FULLY ALIVE!

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


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What Not to Wear

Chances are you have seen the American makeover television show, What Not to Wear.  The show featured participants nominated by friends, co-workers, or relatives or sometimes individuals who had nominated themselves.  The nominee was secretly videotaped then brought to New York City for a week of evaluation, shopping and hair and make-up styling AFTER getting a chance to watch their secret footage.  The show always ended showing a party in the participants’ hometown, where she would show off her new look to friends and family who would all, of course, comment on how impressed they were and how happy she looked.  Most importantly, from then on, the participant knew what not to wear!

Well, at least on her outer body.

Let’s face it, sometimes we struggle with getting dressed.  I seriously cannot be the only one who stands before a closet full of clothing (remember, I have a bedroom converted to a closet) and thinks, “I have nothing to wear!”  Nor am I the only one who faces an event (special program at church, class reunion, Thanksgiving dinner with family…) and feels compelled to go shopping for something to wear.  And somebody, other than me, has a couple of tags still hanging on some things that have been in the back of the closet for at least a few weeks, if not months.  Or years!

Yet, we tell ourselves we have nothing to wear.  We are convinced we have nothing to wear.  We honestly believe that we need to go shopping, borrow an outfit or pass on going to the event – because we have NOTHING to wear!  We tell ourselves that lie and swallow it hook, line and sinker even when the truth – that God has provided what we need stares us in the face.  And, in many cases, He has provided a whole lot more!

If we can so easily swallow a sweet little lie about not having anything to wear, even while staring evidence to the contrary in the face, what other lies can we readily accept?

Before we continue, this is a good time to remember that Satan is the Father of Lies (John 8:44).  Well, surely he is too busy to be bothered with something as simple as getting you to believe a lie about what is or is not in your closet?  No, he’s not.  Because it’s not really about your clothes at all.  Satan will do whatever he has to get you to distrust, doubt, shrink away from God and His Word.

Philippians 4:19 (ESV) says that God will supply your every need.  Check the Scriptures before that passage and those that follow and, unlike those little sale circulars that come in the mail, there are no exclusions and no fine print.  You won’t find somewhere else in the Bible that God says something contrary – “I will supply your every need EXCEPT…”  No every need means every need.  Satan does not want you to know that, to understand that, to believe that, to stand on that!  But he is smart; start with the seemingly little, insignificant, unconnected lies.  If he can get you to believe those (I don’t have anything to wear.  Hmm, maybe God didn’t really mean He would supply my every need?), He can get you to believe some even bigger lies.

Don’t believe me?  I won’t take the time here to go into detail, but just look back at Eve’s encounter with Satan in the Garden of Eden.  He was sneaky, crafty, strategic.  He wasn’t blatant, overt and in Eve’s face.  He just cast a stone or two of doubt about who God was, what God said and what God would or wouldn’t do.  You know the rest.

So what not to wear?  Don’t, like Eve, take on the lies of Satan.  He wants you dressed in a coat of defeat with a shawl of weak and flimsy resolve tied about your neck, carrying a backpack or handbag of insecurities, standing in shoes of doubt, pulling on a hat of confusion.

The What Not to Wear participant gets a Visa card and goes shopping.  She buys the foundation of a new wardrobe and is taught how to dress from that point forward – how to build on that foundation for a lifetime of smart and appropriate dressing.  It wouldn’t be enough to simply tell the participant what not to wear and not to teach her what to wear – and how and where to shop for it!

Consider deeply the following Scriptures:

Ezekiel 16:10-13 (ESV):   “ I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk.  And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck.  And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth.

Romans 8:15-17 (ESV):   “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.”

1 Peter 2:9 (ESV):  “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

Do you get the lessons of these Scriptures?  Do you understand what they teach us?  We are children of the one true King.  We are join heirs with Christ.  We are chosen.  We are Holy.  We are His!

