FULLY ALIVE!

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


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The Perfect Gift

Tis the season.

To be jolly, the song says, but to go shopping for gifts is what the merchants (and my junk email box) say.  Each morning I awaken to find  announcements of one more sale, 20 additional percent off, another great buy and a last opportunity for a deal not to be missed.

Tis also the season to be stressed as you search for the “perfect” gift.

The perfect gift?  You know, the one that best expresses the giver while meeting a need or desire of the receiver.

It can’t be one sided.  Both the needs of the giver and the receiver must be met for the gift to be perfect.

My Sweetie opened his Christmas present last night.  Yeah, Christmas is six days away.  This seems to happen to us every year.  Sometimes it has been because I couldn’t wait to give him the gift.  Other times it has been because of schedules, travel and just other things that came up.  This year, it was because I had a perfect gift for him.

Now let me just say, it wasn’t what many would think a romantic gift.  It wasn’t a super unique gift.  It wasn’t an extravagant gift.  It was something simple.  But it was perfect because it expressed the giver (me) – my attention to his needs, my desire to see him happy, my recognition of his practical nature…  The gift also met a desire of the receiver (my Sweetie).

The gift?  His favorite hair tonic.

When you stop laughing, keep reading.

He has used this certain hair tonic ALL of his adult life.  His dad used this hair tonic.  This tonic has become increasingly difficult to find.  A bottle that used to sell for $8 when I first met him, was up for bid on ebay.  Bidding began at $35 per bottle!  He said a bottle used to sell for a couple of dollars!

Well, I had found a couple of bottles back in July when he was just about out.  We had visited stores, scoured the Internet and contacted the manufacturer.  I even visited a little country drug store and had the clerk contact their vendor.  It seems that those two bottles (found on Amazon) were going to be the last two bottles on this earth.  And then, I decided to search ebay one more time.  I found someone who had a few bottles at a ridiculous price.  I emailed this seller.  We went back and forth.  I made an offer to buy a case if he would give me a reasonable price.  I begged, pleaded and propositioned.  And, finally, we struck a deal – for 10 bottles!

So that was the gift.  A year’s supply of his favorite hair tonic.

So why did he open the gift early – and where am I going with this story?

First, two weeks ago he told me the two bottles from July were just about empty.  He asked if I thought I could find him some more tonic.  I laughed to myself knowing that I was sitting on a case, had been since July.  Last evening he asked if I had found any tonic because he probably had a day’s worth.  I said, “No.”  He asked, “Did you forget?”  I said, “I didn’t look.”  He seemed confused by this response.  (Probably because this would be the first time I didn’t respond to a request.  Smile.)  After a few minutes of silence, he restated his plight; he was almost out.  He had turned the bottles upright to drain every drop.  He was sure I, the Internet Queen, would have found some by now.

So, I gave him the nicely wrapped Christmas present.

And when he opened it, you would have thought it was keys to a new Ford F250 (his favorite truck)!

It was the perfect gift.  It expressed my love; it met his need and desire!

Where am I going with this long story?

My gift wasn’t really PERFECT.  But there is a perfect gift given by a perfect God.

God gave His Son, Jesus, as gift to us, a sinful world.

Jesus, perfectly expresses the giver, God.  “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…”  (Hebrews 1:3, NIV)  “He is the image of the invisible God…” (Colossians 1:15 ESV)

This gift, Jesus, perfectly meets our need.  “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 ESV)  “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…”  (2 Peter 1:3 ESV)

In fact, our deepest needs can only be met through Jesus.  He is the hope that will not disappoint and the hope that is renewed every day –  “His compassions never fail. They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Jesus is the perfect gift given by our perfect, loving God.

Have you unwrapped His gift?


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I Don’t Want to Forgive

Have you been hurt so deeply that you feel trapped by the pain, yet there is something deep within you that refuses to forgive?

At times it seems there are two forces pulling at you, kinda like those cartoons we’ve seen of characters having an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.  That angel whispers the Scriptures into your ears – “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).  “Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).  “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…” (Luke 6:27). “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19). “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44).  “Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you” (Proverbs 20:22).

That devil on the other shoulder is whispering, too.  “Don’t forgive them; they don’t deserve it. Don’t you remember what they did to you?”

The angel whispers all the more…,”Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless…” (1 Peter 3:9).  And the devil ramps up his whisperings, too…, “What you need to do is get even.  If I were you, I’d get them back!”

