FULLY ALIVE!

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


Leave a comment

Responding

Sid Evans, writing for Southern Living magazine, said, “The horrific shooting that took the lives of nine churchgoers threatened to rip the city of Charleston, South Carolina apart.  But by responding with public displays of compassion, love and unity, Charleston has shown us how to move forward.”  Within hours, hundreds of flowers were piled outside the church forming a makeshift memorial.  People – black, white, old, young lined up to pay their respect, and instead of riots there were vigils.  Instead of warring, there was peace.  The people of Charleston gave a “soft” response and turned away wrath (Proverbs 15:1 ESV).

“God,” said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he eulogized the victims of the Birmingham church bombing, “still has a way of wringing good out of evil.”

It comes through the response.

Evans wrote, “It’s hard for an average person to know how to respond to a tragedy like this.”  It’s not only hard to know how to respond sometimes, even when we know better, it’s just easier, just preferred and sometimes just (we feel) justified for us to lash out, to get even, to fly off the handle, to seek vengeance.  What do those responses bring us?  More pain because harsh words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1 ESV).

James teaches, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20 ESV).  This is the thought that we must ever be cognizant of – what results from our responses.  Do they honor God and produce His righteousness or do they grieve His Holy Spirit?

As Christians, we are called to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving (Ephesians 4:32 ESV), and if we do speak, we speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15 ESV); we get angry, but we do not sin (Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV).

THIS WEEK check your responses.  Are they soft?  Are they turning away wrath or stirring up anger?  Ask God’s Holy Spirit to respond through you so that in your responding you produce His righteousness.  Pray that your responses will be the “good” wrung from any evil situation.


Leave a comment

Know When to Stop Talking

There is an old saying, “Never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut.”

It’s good advice.

As an educator, I talk.  As a good friend, I talk.  As a professional learning consultant, I talk.  I was even paid – quite well – for this last one!  As a matter of fact, I remember taking my mother with me when I had to facilitate a two-hour session with teachers, principals and district administrators.  Mom had never seen me at work.  While eating dinner after the session mom asked, “Is this what you do for a living – talk?”  Laughing (and knowing it would be a challenge to really explain my job to her), I simply said, “Yes, and Mom, they pay me well to do it!”  She and I both laughed.

I know that I am not alone in liking to talk.  My postmaster often asks me how to help her get her second grader to stop talking.  Seems that almost every day the teacher sends a note home about Amber’s talking.  I know a lot of teachers who send notes about students they have labeled over talkative.  And while I have mixed feelings about talkative students (for the most part I say, let ’em talk!!!), we do need to know when to stop talking!

James wrote, “You must understand this, my dear brothers.  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…”  (James 1:19 ISV)

Many consider the book of James to be a New Testament version of the Old Testament Proverbs – practical wisdom for a life of faith as a child of God.  And like Proverbs, James does not offer suggestions but, rather, commands.  Directives.  Imperatives.  “You must understand!”  There are no options.  “Everyone!”

Probably more than any other New Testament book, James provides the clarity that we need to live our faith.  In the every day.  In all our actions and interactions – including our speech and including knowing when to stop talking.

Look at teaching from two other books of wisdom – Proverbs and Ecclesiastes:

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”  ~Proverbs 10:19

“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise…”  ~Proverbs 17:28

“Be not rash with your mouth…Therefore let your words be few.”  ~Ecclesiastes 5:2

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”  ~Proverbs 18:2

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”  ~Proverbs 13:3

What’s the big deal about talking?  James sums it up best:

“For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.   For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,  but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?” (James 3:2-11 ESV)

The Message translation of these same Scriptures makes it even clearer – “We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths.  By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it.  This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer.  This can’t go on!”

Indeed, it can’t go on.  Rather, we should aspire to live quietly (1 Thessalonians 4:11 ESV) perhaps taking Job as an example.  He begged, “Teach me, and I will be silent.” (Job 6:24 ESV)  Apparently Job knew that the talker is not learning.  It is in stillness, silence and a posture of listening that we learn.  And when we learn…  Wow!


