FULLY ALIVE!

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


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Naked Christian

For some time I’ve been following a blog, Chronicles of a Kid Next Door, written by Edmond Sanganyado.  Last week Edmond changed the title of his blog to I Am a Naked Christian.  In actuality, Edmond changed more than just the name of his blog.  He changed his focus.  He changed his purpose.

He changed.

I’ve thought a lot about his post explaining the change.  He wrote, “Today, I choose to be naked. I surrender before the Father, and watch as He removes the Son’s spotless rob of glory. I watch in awe as the Holy Spirit removes my garment of self-righteousness and sin. I am naked, but Christ clothes me with his glory.”

It seems that our focus is often more about what to wear, what to put on.  We are constantly bombarded by messages about our appearance and what we wear.  We are victims and slaves to fashion, style and labels feeling pressured to obey fads and trends.  And while it is not exactly true that “clothes make the man” (or the woman), how we dress and what we wear is important.

How often we have read the words of Ephesians 6 – “Put on the whole armor of God…Stand, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace…take up the shield of faith…take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.” (Ephesians 6:10-18 ESV).  We read in 1 Timothy that “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control” (2:9 ESV) and in Deuteronomy that “a woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak.” (22:5 ESV).

But before we can “dress properly,” we need to undress.  Just as you don’t poor new wine into an old wineskin (Matthew 9:17, Mark 2:22), you don’t put new garments over the old.

Edmond wrote, “I choose to strip down all my perceived abilities. I choose to regard all my personal achievements, wisdom and knowledge as nothing, but sewage quagmire. The accomplishments that hid, my flaws and the praises that covered my folly, I throw them in hogwash. I cannot clothe myself in my capabilities anymore. I am done.”

I replied to Edmond’s post, “I’m stripping down and joining you!”  Since posting that response, I’ve thought about what I need to remove, take off, strip away.  Like Edmond, I strip away my perceived abilities – for me, it’s that independent self and that spirit of not needing ANYone.  Sometimes that has included God, or at least that’s what my actions and attitudes implied.  I refuse to dress one more day in self-righteousness.  I will not pin a spirit of independence to my chest like the big brooches I am known for wearing.  There will be no more necklaces of false humility.  Bracelets of selfishness will not jangle around my wrists, and I will not walk in shoes of arrogance.

The key phrase to show what caused God to become angry with the builders of the Tower of Babel comes in verse 4 of Genesis 11. “They said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.'”  We were made to rely on God and give Him glory. Instead we have chosen to rely on self and seek our own glory—to make a name for ourselves.  Isaiah 43:7 tells us that God created us to display His glory, that is, that his glory might be known and praised.   In short, it’s not about us.  It’s not about me.

Today, I join Edmond in choosing to be naked. “I surrender before the Father, and watch as He removes the Son’s spotless robe of glory…and as the Holy Spirit removes my garment of self-righteousness and sin. I am naked, but Christ clothes me with his glory.”

THIS WEEK take a long look in the mirror, preferably a full length.  What do you need to take off?  Are you willing to strip – completely naked?

Read Edmond’s post at http://gracemusing.com/2015/09/19/for-the-first-time-i-am-a-naked-christian-this-is-why/.


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Fried Crabs, Part 1

In the little town where I currently reside (most of the time), it is common to see street side vendors and their hand painted signs advertising “Fried Crabs.”  While one or two have a food truck of sorts – old converted vans, others have a folding card table dressed with a vinyl cloth and accented with an electric deep fryer and all sorts of odd plastic containers.  One bears some kind of cornmeal mixture while others contain spices and sometimes mixtures of liquid ingredients.  I’ve never dared ask exactly what.  There is, too, the old ice chest which holds the crabs.

There are always small gatherings of people when I pass.  Some standing.  Some finding a seat on an array of odd furnishings – old metal folding chairs, worn wooden stool chairs and, the one that always makes me smile, the discarded seats from cars and buses.  While some customers grab their fried crabs and go, others sit, chat, swat flies and swap stories as they eat their crabs.

I’ve only viewed these vendors from what I’ve deemed a reasonable distance.  I’ve never tasted their wares and have no desire to.  Why?  I eat with my eyes first, and these sites are less than appealing to me.  I cannot get past the looks of the ice chests – blackened and smudged exteriors, the plastic containers – yellowed and stained and sometimes the vendors themselves – greasy aprons and unkempt hair.  I have looked for the health department rating certificates, but have yet to spot one.  I’m thinking there are none.

