FULLY ALIVE!

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


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Seed Snatcher

In the Parable of the Sower, we read:

“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”  (Matthew 13:1-9 ESV)

This, perhaps more so than others, seems to be a simple parable.  The Sower, Christ Jesus, scatters His seed generously.  The seed falls upon different terrains – rocks, thorny soil, pathways and good soil.  The seed falling among rocks, thorns and pathways, as one might imagine, does not grow and mature.  Rather it is eaten by birds, choked by thorns or withered as the sun beats upon the rocks.

As simple as this parable seems, there are MANY deep, meaningful and relevant lessons.  Let’s look at two – first the Sower and then the Seed Snatcher!

Most sermons that I’ve heard that were based on this parable seem to emphasize the soil – the bad, the thorny and the good.  But this is not the Parable of the Soil.  The parable focuses on the Sower, Jesus.  It is Jesus who is sowing His seed, the Word of God.  As He is sowing, the seed falls seemingly everywhere – where birds feed, on rocks, among thorns and, finally, on good soil.  It seems that a quarter of the seed falls in a good place while three quarters falls in places where it will not thrive and grow.

I recently seeded my lawn for the second time!  I purchased one of those hand-held sowers.  You pour in the seed, turn the crank and the seed flies out the bottom.  You can adjust a knob to determine how much seed is sown.  The instructions say that the sower should walk in straight lines across the lawn and then walk a second path of straight lines that run perpendicular to the first.  Well, this would all be well and good for the person who has a big (think football field) lawn to seed.  But my lawn is tiny.  And it has beds of shrubbery.  It is also bordered by curbing and a street as well as a pea graveled driveway.  I don’t want seed in the beds and in the driveway.  I’d just have to pull that grass later or spray it with vinegar to kill it.  I also don’t want to seed the curb and the street.  So I determined that a better method for me would be to seed by hand.  That way I could be very careful about where my expensive, cool-weather, nutrient-rich seed fell.  It would fall exactly where I wanted it to – where I wanted grass to grow!

So why does Jesus, the Sower, scatter His seed so broadly and, seemingly, so mindlessly?  Doesn’t He know that seed won’t grow on rocks and among thorns?

Well, here’s what Jesus knows.  “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick” (Luke 5:31 NIV).  Jesus died upon the cross to save sinners.  His purpose was to extend salvation to all.  There are those who may dwell in thorny places and those who think their lives are “on the rocks;” they need to hear the Gospel, too.  They need salvation.  Romans 10:14 (ESV) poses three powerful questions – “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

We are to sow God’s seed, spread His truths, share His word and extend His hope to all.

Even though I’ve been careful sowing my seed by hand, there are still some bare spots in my yard.  What happened?  Lots of things – some of that seed didn’t get enough water, some fell on spots of thatch, my neighbor’s dog watered some for me as did my other neighbor’s cats and some of that seed – that good seed on good soil – was eaten by the birds.  I know; I saw them!  Even though I buy food for the birds and maintain two well-stocked bird feeders, some prefer to eat my grass seed.  Patches of my yard were invaded by seed snatchers!  They ate the seed before it could take root.

Satan waits and watches to snatch good seed, too.

Before the truths can take root in hearts, Satan snatches it.

Satan knows that seed has life in it.  He knows that seed has power.  He knows that seed is capable of producing more.

What, then, are the lessons?

First as children of God we are called to sow in faith His seed trusting that He will bring about a harvest.  It is not our decision to determine who is worthy to hear the truth.  Scripture teaches us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23 ESV). All need to hear.  All need to be prayed for – that hearts will be softened to receive the good seed.

Secondly, we are also to sow, water, nourish and protect the seed in our own lives knowing that the Seed Snatcher is watching for an opportunity to “steal, kill and destroy” us and our seed (John 10:10 ESV).

THIS WEEK as Matthew 13:9 says, “He who has ears, let him hear.”  Examine your heart.  Is it hardened?  Thorny?  Rocky?  Or has the world worn a path bare – too much television, too much time spent with the wrong company, too many wrong substances imbibed…?  Examine the soil of your heart.  Take action to improve its condition, to ready it to receive seed.

If seed has been sown and is growing, continually examine it and cultivate it for a good harvest!


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What’s In a Name

This weekend I joined my sweetie at his family’s reunion.  It was something awesome and beautiful to behold – more than 300 family members being reunited or meeting for the first time; sharing stories, laughs and love and, of course (because we are in the South), engaging in this reminiscing over a scrumptious meal.  I especially enjoyed the family photos and the history that was documented from the early 1800s until present day.  The research included a history of the family name which, in this case was Irish and Korean!,

What’s in a name?  Shakespeare’s Juliet declared that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  Juliet was in love with Romeo, yet he bore the name of a rival family, Montague.  Juliet would argue that the name of a thing, or in this case a person, mattered not and did not affect who are what they really were.

But names are powerful.

Everyone recognizes himself or herself by name – family, given, nickname…  The power of a name and its value has long been immortalized in prose, poetry, history and religious ceremony. Some families devote much thought to the naming of a new baby.  Others, I fear, don’t spend enough, but that’s a personal pet peeve and, perhaps, another blog post.  Names are enduring and there are those, like the Kabalarians, who believe that the quality of one’s mind—thoughts, desires, opinions, likes, dislikes, reactions—can be measured by the linking of the most personal form of language, one’s name, to mathematics.  They suggest that when language is used to attach a name to someone this creates the basis of mind, from which all thoughts and experiences, strengths and weaknesses flow.