No matter what Satan would try to tell us, no matter what he would put in our path to try to make us stumble, no matter what weapon he pulls from his arsenal…it is no match for what the power and authority we have in our Father.  And here’s the clencher, Satan really has only one weapon – lies!  While your Father has equipped you with many weapons and full armor, the key piece that you need to fight Satan is the belt of truth!  Not your truth (which might not be true – remember, you didn’t have anything in your closet to wear), but God’s truth.  This belt accentuates every figure and compliments every outfit; without it, you might as well be naked.  No well-dressed, Christian would be caught without it.  Put it on. And never take it off!

THIS WEEK clean your closet.  On What Not to Wear, the participant must bring her old clothes with her to New York.  They are tried on and sorted.  Occasionally one gets to keep a piece or two found to be acceptable.  Most end up in the trash can.  As Christians we are to test all things and hold only what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  We discard or throw away everything else.  What lies has Satan told you?  Lies about yourself?  Lies about a friend?  Lies about a situation?  Lies about a family member?  Lies about a relationship?  Test them against God’s Holy Word.  Keep that which is good and toss the rest!


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Ancestry

Though in its sixth season, I’ve only recently noticed advertisements for the American genealogy documentary series, Who Do You Think You Are?  The show premiered in 2010 and follows a celebrity as he or she traces his or her family tree to understand where he or she came from.  While dropped by NBC after three seasons, the show was picked up by TLC and has become quite popular – so much so that there is even an accompanying book bearing the same title.  The book honors the exploding craze of tracing one’s ancestry and is designed to help viewers of the show research their own roots.

Genetics researcher, C.C. Moore, believes that within a few years we will see a type of universal family tree.  DNA analyses have become quite popular and can be used to confirm what previously was only suspected by some.  Writer, Maud Newton, suggests that we are all trying to “figure out who we are by looking at these people who are long dead,” and we are “trying to find out about ourselves.”   Indeed it must be fascinating to discover one’s connections to history.  Whether linked to medieval royalty like actress Valerie Bertinelli or to Oregon Trail pioneers like celebrity Kelsey Grammer, revelations about one’s roots surely have tremendous emotional impact.

Admittedly, I have my own interest in family history, especially it seems as I age and family members are dying.  I’ve thought of so many questions that I wish that I had asked my grandparents and great grandparents, and I wish that I knew more about who they were and where and how they and their parents lived.

On the Mount on Olives, Jesus told the crowd before Him that He knew where He came from but also where He was going (John 8:14).   While tracing ancestry and learning about where we came from is fun and exciting and can actually yield valuable information, we must not fail to give thought to where we are going.

It is not uncommon for us, as Christians, to experience doubt about our salvation.  When we consider Jesus then consider ourselves including our many weaknesses, shortcomings and failures, “our heart condemns us” (1 John 3:20)  God does not want us robbed of peace because of doubts.  He does not want us guessing whether we will spend eternal life with Him.  He wants us sure of our salvation.   He wants us confident in Him and in our relationship with Him and so He assures us in His Word.  John wrote, “These things I write unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life”  and “that our joy may be made full” (1 John 1:3-4, 5:13; Hebrews 4:16; Romans 8:1-3).

Assurance of salvation rests on four pillars, all found in Scripture:

1.  God cannot lie.  In His Word God promises to save all who believe upon His Son.  (Romans 10:13; Acts 2:21)

2.  On the cross Jesus bore all our sin, endured God’s wrath, paid the price and canceled our sin debt.  (John 19:28-30)

3.  Scripture says, “We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us.”  Assurance comes through the inward witness of God’s Holy Spirit, the Keeper and Helper that He sent us.  (1 John 4:12-13; 3:24)

4.  All who have been born again are changed and clear evidence is seen in the new life that is lived.   (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 2:3)

There are other signs beyond these Scriptures even.  True love for others.  Spiritual fruit.  Broken and contrite heart.  Righteous behavior.  When we are saved, our hearts and lives are changed.

