FULLY ALIVE!

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


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Responding

Sid Evans, writing for Southern Living magazine, said, “The horrific shooting that took the lives of nine churchgoers threatened to rip the city of Charleston, South Carolina apart.  But by responding with public displays of compassion, love and unity, Charleston has shown us how to move forward.”  Within hours, hundreds of flowers were piled outside the church forming a makeshift memorial.  People – black, white, old, young lined up to pay their respect, and instead of riots there were vigils.  Instead of warring, there was peace.  The people of Charleston gave a “soft” response and turned away wrath (Proverbs 15:1 ESV).

“God,” said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he eulogized the victims of the Birmingham church bombing, “still has a way of wringing good out of evil.”

It comes through the response.

Evans wrote, “It’s hard for an average person to know how to respond to a tragedy like this.”  It’s not only hard to know how to respond sometimes, even when we know better, it’s just easier, just preferred and sometimes just (we feel) justified for us to lash out, to get even, to fly off the handle, to seek vengeance.  What do those responses bring us?  More pain because harsh words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1 ESV).

James teaches, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20 ESV).  This is the thought that we must ever be cognizant of – what results from our responses.  Do they honor God and produce His righteousness or do they grieve His Holy Spirit?

As Christians, we are called to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving (Ephesians 4:32 ESV), and if we do speak, we speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15 ESV); we get angry, but we do not sin (Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV).

THIS WEEK check your responses.  Are they soft?  Are they turning away wrath or stirring up anger?  Ask God’s Holy Spirit to respond through you so that in your responding you produce His righteousness.  Pray that your responses will be the “good” wrung from any evil situation.


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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!)