FULLY ALIVE!

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


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Inside Out

We like buying stuff, at least we think we do, and merchants are counting on us to think that. Almost from the crib it’s bred into us. Television commercials, billboards, pop-ups on our cell phones… Our 21st century lives are fast-paced, consumer-oriented experiences inundated with the constant message of BUY, BUY, BUY your way to happiness. The bigger house, the faster car, the trendier clothing, the coolest toys…these are the keys to happiness!

Were this true, then the thrill would not fade. But it always does, and we soon find ourselves back in the same place seeking the next “buy,” one necessary to keep us on a “happiness high.”

Many, thinking they’ve managed to turn a deaf ear to stuff, turn to experiences. Indeed, research backs up this thinking. Researchers from San Francisco State University report that people who spend money on experiences rather than stuff are happier and experience greater feelings of satisfaction thinking their money is better spent. These researchers suggest that the thrill of purchasing things fades but the joy and memories of experiences last a lifetime.

Well, you needn’t look far to find research that rebuffs San Francisco State. You guessed it – eventually the thrill of an experience fades, too, which is why people are constantly seeking the next experience – a higher mountain, a louder party, a better view…

Whether “stuff” or “experience,” the problem is that both find their roots in the external. Not only are merchants counting on us to look externally for a happiness fix, so is Satan.

Satan works from the outside in.

A common scheme of his is to get us caught up in external trappings, feeling that we need that car, have to have that dress, can’t live without that house, are nobodies if we don’t take that trip… He knows that we can only continue on this route so long. Eventually something runs out – our money, our health, our flexibility, our time – whatever will keep us from being able to secure that next happiness fix. We quickly cycle from simple disappointment to devastating ad debilitating depression, no longer able to keep up with the Joneses, no longer “on top,” no longer the pacesetter – the one that everyone else wants to be like. And much like the substance abuser who will do virtually anything to get that next high, we search frantically for our next happiness high, and such begins a downward spiral.

The real problem – seeking happiness instead of joy.

Happiness tends to be externally triggered and is based on other people, things, places, thoughts and events. While happiness and joy are both wonderful feelings, joy is more consistent and is cultivated internally. Happiness tends to be more of what I call a “head thing;” the seat of joy is your heart because unlike Satan who works from the outside in, God begins His work inside and works outward. When you accept Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life, there is a change in your heart – there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11)!

As happiness tends to be tied to the external and wanes when the external changes, your joy is only as stable as the source. Fortunately, the source of true joy is Jesus (John 15:11) and, His joy is stable and lasting; it is our glory (1 Thessalonians 2:20), it is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and it is continual (Proverbs 15:15).

Happy New Year; I wish for you unspeakable joy (1 Peter 1:8)!

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Shake the Blanket

They don’t create comics like they used to! My sister and I used to fight over who would get to read the Sunday comics first. To this day I still like Peanuts! Charles Schultz was pure genius and all teacher. Yes, his comic strip offered humor but also many lessons, some profound, and wisdom to those who would ponder.

Consider a short four-frame strip with Charlie Brown and Linus as the main characters. Linus, rubbing his blanket along his left cheek, says to Charlie Brown, “This blanket absorbs all my fears and frustrations. At the end of each day I shake it out the door, thus scattering those fears and frustrations in the wind.” Charlie Brown, listening intently and watching as Linus shakes the blanket asks, “What about tomorrow?” to which Linus replies, “Tomorrow I start with a clean blanket…not unlike the proverbial clean slate.”

Now, there’s some wisdom for you.

How difficult do WE make it for ourselves because we hold on to the fears and frustrations of yesterday? Are we constantly replaying the video of past hurts and reliving old dramas? Do we spend too much time thumbing through the records of wrongs that have been committed against us?

God gives us grace sufficient for today, for what is right in front of us (2 Corinthians 12:9), and His word encourages us to forget what is behind (Philippians 3:13). We cannot grasp the joys and take hold of the promises of a new day if we are clinging to the past and holding on to the old.  Let it go.  Lay it down.

We tend to blame everything and everyone for our struggles and failures, our hindered progress when often we need simply look at ourselves.

THIS WEEK reflect on the things that you need to let go of including the hurts and hard feelings toward yourself or others that you need to lay aside. It’s spring and time for spring cleaning – a great time to shake the blanket.


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Broken Crayons Still Color

It’s February…the month of love! Valentines have been in the stores since the after-Christmas sales. It’s funny how retail runs all the holidays together – Valentines on the shelves while Christmas decorations are still on the end caps; wait another couple of weeks, and we’ll be inundated with Easter flowers and bunnies even though it will still be February. Oh well, I digress. This is NOT what this post is about.

