FULLY ALIVE!

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


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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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One More Night With the Frogs

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country. The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. The frogs will come up on you and your people and all your officials.’”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the streams and canals and ponds, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.’”

So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land.  But the magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 8:1-7 NIV)

Hmm. That’s a lot of frogs! Seems Pharaoh thought so, too, because in verse 8 we read, “Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.”

Moses, acting as God’s agent, was happy to oblige with one condition detailed in verse 9: “Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.”

Moses simply asked Pharaoh to set the time for him to pray for Pharaoh, his officials and his people and POOF! The frogs would be gone. This plague would end. Sounds like a great deal. Moses prays to God for Pharaoh AND the frogs disappear! Bet Pharaoh was jumping up and down hearing this offer.

Nope.

In verse 10, Pharaoh has a one word response to Moses’ offer. “Tomorrow.”

Pharaoh chose one more night with the frogs.

Seriously?

But isn’t that just like us? We want the blessing of God, but we don’t want to stop what we are doing; we don’t want to let go of some of the things, ideas, people or emotions that we are holding on to. We want to negotiate with God. We want one more night with the frogs.

Rribbit!

THIS WEEK identify your frogs – the thoughts, emotions, thinking, habits or people that you need to let go. Pray for strength to trust God, and let this be your last night with the frogs!


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Television 8; Prayer 1

Yesterday I watched 8 hours of television.  I watched until the cable box automatically shut down to go into power save mode  Even the cable company couldn’t believe someone would be actually watching television that long!

Yesterday I prayed 1 hour.

The Daily News says, “The average American watches more than five hours of live television every day.  More if you’re African American. Quite a bit more. Less if you’re Hispanic or Asian American, but not that much less.  For all ethnic groups, TV viewing time increases steadily as we get older, according to the March 2014 “Cross-Platform Report” released by the Nielsen media ratings company.  Once we pass 65, we watch more than seven hours a day.”

The American Time Use Survey says that Americans spend on average 2 to 17 minutes each day on “religious activity.”  In my home state, North Carolina, the average is 11 minutes per day.

I guess I could tell myself that I am “above average,” for a North Carolinian and for a Southerner.  The Survey notes, “Southerners are more likely to say religion is “very important” in their lives than people from any other region, so it’s no surprise that they report spending more time per day on religious activities.”

But I cannot make peace with these numbers.

Why don’t we pray?

The most popular excuse is time.  We don’t have time.  Well, I watched 8 hours of television.  Trust me, it was not life-altering, mind-enriching, world-changing television.  And I’ll wager that what you watch is not either.  Mine was more of the home decorating, new cooking techniques, travel to an exotic land variety with a sprinkling of good health and diet suggestions.  The truth of the matter, we have time.

The second most popular excuse is that it’s really not necessary.  Really?  Think of the many examples in the Scriptures when victory came through prayer – and when defeat came because of a lack of prayer.  Two contrasting examples – (1) Elijah praying that it would not rain (and it did not for 3 1/2 years) and then his prayer for rain (and the sky poured causing the earth to produce fruit) and (2) the defeat of the Israelite army when they fought against the city of Ai.  Confident in themselves, they did not pray or consult the Lord before going into battle.  They were bold.  They were self-centered.  They were defeated.  (See 1 Kings 17-19 and Joshua 7.)

We know, too,  that while He was on earth, Jesus was faithful in spending vital time in prayer with the Father. Just as He sought time alone to talk with His Father, shouldn’t we?  Hebrews 5:7 reveals the passionate prayer life of our Lord. During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him. The truth of the matter, we need to pray as Jesus prayed.

The third most popular excuse is that prayer does not make a difference.  Sure, if we think prayer is magic, it doesn’t make a difference.  Or if we think prayer is about presenting our shopping list or Christmas list to Santa God, it doesn’t make a difference.  If we think prayer is about us and our sole benefit, it doesn’t make a difference.  Finally, if we think prayer is about showing off – using fancy, 50-cent words and parading our theology before people, it doesn’t make a difference.

When we get that prayer is about a relationship with God, it makes a HUGE difference.  Prayer is talking with, spending time with, loving and worshipping our Holy Father.  Yes, we share our hearts and may make requests, but we also confess our faults, thank God for His love, praise Him for who He is, intercede for others and more.  And prayer is knowing that God hears us, loves us and will answer us.  The truth of the matter, prayer makes a difference. The difference is the relationship.  The difference is the peace.  The difference is the love.

Contrast this with television.

When I think about it, I don’t have time to watch that much television!  There are too many people hurting and too many people lost; I need to intercede.  There are too many shortcomings in my life; I need to confess.  There are too many blessings in my life; I need to worship and adore my God.

When I think about it, television is not that necessary.  Much of what I watch is pure entertainment.  Now, I am all for laughing.  I like learning new recipes and seeing new decorating ideas.  I like escaping to other worlds.  But none of that is essential to my survival, my success or my salvation.

When I think about it, television does not make a difference in my life.  Yes, I learn a little because, more often than not, I choose programs that will teach, but can I compare those to time spent with my Lord?  Think about your much-loved spouse, child or friend – would you rather spend time watching television or with them?  Now, I have some colleagues that regularly toss their spouses aside for episodes of Scandal or Monday Night Football, but I am confident that when the end comes, they will not be wishing for more time with television, that they had not missed that touchdown or that one episode.  They will be wishing they’d spent more time with the ones they loved and the ones that loved them.  And no one loves you more than the Father.