So, I take a pass.  Again, I eat with my eyes first.

Don’t we all?  Well, at least most.

Appearances are important.

Given the choice of a bright, shiny, well lit diner or a dimly lit fast food restaurant surrounded by a littered parking lot, most would choose the diner.  Given the choice of drinking a tall glass of clear, cool water or taking a swig of water from a chipped cup with remains of a previous meal encrusted around the rim, most would choose the glass.

Our sensory systems – taste, smell, vision, auditory and touch – are intertwined.  Research shows that our vision heavily influences our tasting, smelling and even our thinking.

First impressions are powerful.  In a matter of seconds we form impressions.  It is our human nature to quickly evaluate and move on – I will eat that.  I won’t eat that.  I will buy that.  I won’t buy that.  I will like this person.  I won’t like this person.  Good? Bad?  Right?  Wrong?  I cannot say unequivocally, but I can tell you it is how it is.

It is how we are.

Which makes me think again about the teachings in Isaiah 43:10 (ESV) –  “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen…”

Not just those who travel to foreign lands or those who go door-to-door or those who engage in street evangelism – all Christians are witnesses.  Everyday, everywhere, all the time we are the Lord’s witnesses.

Many think of witnessing as something you do.  We equate it with certain acts and behaviors like passing out tracts, sharing testimonies during street revivals, ringing doorbells or praying the sinner’s prayer with someone after sharing an outline of faith.

But the truth is that we are witnesses all the time.  And note that Acts 1:8 says, “You shall be witnesses…” not You shall do witnessing.

So like it or not, you are a witness.

What kind of witness are you?

I once heard a minister say, “Your witness is only as good as your personal relationship with Jesus and the extent to which you submit to the power of His Holy Spirit allowing Him to work in and through you.”

What does it look like you are selling?  When people see you, are they drawn to Christ or do they turn the other way?

People are watching.  We are making impressions, and they are evaluating.  What kind of witness are you?

THIS WEEK reflect on your witness.  How are you presenting God’s truth?  Remembering that we eat with our eyes, consider first your appearance –  not just your dress or hairstyle, but how you carry yourself, your speech and your actions because, indeed, people will struggle to hear what you say when they are focused on watching what you are doing.  What might you need to change?  Is there something you need to stop doing (gossiping, telling off color jokes, lying, hanging out with a certain crowd…).  Is there something you need to begin doing (speaking truth in love, being on time for work, being more quiet, spending more time alone or with a different crowd…).  Pray that God’s Holy Spirit will whisper to you revealing actions you need to take to strengthen your witness.  Pray that the Holy Spirit opens your ears and your heart to hear, receive and act swiftly upon what He tells you.


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What’s In a Name

This weekend I joined my sweetie at his family’s reunion.  It was something awesome and beautiful to behold – more than 300 family members being reunited or meeting for the first time; sharing stories, laughs and love and, of course (because we are in the South), engaging in this reminiscing over a scrumptious meal.  I especially enjoyed the family photos and the history that was documented from the early 1800s until present day.  The research included a history of the family name which, in this case was Irish and Korean!,

What’s in a name?  Shakespeare’s Juliet declared that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  Juliet was in love with Romeo, yet he bore the name of a rival family, Montague.  Juliet would argue that the name of a thing, or in this case a person, mattered not and did not affect who are what they really were.

But names are powerful.

Everyone recognizes himself or herself by name – family, given, nickname…  The power of a name and its value has long been immortalized in prose, poetry, history and religious ceremony. Some families devote much thought to the naming of a new baby.  Others, I fear, don’t spend enough, but that’s a personal pet peeve and, perhaps, another blog post.  Names are enduring and there are those, like the Kabalarians, who believe that the quality of one’s mind—thoughts, desires, opinions, likes, dislikes, reactions—can be measured by the linking of the most personal form of language, one’s name, to mathematics.  They suggest that when language is used to attach a name to someone this creates the basis of mind, from which all thoughts and experiences, strengths and weaknesses flow.

Scripture, too, suggests that names are powerful and important often having considerable influence on the development of that child’s character.  Names were not only descriptive but at times prophetic.  As an example, the name of the patriarch Jacob, or Ya’akov, means “usurper”; it describes both how he tried to usurp his brother Esau’s birth from the womb by grabbing his heel during birth (Ya’akov in fact derives from ekev, “heel”) and how he ultimately usurped Esau as the heir of their father, Isaac, and grandfather Abraham and stole Esau’s birthright. Similarly, the name of the prophet Samuel, or Shemu’el, means (according to some scholars) “the one about whom God heard me,” referring to his previously barren mother’s prayer for a child.  There are times, too, when special meaning was also attached to the name.  Consider Nabal, whose name means “fool.”  Abigail explains to her husband David in 1 Samuel 25:25, “For as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him.”

