FULLY ALIVE!

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


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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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Loose Lips

“Once upon a time, there was a village called Smoldering Pines.  Smoldering Pines… lay at the foot of the great sleeping volcano, Mt. Discordia.  Spoken words in Smoldering Pines take on a physical form.  Whenever people talk, their words appear in the air and then fall haphazardly to the ground.  Homeowners then rake their discarded words into piles at the edge of their property.  Over time, these piles…become fences.  Thoughts, like words, can become visible, too.  Granted the town does like dangerously close to a volcano.  But this isn’t a concern for the residents.  After all, Mt. Discordia has been dormant for hundreds of years.”

Bet you can guess the rest of David Hutchens’ story.  Listening to the Volcano is a marvelously funny yet thought-provoking fable about many things including the power of our words.

Research says that women speak about 20,000 words a day – some 13,000 more than the average man.  That alone ought to caution us because Proverbs 10:19 (ESV) says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”   Admittedly, I have to agree.  Somewhere among that many words we are bound to find some that would have best been kept behind the teeth.

In Hutchens’ fable, spoken words actually materialize into wooden placards and fall to the ground.  They mound up into piles and form fences around the speaker.  Likewise their thoughts.  Guess what?  In reality our words and thoughts form fences, too.  We do not see them as readily as in Listening to the Volcano, but it might be a good thing if we did because they would be a very visible reminder to us.  How powerful if we actually saw that hateful thought, that sarcastic word, that vengeful or vindictive contemplation and that spiteful, spirit-killing word – materialized and lying right before us at our feet.  I can’t help but believe we might have some pause before speaking again and that we might be more obedient to 2 Corinthians 2:5 and actually take captive our thoughts.

As wedding presents my maternal grandmother gave me gifts of her wisdom.  One tidbit I remember is, “Choose your words very carefully.  All the “I’m sorries” in the world cannot take them back.  Even if your husband tells you he forgives you, he will remember what you said.”  That was good advice for me as a newlywed, and it is good advice for anyone.   We can say we’re sorry, that we didn’t mean it or that we weren’t thinking.  We can offer a ton of other excuses about not feeling well, misunderstanding and being confused.  But once a word is spoken, it’s out there, and you cannot take it back.  No one can ever misunderstand a word not spoken!  Proverbs 21:23 (ESV) says, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”  Another way to think about it might be as my grandmother put it.  “The Lord gave you two ears and one mouth; that ought to tell you something!”  Practice listening and speaking proportionately.

Sometimes we feel pressured to speak.  Someone angers us, falsely accuses us, slanders us.  This is one that I have struggled with.  As a retired school administrator, I’ve had more than my fair share of false accusations – some, stretches of the truth; others, just out right lies.  Proverbs 26:4 (ESV) teaches us, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself,” but I had a friend that summarized this lesson with his own adage, “When you argue with a fool, you become the fool.”  Ecclesiastes 5:6a (ESV) says, “Let not your mouth lead you into sin,” and Proverbs 17:27 (ESV) adds, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”  Proverbs 21:23 (ESV) goes further, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”  When I taught Junior High School (where there were a lot of hot, angry, teenage tongues) I posted an African proverb on one of my bulletin boards, “Must you turn around and look at every dog that barks at you?”  It was a good reminder for my students to ignore the lies, accusations and gossip their classmates spread.  More than 25 years later, that is still good advice.

Finally, we sometimes get caught up in conversations and dialogue because we are around others who talk too much.  I am convinced that a loose tongue can be caught – something like a cold or the flu!   Do you work with colleagues who tell “off color” jokes?  Do you have family members that curse like sailors or girlfriends that should be on gossip television?  Perhaps you have friends that are super negative – every spoken word is a complaint or a put down; they see (and point out) only what is wrong; their throats are open graves and their mouths are full of curses and bitterness (Romans 3:13-14 ESV).  We do not have to be unfriendly, and we need never act superior to others, but 2 Timothy 2:16 (ESV) teaches us to “Avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.”   You need only remember this childhood ditty, “Loose lips, sink ships.”  They will sink you, too.  When we dwell in the presence of these individuals, it is often not long before we sink to their level – we repeat the jokes, begin cursing and spread the gossip.

Words are powerful. Consider the following Scriptures understanding that there are at least a dozen more found in the pages of the Bible.  God’s word is never in vain. It always achieves its purpose (Isaiah 55:11).  Surely there is purpose in so many Scriptures addressing our tongues and our words.

“Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18, ESV) 

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21, ESV) 

“Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.”  (Proverbs 17:9, ESV)

“By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”   (Matthew 12:37, ESV) 

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”  (Proverbs 29:20, ESV) 

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  (Ephesians 4:39, ESV)

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.”  (Matthew 15:18, ESV)

THIS WEEK, observe your speech and consider your words.  Are you talking more than listening?  Do your words heal or thrust as a sword?    When you speak, are you building up or tearing down?  What do your words reveal about your heart?

Remember, “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.”  (Matthew 12:36, ESV)  Don’t you want to stand before our Lord knowing your words restored, built up and made better?


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Didn’t You Hear Me, Lord?

For weeks I have been partnering with a dear friend, several fellow church members and a hurting mother in prayer for her son.  I don’t know the details just that he became suddenly ill and was airlifted to a hospital far away.  Regularly mom has texted updates; occasionally we have spoken by telephone, continually we have prayed.

We have prayed fervently.  We have prayed specifically. We have prayed the promises of the Scriptures.  We have prayed in our hearts and aloud; standing, sitting and on bended knee.  We have prayed believing.

This evening mom texted an update that was not good.  And for a brief flash of a moment, I questioned all that praying and all those prayers.  Doesn’t God see us?  Didn’t God hear us?  Why this response?

Likely you know instances where prayers for healing were offered and you did not witness healing.  Sometimes it even appears that the opposite happens – the condition worsens.  Perhaps you’ve had your own questions.  If you’ve experienced this, I suspect one of your questions might have been “Why?” followed by “Why bother?  Why bother to pray for healing?”

We pray for healing because our Heavenly Father wants us to be whole – in mind, spirit and body.  Whenever and wherever there is sickness, there is an opportunity for God to display His glory.  He will heal.  The struggle comes for us because God does not always move in our timing or in ways that we have imagined.  Whatever the illness, we have an image in our minds of what the healing will look like.  We also have an idea about when the healing should occur with our thoughts typically being, “No time like right now, God!”  We believe that if we believe, we pray and there should be an immediate response and that response should look like just what we asked for.  Instead of “Thy will be done,” we are, in truth, thinking more along the lines of “My will be done!”

Sometimes we fault ourselves when prayer appears to go unanswered.  The Scriptures instruct us,  “Ask, and it will be given unto you” (Matthew 7:7).  If we do not receive what we expect, we sometimes assume we have asked incorrectly.  Perhaps we did not pray long enough or hard enough or using the right words.  Surely we ought always to examine our hearts for doubt and unbelief any time God answers “No” to our prayers. We should ask Him to search our hearts and to reveal any areas of sin or any doubt that we might harbor – knowingly or unknowingly – and to help us deal appropriately with it; then we should continue to pray because not only is praying for healing a privilege, we are instructed to do so (Acts 20:28, James 5:13-20).  We are to pray with fervor and boldness.  We are to pray believing (John 14:14, Mark 9:23, Jeremiah 33:3, 1 John 5:14-15).  Sometimes we worry that if God doesn’t respond just as we have requested, it will appear as failure on our part.  But our job as believers is to take a hurting person’s needs to the Lord, to intercede on their behalf and to trust God. He will choose when and how to respond.

The truth that I know for sure is that some of the blessings Jesus purchased through His suffering on the cross will not be fully realized until we are in His presence one day.  Sometimes this includes healing.  Hebrews 11:6 says, “Those who come to God must believe that God is.”  That means that we not only believe that He can and will answer our prayers, we also trust His timing and that His response is the right response.  Always He will heal.  The healing may be immediate; it may be gradual or it may be ultimate – when we see Him face-to-face.

What, then, are we to do?  Take a cue from Luke 18:1 (CEB) – “[Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not to turn coward (faint, lose heart, and give up).”

Didn’t God hear us?  Yes.  And He will answer.  He will heal.

Healer (Hillsong):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7M6nTV1tFs

By His Stripes We Are Healed (Esther Mui):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ga3dVzhIzio

Who I Am? (Casting Crowns):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VU_rTX23V7Q&list=PLB7455A80B9FBC9BF&index=74


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Launch Out Into the Deep

Summer has ended and fall has truly begun – not just on the calendar, but in the weather.  We’ve had some really cool nights and mornings.  I love the change in the seasons, especially between summer and fall.  But I’m a little sad, too.  This summer seemed to fly, and it is the first summer in years that we did not get to the beach.  Once.  Never.  Not even a drive by.