Am I planning to give up television?  That would be a, “No!”  But I am rethinking what I watch and how much time I spend watching.  I am also rethinking my prayer time.  My focus won’t be how many minutes and hours I can spend praying so that I can hold them up before the Lord and say, “See, Lord, television 2 hours; prayer 3.”  My focus will be about spending quality time engaged in necessary prayer talking to the One who loves me and who makes all the difference in my life!

THIS WEEK, evaluate how you are spending your time.  You may want to look at the American Time Use Survey Maps found at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/06/20/ten-maps-that-show-how-much-time-americans-spend-grooming-eating-thinking-and-praying/.  Do you need to revisit your prayer time?  Craft a plan.  Understand that plans are as unique as the individuals that create them.  You may find one example at http://thecripplegate.com/a-sample-prayer-plan/.


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None of Your Business

Too often we let how get in the way of what God has called us to do.  For the life of us, we cannot figure out how a thing is going to happen.

You know, too much month and too little money.  How will you ever make it to payday?

The school has called you six times this week, and it’s not Friday, yet. How are you going to survive this thing called parenthood?

A spouse that has a taste for too much drink, eyes for another and a passion for gambling.  How can God fix this mess of a marriage?

Negative doctor reports and a truck load of confirming symptoms.  How on earth can God heal you?

How?  That’s God’s business.

Impossible?  That’s His specialty.

The Scriptures are full of examples.  Consider one – the story of Elijah (1 Kings 18: 23-24, 31-35 ESV) and what we can learn from him.

“Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water… 

You don’t have to be very smart to understand that wood plus water is not a formula for fire.  Elijah had the people fill four jars with water and douse the wood.  He then had them repeat it two more times for a total of twelve jars of water.  Now, we don’t know the size of the jars, but the Scriptures tell us that there was so much water that it ran around the alter and filled the trench that had been dug around it.

You know the people thought Elijah was crazy.  First,  a “burnt” offering with no fire.  And then, wood doused with twelve jars of water.  How will God ever answer this prayer?

Elijah wasn’t worried.  He knew that the how was God’s business.  His business was to be obedient.  And when he had constructed the altar and commanded that the wood be doused, he simply prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God…” (1 Kings 18:36-37 ESV)

And God answered as only God can for in verse 38 we read, “Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.”

What has God called you to do?  That’s YOUR business.  How will it happen?  That is none of your business; THAT is God’s business!

THIS WEEK reflect on your business for God – what He has called you to do that you are not doing.  Mind your business, and get started – on your knees.  Look at Elijah’s prayer as an example.  Pray, believing and asking God to provide what is needed and that He be glorified, and He will answer as only He can.  THAT is His business!


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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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Peace on Earth (Part 1)

WATCH:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8OYvHPpGDY

Before we can have peace on earth, we must have peace within our communities. Before we can have peace within our communities, we must have peace within our families. Before we can have peace within our families, we must have peace within.

Ourselves!

Unfortunately, instead of Christmas being a time of peace, it is a time of great stress for many. Overfilled calendars and planners, strapped budgets and strained family relationships often come along with the holidays. How, then, do we overcome the accompanying anxiety and dwell in peace? Let’s look to Paul.

While confined in a Roman prison he penned the text of Philippians proclaiming his contentment in whatever situations (including prison) he found himself (4:11).   How? How could he be content, at peace in prison? His “secret” comes in the preceding text, verses 4-8.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7 NKJV)

There are three key words in this text, and they provide us somewhat of a formula for peace. Prayer. Supplication. Thanksgiving.

In this stressful season and throughout life, pray. About what? Everything! Don’t get caught up in the theology of prayer – what it is, what it isn’t, how to, how not to… Prayer is talking to God. Whatever is robbing you of your peace, talk to Him about it.

Supplication is the fifty cent word for asking earnestly and humbly. Praying is not about laying out a list of requests before God. (Do not confuse God with Santa Claus.) In prayer we come humbly before our Father, and in that relationship of child and Father, we share with Him all that is on our hearts – our frustrations, our confusion, our fears, our angst, our sorrows our disappointments… Whatever you are feeling, tell Him.

Thanksgiving is synonymous with gratitude. “But God hasn’t answered my prayer yet,” you might say. Thank Him for loving you, for hearing you and for accepting the burden that is troubling you. Psalm 55:22 tells us to cast our burden on the Lord and, in the words of Charles Tindley’s 1916 hymn, leave them there! That alone is enough to be thankful for – not only can we give our troubles to the Lord, we are commanded to do so, and He will take care of each one. What else can you be thankful for? Past faithfulness. God’s love. God’s grace. Salvation! Thank Him when you pray expecting that He will answer!

In 1955 Jill Jackson Miller and her husband, Sy Miller, penned another familiar song that shares a powerful lesson for us. The opening line is “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Pray in earnest humility thanking God for what He can do, has done and will do – then let peace begin with you!

THIS WEEK: What action can you take each day this week to bring peace to someone or to some situation?

Leave It There:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyxQZQjLaC4

Let There Be Peace on Earth:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXFeeJ6LSMc