FULLY ALIVE!

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


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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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Lord, Hear Our Cry

The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.  So, as presidents have formally done every year since 1952, President Obama on today, Thursday, May 7, will issue a proclamation urging our country to “turn to God in prayer and meditation.”

No one can seriously question whether our country – our world –  needs prayer.  We are troubled and in trouble.  Just read the headlines or watch a little television as I did earlier today.  Within an hour I heard stories about teens committing suicide because of cyber bullying, women swindling money from unsuspecting men by purchasing fake pregnancy tests, celebrities posing in the nude, men scamming hundreds of thousands of dollars from senior women desperate for love, Syria continuing to use chemical weaponry and families searching for lost loved ones in Nepal.

But I have mixed feelings about this day.  I am not sure we need a National Day of Prayer any more than we need a Black History Month or a Veteran’s Day.  Some things, some people, some history as well as some practices, like praying, need to be a part of every day.  They need to be habit.   I am also skeptical in 2015 of the government’s involvement in prayer.  Yes, the day is part of our country’s heritage born from the first call to prayer in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation to the call to prayer by President Lincoln when he proclaimed of a day of “humiliation, fasting and prayer” in 1863.  Those days, those times and those prayers seemed different to me.  It seems there was a time when our country was led by those who truly believed in God, who consistently sought His guidance and faithfully asked Him for wisdom and direction.  Such was the case not just for our national leaders but also the leaders of our cities, towns, communities, schools and churches.  These days?  Not so much.

But according to the National Day of Prayer website, this day “has great significance for us as a nation as it enables us to recall and to teach the way in which our founding fathers sought the wisdom of God when faced with critical decisions. It stands as a call for us to humbly come before God, seeking His guidance for our leaders and His grace upon us as a people.”  This statement is how I have made peace with the day.  And the spirit of this statement is what I pray everyone will embrace – but not just for a day, for always and every day.

The web has been inundated with “model” and “sample” prayers shared for this special day.  These actually might be the first misstep.  Rather than recite a prayer scripted by someone else, I encourage you to embrace the theme of this year’s National Day of Prayer – “Lord, Hear Our Cry.”  Cry out before the Lord sharing what is in your heart.  Don’t worry about the “right” words, embrace the right attitudes – humility and gratitude.  Don’t fret about the “right” posture, pray as the Holy Spirit leads you – standing, sitting, opened eyes, closed eyes, prostrate on the floor.  The theme is not, ‘Lord, Look at Me,’ but rather, “Lord, Hear Our Cry.”

Matthew 6:7 (ESV) reminds us, ““And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.”  On this National Day of Prayer, pray freely.  Pray openly.  Pray passionately.  Pray from the heart, and know that “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17, ESV).


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Wet Feet

Just as the Israelites were on the verge of entering the Promised Land, God commanded the priests to step into the water.  Hmm?  Not exactly what you might expect, but no big deal, right?  Wrong!  The Jordan River was at flood stage!  We’re talking wet feet and probably a few other wet things here.

Now surely God knew the Jordan River was there, and He knew that it was at flood stage when He told the Israelites to cross over to their Promised Land. Still He gave the command to Joshua: “. . . Arise, GO OVER THIS JORDAN, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give them. . .” (Joshua 1:2).

Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like getting my feet wet – especially when I have my shoes on!  Ladies, you know the deal!  Confession – yes, I take certain shoes off in the rain – even if I am wearing hose.  The way I see it, I can buy another pair of Hanes for a WHOLE lot less money than I can a pair of shoes!  I learned the hard way, but it only took one pair of spotty leather pumps for me to learn to save the shoes!

Anyway, back to the Israelites and the Jordan River.

Now, if we didn’t know before, we certainly knew after the Red Sea episode that God could part the waters.  In Exodus 4:21 Moses stretched his hand out over the waters, and the Scriptures tell us that the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.  We know, too, that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:24), so what’s up with the wet feet?  He parted the Sea for Moses.  Why not part the river for the priests?

I think it’s less about the wet feet and more about our desire for God to go first.  That way, we don’t mess up our shoes. We don’t have to work as hard.  We don’t have to wonder how things are going to go.  We don’t get wet feet.

It’s that hesitancy to get wet feet that can keep us camped out on the wrong side of the Jordan River.  It’s that waiting for God to go first that can keep us from our miracle.  Hebrews 11:6 teaches us that without faith it is impossible to please God.  Several examples in the Scriptures – the Red Sea and the Jordan River encounters being two of them – teach us that we are always to exercise faith in God.  Sometimes that faith requires us to be still and wait patiently (think Joseph in Potiphar’s prison), but at other times, it calls us to step up (think Nehemiah), step out (think Naomi and Ruth) and step into the waters (the Israelite priests).