Forgiveness is hard.  It’s even harder when you don’t really want to forgive.  Yes, you want to empty yourself of all that bitterness, and you want to enjoy a close relationship with God (because in case you didn’t realize it, bitterness and refusing to forgive separates you from God).  But deep down within, you crave vengeance.  You just want to even the score somehow, pay them back.  After all, that’s what they deserve!

Confession.  I have held bitterness toward a certain “them” and “they” in my heart for quite some time now.  I said that I forgave, but I didn’t.  I thought for a while that I had, but I haven’t.  I was sure that I wanted to, but I don’t.  I don’t want to forgive them.  Oh, in my head I do; I know right from wrong.  But the awful, cold, hard truth is that in my heart, I don’t want to forgive them.

I realized that today when I had an opportunity to celebrate “them.” To praise “them.”  To congratulate “them.”  I didn’t want to do any of those things.  Rather, I wanted to remind “them” of their evil, their spite, their prejudices and their mean-spiritedness.  But therein lies the rub.  I couldn’t remind them of any of their shortcomings and faults without being reminded of my own.  Dang.

And so today I realized, fully realized what I already knew in my head.  Forgiveness is not really for “them.”  It is for me.

You see, by refusing to forgive, I imprisoned myself.  I shut myself away in a lonely, desolate and miserable place where I played and replayed the videos and recordings of all that they had done wrong.  Meanwhile, they went about their lives – happy, laughing, enjoying.  I am sure that they haven’t spent one minute thinking about what has robbed me of peace for more than a year now.

Today, I decided it’s time to be released from prison.  I forgave.  Once, for all and for always – with the help of the Holy Spirit!

As children of God we are commanded to forgive.  It really is not an option, but God will not rush us.  He’ll let us linger and languish in the prison of bitterness as long as we desire.  When we come to our senses, we understand that He empowers us by His Spirit to forgive just as Jesus forgave when He looked down from the cross at His false accusers, the naysayers and the soldiers who had beaten and whipped Him and now cast lots for His clothing.  Amidst all that, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).  Surely, I can forgive those who hurt me, and I did.

Here’s what we can be sure of – What God commands us to do, He empowers us to do by His Spirit. And that includes forgiving just as Jesus did!

THIS WEEK break free of any prison of unforgiveness that has you bound.  “As those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” (Colossians 3:12-13).  Identify your shortcomings and seek the Lord’s forgiveness for those then, if possible, reconcile with your offender.  If you cannot reconcile because your offender is not ready, know that you have done what the Lord has required of you, and go in peace (Romans 12:18). 


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The WhatIfs

Shel Silverstein, long one of my favorite poets, penned a poem entitled WhatIf.  It begins, “Last night, while I lay thinking here,
some Whatifs crawled inside my ear and pranced and partied all night long and sang their same old Whatif song:  Whatif I’m dumb in school?  Whatif they’ve closed the swimming pool?  Whatif I get beat up?  Whatif there’s poison in my cup?  Whatif I start to cry?  Whatif I get sick and die?”

Instead of breaking up the late night party, we join in, serve refreshment, turn the music up and add our own lyrics!

Our grownup version tends to go more like this:  Whatif I can’t pay my rent?  Whatif all my money’s spent?  What if my spouse decides to leave?  What if my children begin to deceive?  What if the doctor gives me a cancer scare?  What if I lose all my hair?  What if my house is taken away?  What if I die and this is my last day…?  What if my child is born with defect?  What if my teenagers are in a wreck?  And so on…you know how it goes.

I challenge you to change the tune completely and consider these lyrics:  What if God is, as His Word says, in control?  What if God is omniscient?  What if God is omnipresent and is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9)?  What if God has a plan for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and hope (Jeremiah 29:11)?  What if with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)?  What if God’s Word does not return empty but, rather, accomplishes His purpose and succeeds in the thing for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:8-11)?  What if in His hand is the life of everything (Job 12:10)?  What if God is faithful and will provide (1 Corinthians 10:13)?  What if nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:27) and what if you can do all things through Him (Philippians 4:13)?  What if God will strengthen, help and uphold you (Isaiah 41:10)?  What if all that seems to be meant evil towards you God means it for good (Genesis 50:20)?

What if you stopped worrying and started trusting?

Silverstein ends his poem, “Everything seems well, and then the nighttime Whatifs strike again!”

When the Whatifs strike you, strike back with the Word of your Lord!  Stop worrying.  Start trusting.

