FULLY ALIVE!

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


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In a Flash

Summer, one of my favorite seasons, is almost here!  Already it is hot enough to be summer; today the temperature climbed into the upper 80s, but that’s a good thing because I like to stretch summer out as long as possible.  When the hot days come early and linger well past the official end date on the calendar, I consider ALL those days SUMMER.  But even when I do that – milk out a few extra days or weeks, summer is still just too short.  Always, it seems, I am left wondering, “What happened?  Where did it go?  I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to!”  For example, last year, we never made it to the ocean.  Not even once.

This summer will be different, or so I have promised myself.  I am making plans – plans that include time at the ocean, time walking on the beach, time sailing, time fishing, time watching the dolphins, time eating freshly caught seafood and time hot air ballooning!  Yes, summer seems to come and go in a flash, but I have a plan to milk everything out of it that I can.

Life comes and goes in a flash, too!  Never thought I would say that.  Remember being a child and waiting for your birthday?  Or Christmas?  Or recess?  Or the last day of school?  Time drug.  Time crawled.  Time slept.  My mother used to tell me to just wait, though.  She said, “When you get older, time will fly.”  “Just get to be 30 years old,” she said, “and you will see the years coming in multiples of five, possibly ten.”  She was right.  You go to bed one night and you’re 29, but you wake up 40.  You roll over for another snooze, and you wake up 50.  After 50?  Well, I won’t depress you “young’uns,” and those of you who are over 50?  Well, you already know.

The funny thing, though, is that we make plans for summer, and for Christmas, and birthdays and even for recess – who we will play with, what games we will play, which boys we want to walk past, which girls we will talk to…   But are you making plans for the most important time?  Where you will spend eternity!  Are you planning to go to Heaven?  If you answer, “Yes,” what exactly is your plan?  If it isn’t relying on Christ alone, you need another plan.  Works, good looks and being nice aren’t enough.  John 6:44 (NIV) teaches that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day,”  and John 14:6 (NIV) makes it clear that Jesus is “the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through” Him.

Even our best laid plans for the beach may go awry.  Life happens.  Things come up.  Plans have to change.  But we can have every confidence in God and the plan that He has laid for our salvation.  Instead of trusting our goodness and crossing our fingers and hoping we go to Heaven, we can trust Jesus and His goodness because He alone is God’s way of salvation.  When we place absolute faith and trust in Him, turn from our sinful way and follow Him, we know that we will live with Him in Heaven.  And not just for a summer.  Forever!

Now while some Christians would disagree, as I read and understand the Scriptures especially the teaching of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:8, at death we immediately – in a flash – enter the presence of the Lord.  Paul led a life full of danger, and he knew that at any moment his life on earth could end. But he faced death with hope that we can share: “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord”  He further declared, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23).

One last thought.  Summer is always best when shared – with family, friends, special loves.  I’m thinking Heaven will be extra special when shared, so don’t just plan on going alone.  Plan for others to meet you there.

THIS WEEK share the Gospel (click the tab above to visit our Salvation page) with others – friends, family members, absolute strangers!  Let’s plan for a heavenly crowd!

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Peace on Earth (Part 2)

NOTE:  We’re vacationing, so Monday’s post is early!

There’s a saying that’s been going around, “Every family has that one crazy relative. If you don’t know who it is, it’s probably you.”

Here’s another saying, “Everywhere you go, there you are.”

What do these two sayings have to do with peace on earth? Well, in our last post we discussed that before there can be peace on earth we must individually have peace within, so without a lot of extra words, let me just jump to the point. Might you be the one robbing yourself of peace? “No way!” you think. Well, let me just offer you three more quotes.

“Nobody screws me up better than me.”

“Who needs enemies when you’ve got yourself.”

“Make sure your worst enemy is not living between your two ears.”

Again, are you robbing yourself of peace?

There are events and seasons that seem to thrust us into deep self-evaluation and self-reflection, and Christmas is one of them. This can be a good thing – pausing to consider the love of family and friends, the blessing of health, the satisfaction of a prosperous and fun career, the joy of children… It can also be not so good – dwelling on the loss of loved ones, failing health, the stress of unemployment or job disappointment, the fear of miscarriage…

The latter (and similar) thoughts can quickly launch one into a depression that robs one of personal peace.

