FULLY ALIVE!

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


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Better Than a Burning Bush

In Exodus 3 we read:

 1-2 Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the west end of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God, Horeb. The angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn’t burn up.

Moses said, “What’s going on here? I can’t believe this! Amazing! Why doesn’t the bush burn up?”

God saw that he had stopped to look. God called to him from out of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

He said, “Yes? I’m right here!”

God said, “Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground.”

Then he said, “I am the God of your father: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:1-6, The Message)

Did you get it? The angel of God appeared to Moses. God saw that Moses had stopped what he was doing to look at the burning bush. Then…God called to Moses from the bush! He called him by name! Not once, but twice – “Moses! Moses!”

I know that I can’t be the only one that has ever wished that God would speak to me as clearly as He spoke to those in the Bible – that He would send an unmistakable angel and then call me by my name – Debbie! Oh, Debbie!

The Scriptures seem replete (aka brimming) with stories of when God spoke directly to people –

  • Cain (Genesis 4:6)
  • Noah (Genesis 6:13-21, 7:1-4, 8:15-17)
  • Job and his friends (Job 38:1-42:6)
  • Abimelech (Genesis 20:3-7)
  • Isaac (Genesis 26:24)
  • Jacob (Genesis 28:13-15, 35:1, 9-12)
  • Joshua (Joshua 6:2-5)
  • Samuel (1Samuel 3:4-14, 15:10, 16:7)
  • David (1Samuel 23:2, 23:4, 30:8; 2Samuel 2:1, 5:19, 5:23-24)

 

Okay, so those were the big names. But he also spoke to:

  • Jehu (1Kings 16:1-4)
  • Elijah (1Kings 19:9-18)
  • Isaiah (2Kings 20:4; Isa 6:8-12, 8:1-11)
  • Ahaz (Isaiah 7:10-25)
  • Manasseh and his people (2Chronicles 33:10)
  • Jonah (Jonah 1:1-2, 3:1-2, 4:4, 4:9-11)
  • Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:3)
  • Hosea (Hosea 1:2-5)
  • Haggai (Haggai 2:10-23)
  • Zechariah (Zechariah 1:1-17)

 

So why not Debbie?

I have questions, decisions to make. I want to be wise. I want to please Him. I want “my ways” aligned with “His ways.” Oh, how I have wanted a burning bush! Or at least a little sky writing!

Well, the truth of the matter is that He does speak to us. Perhaps not through bushes, fires and pillars of clouds, but He speaks.

He has indwelt us with His Holy Spirit – His Spirit who comforts us, brings us peace and helps us recall what we know about God so that we may accurately share our faith (John 14:15-27).

His Spirit Who counsels and guides us in our everyday lives (John 16:8).

His Spirit Who helps us when we pray by interceding for us (Romans 8:26).

And His Spirit through Whom He speaks to us! Yes, there are other ways that God speaks (e.g. through the counsel of the Godly, through Scripture, through other Christians), but a primary way is through His Holy Spirit that He has sent to live within us performing all those aforementioned functions – comforting, instilling peace, counseling, interceding AND speaking directly to us.

God wants to speak to us and, in fact, has to speak to us because He promised in Psalm 32:8 to instruct us and teach us in the way that we should go.

During Old Testament times the people had no choice but to rely on signs and the messages of prophets; they did not have the personal, intimate, indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit.

If you ask me, this indwelling is better than a burning bush!

Need to hear Him? Open His Word, get still and listen.

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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!


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Hold the Ketchup, Please

I should have known that it was coming.

Life has been good. Real good! I retired – for the second time. I spent the summer resting. It was wonderful. I read. I cooked. I napped. I rediscovered trash TV. (Thankfully I am over that now!) But even better – I prayed. I journaled. I began this blog. Did I say I napped? Yes, it was all good!

Then my phone rang. It was a job offer. It seemed good, so I said, “Why not?”

Then an email came. The very next day. It was a job offer. It was something I thought I’d enjoy, so I said, “Sure.”

