FULLY ALIVE!

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


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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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Almost

According to news reports, Dylann Roof (Charleston, SC shooter) told police that he “almost didn’t go through with it because everyone was so nice to me.”

Almost.

“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” (Acts 26:28 KJV)

Almost.

In my book, almost does not count.

The online dictionary defines almost as nearly, virtually, all butnot quite.  Voltaire said, “Good is the enemy of great.”  Well, almost is the enemy of everything and everyone.  Where is the employee who wants to almost get paid on Friday?  Show me the high school or college senior who is happy to almost graduate?  How many athletes are happy to almost win?  If you almost did the right thing, you still did the wrong thing. If you almost have the answer, you still have an unsolved problem. If you almost won first place, you still lost.

Almost is not what you want – to nearly make it, to all but have it, to not quite achieve it.  Almost.  Close.  Possibly very close.

It’s just not good enough.  It’s still a miss.

In Matthew 23 we find Jesus teaching about almost Christians – the Pharisees.  They still exist; those ethical, moral and religious people who are so as long as being ethical, moral and religious serves them.  They relish the recognition, bask in the admiration and savor seats of honor.  Service in the church is not really about service and certainly is not about glorifying God and His Kingdom; they love their positions because of power, respect, control and the spotlight that shines on them and their works – works that are most often good, almost good enough if their hearts were not deceitful and desperately wicked.

The real problem presents when these individuals find that their works and acts no longer serve them.  When morality no longer furthers their personal agendas, they become less moral. When being ethical no longer spotlights them, they become less ethical.  When being religious no longer promotes their station, they become less religious.  John Wesley said they were almost Christians, but they were artificially shaped from the outside experiencing no change on the inside.  They took on the acts and performed the works, but their hearts remained wicked.  They are almost Christian (believers) but also almost heathen (unbelievers). They lie in the worse place of all – the “in between.”  They are neither “hot” nor “cold;” they are miserable and pathetic. (Revelations 3:15-17 CEB)

There is a time when almost matters.  Romans 13:12 warns us that night is almost gone (NASB) and day is almost here (NIV); it is time for us to put aside deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  It is time to be real and time for us to be completely Christian – transformed at the heart level, emptied of ourselves and in total submission to the calling, the will and the work of Christ.

THIS WEEK examine your heart.  Are you almost or completely a Christian?  Do you find yourself wavering between Christ and the world?  Has true change occurred in your heart?  What actions do you need to take?  It is time to put aside deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Click on the SALVATION tab at the top of this page if you need to understand how Christ can be your personal Savior.  (Be sure to encourage our readers with a post of your testimony!)


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In a Flash

Summer, one of my favorite seasons, is almost here!  Already it is hot enough to be summer; today the temperature climbed into the upper 80s, but that’s a good thing because I like to stretch summer out as long as possible.  When the hot days come early and linger well past the official end date on the calendar, I consider ALL those days SUMMER.  But even when I do that – milk out a few extra days or weeks, summer is still just too short.  Always, it seems, I am left wondering, “What happened?  Where did it go?  I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to!”  For example, last year, we never made it to the ocean.  Not even once.

This summer will be different, or so I have promised myself.  I am making plans – plans that include time at the ocean, time walking on the beach, time sailing, time fishing, time watching the dolphins, time eating freshly caught seafood and time hot air ballooning!  Yes, summer seems to come and go in a flash, but I have a plan to milk everything out of it that I can.

Life comes and goes in a flash, too!  Never thought I would say that.  Remember being a child and waiting for your birthday?  Or Christmas?  Or recess?  Or the last day of school?  Time drug.  Time crawled.  Time slept.  My mother used to tell me to just wait, though.  She said, “When you get older, time will fly.”  “Just get to be 30 years old,” she said, “and you will see the years coming in multiples of five, possibly ten.”  She was right.  You go to bed one night and you’re 29, but you wake up 40.  You roll over for another snooze, and you wake up 50.  After 50?  Well, I won’t depress you “young’uns,” and those of you who are over 50?  Well, you already know.

The funny thing, though, is that we make plans for summer, and for Christmas, and birthdays and even for recess – who we will play with, what games we will play, which boys we want to walk past, which girls we will talk to…   But are you making plans for the most important time?  Where you will spend eternity!  Are you planning to go to Heaven?  If you answer, “Yes,” what exactly is your plan?  If it isn’t relying on Christ alone, you need another plan.  Works, good looks and being nice aren’t enough.  John 6:44 (NIV) teaches that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day,”  and John 14:6 (NIV) makes it clear that Jesus is “the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through” Him.

Even our best laid plans for the beach may go awry.  Life happens.  Things come up.  Plans have to change.  But we can have every confidence in God and the plan that He has laid for our salvation.  Instead of trusting our goodness and crossing our fingers and hoping we go to Heaven, we can trust Jesus and His goodness because He alone is God’s way of salvation.  When we place absolute faith and trust in Him, turn from our sinful way and follow Him, we know that we will live with Him in Heaven.  And not just for a summer.  Forever!

Now while some Christians would disagree, as I read and understand the Scriptures especially the teaching of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:8, at death we immediately – in a flash – enter the presence of the Lord.  Paul led a life full of danger, and he knew that at any moment his life on earth could end. But he faced death with hope that we can share: “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord”  He further declared, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23).

One last thought.  Summer is always best when shared – with family, friends, special loves.  I’m thinking Heaven will be extra special when shared, so don’t just plan on going alone.  Plan for others to meet you there.

THIS WEEK share the Gospel (click the tab above to visit our Salvation page) with others – friends, family members, absolute strangers!  Let’s plan for a heavenly crowd!