It’s about February, love and heart break.

It’s also about understanding that Broken Crayons Still Color!

Research from the University of California, Los Angeles, suggests that emotional pain may be more closely linked to physical pain than scientists previously realized, and heart break specifically registers in the same part of the brain that responds to physical pain. Further, heart break registers sensations much akin to broken limbs. Ever had a broken heart? Then, you didn’t need a study to tell you – it hurts!

Heart break changes you, consumes you. It drains and weakens, crushes and kills – joy and spirit. It separates and isolates. Yes, true heart break leaves you feeling out of sorts, depleted and alone. And were this not enough, heart break leaves you feeling imprisoned in a jail of sorts that surely you will never be able to leave.

But guess who has the key? Yes, our Father, God Himself. He, our King, who sits high and looks low knows what it is to have a broken heart! We (humans) have broken his heart for ages, and we continue to do so on a regular basis much like Gomer in the Book of Hosea (read the first three chapters; Hosea 1:1 – 3:5). Gomer repeatedly breaks Hosea’s heart, yet he loves her against logic and redeems her by taking her back. If you don’t know it, you’ve got to read the story and how Gomer leaves a man who loves her and passes from man to man until she ends up naked on the slave block to be sold!

And who buys her back?

You guessed it – Homer, her husband! But even that is not the BEST part of the story. Hosea pledges his love anew to his newly purchased wife – his wife the betrayer and prostitute, his wife the dregs of society, his wife who was broken. Now, the best part…Hosea’s love broke Gomer’s heart anew AND from this time on Gomer was faithful to Hosea. Gomer was restored!

Are you broken?

Have you loved someone only to realize that they don’t love you in return? Has a love betrayed you? Deserted you?

In your brokenness have you stopped “coloring?” There is a color that only you can paint in this world.  But have you ceased to be you? Ceased contributing positively to your work place, to your family, to your friends, to your home?  You may be a broken crayon, but you can still color!

Hosea paints for us an image of God’s love for us. We have broken His heart, strayed, turned from Him and sought other loves and lovers, yet He loves us and redeems us from the enslavement of sin. He sees our brokenness and calls us to come to Him in the midst of it. Our inclination is often to run from God and to seek worldly repairs for our broken hearts – drink, work, drugs, social networks. At best, they are temporary. There is no repair, but God. His love is true love – love that will not desert, betray or deny. His love is a love that has a plan for your good (Jeremiah 29:11), that stems from a desire to make you whole, that knows though you are as a broken crayon, you can still color and, thus, it is a love that redeems and restores.

THIS WEEK read Hosea 1:1 – 3:5. Who or what has broken your heart? (It doesn’t matter if the leaving was intentional, accidental or unavoidable as because of death, you may still experience heart break.)  Whose heart have you broken? What has been the impact of your brokenness? What temporary repairs have you sought? Your first step is to turn to God; only He can restore you. Ask Him to help you identify the next steps after that.


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Choose Peace

NOTE:  We are still vacationing, so I am posting while I have Internet access!

~excerpted from The Pattern of Peace by Charles Stanley

“[I]t can sometimes seem as if we are victims of our highly stressful world, but in reality, every Christian can choose to live in peace rather than under a burden of anxiety. If we let apprehension rule our hearts, it will interfere with sleep, disrupt concentration, hinder productivity, steal joy, and even cause health problems. However, when Christ, the Prince of Peace, has full authority over our lives, He guards our hearts and minds by building a wall of protection against worry.

Stress may pull us apart mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, but God’s peace will always bind us back together so we can be whole again. And while we cannot control many of the stressful situations in our lives, we can decide which master we will serve.”

If you do not know the inner peace that only God can bring, you can! This is the ideal season for you to meet His Son, Jesus, who came into the world to make peace between you and God. He died on the cross, was buried and rose again to bring you into a right relationship with God, the Father. (Romans 5:1) If you will accept Jesus as your personal Savior, all your sins will be forgiven, and He will give you His peace (John 14:27). Please visit the SALVATION tab above to learn more and to take the first step toward a relationship with Christ and His peace.

THIS WEEK: Pray to accept Christ as your personal Savior and His peace as your way of life then visit http://www.intouch.org/you/sermon-outlines/content?topic=i_am_saved_now_what_outline to watch the I Am Saved – Now What video and to learn more.

If you already have a relationship with Christ, this is a great season to rededicate your life to Him. You might start by reading these Scriptures: 2 Kings 20:3; Psalm 119:44. Read, too, Jacob’s story in Genesis 28:16-18, and begin the habit of rededicating yourself daily. Consider what that might look and sound like.


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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!