Scripture, too, suggests that names are powerful and important often having considerable influence on the development of that child’s character.  Names were not only descriptive but at times prophetic.  As an example, the name of the patriarch Jacob, or Ya’akov, means “usurper”; it describes both how he tried to usurp his brother Esau’s birth from the womb by grabbing his heel during birth (Ya’akov in fact derives from ekev, “heel”) and how he ultimately usurped Esau as the heir of their father, Isaac, and grandfather Abraham and stole Esau’s birthright. Similarly, the name of the prophet Samuel, or Shemu’el, means (according to some scholars) “the one about whom God heard me,” referring to his previously barren mother’s prayer for a child.  There are times, too, when special meaning was also attached to the name.  Consider Nabal, whose name means “fool.”  Abigail explains to her husband David in 1 Samuel 25:25, “For as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him.”

The most powerful name?  The name of the Lord!  Psalm 148:13 tells us to praise the name of the Lord; for His name alone is Excellent, and Proverbs 18:10 says His Name is a strong tower.  We may make the mistake of thinking God to be an “it” or a “thing” to which we pray, but He is Our Father, Our Master, Our Lord, Our Shepherd, Our Righteousness, Our Everlasting God, Our King and Our Savior.

In Luke 11:1, one of Jesus’s disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray.  Obliging this request, Jesus responded, “When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”  Wikipedia says that to hallow a thing is to make it holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate.” To hallow the name of God is to regard Him with complete devotion and loving admiration.  How do we do this? Consider, God knows us by our name.

Isaiah 43:1  “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

John 10:14-15  “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Jeremiah 1:5  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

John 10:3  “To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. ”

Essential to our ability to glorify God – to Hallow His Name – is having knowledge of God and knowing Him personally in view of that knowledge.  God knows us by our name.  Shouldn’t we know Him by His?

THIS WEEK begin studying the Names of God.  A good first step might be learning then praying specific names and attributes of God.  One resource might be found at http://www.navigators.org/Tools/Newsletters/Featured%20Newsletters/Disciple-%20Monthly/September%202014/September%202014/30%20Days%20of%20Praying%20the%20Names%20and%20Attributes%20of%20God.


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For the Birds

Last fall my mother gave me a bird feeder – one of the beautiful, hand crafted ones that had to be erected on a post.  For my birthday, my sweetie had it erected, and I have enjoyed it every day since.  I had him position it outside one of the kitchen windows so that I could watch while doing dishes (might be why I see it EVERY day – smile) and while eating breakfast and dinner (two times I most often sit at the kitchen table).

I’ve spent hours watching the birds.  Cardinals, Blue Jays, Chickadees, Wrens, Robins, Sparrows, Goldfinches, Titmice,  Thrushes, Eastern Bluebirds, Blackbirds, Wood Peckers and Mourning Doves.  And those are just the ones that I recognize!  Now, in case you are wondering, yes, I feed them a variety of seeds and nuts which is why I have so many feathered visitors.  Over time I have noticed the character and habits of some of the frequent visitors.  I thought the Blue Jays and Cardinals were aggressive until those Rusty Blackbirds and Brewer’s Blackbirds came along.  They are larger, louder and quickly take over the feeder – so much so that I’ve since purchased another smaller feeder that I hung from the limb of a tree in my backyard.

Yes, I’ve noticed greedy birds, aggressive birds and persistent birds. But after days and days of watching – morning, night and early evenings, I’ve never seen a bird having a nervous breakdown.  A panic attack.  A pity party.  A worry session.  Even when they have come and found the feeder almost empty because Momma Bird Debbie didn’t refill it yet, they peck at the scraps, fly away and return later – still singing.

What’s my point?  Matthew 6:26 (KJV) tells us to, “Behold the fowls of the air…”  In other words, Stop.  Look.  Learn from the birds.  The passage continues, “…for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.”  They don’t plant, so they don’t harvest.  The Message translation describes the birds as “free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God.”  And while the King James translation of this passage ends with a question – “Are ye not much better than they?” The Message translation concludes with a powerful declarative statement – “And you count far more to Him than birds.”

Matthew Henry’s commentary on this Scripture reads, “There is scarcely any sin against which our Lord Jesus more warns his disciples, than disquieting, distracting, distrustful cares about the things of this life” while Barnes’ Notes tells us to, “Put confidence, then, in that Universal Parent that feeds all the fowls of the air, and do not fear but that He will also supply your needs.”

If we read ahead in Matthew, we find two verses, 33 and 34, that conclude this section of the Scriptures, and we are wise to read them in conjunction with verse 6 for they provide the closure to verse six’s lesson:

            33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

            34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day

is the evil thereof.

Let’s go back to Matthew Henry for the clarification. “Thoughtfulness for our souls is the best cure of thoughtfulness for the world.”

Bottom line, our worries about the world – hair, clothes, shoes, house, vehicles, job titles, degrees, relationships… – all those things that we believe define us and all those things that we mistakenly label as NEEDS rather than WANTS, do us no good.  Those worries only cause us stress and rob us of peace and joy!  And here are two bonus lessons for you.  Lesson 1:  The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10, NIV).  Lesson 2:  Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10, NIV).  And guess what he wants most?  Your joy!  Not your stuff!  He wants your joy because he knows that that is your strength!

I would say that worrying about the world is “for the birds,” but that’s not even true.  Behold.  Look.  Learn from them.  You count far more to our Lord than the birds.  Seek Him and His Kingdom.  “That’s a good way to starve,” you say.  No, that’s the best, the right, the only way to surthrive this world!  Seek Him first and all “the other” will be added!

THIS WEEK BEHOLD the birds.  Look.  Learn from them.  Act on your new learning!