FULLY ALIVE!

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


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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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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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Fourth Sunday of Advent

Keeping promises is important; many consider one’s word a measure of one’s worth – one should be “as good as his word.”

As controversial as the recent US presidential campaign and election were, that President-Elect Trump may be reneging on some of his campaign promises is even more controversial and upsetting for many. CNN reports that Trump is open to keeping parts of Obamacare intact despite repeatedly vowing on the campaign trail to “repeal and replace” the program. He also appears to be walking away from his promise to “shutdown” Muslim immigration to the US. We all remember his promise to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and convict Hillary Clinton – a promise that spurred his supporters to chant, “Lock her up” during the campaign rallies. Post-election, Trump says, regarding investigating Hillary, “It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought.”

Repealing Obamacare, shutting down immigration or investigating Clinton might all be viewed less significant at present than the keeping or breaking of promises.

Dr. Melissa Ritter, a psychologist-psychoanalyst with the William Alanson Institute, wrote, “There are a number of commonly understood reasons promises are broken, including that our feelings, capacity, or circumstances have changed over time. The fading of romantic love for one’s partner is emblematic of this—what once was is no more. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the birth of a child, falling in love, and developing illness, to list but a few, are all events that can shift our feelings and consequent behavior—often monumentally. We may no longer have the capability or willingness to keep a specific promise, or it may no longer benefit those concerned to do so.” In short, people change and circumstances change, so promises are broken.

Christmas is a season when many people experience disappointment and heartbreak because of broken promises. Someone will not give the promised gift. Another will not receive a promised gift. Someone will not keep the promise to visit. Another will break a promise to join someone for dinner. Someone will break a promise to go shopping, lend money, wrap the presents, put the bicycle together, babysit the kids… A lot of promises will be broken – some for “good” reason, others “just because.”

Thankfully, Christmas is also a time when one of the greatest promises was kept – God’s promise of a Messiah. In fact, with the birth of Jesus, many promises were kept.

  • God promised that the Messiah would be the seed of a woman and would crush the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15). Scripture tells us that He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). Jesus was born to the virgin, Mary, and on the cross He crushed the head of Satan.
  • Scripture records that He would be born in Bethlehem of Judah (Micah 5:2).
  • He would come from the seed/offspring of Abraham and would bless all the nations on earth (Genesis 12:3), and He would have a throne, a kingdom and a dynasty, or house, starting with King David, that will last forever (2 Samuel 7:16). Matthew begins his Gospel: “A record of the origin of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac…” and continues on until “…and Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

These are but five examples of promises kept. That alone is amazing as many of us struggle to keep just one promise. Remember Dr. Ritter’s research?

Here’s what I want you to take away from this week’s message. Our God is faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9, 2 Thessalonians 3:3, 1 Corinthians 1:9, Psalm 33:4). In fact, 2 Corinthians 1:20 tells us that all His promises are “Yes.” The Berean Study Bible writes it this way: “For all the promises of God are “Yes” in Christ.” The Holman Christian Standard Bible writes, “For every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in Him” and the Weymouth New Testament writes, “For all the promises of God, whatever their number, have their confirmation in Him.”

Matthew Henry notes in his commentary of 2 Corinthians 1:20 that a good man will not change his promise “unless for weighty reasons,” but “nothing can render God’s promises more certain;” He gives them to us “through Christ” and “assures us they are His promises.” You will note that even a good man may have reason enough to step away from his promises, but God is faithful, and always answers His promises with “Yes!” This, writes Henry, “makes Christians firm in the faith.” We can be confident that our God is Who He said He is, that He will do what He said He would do and that we are who He said we are in Him!

Rejoice this fourth Sunday of Advent. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations (Psalm 100:4-5); hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).


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You are HERE

How did we survive before GPS?  I mean really!

When I learned to drive, road maps were all the rage.  I have very vivid images of my dad sitting at the kitchen table with his maps spread out and a World Atlas at his fingertips.  He would sit there for hours planning our family vacations, mapping the routes, making note of the connections, turns and exits.  I thought he and my sister were amazing the way they could recall and discuss highway numbers… “Turn right onto 42 and go about 37 miles then take NC 97 North to 301.  You’ll go about 12 miles then merge onto Interstate 95 North.”

I well remember my first solo trip with a road map.  Like Daddy, I sat at the kitchen table, spread the map, made my markings and jotted notes.  I was going on a job interview and, worried enough about that, I wanted the travel to be uneventful.  I even used the little scale in the bottom corner of the map to calculate mileage and approximate time.  All along the way, though, I had to keep stopping on the side of the road to consult my trusty road map.

Three things are important when planning a trip using a map – knowing where you are, where you need to end and which direction you need to travel to get there!  And therein lies the beauty of GPS.  The screen shot always includes a big arrow indicating YOU ARE HERE.  That’s good news to any driver!

Want some even better news?  Not only are you “HERE,” so is God!  He is everywhere!  He is with you!

Joshua 1:9 (ESV) reminds us to be strong, courageous and without fear or dismay because the Lord, our God, is with us wherever we go. Deuteronomy 31:6 (ESV) echoes the same encouragement adding a reminder that He will never leave nor forsake us. David asked, “Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7-10, ESV) In the heavens, in Sheol, in the uttermost part of the sea – even there David said we find God’s hand which shall lead us and hold us!

