FULLY ALIVE!

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


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Consider God

Jumping right in I will tell you that I believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God. What the Bible says is wholly useful and completely true and trustworthy. It is a guide not only to salvation but to all life. God’s word has purpose and will not return to Him void. It will accomplish what He said it would and prosper in the thing to which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11). Every single word is true and important as all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man (and woman) of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

So, there is not one text, one Scripture, one story, one word that we can dismiss as untrue or unimportant – even those that, in our “humanness,” we struggle to understand, to wrap our brains around, to make sense of.

Case in point – Abraham and Sarah.

Both wanted a child. Both were old. Really old. Yet, God promised Abraham that He would bless Sarah and give Abraham a son by her (Genesis 17:16). Abraham laughed, and “said in his heart, ‘Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear (17:17)?

Like Abraham, we might be inclined to laugh, too, when we read their story. A ninety-year old mom? Seriously? Seriously!!! Because God has many lessons in Abraham and Sarah’s story – lessons for them then and for us now. Lessons even in Abraham’s laughter. While our laughter in a situation such as this might be a “you’ve got to be kidding” laughter, Abraham’s was a laughter of delight, not of distrust. Laughter of joy, not jest.

Likely, delight and joy might not be our first emotions – even after years of wanting a baby. You and I (at least I) would more likely be inclined to start considering ALL the reasons that this just could not happen. Surely I would consider my age – 99! I would consider, if not the impossibility, certainly the difficulty of birth at that age. I would consider the limited functioning of my body at that age. I would consider my limited strength, patience, health, coordination, mental faculties… I would consider the lack of family support (my mom would be 130 and not exactly up for babysitting). I would consider the chances that my baby would suffer deformities. I would consider my finances (a baby on retirement income?). I would consider the impact on my time and how my day-to-day functioning would need to change.

Abraham never considered his body or Sarah’s. His life or hers. Rather, he considered God – His strength, His power, His promises, His provision and His faithfulness.

Whatever we face, our first consideration should be our God. Romans 4:20 (ESV) tells us that Abraham never doubted that God would do what He promised; he never stopped believing. Rather, he grew stronger in his faith and just praised God, laughing in delight.

What do you need? Consider our God, then laugh in delight knowing He can do exceedingly and abundantly more than you could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)!

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Inside Out

We like buying stuff, at least we think we do, and merchants are counting on us to think that. Almost from the crib it’s bred into us. Television commercials, billboards, pop-ups on our cell phones… Our 21st century lives are fast-paced, consumer-oriented experiences inundated with the constant message of BUY, BUY, BUY your way to happiness. The bigger house, the faster car, the trendier clothing, the coolest toys…these are the keys to happiness!

Were this true, then the thrill would not fade. But it always does, and we soon find ourselves back in the same place seeking the next “buy,” one necessary to keep us on a “happiness high.”

Many, thinking they’ve managed to turn a deaf ear to stuff, turn to experiences. Indeed, research backs up this thinking. Researchers from San Francisco State University report that people who spend money on experiences rather than stuff are happier and experience greater feelings of satisfaction thinking their money is better spent. These researchers suggest that the thrill of purchasing things fades but the joy and memories of experiences last a lifetime.

Well, you needn’t look far to find research that rebuffs San Francisco State. You guessed it – eventually the thrill of an experience fades, too, which is why people are constantly seeking the next experience – a higher mountain, a louder party, a better view…

Whether “stuff” or “experience,” the problem is that both find their roots in the external. Not only are merchants counting on us to look externally for a happiness fix, so is Satan.

Satan works from the outside in.

A common scheme of his is to get us caught up in external trappings, feeling that we need that car, have to have that dress, can’t live without that house, are nobodies if we don’t take that trip… He knows that we can only continue on this route so long. Eventually something runs out – our money, our health, our flexibility, our time – whatever will keep us from being able to secure that next happiness fix. We quickly cycle from simple disappointment to devastating ad debilitating depression, no longer able to keep up with the Joneses, no longer “on top,” no longer the pacesetter – the one that everyone else wants to be like. And much like the substance abuser who will do virtually anything to get that next high, we search frantically for our next happiness high, and such begins a downward spiral.

The real problem – seeking happiness instead of joy.

Happiness tends to be externally triggered and is based on other people, things, places, thoughts and events. While happiness and joy are both wonderful feelings, joy is more consistent and is cultivated internally. Happiness tends to be more of what I call a “head thing;” the seat of joy is your heart because unlike Satan who works from the outside in, God begins His work inside and works outward. When you accept Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life, there is a change in your heart – there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11)!

As happiness tends to be tied to the external and wanes when the external changes, your joy is only as stable as the source. Fortunately, the source of true joy is Jesus (John 15:11) and, His joy is stable and lasting; it is our glory (1 Thessalonians 2:20), it is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and it is continual (Proverbs 15:15).

Happy New Year; I wish for you unspeakable joy (1 Peter 1:8)!