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A Million Miracles

Since my second retirement, I’d become addicted to daytime television.  Not the trashy, mindless, dribble (though I believe you have to keep it ALL in balance –  see an earlier post confession – Television 8, Prayer 1), but rather I try to watch what I believe will teach, help, inspire and grow.  Such is my justification for my near addiction to the daytime television show, The Doctors.

Daily I am amazed by the miracles of life – not of the individual doctors, though I am in awe of the knowledge, skills and wisdom that God has imparted to them.  But it is the miracle of the human body that most astonishes.  If we would stop and consider, likely we witness millions of miracles on a daily basis.  Just think about the miracle of conception – a sperm and an egg uniting then dividing to become a human being.  Think about the miracle of birth.  I once heard a neurologist share a presentation on all the ways and all the junctures at which “something” could go wrong from conception to birth.  He said it was a miracle that anyone was born alive much less born with a whole and healthy body and mind.

Burn yourself and watch the body heal.  I’ve been very cooking challenged lately and bear the scars of burns to prove it.  A seemingly small and innocent burn on my hand blistered, festered, oozed and ached.  But after a few weeks, it has healed – smooth to the touch and pain free.  Though discoloration remains that, too, is fading with each passing day.  Break a bone, cut a gash, stretch a tendon.  The body has a whole unique system for dispatching white cells, regenerating red cells and doing tons of other things that I couldn’t begin to understand much less explain.

How about surgery?  I’ve had a few different procedures.  Imagine someone cutting you – not just a nick at the surface but deeply through layers and layers of skin and tissue then playing around with some of your organs, cutting things away, “lasering” and “lanceting” and cauterizing things and then STAPLING (who thought that up?!) you back together perhaps adding a few needle and thread stitches along the way.  And after all that you’d think you’d have to lie in bed not just for days or weeks, but months, possibly years!  But if you’ve had surgery, you know they get you up and out of bed walking – sometimes within hours of your procedure. If that’s not a miracle – what is?!!!!

Surgery or no surgery, that your heart beats, that your eyes see, that your ears hear, that your brain interprets the sights and sounds, that you walk, that you think, that you speak – those are miracles!

Today I watched a new version of The Ten Commandments – not the Charlton Heston version that I grew up watching, but a much less Hollywood version. I happened to flip the channel just at the point when the newly fleed from Egypt Israelites were complaining about not having enough food to eat.  Grumbling, they actually said they might as well have stayed in Egypt and died (Numbers 14:2 NIV).  In Egypt they declared, they sat around pots of meat and ate all the food they wanted (Exodus 16:3 NIV).  And when God GAVE them manna, they detested it and called it miserable (Numbers 21:5 NIV).  At this point in the movie, I had very unholy thoughts.  I actually telephoned my sister to tell her about the movie and my thoughts declaring that I would have told the Israelites to just take their little ungrateful, manna detesting hips back to Egypt then.  That’s why I’m not Moses!  (I have since repented.)

There are miracles all around us all the time!  Yet, we find so much to complain about.  God evidenced great patience with the Israelites, and thankfully, He does with us as well (me included).

THIS WEEK as many of us celebrate the Easter season, pause and reflect on the million miracles that God performs daily in our lives including the gifts of grace, mercy and salvation and the “Egypts” He has delivered you from.  Repent of your grumblings, and recommit your life to His service.  If you do not currently have a personal relationship with Christ, there is no better time.  Please click the SALVATION tab above to learn how you can invite Jesus into your life as your Savior and witness firsthand the miracle of Salvation.


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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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Tis the Season

I love Christmas!

It really is a special time of year.  Already I have watched several of my favorite childhood movies – It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Holiday Inn.  I’ve also joined a few celebrations and parades. As for shopping, I finished that in September.  I’ve put the wreathes on the doors –front and back. That’s pretty much all the decorating we do because we always travel, but I’ve perused my cookbooks and planned to bake some goodies while at our host’s home.  And I am looking forward to our church’s annual Christmas drama.  This year’s performance is entitled When Hope Comes Down and is announced with a subtitle – Come Experience the Hope of the Season!  Our church also offers a Carols and Communion by Candlelight service on Christmas Eve.  Since we will be traveling, I’ve searched the website and consulted friends to find a similar worship opportunity for us in our destination city.  Now, if only we had a little snow, but that is doubtful since we are traveling to a MUCH warmer climate.

The movies, decorations, treats and presents are all wonderful, and snow would be awesome.  But none of those things are what Christmas is about!

Christmas is a time of God showing His great love for us and His call for us to love others.  Just look at the Christmas Story!  No, not Ralphie shooting his eye out with his BB gun, but the second chapters of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew

Luke 2:4-16 (NIV)

“4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,     and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”

Matthew 2:11 (NIV)

“11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to be born of a virgin in lowly Bethlehem. His birth brought great joy and great hope. His birth was much anticipated – not just by His parents. Angels, shepherds and wise men all knew this was no ordinary birth and no ordinary baby. Hundreds of years before prophets had told of this birth and this baby.

Jesus was born so that one day He could die on the cross paying the price for our sin. It is His birth and death that brought the gift of salvation to us. The Bible tells us that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). Without Jesus, we would die in our sins, but loving us, God sent the great gift of love – Baby Jesus.

But Christmas is not just about God showing His love for us by sending Jesus; it is also about His call for us to love others. God’s love is a gift to us, but we must release it to others. How? Through words and actions.

Understand that this season of joy is not a happy time for some – those stressed by not having money for bills much less presents or turkey dinners, those who grieve their loved ones who are not present to share the season with them, those who feel alone and lonely.   Tis the season for us to release the love that God has given us.

This week, read the Christmas stories in Luke and Matthew. Pray and ask the Lord to guide you during this season to real and practical acts of love for someone who really needs a gesture of God’s love. Thank Him for how He blesses you and positions you to bless others!

A TREAT:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ecIXyYRnoo