The most powerful name?  The name of the Lord!  Psalm 148:13 tells us to praise the name of the Lord; for His name alone is Excellent, and Proverbs 18:10 says His Name is a strong tower.  We may make the mistake of thinking God to be an “it” or a “thing” to which we pray, but He is Our Father, Our Master, Our Lord, Our Shepherd, Our Righteousness, Our Everlasting God, Our King and Our Savior.

In Luke 11:1, one of Jesus’s disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray.  Obliging this request, Jesus responded, “When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”  Wikipedia says that to hallow a thing is to make it holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate.” To hallow the name of God is to regard Him with complete devotion and loving admiration.  How do we do this? Consider, God knows us by our name.

Isaiah 43:1  “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

John 10:14-15  “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Jeremiah 1:5  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

John 10:3  “To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. ”

Essential to our ability to glorify God – to Hallow His Name – is having knowledge of God and knowing Him personally in view of that knowledge.  God knows us by our name.  Shouldn’t we know Him by His?

THIS WEEK begin studying the Names of God.  A good first step might be learning then praying specific names and attributes of God.  One resource might be found at http://www.navigators.org/Tools/Newsletters/Featured%20Newsletters/Disciple-%20Monthly/September%202014/September%202014/30%20Days%20of%20Praying%20the%20Names%20and%20Attributes%20of%20God.


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Cleaning Closets

Deciding is half the battle “they” say.  You know, the infamous, elusive, unidentified “they.”  I’m hoping “they” are right with this one because I have decided to clean my main closet.  It’s huge, and it is a mess – partly because for a few days I haven’t followed my own rule of putting things back where they came from and partly because I really need to get rid of some stuff!  Maybe I should start with the shoes I bought for student teaching…  Hmm, that was more than 35 years ago.  Perhaps I will get rid of the dress I wore when I first met my in-laws.  That might be a good choice since (1) I am divorced, (2) I weighed a LOT less then and (3) it’s almost 20 years old!  This could be a good time to toss the ugly Christmas sweaters – the ones that were so popular in the 70s and 80s.

Are you getting a picture?  We often hold onto things much longer than we should – and not just dresses and shoes.  How about attitudes, thoughts, grudges, wounds?

Ephesians 4:22-23 (AMP) says, “Strip yourselves of your former nature.… And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude].”  In other words, let the past go.  Clean the junk out of the closets of your mind and heart.  Let go those thoughts of what you think you lost, how things might have been, what you’ve given up, ways that you were mistreated, times you felt overlooked or undervalued.

It helps to have someone help me clean the closet.  I tell stories about my stuff, we laugh, and we bag it or box it and take it out. Then we forget it!  Kinda like Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV) which tells us to “Forget the former things” and to not “dwell on the past” because the Lord is doing a new thing.   You must clean out the old to make room for the new.

Ponder the following Scriptures and the contents of your heart’s closet this week:

Monday:   Proverbs 4:25-27 (ESV)

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

Question for reflection: What is calling you to look back and keeps you from looking forward?

Tuesday: Philippians 4:8-9 (ESV)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Question for Reflection:  What thoughts do you need to swap – untrue for true, dishonorable for honorable, unjust for just, unclean for pure, etc.?

Wednesday: Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…

Question for Reflection: What are you holding on to (thoughts, habits, relationships, etc.) that not only “weighs you down,” but impacts your testimony and witness before those you encounter?

Thursday: Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…”

Question for Reflection: How many treasures can you find in your closet that might better serve someone else? Can you take them to a neighbor? To Goodwill? To a clothes closet? Other?

Friday: Isaiah 12:2 (ESV)

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”

Question for Reflection:  Of what (or whom) are you afraid? What (or whom) are you holding on to rather than trusting God?

PRAY: Heavenly Father, I love You. I know that You love me. I trust You, and I trust the plan that You have for me and my life. Search my heart and my mind. Show me those things, those people, those feelings, those memories and those attitudes that I need to let go of. Sweep clean the corners of my mind and the recesses of my heart and fill each with what will honor and glorify You. I claim the peace and joy of an uncluttered mind and a clean heart. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

SHARE: Post comments to share your reflections and reactions from this week’s post. (One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. One woman’s sharing is another woman’s blessing!)