THIS WEEK take captive every thought (2 Corinthians 10:5) including your whatifs!  Replace each with a promise from God.

The Whatifs:  A Silverstein Poem   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plxOibb0L0s


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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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Wet Feet

Just as the Israelites were on the verge of entering the Promised Land, God commanded the priests to step into the water.  Hmm?  Not exactly what you might expect, but no big deal, right?  Wrong!  The Jordan River was at flood stage!  We’re talking wet feet and probably a few other wet things here.

Now surely God knew the Jordan River was there, and He knew that it was at flood stage when He told the Israelites to cross over to their Promised Land. Still He gave the command to Joshua: “. . . Arise, GO OVER THIS JORDAN, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give them. . .” (Joshua 1:2).

Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like getting my feet wet – especially when I have my shoes on!  Ladies, you know the deal!  Confession – yes, I take certain shoes off in the rain – even if I am wearing hose.  The way I see it, I can buy another pair of Hanes for a WHOLE lot less money than I can a pair of shoes!  I learned the hard way, but it only took one pair of spotty leather pumps for me to learn to save the shoes!

Anyway, back to the Israelites and the Jordan River.

Now, if we didn’t know before, we certainly knew after the Red Sea episode that God could part the waters.  In Exodus 4:21 Moses stretched his hand out over the waters, and the Scriptures tell us that the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.  We know, too, that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:24), so what’s up with the wet feet?  He parted the Sea for Moses.  Why not part the river for the priests?

I think it’s less about the wet feet and more about our desire for God to go first.  That way, we don’t mess up our shoes. We don’t have to work as hard.  We don’t have to wonder how things are going to go.  We don’t get wet feet.

It’s that hesitancy to get wet feet that can keep us camped out on the wrong side of the Jordan River.  It’s that waiting for God to go first that can keep us from our miracle.  Hebrews 11:6 teaches us that without faith it is impossible to please God.  Several examples in the Scriptures – the Red Sea and the Jordan River encounters being two of them – teach us that we are always to exercise faith in God.  Sometimes that faith requires us to be still and wait patiently (think Joseph in Potiphar’s prison), but at other times, it calls us to step up (think Nehemiah), step out (think Naomi and Ruth) and step into the waters (the Israelite priests).

Contrary to our belief, there can be just as much faith involved in taking personal initiative as there is in waiting passively for the Lord to provide.

Pray hard. Listen hard.  Swallow hard.  And go first!  Step out in faith knowing that our God sees, hears and is faithful!

THIS WEEK seek God’s desire for you – patience or a step of faith.  What would the latter look like?  What’s holding you back? Are you being obedient in patience or fearful in waiting?  Seek God’s direction for you and your life.  He will give you peace about what YOU are to do!


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Lord, You Said

Think your kids are too young to understand your grown-up conversations? Think again. They not only hear what you are saying, they will repeat it – often at the worse time possible (like in front of your mother-in-law or at school). And very often, they repeat your own words to you.

“Mom, you said…”

“Dad, you promised…”

While moms and dads sometimes have selective amnesia failing to remember what they said or promised, there is nothing God loves more than keeping His promises. He waits for us to take Him at His word – His word which contains literally thousands of promises waiting to be claimed in faith. Promises like Psalm 50:15 – “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me” and like 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

God stands ready and waiting for you to ask Him about Isaiah 40:29 (“He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.”) and Isaiah 54:17 “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.”) And when we stand on His word, He stands by His word, faithful to keep every promise. You have to claim them. You have to know them. You have but to say, “Lord, you said…”

THIS WEEK search the Scriptures for God’s promises. Which do you need to claim? Pray them keeping in mind Psalm 84:11 (“No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”) Praying is standing on the promises of God. If you take God at His word, you will experience the joy of knowing that He keeps His word.

You Said (Hillsong)                                                                                                                                                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEpaG4VlBcA

Standing on the Promises of God  


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A Million Miracles

Since my second retirement, I’d become addicted to daytime television.  Not the trashy, mindless, dribble (though I believe you have to keep it ALL in balance –  see an earlier post confession – Television 8, Prayer 1), but rather I try to watch what I believe will teach, help, inspire and grow.  Such is my justification for my near addiction to the daytime television show, The Doctors.

Daily I am amazed by the miracles of life – not of the individual doctors, though I am in awe of the knowledge, skills and wisdom that God has imparted to them.  But it is the miracle of the human body that most astonishes.  If we would stop and consider, likely we witness millions of miracles on a daily basis.  Just think about the miracle of conception – a sperm and an egg uniting then dividing to become a human being.  Think about the miracle of birth.  I once heard a neurologist share a presentation on all the ways and all the junctures at which “something” could go wrong from conception to birth.  He said it was a miracle that anyone was born alive much less born with a whole and healthy body and mind.

Burn yourself and watch the body heal.  I’ve been very cooking challenged lately and bear the scars of burns to prove it.  A seemingly small and innocent burn on my hand blistered, festered, oozed and ached.  But after a few weeks, it has healed – smooth to the touch and pain free.  Though discoloration remains that, too, is fading with each passing day.  Break a bone, cut a gash, stretch a tendon.  The body has a whole unique system for dispatching white cells, regenerating red cells and doing tons of other things that I couldn’t begin to understand much less explain.

How about surgery?  I’ve had a few different procedures.  Imagine someone cutting you – not just a nick at the surface but deeply through layers and layers of skin and tissue then playing around with some of your organs, cutting things away, “lasering” and “lanceting” and cauterizing things and then STAPLING (who thought that up?!) you back together perhaps adding a few needle and thread stitches along the way.  And after all that you’d think you’d have to lie in bed not just for days or weeks, but months, possibly years!  But if you’ve had surgery, you know they get you up and out of bed walking – sometimes within hours of your procedure. If that’s not a miracle – what is?!!!!

Surgery or no surgery, that your heart beats, that your eyes see, that your ears hear, that your brain interprets the sights and sounds, that you walk, that you think, that you speak – those are miracles!

Today I watched a new version of The Ten Commandments – not the Charlton Heston version that I grew up watching, but a much less Hollywood version. I happened to flip the channel just at the point when the newly fleed from Egypt Israelites were complaining about not having enough food to eat.  Grumbling, they actually said they might as well have stayed in Egypt and died (Numbers 14:2 NIV).  In Egypt they declared, they sat around pots of meat and ate all the food they wanted (Exodus 16:3 NIV).  And when God GAVE them manna, they detested it and called it miserable (Numbers 21:5 NIV).  At this point in the movie, I had very unholy thoughts.  I actually telephoned my sister to tell her about the movie and my thoughts declaring that I would have told the Israelites to just take their little ungrateful, manna detesting hips back to Egypt then.  That’s why I’m not Moses!  (I have since repented.)

There are miracles all around us all the time!  Yet, we find so much to complain about.  God evidenced great patience with the Israelites, and thankfully, He does with us as well (me included).

THIS WEEK as many of us celebrate the Easter season, pause and reflect on the million miracles that God performs daily in our lives including the gifts of grace, mercy and salvation and the “Egypts” He has delivered you from.  Repent of your grumblings, and recommit your life to His service.  If you do not currently have a personal relationship with Christ, there is no better time.  Please click the SALVATION tab above to learn how you can invite Jesus into your life as your Savior and witness firsthand the miracle of Salvation.


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Who Have You Told Lately

LIfeWay Research (2012) indicates that “61 percent of evangelical Christians do not share their faith regularly” – even though they believe it is their responsibility to do so. Further, nearly half of those who responded to the LifeWay survey said they have not invited a non-Christian friend to church in the past six months.

Whoa!

That’s frightening, unsettling, distressing, disappointing, concerning, alarming… I’ve got a whole list of adjectives and adverbs that I could wrap around this one!  And when we butt this body of research up against a study by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) in collaboration with LifeWay (2009), we find that “67 percent of Americans say a personal invitation from a family member would be very or somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church. Another 63% say a personal invitation from a friend or neighbor would be effective.  This same study reports that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) are very or somewhat willing to receive information about a local congregation or faith community from a family member, and 56 percent are very or somewhat willing to receive such information from a friend or neighbor.”  A similar LifeWay study summarized in Discipleship Journal (2008) reported 75% would be wlling to listen to someone talk about his/her Christian beliefs and 78% would enjoy an honest conversations with a friend about spiritual beliefs even if they had other beliefs.

Enough of the numbers; let’s cut to the point best summarized by Ed Stetzer, vice president of LifeWay Research and Ministry Development, “[M]any of your unchurched friends are ready for an invitation to conversation.” THIS is clearly the point for the question raised in Romans 10:14 (NLT), “But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?

Hello Someone!

Yes, you!

Who have YOU told lately?  With whom have YOU shared the good news of God’s Gospel?

Let me share another tidbit from the 2009 LifeWay data.  “Out of 13 approaches tested, personal invitations from family members or friends is the only method that a majority of Americans say would effectively draw them to church.”  Television, radio and newspaper all have an impact as do visits from congregational teams, but the most effective method is one-on-one personal communication with a family member or friend.  Church advertising and outreach methods clearly take a back seat to personal testimony and invitations.  And consider one final extract from LifeWay’s data, “At particular points in life, people are more open to considering matters of faith, the survey (2009) found. The Christmas season is the most common time for people to be open to spiritual matters. Nearly half (47 percent) are more open to considering matters of faith at Christmas. Americans are also open to matters of faith during the Easter season (38 percent).”

Hebrews 3:15 cautions us not to harden our hearts when we hear while James 1:22 admonishes us to be doers of the word.  And we know that Matthew 28:19 commands us to go, teach and make disciples.  I’m thinking perfect storm – THIS is the ideal time for you to hear this word just weeks before Easter, the season when many hearts are open and eager to hear God’s truth.  THIS is the ideal time for you to share!

THIS WEEK pray asking the Holy Spirit to lead you to the right opportunity and the right methodology to share your faith.  Unsure how to get started?  Explore the following resources.  Share your experiences as well as your encouragement for others using our blog’s comment feature!

RESOURCES

Share Your Faith Apphttp://shareyourfaithapp.com/

How to Share Your Faith (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association):  http://billygraham.org/grow-your-faith/how-to-share-your-faith/tools/

EvangeCUBE:  http://www.e3resources.org/downloads.php

Roman Road (Teen Mission International):  http://www.teenmissions.org/resources/roman-road-to-salvation/

FAITH Outlinehttp://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CC0QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lifeway.com%2Fev%2Ffiles%2FevF_min_FAITH_VisitOutline.pdf&ei=4_AFVdywOoifNsXvg4gJ&usg=AFQjCNEgBlAI91LGBT5nxvukphTU6VdBdg&sig2=_vrcHO9_89NTcfsxCAfQtg


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Television 8; Prayer 1

Yesterday I watched 8 hours of television.  I watched until the cable box automatically shut down to go into power save mode  Even the cable company couldn’t believe someone would be actually watching television that long!

Yesterday I prayed 1 hour.

The Daily News says, “The average American watches more than five hours of live television every day.  More if you’re African American. Quite a bit more. Less if you’re Hispanic or Asian American, but not that much less.  For all ethnic groups, TV viewing time increases steadily as we get older, according to the March 2014 “Cross-Platform Report” released by the Nielsen media ratings company.  Once we pass 65, we watch more than seven hours a day.”

The American Time Use Survey says that Americans spend on average 2 to 17 minutes each day on “religious activity.”  In my home state, North Carolina, the average is 11 minutes per day.

I guess I could tell myself that I am “above average,” for a North Carolinian and for a Southerner.  The Survey notes, “Southerners are more likely to say religion is “very important” in their lives than people from any other region, so it’s no surprise that they report spending more time per day on religious activities.”

But I cannot make peace with these numbers.

Why don’t we pray?

The most popular excuse is time.  We don’t have time.  Well, I watched 8 hours of television.  Trust me, it was not life-altering, mind-enriching, world-changing television.  And I’ll wager that what you watch is not either.  Mine was more of the home decorating, new cooking techniques, travel to an exotic land variety with a sprinkling of good health and diet suggestions.  The truth of the matter, we have time.

The second most popular excuse is that it’s really not necessary.  Really?  Think of the many examples in the Scriptures when victory came through prayer – and when defeat came because of a lack of prayer.  Two contrasting examples – (1) Elijah praying that it would not rain (and it did not for 3 1/2 years) and then his prayer for rain (and the sky poured causing the earth to produce fruit) and (2) the defeat of the Israelite army when they fought against the city of Ai.  Confident in themselves, they did not pray or consult the Lord before going into battle.  They were bold.  They were self-centered.  They were defeated.  (See 1 Kings 17-19 and Joshua 7.)

We know, too,  that while He was on earth, Jesus was faithful in spending vital time in prayer with the Father. Just as He sought time alone to talk with His Father, shouldn’t we?  Hebrews 5:7 reveals the passionate prayer life of our Lord. During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him. The truth of the matter, we need to pray as Jesus prayed.

The third most popular excuse is that prayer does not make a difference.  Sure, if we think prayer is magic, it doesn’t make a difference.  Or if we think prayer is about presenting our shopping list or Christmas list to Santa God, it doesn’t make a difference.  If we think prayer is about us and our sole benefit, it doesn’t make a difference.  Finally, if we think prayer is about showing off – using fancy, 50-cent words and parading our theology before people, it doesn’t make a difference.

When we get that prayer is about a relationship with God, it makes a HUGE difference.  Prayer is talking with, spending time with, loving and worshipping our Holy Father.  Yes, we share our hearts and may make requests, but we also confess our faults, thank God for His love, praise Him for who He is, intercede for others and more.  And prayer is knowing that God hears us, loves us and will answer us.  The truth of the matter, prayer makes a difference. The difference is the relationship.  The difference is the peace.  The difference is the love.

Contrast this with television.

When I think about it, I don’t have time to watch that much television!  There are too many people hurting and too many people lost; I need to intercede.  There are too many shortcomings in my life; I need to confess.  There are too many blessings in my life; I need to worship and adore my God.

When I think about it, television is not that necessary.  Much of what I watch is pure entertainment.  Now, I am all for laughing.  I like learning new recipes and seeing new decorating ideas.  I like escaping to other worlds.  But none of that is essential to my survival, my success or my salvation.

When I think about it, television does not make a difference in my life.  Yes, I learn a little because, more often than not, I choose programs that will teach, but can I compare those to time spent with my Lord?  Think about your much-loved spouse, child or friend – would you rather spend time watching television or with them?  Now, I have some colleagues that regularly toss their spouses aside for episodes of Scandal or Monday Night Football, but I am confident that when the end comes, they will not be wishing for more time with television, that they had not missed that touchdown or that one episode.  They will be wishing they’d spent more time with the ones they loved and the ones that loved them.  And no one loves you more than the Father.

Am I planning to give up television?  That would be a, “No!”  But I am rethinking what I watch and how much time I spend watching.  I am also rethinking my prayer time.  My focus won’t be how many minutes and hours I can spend praying so that I can hold them up before the Lord and say, “See, Lord, television 2 hours; prayer 3.”  My focus will be about spending quality time engaged in necessary prayer talking to the One who loves me and who makes all the difference in my life!

THIS WEEK, evaluate how you are spending your time.  You may want to look at the American Time Use Survey Maps found at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/06/20/ten-maps-that-show-how-much-time-americans-spend-grooming-eating-thinking-and-praying/.  Do you need to revisit your prayer time?  Craft a plan.  Understand that plans are as unique as the individuals that create them.  You may find one example at http://thecripplegate.com/a-sample-prayer-plan/.


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None of Your Business

Too often we let how get in the way of what God has called us to do.  For the life of us, we cannot figure out how a thing is going to happen.

You know, too much month and too little money.  How will you ever make it to payday?

The school has called you six times this week, and it’s not Friday, yet. How are you going to survive this thing called parenthood?

A spouse that has a taste for too much drink, eyes for another and a passion for gambling.  How can God fix this mess of a marriage?

Negative doctor reports and a truck load of confirming symptoms.  How on earth can God heal you?

How?  That’s God’s business.

Impossible?  That’s His specialty.

The Scriptures are full of examples.  Consider one – the story of Elijah (1 Kings 18: 23-24, 31-35 ESV) and what we can learn from him.

“Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water… 

You don’t have to be very smart to understand that wood plus water is not a formula for fire.  Elijah had the people fill four jars with water and douse the wood.  He then had them repeat it two more times for a total of twelve jars of water.  Now, we don’t know the size of the jars, but the Scriptures tell us that there was so much water that it ran around the alter and filled the trench that had been dug around it.

You know the people thought Elijah was crazy.  First,  a “burnt” offering with no fire.  And then, wood doused with twelve jars of water.  How will God ever answer this prayer?

Elijah wasn’t worried.  He knew that the how was God’s business.  His business was to be obedient.  And when he had constructed the altar and commanded that the wood be doused, he simply prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God…” (1 Kings 18:36-37 ESV)

And God answered as only God can for in verse 38 we read, “Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.”

What has God called you to do?  That’s YOUR business.  How will it happen?  That is none of your business; THAT is God’s business!

THIS WEEK reflect on your business for God – what He has called you to do that you are not doing.  Mind your business, and get started – on your knees.  Look at Elijah’s prayer as an example.  Pray, believing and asking God to provide what is needed and that He be glorified, and He will answer as only He can.  THAT is His business!