We may be unsure and even wrong about our ancestry and where we came from, but we can know where we are going.  Assurance of salvation is a gift from God to each of His children; He wrote it in His Word that we may be absolutely sure! (John 20:31)

THIS WEEK ask yourself if you have the assurance of your salvation.  Do you KNOW where you are going?  If you do not have assurance, visit the SALVATION tab at the top of this page.  Pray to receive Christ as your personal Savior and to have the peace and assurance within that eternal life is yours.  Study the lessons of the following Scriptures:  Romans 10:13, 8:16; John 6:37, 19:30; Isaiah 1:18; 1John 3:24, 4:13, 2:3.  Welcome the assurance of His indwelling Holy Spirit.


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When God Says, “No!

When God says, “No,” just say, “Thank you!”

First, we know that God loves us (1 John 4:8 ESV).  He showed His love for us even when we were still sinners (Romans 5:8 ESV) by sending His only son, Jesus, to be a propitiation for our sins and to die on a cross that we might have eternal life (1 John 4:10; John 3:16 ESV).  His word tells us that absolutely nothing, no one and no experience can separate us from His love (Romans 8:35-39 ESV).

And precisely because He loves us, He sometimes answers ‘No’ to what we request in our prayers.  That’s what loving parents do.  They say, “No” to a diet of only soda and ice cream.  They say, “No” to hanging out all night.  They say, “No” to pornographic and vulgar television and violent video games.  They say, “No” to wrong friends and bad habits.  I feel certain that my parents were not the only ones reminding children that they had already had certain experiences, that they were older and wiser and that they knew best.  Matthew teaches us that if sinful parents know how to give good gifts to their children, then even more so the heavenly Father gives good gifts to His children (7:11 NLT).  Our all knowing and all wise God (2 Timothy 3:16; 1 John 3:20; Psalm 147:5 ESV) loves us and knows what is best for us — far more than we ever could. We also know that He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think or even, in our wildest dreams, imagine (Ephesians 3:20 NLT).

So – when God says, “No,” thank Him.  He saved you from less than His best!

Seriously!

Romans 8:32 (NLT) says, “Since he did not spare even His own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?”  What can even compare to the sacrifice of His Son?  The answer would be, “Nothing!

Sometimes when our earthly parents answered, “No,” we stamped our feet, pouted, rolled our eyes and had full blown hissy fits.  We begged, we pleaded, we made our case for why we ought to have what we asked for.  As adults, but especially as children of God, we should be sensitive to our Father’s answers and stop insisting on something that God has already refused to grant. God has not promised to answer every prayer with “Yes.” The Scriptures teach us that if we pray according to His will, He hears us and we can know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him (1 John 5:14-15 ESV). They may come in His timing rather than ours and they may not look like what we imagined, but He will answer.

And His answer will be His best for our best.

Thank you, God!

THIS WEEK thank God for loving you enough to answer, “No.”  Determine to not only be accepting of His answer but also grateful for His love which always answers best.


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Unpack Those Bags

My pastor tells members of missions teams to pack their suitcases then take half of what they packed out! Good advice. But easier said than done.

How do you choose what to take out? That shirt? Those shoes? The towels? It all seems so important. Good boy and girl scouts are always prepared. You never know what will happen on one of these trips, so you try to plan for every scenario imaginable. And the good news is that if there is an emergency, you are prepared. The bad news? Navigating with that luggage!

Three experiences come readily to mind.

During the first, my luggage exceeded the maximum allowable weight. There I was with my things sprawled across the airport floor trying to shuffle, rearrange and part with (as in throw into the trash) my stuff. Some I was able to tuck into someone else’s luggage, but some simply had to be tossed. If only I’d left it at home.

During the second experience, my strap broke AND a wheel came off – all because my luggage was over-stuffed. It was a nightmare for me to carry it and a burden for team members to help me. After all, they had their own luggage.

And my third experience was similarly embarrassing and stressful. The team was literally running from one gate to another because we had mere minutes to catch a connecting flight. The team was running, and I was struggling, fumbling, dragging, dropping and stumbling because my luggage was simply too heavy. If only I hadn’t brought so much. I was miserable.