I’d forgotten that I had registered for three seminary classes, but still I wasn’t worried. I was confident that I could balance it all. And so, after about 60 days of sweet, blissful rest, I returned to the world of work and homework. My days (and nights) are busy, but they are enjoyable. The pace and culture are very different from my last season of work. I soon got caught up in setting my new calendars, meeting new people, rethinking my days and even shopping for a few new outfits because the hose and heels weren’t necessary every day. I got caught up in this new life which was such a change and such a relief from the past that I forgot.

I forgot the warnings of 1 Peter 5:8-9. I forgot to be self-controlled and alert because my enemy, the devil, prowls around seeking to devour.

But he didn’t forget, and this week he came. The prowling enemy. The devil. He sought to devour. He sought to steal my joy, to make me doubt, to make me second guess myself and my work, to thwart the success I was experiencing, to scatter obstacles in my path, to confuse my mind and to trouble my spirit.

He caught me off guard because I was having such a good time in life. He opened wide his jaws to devour me. And at the first snap of his teeth, I gave up. But thank God I quickly regained my senses and my footing. I realized that the devil may come, actually the devil will come to devour, BUT I don’t have to spread the ketchup on myself making me all the more tasty for him.

Isn’t that what we do sometimes? At the first nip we give up and give in. We surrender to him our thoughts, our sleep, our peace and our joy. Rather, we should fight against him. Take captive every thought (2 Corinthians 10:5), refuse to lose sleep understanding that our Lord never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121:4), hold fast to the peace that our Lord has given us (John 14:27) and guard our joy realizing that it is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

Too often we have given the devil far more credit than he is due. He is NOT an all-powerful being who is the evil equivalent of God. He and God are NOT two equal forces in opposition to each other – one good and one evil, one light and one dark. Jesus Christ defeated Satan on the cross of Calvary. He us under the foot of Christ and, therefore, under out foot.  As we submit to God and intentionally resist the devil, we can enforce the victory Jesus won thereby forcing Satan to flee from us.

Hold the ketchup. Please!


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That’s What Friends Are For

I was all prepared to post something else.

Then yesterday I received a prayer request from a friend – actually a series of requests for various individuals with various needs.  There is a group of us, some known and others unknown, who somewhat regularly intercede for each other as well as for friends, family and acquaintances of each other.  It’s powerful.

At the end of yesterday’s requests my friend wrote, “Pray for each other because that’s what friends are for.”

She’s right.

The Bible provides many examples of individuals, including our Lord Jesus, praying and interceding for friends.  We are even commanded to pray for our enemies.

Consider these Scriptures:

~ “The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold.”   (Job 42:10)

~ “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”  (Matthew 5:44)

~ “…bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”  (Luke 6:28)

~ “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints…”  (Ephesians 6:18)

~ “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority…”  (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Do you?

Do you pray for your friends?  And your enemies?

In our church when individuals come forward at the invitation, our pastor asks us to commit to pray for them.  He also says, “If you’re not going to pray for them, don’t say that you will.”  Sounds a little harsh, but how often do we tell people that we will pray for them then in the next 15 minutes we’ve forgotten not only about them but about our promise to pray?

I remember participating in a Beth Moore study that included a live webcast.  Beth shared a humorous story about her mother praying for her.  She said that her mother would pray petitioning the Lord for Wanda Elizabeth Green Moore who lived on _Blank _ Street in _Blank _ City.  She said that she laughed and told her mother that she was sure the Lord knew who she was, but her mom was insistent that she didn’t want any mix-ups.

Hey, laugh if you want, but that is how we ought to pray for our friends and our enemies.  When we ask the Lord to “bless” our friends (or enemies), well, He already did.  If they woke up, they were blessed.  If they had food, they were blessed.  If they were able to walk, they were blessed.  Praying for the Lord to “bless” seems somewhat banal to me.  I like being able to clearly document when a prayer has been answered.  (Yes, I often write my prayers and I write and date the answers.)  In seasons when the Lord seems quiet, I am encouraged when I read past prayers AND answers.  I like reading what the Lord did in the lives of Joseph and Abraham and David and Daniel…, but I LOVE reading what He has done in Debbie’s life!

Clearly, specifically, passionately, persistently, pray for your friends and enemies.

That’s what friends are for!

ps Remember this?  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdHFElOHQzs