FULLY ALIVE!

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


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Tis the Season

I love Christmas!

It really is a special time of year.  Already I have watched several of my favorite childhood movies – It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Holiday Inn.  I’ve also joined a few celebrations and parades. As for shopping, I finished that in September.  I’ve put the wreathes on the doors –front and back. That’s pretty much all the decorating we do because we always travel, but I’ve perused my cookbooks and planned to bake some goodies while at our host’s home.  And I am looking forward to our church’s annual Christmas drama.  This year’s performance is entitled When Hope Comes Down and is announced with a subtitle – Come Experience the Hope of the Season!  Our church also offers a Carols and Communion by Candlelight service on Christmas Eve.  Since we will be traveling, I’ve searched the website and consulted friends to find a similar worship opportunity for us in our destination city.  Now, if only we had a little snow, but that is doubtful since we are traveling to a MUCH warmer climate.

The movies, decorations, treats and presents are all wonderful, and snow would be awesome.  But none of those things are what Christmas is about!

Christmas is a time of God showing His great love for us and His call for us to love others.  Just look at the Christmas Story!  No, not Ralphie shooting his eye out with his BB gun, but the second chapters of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew

Luke 2:4-16 (NIV)

“4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,     and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”

Matthew 2:11 (NIV)

“11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to be born of a virgin in lowly Bethlehem. His birth brought great joy and great hope. His birth was much anticipated – not just by His parents. Angels, shepherds and wise men all knew this was no ordinary birth and no ordinary baby. Hundreds of years before prophets had told of this birth and this baby.

Jesus was born so that one day He could die on the cross paying the price for our sin. It is His birth and death that brought the gift of salvation to us. The Bible tells us that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). Without Jesus, we would die in our sins, but loving us, God sent the great gift of love – Baby Jesus.

But Christmas is not just about God showing His love for us by sending Jesus; it is also about His call for us to love others. God’s love is a gift to us, but we must release it to others. How? Through words and actions.

Understand that this season of joy is not a happy time for some – those stressed by not having money for bills much less presents or turkey dinners, those who grieve their loved ones who are not present to share the season with them, those who feel alone and lonely.   Tis the season for us to release the love that God has given us.

This week, read the Christmas stories in Luke and Matthew. Pray and ask the Lord to guide you during this season to real and practical acts of love for someone who really needs a gesture of God’s love. Thank Him for how He blesses you and positions you to bless others!

A TREAT:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ecIXyYRnoo


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Lion Killing

Yesterday felt like the title of a book I read some years ago, In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day (Mark Batterson, Author).  Just read that title and ponder each word while adding the next word and image to it.  In a pit.  Bad.  With a lion.  Worse.  On a snowy day.  Worst!  But actually, there is good news in this story from 1 Chronicles.  Paul tells us in Romans 15:4 (NASB) that “whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that…we might have hope.”  So what are the lessons from the text that gave title to Batterson’s book?

First, let’s read the Scripture.

Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.  And he struck down an Egyptian who was five cubits tall. Although the Egyptian had a spear like a weaver’s rod in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.  Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty warriors.  He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard. 1 Chronicles 11:22-25 (NASB)

What instruction does this text, written in earlier times, have for us?  Well, let’s see.

Benaiah was the son of a Priest.  We have a personal relationship with a great High Priest – Jesus. (Hebrews 4:14)

Benaiah was a valiant fighter.  You are a fighter.  Daily, you must fight the good fight of faith! (1 Timothy 6:12)

Benaiah was from Kabzeel, a city in southern Judah. The name means “gathering of God.”  As a Christian, you are part of God’s gathering, the church.

Benaiah struck down two warriors from Moab.  The Moabites were closely related to the Israelites, but they were enemies of Israel.   There are those who are close to you, but they are your enemies.  Perhaps your closest enemy might even be you – your flesh, that is.  And you must strike down those enemies – yes, flesh included.

Benaiah went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.  Bet you’re thinking, “Hmm.  Let’s see her make a connection with this one!”  1 Peter 5:8b says, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Renowned Pastor, Ray Stedman said in a sermon addressing this topic, “Benaiah slew a lion — a lion, not a leopard, not a wild hyena or a boar or a buffalo, but a lion… it is not for nothing that the lion is called the king of beasts, because it is indeed a very powerful animal.”

But I did a little research.

The “king of the jungle” doesn’t have the strongest bite.  There are many other cats and many other animals that surpass the lion for bite.  As a matter of fact, ListVerse says, the lion has the “weakest bite of the genus Pathera or big cat.”  Wow.  But the research clearly points out that the lion doesn’t need a strong bite.  This big cat is really a social animal and presents as quite cooperative during the hunt.  It is not by power of bite that the lion kills; rather, it is by strangling its prey – biting the trachea.  ListVerse says lions “lack the need of a strong bite.”

Our enemy, the Devil, prowls like a roaring lion seeking to devour.  Like a lion, he is often social.  Like a lion, he is often cooperative.  Like a lion, he doesn’t need a strong bite.  Like a lion, he often slips up on us and strangles the life out of us.

Every one of us has a lion prowling and pursuing us – that something, someone or some situation that is waiting, seeking to devour us.  It might be a loss that we just can’t seem to move beyond – the grief of it has entangled our hearts and minds and even our lives.  We may even feel as though a part of us died.  There may be a physical disease that is daily draining our bodies of strength or our minds of clarity.  Possibly your lion is a habit – a bad habit, that you know is killing you – a substance addiction, gambling, overeating, gossiping, worrying…  Your lion might be fear – of the unknown or of something very specific, but it has you paralyzed.  You know your lion.

But let’s get back to Benaiah.

Benaiah met his lion in a pit on a snowy day. Bad enough to meet a lion – anywhere.  (I once met one on an African road.  The body and windows of a little old minivan separated us.  That was not enough for me, so in a pit?  Not!)  But Benaiah met his lion in a pit.  Pits tend to be small.  They tend to be deep.  They tend to have slippery sides.  They tend to be hard to escape.  And then it was snowing!  When I first read this Scripture, my response was, “Really!”  (Not as in I doubted, but as in “Really.  Can this get any worse?”)

Have you been there yet?  In the pit with your lion?  On a snowy day?  Ray Stedman said, “He met the worst possible foe, in the worst possible place, under the worst possible circumstances.”  Now, that’s the Devil for you.  Getting you right where he wants you and setting you up for the kill.

Turn to Benaiah once more.  The Scripture says, “He…went…and killed a lion.”

Victory!!!!!

Hopefully, you are encouraged that you can face your lion. You can go down into the pit with him – even on a snowy day, and emerge victorious.

But there is one remaining question. How? How did Benaiah kill the lion? How do you kill your lion?

See you next blog entry…