FULLY ALIVE!

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


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A Fowl Story

It started three days ago. This is the short version of the story.

Driving to a doctor’s appointment, I drove through a puddle of something on the highway. The cars before me had flown right through it, so I followed. It was pretty much unavoidable anyway since it covered both lanes. Anyway, I drove through it. Okay, nothing happened. Good. So, I kept driving.

I was running early for a change, so I decided to shop a little before my appointment. I wheeled into a parking space, literally jumped out of the car and rushed into the store. I had about 25 minutes to navigate TJ Maxx. If you’ve shopped there, you know it takes more than a few minutes to cover this “inside flea market” but I was going to give it my best, and I did.

Exactly 25 minutes later I was walking back to my car. As I approached to put my packages in the back, it hit me. The foulest stench ever! I thought, “What on earth is going on in this town?” I didn’t have time to give it a lot of thought; I had to get to my appointment. About 15 minutes later I was at the doctor’s office and when I exited the car, the odor was on that side of town, too. “Wow, something foul is really going on here today,” I thought before dashing inside. Yep, I smelled it when I returned to my car and I smelled it at my next stop. It was then that I realized that it was my vehicle not the air that was smelling.

Walking around my car for a quick inspection I noticed brown stuff on the tires and rear fenders. It wreaked! The temperature was rising and so was the odor, so I went to a car wash thinking it just needed a quick rinse. I paid the attendant to blast my car by hand then drove to my next stop. The moment I opened the car door, the stench hit me. I drove back to the car wash for another rinse.   I suggested the attendant focus on the tires, so he did.

Well, my day was pretty much shot so I headed for home only to arrive and find the stench was even stronger. I drove to a local car wash where the attendant scrubbed the tires before I drove through the automatic wash; this particular car wash offered an undercarriage wash feature – just what I needed! Returning home I found the stench still there but much less offensive. I shot the tire wells with a little Febreze and spritzed a little inside the vehicle before retiring for the night. (Yes, the night. “This” car wash business had literally consumed a day.)

While watering my lawn the next morning I caught a whiff of something foul. Yes, my car! For about an hour I scrubbed the tire wells, the rims and the rear bumper. I prayed more Febreze. All seemed well, but I checked about an hour later and spritzed a little more Febreze just in case.

Today, three days later, the stench is knocking me off my feet. My post master suggests that I take my car to a garage and have them place it on a lift so that we may inspect the underside.

It was foul. Actually, it was fowl – chicken poop to be exact! That’s what the brown stuff on the highway was. That’s what I had driven through. And that is what had stuck in the treads of the tires, splattered the tire wells and covered the underside of my car. Between the heat of the day (we’ve had temps in the high 90s all week) and the heat of the car, it was baked on the underside. It was under the hood! It was stuck in the nooks and crannies.

While having my car powerwashed (including the underside, engine and tire wells), I thought – “Hmm, just like sin.” It can seem like nothing or, at most, just a little something. Everyone is doing it. At first you don’t realize the impact, so you carry on as usual. It rears its head a little at first then slightly more. You catch a whiff of it, but you still think it’s no big deal. It is persistent. It will not stop until it has taken over. You read a Scripture or two, whisper an “I’m sorry” and try to make a quick deal with God. But sin is powerful. It is pervasive. It gets into the nooks and crannies of your life and your heart. It gets baked in and baked on.

First, we don’t recognize it as sin. We don’t call it by that name. We dress it up – we made a poor choice, we blew it, nobody’s perfect. We water it down – we made a mistake, took a misstep, goofed. No, we sinned.

Scripture does not describe sin as a “mistake” or a “failure.” God does not excuse sin as “bad behavior” or a “slip up.” Sin is serious; it is violating God’s law, and it is an offense against God (Romans 4:15, 1 John 3:4, Deuteronomy 32:51, Psalm 51:4, Exodus 32:33). Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2)!

A spritz and a spray could not address the root of the foul odor that had attacked my car. I had to remove the source of the odor not just continuously try to cover it with perfume. It took intentional, focused, specific and time-intensive effort. I had to recognize that it wasn’t the air and it wasn’t just the tires. It was chicken manure, and it was caked and dried in the tire tread, tire wells, wheel rims and underside of the car.

Likewise with sin. Scripture is clear that the only way the problem of sin could be dealt with was through an intentional, focused, specific effort. That “effort” was a perfect substitute, Jesus Christ, experiencing the wrath of God for sinful man by dying on the cross and fully atoning our sin.

Understand then, that when you sin, it is not a trivial matter; it is not a mistake. Begin by calling it what it is. Until you do, you cannot address it.


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If It Looks Like a Duck

It’s funny – the things we accept at face value and the things we do not.  Get a piece of paper; it can be a scrap, and see how you do on this little Yes or No test:

  1. I have purchased a dress ___ sizes too small promising myself that I would lose enough weight to wear it. (You fill in the blank.)
  2. I have befriended someone (welcomed them into my home, introduced them to family, scheduled special events with them, etc.) when I knew the relationship would be the equivalent of putting a hot coal inside my shirt.
  3. I have said that I liked something (when I secretly thought, “Yuck!) only to receive that something later as a gift.
  4. I have purchased a shoe in a size other than what I know that I wear thinking I could “make them work” for a special occasion (and because they were cute).
  5. I have dated (or married) a man believing that I could, eventually, change him into the man of my dreams.

Each question is worth 20 points.  I trust you to score your own paper.  You do not have to report your score; I’ll let you “sit with” it.

There seems to be two camps – the one that believes you can always turn a situation around and the one that agrees with the old anonymous proverb that says, “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck – it must be a duck.”

Here’s my thinking on that proverb…Wrong!

You may think this season of your life is pretty hopeless.  It might be looking like unemployment, feeling like cancer, sounding like a mean boss, smelling like divorce, feeling like loneliness, tasting like failure…  Looks can be deceiving.  So can feelings and all the other senses.

We’ve been following Joseph through several chapters of Genesis, so let’s keep learning from him

Genesis 37:23 (NIV)  “So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing…” Looks like nakedness.

Genesis 37:24 (NIV)  “…they took him and threw him into the cistern.” Tastes like abandonment.

Genesis 37: 28 (NIV)   “…his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels…” Sounds like slavery.

Genesis 39:6b-7 (NIV)     “Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” Smells like a set-up.

Genesis 39:20a (NIV)        “Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. Looks like, smells like and feels like the end!

Wrong, again!

Genesis 39:20b-21a (NIV) tells us, “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him…” And two chapters and two years later, we see Joseph not just leaving prison and not just being restored to his former position, but he is positioned second only to Pharaoh. Genesis 41:39 -41 says, “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph…, ‘Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you…I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.’” Looks like a test, and looks like Joseph passed with flying colors. Will you?

Max Lucado tells us that God “sees the needs of tomorrow and, accordingly, uses your circumstances to create the tests of today.” He sees your needs, and He sees the needs of others. He uses you and your circumstances to create tests that will bring about His desired results. Sometimes your testing is to bring about a certain result in you. Sometimes it is to bring about a certain result through you, meaning you are the vehicle chosen by God to do a work in someone else’s life. Whichever situation is the case, you want to pass the test. Lucado also reminds us that “some tests end on earth, but all tests will end in heaven.”

So, it might walk like a duck, quack like a duck and even look like a duck, but what it really is is a test! And you want to pass!