Helper that He sent us.  (1 John 4:12-13; 3:24)

4.  All who have been born again are changed and clear evidence is seen in the new life that is lived.   (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 2:3)

There are other signs beyond these Scriptures even.  True love for others.  Spiritual fruit.  Broken and contrite heart.  Righteous behavior.  When we are saved, our hearts and lives are changed.

We may be unsure and even wrong about our ancestry and where we came from, but we can know where we are going.  Assurance of salvation is a gift from God to each of His children; He wrote it in His Word that we may be absolutely sure! (John 20:31)

THIS WEEK ask yourself if you have the assurance of your salvation.  Do you KNOW where you are going?  If you do not have assurance, visit the SALVATION tab at the top of this page.  Pray to receive Christ as your personal Savior and to have the peace and assurance within that eternal life is yours.  Study the lessons of the following Scriptures:  Romans 10:13, 8:16; John 6:37, 19:30; Isaiah 1:18; 1John 3:24, 4:13, 2:3.  Welcome the assurance of His indwelling Holy Spirit.


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Lost

I loved my dad.

As my grandmother used to say, “Better than Peter loved the Lord!

But he was, undoubtedly, one of the worse drivers in the world.  He is remembered for saying (and believing and practicing) things like, “The yellow light means hurry up ’cause the red light is coming,” and “The sign means STOP – if you see something coming.”  He would leave home late every morning then speed like a race car driver trying to get to work on time.  He’d pass cars, trucks, school buses…, you name it.  He’d pass in a no passing zone and pass two, three or four vehicles at a time.  He was notorious for driving on fumes and for leaving my mom’s car with an empty tank.  He never wanted to ask for instructions and frequently took a more “scenic route” to places – His term for being lost.  And even though he drove on fumes, when taking that scenic route he’d say, “You’re not lost if you still have gas.”

Call it what he wanted, he was often lost.

There are a lot of lost people in the world.  They don’t want to call it that either.

But if you do not know Jesus as your personal Savior, you are lost. (John 3:36, Mark 16:16 ESV)

When someone is lost, they need help.  They need direction.  They need someone who knows the way and who can and will share that way.

I’ve been lost.  I remember driving a group of colleagues to a conference.  We went to what was then a large city for us. These were pre-GPS and pre-cell phone days.  Attempting to travel from the hotel to a restaurant and back, we got lost.  We drove for hours, and the distance between the hotel and restaurant was less than 10 miles!  We tried to find someone to help us, but there wasn’t a cop in site, which was probably good since at one point they told me to back up (on the Interstate), and I did.  We had missed an exit!  What we did find were people who didn’t know how to give directions!

Some people don’t realize they’re lost.  Others, like my dad, deny it.  As Christians, we are called to the lost – to find them, to seek them out, to show them the way!  That’s our greatest charge and our greatest challenge, to be witnesses to the lost.  Matthew 28:19-20a (CEB) makes it clear:  “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you…” 

When is the last time you showed someone the way to Christ?  When is the last time you were His witness?  Can’t remember?  That’s a problem.  Never?  That’s an even bigger problem?  Don’t think it’s your job?  Whoa, that’s like a whole other category – way beyond “problem!”  Read Matthew again; pick any translation you like.  They all read, “Go!”  None say, “Go, if you like” or “Go, when you feel up to it.”  You won’t find one that tells you to “Go, when you get the time or at your convenience.”  I didn’t check them all, but I looked at several – English Standard, New King James, Amplified, The Message, American Standard, Common English, New Life, New American Standard, Revised Standard Version Catholic and New Living.  They all read, “Go.”

Go.

This week.  Today.  Now.

Go.

Tomorrow.  The next day.  The day after that.

Go.

Not one time.  Not every now and then.  Not only at Easter or Christmas.

Go.

Consistently.  Courageously.  In the Name and under the authority and power of Christ.

Go.

Someone is lost, and they need YOU!

RESOURCES

Touch One Life in 2015:  http://billygraham.org/landingpages/touch-one-life/


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Almost

According to news reports, Dylann Roof (Charleston, SC shooter) told police that he “almost didn’t go through with it because everyone was so nice to me.”

Almost.

“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” (Acts 26:28 KJV)

Almost.

In my book, almost does not count.