And that’s how it is when we carry excessive emotional baggage. It weighs us down. It keeps us from navigating freely. It causes us to struggle, fumble, drag and stumble. Romans 8:1-2 (NIV) teaches, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

If you are carrying heavy baggage, it’s time to unpack. Don’t shuffle it around or try to rearrange it. Toss it. Let it go.


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It’s All Under Control

The Bible tells us (at least six times) that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly places (Acts 2:33 and 5:31, Colossians 3:1, Ephesians 1:20, Hebrews 1:3, Romans 8:34).  Don’t you just love that about the Scriptures – how the truth can be cross-referenced again and again?

I love, too, just the image of this – that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, the Father.  He’s not standing.  He’s not pacing.  He is seated – above all rule and authority, above all power and dominion.  Everything is under Jesus’ feet!  He is seated at the right hand of God.

And what does this mean?  He has it all under control!  He’s not worried.  He’s not caught off guard.  He’s not panicky.  He’s not engaged in a wild texting frenzy.  He’s not scrolling through his phone contacts trying to figure out who to call.  He’s not without a plan.  He’s in control.

And there is still more! We are ascended and seated with Him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6).

So on this Monday morning as you return to work or school, as you go to that doctor’s appointment, as you walk into that meeting, as you make (or answer) that phone call…, just remember that your Lord and Savior, Jesus, is seated in Heaven and you along with Him and that He has it all under control!


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If Christ is in You…

Slowly but surely I have been navigating Seminary in pursuit of a Masters in Theology. I am loving that this is not a degree that I “need” but rather this is a degree (and learning) that I want! My very first course was in Bible Exposition. The class, Bible Study and Hermeneutics, was described in the course catalog as an introduction to inductive Bible study involving four steps – observation, interpretation (hermeneutics), application and correlation. It was rightly a required prerequisite to all other Bible Exposition courses because the learning was powerful and provided, I believe, the lens necessary for reading and understanding Scripture.

It sounded easy, but several of my fellow students and I struggled with the first step – observation. We found it very natural to rush to interpretation – at least to our style of interpretation which was drawing conclusions based on what we already knew or thought that we knew. Gentle (and some not so gentle) correction from our professor helped us develop the habit of observing what the Scripture says and what it does not say – without any interpretation.

Let’s apply a little exposition (or a variation thereof) to Romans 8:10-11.

10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (NASB)

The first word of this text is the first word that literally jumps out at me. “If.” You might want to pause right there and work that one out because the promises in this text are for those who have Christ living in them. If defines a condition of the first class or one that is presumed to be true. Again, the promises that follow are true for those for whom the condition is true.

“Christ is in you” means that Our Lord, Jesus Christ, Himself is in us. (Do I really need to say anything more here except, Wow!)

“[T]he spirit is alive” may refer to your spirit or the Holy Spirit as some translations use a lower case s while others use an upper case s. I’m thinking, any way you slice this, this is good news! With Christ in us, our spirits are alive. With the Christ in us, the Holy Spirit is alive within us.

“[A]live,” as we discussed in an earlier blog, means lively, full of life, vitality, vivacious, etc. We are alive with the life of God within us. How great is that?

Years ago in one of the zillion books that I have read, there was a great illustration of this Scripture using a small slip of paper, three envelopes of different sizes and a marker. You can try to picture this, but I encourage you to get a slip of paper, three envelopes and a marker so that you can really “see” this.

  1. Write the name of JESUS on the small slip of paper and place it inside the smallest envelope.
  2. Write YOUR NAME on the outside of this smallest envelope and seal it.
  3. Place the sealed envelope inside the medium-sized envelope.
  4. Write the name of JESUS on the outside of this medium-sized envelope and seal it.
  5. Place the sealed medium-sized envelope inside the largest envelope.
  6. Write the name of GOD on the outside of the largest envelope and seal it.

 

Now, stop and reflect. Where are you (the envelope with your name on it)? You are in Jesus who is in God. And even beyond that, Jesus is in you! Psalm 27:5 says, “He will conceal me…,” and He does – inside and out.

If Christ is in you, yes, you are fully alive.  Enjoy it, share it and be blessed!