I am really fortunate to live about an hour’s drive from the ocean – the real beach!  Ponds are nice.  Lakes are lovely.  But nothing compares to the ocean.  Waves lapping.  Squishy sand between your toes.  Seashells and Seagulls.  Sometimes we’ve driven to the beach just for a walk along the shore.  With sandals in hand we let the waves wash over our feet, and we occasionally stoop to pick up shells.

That’s a good day – walking hand-in-hand with someone you love along the water’s edge.  But to really enjoy (and experience) the ocean, you have to go beyond the shore.

The same is true with life.  The same is true in ministry.  We have to go beyond the shore.

“And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.  Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” (Luke 5:1-4 KJV)

Obediently, but possibly with some hesitancy, Simon launched out.  Isn’t this His command for us, too? Aren’t we to launch out into the deep doing what our Lord commands? No excuses. No hanging around the periphery? No sticking with the familiar and the comfortable. No waiting for something to wash up onshore.

Faith can bring the most unexpected of miracles. Verses 6 and 7 of Luke 5 (KJV) tells us that when Simon and his men had done what was commanded, “they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.”

Faith is about action. We can say that we have faith, but faith without works is dead (James 2:20 KJV). Simon could have responded to the Master, “Thank you for letting us know that there are fish in the lake. Wow, we were wondering since we didn’t catch any. Maybe we’ll go out tomorrow night.”

Faith requires us to yield – our thinking, our possessions, ourselves. Our Lord’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and neither are His ways our ways. (Isaiah 55:8) We must trust His commands and be quick to obey them.

As Alvin Slaughter sings, “…by faith we must climb into the boat, and follow His command” letting our faith take us somewhere that we’ve never been before. “Launch out, Launch out into the deep.”

Launch Out (by Alvin Slaughter)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVhSy8Ql6AQ

“Sometimes we hold on a little longer than we should   Letting go can be hard but it’s sometimes for our good   The fear of what’s ahead sometimes makes us fall behind.  We can see the times are changing but pretend that we’re so blind   You’ll never really know just what the future holds   But we know God holds us in His hand.   So by faith we must climb into the boat; And follow His command.  

CHORUS   Launch out into the deep. Let your faith take you somewhere that you’ve never been before.  Launch out into the deep. Let your faith make you fly. Let your faith make you soar.  Launch out, Launch out into the deep.”


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Surviving (Part 2)

Children’s author, Judith Viorst, spins the tale of a day that many of us have had in her book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  Nothing goes right for Alexander.  From the time he opens his eyes to face the day until he crawls back into bed and closes them that night, it’s all terrible, horrible, no good, very bad.  Page after page we read about Alexander, waking with gum stuck in his hair, tripping over a skateboard, getting smushed in the middle seat of the car and facing a dessertless lunch sack among other letdowns and annoyances. At one point in the story, Alexander thinks that change is needed, and he resolves to move to Australia!  (Hmm, no dessert?  I’d be thinking about moving, too!)

Well, I don’t know if Australia is necessarily the answer, but to survive times of crises change is often just what we need – and just what we fear the most.  What is the change that YOU need to make?  In our last blog post we offered some possibilities – job, friends, behavior, thinking.  You might think of others, but I’ll suggest you begin with the last two in this list – your thinking and then your behavior.

God’s best for our lives begins with right thoughts, His thoughts.  But Isaiah 55:8-9 (ASV) clearly tells us that our thoughts are not the Lord’s and neither are our ways; both His thoughts and ways are higher than ours.  So how do we change our thinking?  Look to the Scriptures for guidance:

  • “…taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…” 2 Corinthians 10:5(b)(NIV)
  • “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

It is possible to change and to control our thoughts.  As soon as a negative thought – one that does not align with God – comes into mind we must intentionally and purposefully “capture” it and replace it with “God-thinking.”  It is not enough to just tell our negative thoughts to “Stop!”  We have to replace them with right thoughts, God thoughts.  Consider these examples:

 

Our Thinking

“God-Thinking”

I can’t do it.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV)

It’s impossible.

“…Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19: 26 NASB)

I can’t go on.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  (II Corinthians 12:9(a)  NASB)

I don’t know which way to go.

“Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6 AMP)

I’m afraid.

God did not give us a spirit that makes us afraid but a spirit of power and love and self-control.” (II Timothy 1:7  NCV)

I’m not smart enough.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5 NASB)

I’m so alone.

“After all, he has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5(b)  CEB)

 

These are but examples. ANY negative thought that you have can be exchanged for “God-thinking” if you are intentional and purposeful in doing so.  Negative thoughts breed negative attitudes which breed negative behaviors.  And so a cycle begins and continues.  Break the cycle by taking captive your negative thoughts.

Next blog entry – changing your behavior!