Contrary to our belief, there can be just as much faith involved in taking personal initiative as there is in waiting passively for the Lord to provide.

Pray hard. Listen hard.  Swallow hard.  And go first!  Step out in faith knowing that our God sees, hears and is faithful!

THIS WEEK seek God’s desire for you – patience or a step of faith.  What would the latter look like?  What’s holding you back? Are you being obedient in patience or fearful in waiting?  Seek God’s direction for you and your life.  He will give you peace about what YOU are to do!


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Lord, You Said

Think your kids are too young to understand your grown-up conversations? Think again. They not only hear what you are saying, they will repeat it – often at the worse time possible (like in front of your mother-in-law or at school). And very often, they repeat your own words to you.

“Mom, you said…”

“Dad, you promised…”

While moms and dads sometimes have selective amnesia failing to remember what they said or promised, there is nothing God loves more than keeping His promises. He waits for us to take Him at His word – His word which contains literally thousands of promises waiting to be claimed in faith. Promises like Psalm 50:15 – “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me” and like 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

God stands ready and waiting for you to ask Him about Isaiah 40:29 (“He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.”) and Isaiah 54:17 “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.”) And when we stand on His word, He stands by His word, faithful to keep every promise. You have to claim them. You have to know them. You have but to say, “Lord, you said…”

THIS WEEK search the Scriptures for God’s promises. Which do you need to claim? Pray them keeping in mind Psalm 84:11 (“No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”) Praying is standing on the promises of God. If you take God at His word, you will experience the joy of knowing that He keeps His word.

You Said (Hillsong)                                                                                                                                                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEpaG4VlBcA

Standing on the Promises of God  


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You are HERE

How did we survive before GPS?  I mean really!

When I learned to drive, road maps were all the rage.  I have very vivid images of my dad sitting at the kitchen table with his maps spread out and a World Atlas at his fingertips.  He would sit there for hours planning our family vacations, mapping the routes, making note of the connections, turns and exits.  I thought he and my sister were amazing the way they could recall and discuss highway numbers… “Turn right onto 42 and go about 37 miles then take NC 97 North to 301.  You’ll go about 12 miles then merge onto Interstate 95 North.”

I well remember my first solo trip with a road map.  Like Daddy, I sat at the kitchen table, spread the map, made my markings and jotted notes.  I was going on a job interview and, worried enough about that, I wanted the travel to be uneventful.  I even used the little scale in the bottom corner of the map to calculate mileage and approximate time.  All along the way, though, I had to keep stopping on the side of the road to consult my trusty road map.

Three things are important when planning a trip using a map – knowing where you are, where you need to end and which direction you need to travel to get there!  And therein lies the beauty of GPS.  The screen shot always includes a big arrow indicating YOU ARE HERE.  That’s good news to any driver!

Want some even better news?  Not only are you “HERE,” so is God!  He is everywhere!  He is with you!

Joshua 1:9 (ESV) reminds us to be strong, courageous and without fear or dismay because the Lord, our God, is with us wherever we go. Deuteronomy 31:6 (ESV) echoes the same encouragement adding a reminder that He will never leave nor forsake us. David asked, “Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7-10, ESV) In the heavens, in Sheol, in the uttermost part of the sea – even there David said we find God’s hand which shall lead us and hold us!

I find that latter thought to be particularly encouraging because I live in the boondocks, and I frequently drive rural highways.  This means I regularly lose signals for my telephone and GPS.  The “GPS Lady” often tells me she is rerouting.  I suppose rerouting sounds better than “I don’t have a clue where you are.”  When the GPS loses its signal, I am left to go it alone trying to read road signs while I drive.  That is not only frustrating, it is unnerving, especially if I am traveling an unfamiliar and not well-marked route.  Whenever the signal reconnects, the GPS offers instructions to correct whatever mis-turns I may have taken and tries to get me back on track.  It’s rare, but sometimes GPS cannot get it right and I have to rely on other sources like stopping strangers to ask for instructions or accessing Google Maps on my cell phone.

Our God never loses connection with us though we sometimes choose to ignore the promptings of His Holy Spirit.  Now there are times when I know better than the “GPS Lady.”  She tells me to turn left and I am looking at a ONE WAY sign or a ROAD CLOSED sign, so I know not to follow her directions. But our God gets it right 100% of the time! Isaiah 40:13-14 asks, “Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding?” The answer is NO ONE! He is omniscient and omnipresent, so He knows and He is with us. He is also faithful, so we can trust that He is with us, just as He promised, wherever we are.