The online dictionary defines almost as nearly, virtually, all butnot quite.  Voltaire said, “Good is the enemy of great.”  Well, almost is the enemy of everything and everyone.  Where is the employee who wants to almost get paid on Friday?  Show me the high school or college senior who is happy to almost graduate?  How many athletes are happy to almost win?  If you almost did the right thing, you still did the wrong thing. If you almost have the answer, you still have an unsolved problem. If you almost won first place, you still lost.

Almost is not what you want – to nearly make it, to all but have it, to not quite achieve it.  Almost.  Close.  Possibly very close.

It’s just not good enough.  It’s still a miss.

In Matthew 23 we find Jesus teaching about almost Christians – the Pharisees.  They still exist; those ethical, moral and religious people who are so as long as being ethical, moral and religious serves them.  They relish the recognition, bask in the admiration and savor seats of honor.  Service in the church is not really about service and certainly is not about glorifying God and His Kingdom; they love their positions because of power, respect, control and the spotlight that shines on them and their works – works that are most often good, almost good enough if their hearts were not deceitful and desperately wicked.

The real problem presents when these individuals find that their works and acts no longer serve them.  When morality no longer furthers their personal agendas, they become less moral. When being ethical no longer spotlights them, they become less ethical.  When being religious no longer promotes their station, they become less religious.  John Wesley said they were almost Christians, but they were artificially shaped from the outside experiencing no change on the inside.  They took on the acts and performed the works, but their hearts remained wicked.  They are almost Christian (believers) but also almost heathen (unbelievers). They lie in the worse place of all – the “in between.”  They are neither “hot” nor “cold;” they are miserable and pathetic. (Revelations 3:15-17 CEB)

There is a time when almost matters.  Romans 13:12 warns us that night is almost gone (NASB) and day is almost here (NIV); it is time for us to put aside deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  It is time to be real and time for us to be completely Christian – transformed at the heart level, emptied of ourselves and in total submission to the calling, the will and the work of Christ.

THIS WEEK examine your heart.  Are you almost or completely a Christian?  Do you find yourself wavering between Christ and the world?  Has true change occurred in your heart?  What actions do you need to take?  It is time to put aside deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Click on the SALVATION tab at the top of this page if you need to understand how Christ can be your personal Savior.  (Be sure to encourage our readers with a post of your testimony!)


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When God Says, “No!

When God says, “No,” just say, “Thank you!”

First, we know that God loves us (1 John 4:8 ESV).  He showed His love for us even when we were still sinners (Romans 5:8 ESV) by sending His only son, Jesus, to be a propitiation for our sins and to die on a cross that we might have eternal life (1 John 4:10; John 3:16 ESV).  His word tells us that absolutely nothing, no one and no experience can separate us from His love (Romans 8:35-39 ESV).

And precisely because He loves us, He sometimes answers ‘No’ to what we request in our prayers.  That’s what loving parents do.  They say, “No” to a diet of only soda and ice cream.  They say, “No” to hanging out all night.  They say, “No” to pornographic and vulgar television and violent video games.  They say, “No” to wrong friends and bad habits.  I feel certain that my parents were not the only ones reminding children that they had already had certain experiences, that they were older and wiser and that they knew best.  Matthew teaches us that if sinful parents know how to give good gifts to their children, then even more so the heavenly Father gives good gifts to His children (7:11 NLT).  Our all knowing and all wise God (2 Timothy 3:16; 1 John 3:20; Psalm 147:5 ESV) loves us and knows what is best for us — far more than we ever could. We also know that He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think or even, in our wildest dreams, imagine (Ephesians 3:20 NLT).

So – when God says, “No,” thank Him.  He saved you from less than His best!

Seriously!

Romans 8:32 (NLT) says, “Since he did not spare even His own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?”  What can even compare to the sacrifice of His Son?  The answer would be, “Nothing!

Sometimes when our earthly parents answered, “No,” we stamped our feet, pouted, rolled our eyes and had full blown hissy fits.  We begged, we pleaded, we made our case for why we ought to have what we asked for.  As adults, but especially as children of God, we should be sensitive to our Father’s answers and stop insisting on something that God has already refused to grant. God has not promised to answer every prayer with “Yes.” The Scriptures teach us that if we pray according to His will, He hears us and we can know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him (1 John 5:14-15 ESV). They may come in His timing rather than ours and they may not look like what we imagined, but He will answer.

And His answer will be His best for our best.

Thank you, God!

THIS WEEK thank God for loving you enough to answer, “No.”  Determine to not only be accepting of His answer but also grateful for His love which always answers best.