Leave a comment

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


Leave a comment

Testing, Testing

It’s a balmy 68 degrees outside!  What a wonderful mid-February surprise and treat.  The forecast for the end of the week announces more February-like temperatures like a Thursday high of 36 degrees.  But right now at 4:30 in the afternoon, it’s 68 glorious degrees.

And I am in the house!  Stuck creating a test that my students have to take Tuesday.  I need to get it posted on Blackboard, so today is the day to create that test.

With it being 68 degrees outside and the sun shining through the window and me on my laptop with notes spread around me as I create a test, you can best believe my mind has REALLY been tossing about the question of why test?  Not just my students and not other school students, but us.  Why does God test our faith?

God tested the faith of the ancient Israelites by allowing them to experience hard times in the wilderness, “in order to know what was in your heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2).  And He likewise tests us.

We think we know what is in our heart.  We think we know how strong we are.  We think we have a steadfast, immovable, abounding faith.  But it is only in times of testing that we move beyond just thinking and come to KNOW.  God does not test us because HE doesn’t know; He tests us because we don’t know.

David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23)

Now, my students surely did not ask for Tuesday’s test.  As a matter of fact, they have an option to complete another assignment and NOT take the test.  A few have informed me that they are choosing this option.  Like them, we would sometimes like to opt out of the test, to have a choice to maybe complete another assignment.  But like the Psalmist, we should cry out to God asking Him to test us and to show us now – in the good times, in the calm times, in the easy times what is in our hearts – our places of weakness.

When I score my students’ tests, I spend even more time writing feedback so that they know and understand exactly why they received the grade they did.  I want them to understand any shortcomings in their responses.  THAT is how they learn and how they grow, especially on the interim assessments because THE test is coming – the Final Exam.

We have a Final Exam coming too!  My students can look at the Course Syllabus and see the exact date and time of their exam, but we do not know when the end will come.  My students have a window of time in which to study and prepare.  They may not study every day, but they understand the finite calendar before them.

We do not know how long we have to prepare, so TODAY is the best time for us to prepare.  TODAY is the day for us to seek God and to petition His testing so that we will know, understand and grow.

THIS WEEK cry out to God.

(1)  Ask Him to search you, to know your heart, to test you and to show you your weaknesses.  Be open to and welcome the knowledge of any shortcomings He shows you. (James 1:2, 4).  Then ask Him to help you grow in your trust and faith in Him.

(2)  If you are in the midst of testing – whether it is from God or testing that He has permitted, do not seek another assignment, but ask Him for what is needed for you to go through.  Do not spend time asking Him “why” but rather ask “what.”  What would He have you to know and learn from this testing?  Identify and recruit prayer partners who will commit to praying with and for you during this season.


Leave a comment

Beyond the Clouds

It rained today.

It rained yesterday.

It rained the day before.

I’m not fond of rain. It messes with my hair. It messes with my shoes. It messes with my mood.

James 1:17a (NASB) says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above…” Amidst this soggy season and my soggy mood, God gave me a good and perfect gift. I saw it while driving in the rain. A blue patch peering out from behind the dark, ominous clouds that loomed above as rain poured down.

Have you ever seen that? Just a little patch of blue peeking out from behind the gray of storm clouds. Though I was hurrying to class, I pulled over and tried to capture photos with the camera on my cell phone. They didn’t come out so great, but the image is forever etched upon my grateful heart – this reminder of God’s great love and that He is always there, just beyond the clouds.

Now the only thing that beats one gift is two gifts!

God gave me a second gift during the afternoon drive home. The sun had come out, so I enjoyed a surprisingly dry and breezy walk to my car. But during the 59-miles journey home I experienced a little sun, then an immediate and heavy downpour, more sun, some dark clouds which changed gradually to fluffy white clouds, then a quick shower and more sun and finally another downpour for the last 5-8 miles. All along my route conditions changed.

So what was the gift? It was this second reminder of God’s faithfulness through the storms of life. Just as I experienced sun, downpour, clouds and showers during my drive, so it is with life. We have sunny seasons, cloudy seasons and seasons of rain. But He does not leave us in one season. We pass through.

He is with us, and He will not leave or forsake us Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV).

A gift for you may be found in Deuteronomy 30:9 (NIV) which promises, though your season may be stormy, He will, again, delight in you.