There are times when we ignore God’s directions or believe that we know better.  Surely when God has us on a route that is bumpy or one that is twisted or winding or scary or lonesome or dark even, He has made a mistake, somehow gotten it wrong.  No, it is not God that has gotten it wrong, it is our perspective that is limited while God is finite.

Question God?  Be puzzled by His directions?  Surely, but never doubt.  Even Abraham had questions about God’s directions and decisions (e.g. the destruction of Sodom), but Abraham obeyed in faith.  He never mocked, rebelled or cursed God.  Abraham knew what we can know as children of God and that is that God is Here, right here with you!

THIS WEEK earnestly seek God’s direction for your life.  Charles Stanley offers seven words that will help us in seeking His direction. Study, meditate and pray on one word each day this week. (Cleansing, Surrendering, Asking, Meditating, Believing, Waiting, Receiving). Find more at:  http://www.intouch.org/you/article-archive/content?topic=seeking_god_s_guidance_article#.VMV5UrAo7IU


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Rushing for Lazarus

Have you ever been disappointed?

“Are you kidding” you’re thinking, “Who hasn’t?!”

We’ve all had the experience of thinking that we had found that special one of our dreams to later realize that (s)he was actually the one of our nightmares.  We’ve also experienced our children saying and doing the unthinkable and being nothing like what we thought we had “raised” them to be.  And we have been excited to begin a job and then dread going to the very place that used to bring us such joy.  And, let’s be honest, we have had times that we couldn’t place the blame anywhere else other than at our own feet, and we have been disappointed in ourselves – can’t believe we said that, thought that, acted like that.

Now, let’s be real honest – especially since you have only to tell yourself the truth.  Have you ever been disappointed in God?

Yikes!  Surely that must be blasphemous!

Sheila Walsh says, “God is big enough, and His love is fierce enough to deal with anything we feel or must face.”  In other words, He can take it.  In better words, He can help you through it.

Look at John 11:1-3 (ESV).

“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.  So the sisters sent to him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.'”

Hmm. Mary had anointed the Lord and wiped His feet with her hair. It was her brother that was ill. Surely Jesus is going to drop everything and make a beeline to their home. And if that wasn’t enough, verse 3 emphasizes that Jesus loved Lazarus, too. That’s like the cherry on top; He is coming now for certain. If we look ahead, even verse 5 of this text says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”

Can’t you picture Mary and Martha – and even Lazarus? They’re not sad. They’re not worried. “Jesus loves us, and He is coming!” I picture them sitting around reminiscing about the miracles they’d seen Jesus perform. THIS will be NOTHING for Him.

But He didn’t come.  At least not right away.  And Lazarus died.  Then Jesus came.

Let’s skip way ahead in this text to verse 20. “So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house.”   This being a Christian blog, let’s just suffice it to say Mary was probably a bit disappointed. Her hopes and expectations were dashed on several rocks – first Jesus not coming when they had sent for Him even AFTER she had wiped His feet with her hair AND Lazarus has now died!!!!! Then Jesus just strolls in rather nonchalantly. Are you serious?

Yes.

Jesus had intentionally delayed. Look back at verse 6 which reads, “So, when He heard that Lazarus was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was.”

Jesus was not running late. He wasn’t caught up or caught off guard. He hadn’t bitten off more than He could chew. He heard about Lazarus, and He intentionally stayed two days longer in the place where He was.

And Mary was disappointed. In verse 32b she says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

You know how women say one thing and mean something else? (I can write that since I am a woman.) I read that Mary said, “If you’d been here, Lazarus would still be alive.” I imagine that Mary meant, “Where were you? Why didn’t you come? Don’t you care? Didn’t you know? How could you not have come? I thought you loved us! Is this how you show love?”

It didn’t help either that there were a bunch of naysayers hanging around in verse 37 – “But some of them said, “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

There are SO many lessons in this text.

But let’s go back to Mary’s disappointment. Did you notice that it didn’t faze the Lord? He heard her – her spoken words and the words of her heart. He loved her no less. He let her pour out her heart, and then He did what He came to do. In verse 40 He reminded them, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” And the glory of God is what He showed them as He called Lazarus from the grave. Wow! Healing the sick is one thing. Raising the dead, that’s another!

God loved Mary. He loved Martha. He loved Lazarus. But He didn’t rush to their aid.

He loves you. He may not rush to your aid.

He will, as the old Negro spiritual says, “come right on time.”

You may be disappointed, and you can tell Him, but never doubt Him. Keep believing, and He will show you the glory of God!

