FULLY ALIVE!

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


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Testing, Testing

It’s a balmy 68 degrees outside!  What a wonderful mid-February surprise and treat.  The forecast for the end of the week announces more February-like temperatures like a Thursday high of 36 degrees.  But right now at 4:30 in the afternoon, it’s 68 glorious degrees.

And I am in the house!  Stuck creating a test that my students have to take Tuesday.  I need to get it posted on Blackboard, so today is the day to create that test.

With it being 68 degrees outside and the sun shining through the window and me on my laptop with notes spread around me as I create a test, you can best believe my mind has REALLY been tossing about the question of why test?  Not just my students and not other school students, but us.  Why does God test our faith?

God tested the faith of the ancient Israelites by allowing them to experience hard times in the wilderness, “in order to know what was in your heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2).  And He likewise tests us.

We think we know what is in our heart.  We think we know how strong we are.  We think we have a steadfast, immovable, abounding faith.  But it is only in times of testing that we move beyond just thinking and come to KNOW.  God does not test us because HE doesn’t know; He tests us because we don’t know.

David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23)

Now, my students surely did not ask for Tuesday’s test.  As a matter of fact, they have an option to complete another assignment and NOT take the test.  A few have informed me that they are choosing this option.  Like them, we would sometimes like to opt out of the test, to have a choice to maybe complete another assignment.  But like the Psalmist, we should cry out to God asking Him to test us and to show us now – in the good times, in the calm times, in the easy times what is in our hearts – our places of weakness.

When I score my students’ tests, I spend even more time writing feedback so that they know and understand exactly why they received the grade they did.  I want them to understand any shortcomings in their responses.  THAT is how they learn and how they grow, especially on the interim assessments because THE test is coming – the Final Exam.

We have a Final Exam coming too!  My students can look at the Course Syllabus and see the exact date and time of their exam, but we do not know when the end will come.  My students have a window of time in which to study and prepare.  They may not study every day, but they understand the finite calendar before them.

We do not know how long we have to prepare, so TODAY is the best time for us to prepare.  TODAY is the day for us to seek God and to petition His testing so that we will know, understand and grow.

THIS WEEK cry out to God.

(1)  Ask Him to search you, to know your heart, to test you and to show you your weaknesses.  Be open to and welcome the knowledge of any shortcomings He shows you. (James 1:2, 4).  Then ask Him to help you grow in your trust and faith in Him.

(2)  If you are in the midst of testing – whether it is from God or testing that He has permitted, do not seek another assignment, but ask Him for what is needed for you to go through.  Do not spend time asking Him “why” but rather ask “what.”  What would He have you to know and learn from this testing?  Identify and recruit prayer partners who will commit to praying with and for you during this season.

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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!