FULLY ALIVE!

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


Leave a comment

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).

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Peace on Earth (Part 1)

WATCH:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8OYvHPpGDY

Before we can have peace on earth, we must have peace within our communities. Before we can have peace within our communities, we must have peace within our families. Before we can have peace within our families, we must have peace within.

Ourselves!

Unfortunately, instead of Christmas being a time of peace, it is a time of great stress for many. Overfilled calendars and planners, strapped budgets and strained family relationships often come along with the holidays. How, then, do we overcome the accompanying anxiety and dwell in peace? Let’s look to Paul.

While confined in a Roman prison he penned the text of Philippians proclaiming his contentment in whatever situations (including prison) he found himself (4:11).   How? How could he be content, at peace in prison? His “secret” comes in the preceding text, verses 4-8.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7 NKJV)

There are three key words in this text, and they provide us somewhat of a formula for peace. Prayer. Supplication. Thanksgiving.

In this stressful season and throughout life, pray. About what? Everything! Don’t get caught up in the theology of prayer – what it is, what it isn’t, how to, how not to… Prayer is talking to God. Whatever is robbing you of your peace, talk to Him about it.

Supplication is the fifty cent word for asking earnestly and humbly. Praying is not about laying out a list of requests before God. (Do not confuse God with Santa Claus.) In prayer we come humbly before our Father, and in that relationship of child and Father, we share with Him all that is on our hearts – our frustrations, our confusion, our fears, our angst, our sorrows our disappointments… Whatever you are feeling, tell Him.

Thanksgiving is synonymous with gratitude. “But God hasn’t answered my prayer yet,” you might say. Thank Him for loving you, for hearing you and for accepting the burden that is troubling you. Psalm 55:22 tells us to cast our burden on the Lord and, in the words of Charles Tindley’s 1916 hymn, leave them there! That alone is enough to be thankful for – not only can we give our troubles to the Lord, we are commanded to do so, and He will take care of each one. What else can you be thankful for? Past faithfulness. God’s love. God’s grace. Salvation! Thank Him when you pray expecting that He will answer!

In 1955 Jill Jackson Miller and her husband, Sy Miller, penned another familiar song that shares a powerful lesson for us. The opening line is “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Pray in earnest humility thanking God for what He can do, has done and will do – then let peace begin with you!

THIS WEEK: What action can you take each day this week to bring peace to someone or to some situation?

Leave It There:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyxQZQjLaC4

Let There Be Peace on Earth:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXFeeJ6LSMc


Leave a comment

Defined by an Issue

“And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.

And Jesus said, “Who touched me?” When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, “Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, ‘Who touched me?’”

And Jesus said, “Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.”

And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.

And he said unto her, “Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” Luke 8:43-48 (KJV)

I think no woman can even begin to imagine having “an issue of blood” for twelve years! Twelve months would be unbearable; twelve days alone is debilitating, but twelve years?! Try to imagine this woman’s life. The Law made it clear that unless her bleeding ceased for at least seven days, everyone and everything she touched would be deemed unclean and cursed, just as she was.

I imagine her as the subject of idle gossip and ill-intended chitchat because everyone knew about her issue. I suspect some didn’t even know her name; she was defined by her issue. And I picture her isolated, outcast, alone and lonely yearning not just for healing but for companionship and friendship.

What “issue” is defining you?

Be honest with yourself.

Do people know you as an adulterer? Do co-workers raise their eyebrows when you speak because you are a liar? Has the PTA and playground crowd tagged you as a bad mother? Is the Bridge Club whispering in the corner because you’ve been an unfaithful wife? Have your friends labeled you as wishy-washy? Or narcissistic? Maybe unreliable? Possibly bossy? Does your employer consider you incompetent? Lazy? Unproductive? Are you a troublemaker? A quitter?

Has your “issue” isolated you?

Do people avoid you, make excuses to shorten their conversations with you and always seem to have somewhere to go when you appear on the scene?  Or does shame make you keep to yourself?  Might you be afraid to show your real self because of your “issue?”

That’s how it was for Luke’s woman. For twelve years the woman in Luke’s story was identified and isolated by her issue.

Mark shares this same story in his Gospel with a few more details. A key one is found in Mark 5:27-28 (KJV) which says, “When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, ‘If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.’”

Therein lies the secret to our “issues.” Jesus.

The context of this story conveys another important point for us. Jesus was not alone. He was in a crowd. The woman touched Jesus, and He asked, “Who touched me?” Peter and the other disciples don’t believe their ears. “Who touched You? You have to be kidding? Who, in this crowd, didn’t touch You? People are everywhere.”

But Jesus knew there had been a special touch, a seeking touch, a believing touch, a power-filled touch. Jesus knew the woman needed a touch, and He knew the exact moment when she had touched His garment.

And He knows that you need His touch as well!

Make note of three quick points. Jesus asks, “Who touched me” then, according to Mark, “looked round about to see her that had done this thing.” This woman had broken the Law, and here is Jesus putting her on blast. If anyone hadn’t seen her, they saw her then. Mark and Luke tell us that the woman fell at Jesus’ feet. Luke says the woman “declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.” Mark concludes this story with Jesus telling the woman to “go in peace and be healed.”

In calling attention to the woman, Jesus brought glory to God identifying Him as the Healer. Point One – Your “issue” is not just about you. Lay it at Jesus’ feet and permit Him to heal you and to bring glory to God. Point Two – Healing requires boldness to overcome the fear of what others may say about you and your “issue.”

Jesus told the woman to go and be healed. Wasn’t she healed when she touched His garment? The bleeding stopped, but the healing was incomplete. Sheila Walsh suggests the woman needed healing from shame, disappointment, self-hatred and the burden that the “issue” had been. Jesus knew that the woman needed to be made whole; she needed salvation. Point Three – Christ works in our lives well beyond the point at which we first come to faith.  He desires that we become whole in Him.

“Issues” of blood are draining. After extensive bleeding, anemia is likely. The Mayo Clinic tells us that as the body becomes increasingly deficient in iron, anemia worsens and signs and symptoms intensify. Symptoms vary but may include extreme fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, chest pain, headache, dizziness or lightheadedness and, eventually, death.

“Issues” of the heart are no different. Isn’t it time for you to lay yours at Jesus’ feet?

Read Mark 5:27-34 this week and ponder the daily questions for reflection.

And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse. When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, “If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.” And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.

And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said unto him, “Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, ‘Who touched me?’”

 And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.

And he said unto her, “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.”

 

Monday Questions for Reflection:   What is your “issue?” How has it caused you to suffer? How is it defining you?

Tuesday Questions for Reflection:   The Law prohibited the woman from touching others no doubt leaving her feeling isolated, abandoned and lonely. How does your “issue” isolate you from others?  Are you choosing to isolate yourself – your REAL self?

Wednesday Questions for Reflection:   The woman risked breaking the Purity Law and pressed through a crowd to touch Jesus’ garment. What risks must you take to be free of your “issue?” What or whom is keeping you from Jesus?

Thursday Questions for Reflection:   Jesus told the woman her faith had made her whole. Do you have the faith necessary to experience God’s miracle in your own life? Are there areas in your life that you do not yet trust to God? What are they? What keeps you from trusting?

Friday Questions for Reflection:   The woman, fearing and trembling, fell at Jesus’ feet and, before the crowd, told Jesus everything. Testimony of healing is powerful. Will you lay your “issue” at Jesus’ feet, be healed and share your testimony with others?  Who needs to hear your testimony?