Read Romans 5:3-5 (NLT) each day this week then reflect on the given questions.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us — they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

Monday Questions for Reflection: What are the disappointments of your life? List them (preferably in a journal). At the top and bottom of the page write, “Hope does not disappoint.” Revisit your journal periodically and the list of disappointments. Make note of how God reveals Himself and His glory in relation to each one.

Tuesday Questions for Reflection: Could it be that God delays to build endurance in us? How do you think Mary, Martha and even Lazarus changed after Lazarus was raised from the dead? When was a time that God’s delay brought you a greater blessing?

Wednesday Questions for Reflection: Identify a current disappointment in God. Can you choose to worship Him through it? How does that make you feel?

Thursday Questions for Reflection: Look at those who have surrounded you. Are they feeding and encouraging your disappointment (like the Jews who asked “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”) or are they encouraging your hope in the Lord? Might you need to separate yourself from someone – at least for a season?

Friday Questions for Reflection: Examine your own actions. Are you feeding someone else’s disappointment or are you encouraging their hope in the Lord? What do you need to start doing, stop doing or do more of?


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Inextricably Linked

This semester I asked my college seniors to unplug for one weekend.  No cell phone.  No laptop, iPad, desktop, etc.  No Twitter.  No Facebook.  No Instagram.  No Internet.

“No way!” they said.

But they did.

And they shared their stories which were hilarious – the reaching for the phone that was not there, the lost “don’t know what to do with myself” feelings, the disconnect, the struggle to get anything done without the Internet.

People are more connected to one another than ever before because ours is an Internet and Social Networking world.  When we are not talking, we are texting or instant-messaging or Skyping or tweeting or something. We are connected, and yet we are not.

Michael Price writes in his work, Alone in the Crowd, that we are “more lonely and distant from one another” in our “unplugged lives.”  It’s true.  Most any teenager will tell you that they’d rather text than talk.  And while a lot of adults won’t readily admit it, they, too, would rather email than talk.

We live in neighborhoods but don’t know our neighbors.  We work in offices but don’t know our cubicle mates.  We go to churches but don’t know our fellow parishioners.  Sometimes we live in houses and don’t know our family members!  Not really.

We were made to be social creatures.  In Genesis 2, God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone and created for him a mate.  So why do we retreat behind locked doors, shut blinds and closed minds?  Well, probably for one – it’s just easier.  Less drama and less headache.  Admittedly, I’ve had my days when I have longed for an island.  But, again, we weren’t designed for long-term island living.  At least not in the sense that I mean – ALONE!

Like it or not, our lives are inextricably linked.  The choices we make affect others. Deuteronomy 30:19 (NASB) says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants…” Every day you are choosing for yourself but also for your descendants. You must make decisions today with tomorrow’s impact in mind, and you must consider current choices in light of future generations.

Are you choosing wisely?  Someone’s life is inextricably linked with yours and the choices you make!  Ponder that this week along with the following Scriptures and questions.

Monday: Joshua 24:15 (NASB)

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Questions for Reflection:  Whom or what have you chosen to serve? What is the impact of your choice on your descendants – immediate (now) and later?  You may say, “I haven’t chosen.” Did you know that by not choosing you are choosing?

Tuesday: 1 Peter 2:9 (NASB)

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”

Questions for Reflection: Make note of the choices you make today – what to wear, how to drive, whether to speak to someone you pass on the street or in the hallway at work, what to eat for dinner, etc. How many choices did you make? They may seem insignificant, but what is the impact of each decision – for you, for those around you – immediate (now) and later? Do your choices reflect well on you? On your Lord?

Wednesday: Romans 2:6-8 (NASB)

“who will render to each person according to his deeds:  to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;  but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.”

Questions for Reflection: Consider two choices you have made in the past – one selfless, one selfish. What has been the return on those choices – for you? For those you love? What, if anything, do you need to change as you go forward?

Thursday: Proverbs 14:12 (ESV)

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

Questions for Reflection: How do you make choices? Do you do what you think seems right, or do you pray for wisdom and direction?

Friday: Biblical Principles for Making Wise Decisions

www.watermark.org/blog/decision-making-principles/

Questions for Reflection: After reading the given Scriptures, reflect on each of the 10 questions found at this site.


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If It Looks Like a Duck

It’s funny – the things we accept at face value and the things we do not.  Get a piece of paper; it can be a scrap, and see how you do on this little Yes or No test:

  1. I have purchased a dress ___ sizes too small promising myself that I would lose enough weight to wear it. (You fill in the blank.)
  2. I have befriended someone (welcomed them into my home, introduced them to family, scheduled special events with them, etc.) when I knew the relationship would be the equivalent of putting a hot coal inside my shirt.
  3. I have said that I liked something (when I secretly thought, “Yuck!) only to receive that something later as a gift.
  4. I have purchased a shoe in a size other than what I know that I wear thinking I could “make them work” for a special occasion (and because they were cute).
  5. I have dated (or married) a man believing that I could, eventually, change him into the man of my dreams.

