FULLY ALIVE!

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


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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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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/.