What are you telling yourself? What script do you keep running through your head? “I’m no good.” “I’m all alone.” “I can’t make it.” “Nobody loves me.” “I’ll never – have children, get that job, leave this town, be able to afford a house, get married, be in love, go to college, be healthy again…”

It’s time to replace those thoughts. It does no good to simply try to just stop them; you have to replace them. Craft some new thinking based on Philippians 4:8 (NKJV): “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

What does this mean? What does it look like? Sound like? The Message translates the same text: “…filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from Me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

Do that, and “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7b NKJV)

THIS WEEK: Make note of the thoughts that rob you of peace. Write substitute thoughts then practice using them. (e.g. THOUGHT: I’m just no good – always have been, always will be! SUBSTITUTE THOUGHT: In Christ I am a new creature – old things, thoughts, ways and deeds are passed away! (2 Corinthians 5:17)


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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


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Inextricably Linked

This semester I asked my college seniors to unplug for one weekend.  No cell phone.  No laptop, iPad, desktop, etc.  No Twitter.  No Facebook.  No Instagram.  No Internet.

“No way!” they said.

But they did.

And they shared their stories which were hilarious – the reaching for the phone that was not there, the lost “don’t know what to do with myself” feelings, the disconnect, the struggle to get anything done without the Internet.

People are more connected to one another than ever before because ours is an Internet and Social Networking world.  When we are not talking, we are texting or instant-messaging or Skyping or tweeting or something. We are connected, and yet we are not.

Michael Price writes in his work, Alone in the Crowd, that we are “more lonely and distant from one another” in our “unplugged lives.”  It’s true.  Most any teenager will tell you that they’d rather text than talk.  And while a lot of adults won’t readily admit it, they, too, would rather email than talk.

We live in neighborhoods but don’t know our neighbors.  We work in offices but don’t know our cubicle mates.  We go to churches but don’t know our fellow parishioners.  Sometimes we live in houses and don’t know our family members!  Not really.

We were made to be social creatures.  In Genesis 2, God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone and created for him a mate.  So why do we retreat behind locked doors, shut blinds and closed minds?  Well, probably for one – it’s just easier.  Less drama and less headache.  Admittedly, I’ve had my days when I have longed for an island.  But, again, we weren’t designed for long-term island living.  At least not in the sense that I mean – ALONE!

Like it or not, our lives are inextricably linked.  The choices we make affect others. Deuteronomy 30:19 (NASB) says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants…” Every day you are choosing for yourself but also for your descendants. You must make decisions today with tomorrow’s impact in mind, and you must consider current choices in light of future generations.

Are you choosing wisely?  Someone’s life is inextricably linked with yours and the choices you make!  Ponder that this week along with the following Scriptures and questions.

Monday: Joshua 24:15 (NASB)

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Questions for Reflection:  Whom or what have you chosen to serve? What is the impact of your choice on your descendants – immediate (now) and later?  You may say, “I haven’t chosen.” Did you know that by not choosing you are choosing?

Tuesday: 1 Peter 2:9 (NASB)

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”

Questions for Reflection: Make note of the choices you make today – what to wear, how to drive, whether to speak to someone you pass on the street or in the hallway at work, what to eat for dinner, etc. How many choices did you make? They may seem insignificant, but what is the impact of each decision – for you, for those around you – immediate (now) and later? Do your choices reflect well on you? On your Lord?

Wednesday: Romans 2:6-8 (NASB)

“who will render to each person according to his deeds:  to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;  but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.”

Questions for Reflection: Consider two choices you have made in the past – one selfless, one selfish. What has been the return on those choices – for you? For those you love? What, if anything, do you need to change as you go forward?

Thursday: Proverbs 14:12 (ESV)

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

Questions for Reflection: How do you make choices? Do you do what you think seems right, or do you pray for wisdom and direction?

Friday: Biblical Principles for Making Wise Decisions

www.watermark.org/blog/decision-making-principles/

Questions for Reflection: After reading the given Scriptures, reflect on each of the 10 questions found at this site.