Each question is worth 20 points.  I trust you to score your own paper.  You do not have to report your score; I’ll let you “sit with” it.

There seems to be two camps – the one that believes you can always turn a situation around and the one that agrees with the old anonymous proverb that says, “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck – it must be a duck.”

Here’s my thinking on that proverb…Wrong!

You may think this season of your life is pretty hopeless.  It might be looking like unemployment, feeling like cancer, sounding like a mean boss, smelling like divorce, feeling like loneliness, tasting like failure…  Looks can be deceiving.  So can feelings and all the other senses.

We’ve been following Joseph through several chapters of Genesis, so let’s keep learning from him

Genesis 37:23 (NIV)  “So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing…” Looks like nakedness.

Genesis 37:24 (NIV)  “…they took him and threw him into the cistern.” Tastes like abandonment.

Genesis 37: 28 (NIV)   “…his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels…” Sounds like slavery.

Genesis 39:6b-7 (NIV)     “Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” Smells like a set-up.

Genesis 39:20a (NIV)        “Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. Looks like, smells like and feels like the end!

Wrong, again!

Genesis 39:20b-21a (NIV) tells us, “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him…” And two chapters and two years later, we see Joseph not just leaving prison and not just being restored to his former position, but he is positioned second only to Pharaoh. Genesis 41:39 -41 says, “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph…, ‘Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you…I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.’” Looks like a test, and looks like Joseph passed with flying colors. Will you?

Max Lucado tells us that God “sees the needs of tomorrow and, accordingly, uses your circumstances to create the tests of today.” He sees your needs, and He sees the needs of others. He uses you and your circumstances to create tests that will bring about His desired results. Sometimes your testing is to bring about a certain result in you. Sometimes it is to bring about a certain result through you, meaning you are the vehicle chosen by God to do a work in someone else’s life. Whichever situation is the case, you want to pass the test. Lucado also reminds us that “some tests end on earth, but all tests will end in heaven.”

So, it might walk like a duck, quack like a duck and even look like a duck, but what it really is is a test! And you want to pass!


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Hurry Up; the Red Light is Coming!

My father taught me to drive.

If you knew him, you would find that statement scary.

Let me be clear; I loved my father.  In the words of my paternal grandmother, I loved him better than Peter loved the Lord.  I was probably 30 years old before I thought he could do wrong.  He and I were like two peas in a pod.  We would stay up late at night talking and laughing.  My mother would scream down the hall, “Go to bed you two!”  And he and I would laugh and keep talking.

My sister and I were reminiscing just recently.

Who got up when we were coughing during the night?  Daddy.  He gave you some cough syrup and poured most of it down your pajamas because he was still half asleep.

Who made you rake the leaves with him and then let you jump into the pile?  Daddy.  Then we raked them again and tied them in big white sheets.

Who woke you up in the middle of the night, carried you on his back to the car and took you (still in PJs) to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts because it was time for the “Hot Now” sign?  Daddy!

And who taught me to drive?  Daddy.

Now, I loved him, but he was a horrible driver.  He wrecked his cars and then he wrecked my first car.  He would speed to work every morning because he never left home in time.  He passed 2, 3, 4 cars at a time.  He fell asleep at traffic lights then took off when the lanes next to him moved and crashed into the rear end of those in front of him.  Forgive me for telling this, Daddy – but He passed a stopped school bus or two in his day.  And he told me (true story) that the yellow light meant “hurry up ‘cause the red light’s coming.”  Once I put on brakes as I approached the intersection and the light was changing.  He said, “No, squeeze the lemon!”

Isn’t that what we do when God seems slow to move?  When He doesn’t answer, doesn’t move, doesn’t open the door, we rush ahead of Him to make things happen in our desired timing.  But, in the words of Dr. Phil, “How has that worked for you?”  Impatience and acting independently of God does not work.  He asks for our obedience, and red lights are often part of His strategy and plan. We read in Revelations 3:7 (NIV) that “what He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open.”

In Genesis we learn of Joseph who waited years for the fulfillment of a God-given dream. Read the story; the wait was more than worth it. God opened a door wide for him and to the benefit of his family. If He did it for Joseph, He will do it for you.

God’s timing is perfect. Obey His signals – including His red lights and yellow lights. As Joyce Meyer says, “Trusting God brings life; believing brings rest.”

And patience brings green lights!