I find that latter thought to be particularly encouraging because I live in the boondocks, and I frequently drive rural highways.  This means I regularly lose signals for my telephone and GPS.  The “GPS Lady” often tells me she is rerouting.  I suppose rerouting sounds better than “I don’t have a clue where you are.”  When the GPS loses its signal, I am left to go it alone trying to read road signs while I drive.  That is not only frustrating, it is unnerving, especially if I am traveling an unfamiliar and not well-marked route.  Whenever the signal reconnects, the GPS offers instructions to correct whatever mis-turns I may have taken and tries to get me back on track.  It’s rare, but sometimes GPS cannot get it right and I have to rely on other sources like stopping strangers to ask for instructions or accessing Google Maps on my cell phone.

Our God never loses connection with us though we sometimes choose to ignore the promptings of His Holy Spirit.  Now there are times when I know better than the “GPS Lady.”  She tells me to turn left and I am looking at a ONE WAY sign or a ROAD CLOSED sign, so I know not to follow her directions. But our God gets it right 100% of the time! Isaiah 40:13-14 asks, “Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding?” The answer is NO ONE! He is omniscient and omnipresent, so He knows and He is with us. He is also faithful, so we can trust that He is with us, just as He promised, wherever we are.

There are times when we ignore God’s directions or believe that we know better.  Surely when God has us on a route that is bumpy or one that is twisted or winding or scary or lonesome or dark even, He has made a mistake, somehow gotten it wrong.  No, it is not God that has gotten it wrong, it is our perspective that is limited while God is finite.

Question God?  Be puzzled by His directions?  Surely, but never doubt.  Even Abraham had questions about God’s directions and decisions (e.g. the destruction of Sodom), but Abraham obeyed in faith.  He never mocked, rebelled or cursed God.  Abraham knew what we can know as children of God and that is that God is Here, right here with you!

THIS WEEK earnestly seek God’s direction for your life.  Charles Stanley offers seven words that will help us in seeking His direction. Study, meditate and pray on one word each day this week. (Cleansing, Surrendering, Asking, Meditating, Believing, Waiting, Receiving). Find more at:  http://www.intouch.org/you/article-archive/content?topic=seeking_god_s_guidance_article#.VMV5UrAo7IU


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Weebles Wobble

But they don’t fall down!

Now, if you think I’ve lost my mind, then you are way older than I am or you are what my great grandmother used to call “a young’un.” If you don’t remember Weebles, you’re either too old or too young.

Weebles is a trademark for several lines of roly-poly toys that were launched as part of Hasbro’s Playskool division in 1971. I was already well past the Playskool age, but the commercial jingle for these egg-shaped toys was so catchy that everyone repeated it. Besides, they were everywhere. There were Weeble Pals who rode a Weehicle and went to Weeschool and afterwards played together in the Weebly Wobbly Treehouse or went to a Weebles Barn Dance in Weebleville Town Center! It was a wonderful world because – Weebles Wobble but they don’t fall down!

If only our world could be that simple.

Contrary to what some believe, Christians are not perfect. The Bible does not teach that Christians never fail, never stumble, never wobble. But the Scriptures do teach that Christians get back up – guess you could say we wobble, but we don’t fall down! I will even be so bold to say that if one falls down (and stays down), then that one was not a true believer.

Now, before you get upset with me, click away from this page or turn your computer off altogether, look at the Scriptures for yourself. 1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”

Here’s the deal. Christians are human. Christians wobble. But Christians are miserable in their wobbling (SIN) and cannot continue in that way.

Consider Abraham. Called of God. Friend of God. But he wobbled. And not just once! He told Sarai, his wife, to lie and tell the Egyptians she was his sister (Genesis 12:10-13). Fast forward to Genesis 20 and we see Abraham lying to Abimilek, King of Gerar, telling him that Sarah (name changed, same wife) was his sister. In Genesis 16:4 he slept with Hagar, his wife’s maidservant because he either doubted God’s promise, was impatient to wait or thought he knew better than God.  Either way – big wobble!

Consider Moses. He killed an Egyptian and tried to hide the body. He later lost faith, grieved God and was not permitted to enter the Promised Land. He wobbled.

Consider David. He committed adultery with Bathsheeba and arranged for her husband, Uriah to be on the front line of battle since a cover up scheme fell through (2 Samuel). He wobbled.

But when you read the Scriptures, Abraham is known as Father of Many Nations (Genesis 17:5), and God calls to Moses while he is out tending sheep (having killed the Egyptian and fled). God talks to him again at the burning bush and chooses him to bring redemption to His people, the Israelites (Exodus 3). And David? We read in 1 Samuel that the Lord sought out a man after his own heart – David, the adulterer, the one who omitted some of God’s instructions on how to transport the Ark resulting in Uzzah’s death, the schemer who tried to hide his affair with Bathsheeba and the one who did not attend to his own household and children.

Abraham, Moses, David.  They wobbled, but they did not fall down.

You’ll wobble.

You’ll fall short, miss the mark, behave contrary to the nature and will of God. Wobble, wobble, wobble. But when a Christian sins, relationship is unchanged. Position is unchanged. You are still God’s child. You are still covered by the precious blood of Jesus. But fellowship is broken. You lose your joy. You lose your praise. You lose your peace.

Understanding that there are no BIG sins and little sins, I think we can agree that David’s sin was horrendous! But when confronted, look at David’s response in Psalm 51. Notice what he does and what he does not do. He confesses his sin. He seeks forgiveness. He humbles himself before the Lord. He asks for restoration. He doesn’t make promises. He doesn’t try to strike any deals. He doesn’t make excuses.

If you are wobbling or if you have wobbled, don’t fall down but do go down – on your knees. Pray.  Acknowledge your sinfulness – and that is what it is. Don’t try to “dress it up.” Acknowledge your sinfulness to the Lord asking Him to take control of your life and seal it afresh with His precious Holy Spirit.

He will!  And you can get back up again!

BONUSES for You: