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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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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Anything You Want

When I was a young girl, my Dad told me that I could have ANY thing that I wanted IF I was willing to do an honest day’s work for it. “As a matter of fact,” he said, “if someone has something to give you, they will let you know. In the meantime, plan on going to work to get what you want.”

And so, I began working when I was 15 years old. I’ve worked since with the exception of one year during undergraduate school when I literally begged my Dad to give me a break. “Can’t I have just one semester without working?” I whined. And one semester is what he permitted. Then it was back to work – two jobs, sometimes three.

I remember teaching school full time, working in a Department store 20 hours every weekend and managing an after-school tutorial program two afternoons a week while attending Graduate School full time. And that was one of my “easy seasons.” For another season, I taught school Monday through Friday and worked in a hospital laboratory Friday nights, 16 hours each Saturday and 16 hours each Sunday (a 40-hour weekend) – two full time jobs.

I’ve worked in schools, hospitals, offices and department stores. I even (this is the honest truth) sold cemetery plots door-to-door. Finally, I am retired – honestly. I get the check every month. And I still work two jobs!  Why? Many reasons, but partly because my Daddy created a true workaholic and partly so I really can have what I want…without charge cards.

I doubt my Dad was the first or only parent to tell his child that they could have what they wanted if they worked for it. That was not just the mentality, but the prevailing attitude, spirit and belief of our day. You want it? You work for it. For many, there was much truth in that thinking, and they have the homes, cars, clothing and “toys” to prove it.

But there is one thing that working cannot bring you.

Eternal life.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV) makes it clear that we are saved by grace, through faith – and this is not from ourselves. “It is the gift of God” and not by our works, “so that no one can boast.” No one can buy or work their way into Heaven. It is the work of Christ and His work alone that opens wide the doors of Heaven for us to enter.

Isn’t that good news? It is for me; I can only imagine how many jobs I’d have to work to go to Heaven!


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Someone, Somewhere Needs to Hear Your Story

In honesty, I’ve second-guessed my last post.

I am typically a private person – sorta.  I talk.  A lot.  But I share what I want to share.  There are certain “topics” that I simply don’t discuss.  Decided that a long time ago.

So, I was the first person to be surprised by what my fingers were typing.  But, as I told a friend, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to share.  Still, though, I have been running this narrative in my head:

“Hmm, probably should’ve kept that to yourself.”

“That’s too much information.”

“Well, it’s out there now.”

And, since we are being open and honest, I will confess that I even thought, “Well, you could deny that it was YOUR story.”

And then, I was cleaning up one of my personal email boxes.  I don’t get to those boxes as often as I used to, so there are a lot of messages.  I am able to see the subject lines which helps me decide quickly whether I want to open the message and read it or simply delete it and move on.  One line caught my attention:  “Someone, Somewhere Needs to Hear Your Story.”

My first thought was, “Does God do email?”

Well, I know the answer.  “No.  He gets others to send it for Him.” (Smile)

Why do we keep our stories locked away in diaries, buried deep within ourselves and barricaded behind clenched teeth?  There are myriad reasons.  None good.  None excusable.  None acceptable.  Not really.

Oh, there’s shame, guilt, fear, pride…  Like I said, none good.

Acts 1:8 (NET) says, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Let’s just get three things straight.

  1. When the Holy Spirit comes to you, you shall be witnesses. Translation, you will speak and share how Jesus has worked in your life.    Yes, we are called to share the Gospel of the Good News and to tell others how they can be saved, but that is not all that we are called to share.  Our personal stories are the most powerful – especially those of how we were saved, healed, forgiven, restored…
  2. You shall be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the end of the earth. Translation, you will witness anywhere and everywhere.
  3. You shall be witnesses. Translation, you shall be witnesses.

One of the greatest testimonies ever recorded was that of a pagan emperor who came to know that the God of Israel was the only true and living God.  In Daniel 4:1-2 (NET) King Nebuchadnezzar testified to all peoples, nations and language groups living in the land, “I am delighted to tell you about the signs and wonders that the most high God has done for me.”  In 1 Chronicles 16:8 (NET), David directs the Israelites to “Give thanks to the Lord!  Call on His Name!  Make known His accomplishments among the nations!”

Not so comfortable telling all peoples, nations and language groups?  You probably don’t have to.  Just be obedient to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and tell what He directs you to tell, when and to whom.

Someone, somewhere needs to hear YOUR story.