FULLY ALIVE!

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


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A God Break

In my state, North Carolina, the Wage and Hour Act does not require mandatory rest or meal breaks for employees over the age of 16.  Additionally, there is no law requiring employers to give smoking breaks.

However, most wage and hour employers offer such.

Not once, but at least a couple of times during the day if an individual works eight or more hours.  And most do not require employees to “clock out” or “go off the clock” for these breaks.  Bottom line – most employers give their employees breaks and pay them to take them!

Why?  Because most companies realize that for one to do his or her best work, he/she needs periodic mental and physical breaks – even if just for a few minutes.  The same is true for stressful and salaried jobs.  Long-distance truck drivers must document their breaks.  Likewise airline pilots and air traffic control employees.  Surgeons’ work hours versus off-work hours are routinely monitored.

But some of us are “Energizer Bunnies” going from sun up to sun down 24-7.

Not good!

Research shows that breaks are critical not only to our productivity but also to our health and our happiness.

Scripture shows breaks are critical to our spiritual health and growth!  That is if we take a God Break!

Look at the example of Jesus:

“In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there” (Mark 1:35 NASB).

“After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone” (Matthew 14:23 NASB).

“But Jesus Himself would often slip away…and pray” (Luke 5:16 NASB).

Habitually.

And this is a practice that needs to become habit for us, too.

If we want to fulfill God’s vision for our lives, we must continually hear from God. If we want to be more like Jesus, we must spend time with Him.  If we want to be all that God calls us to be, we must feed regularly at His table.

In the book named after him, The Prophet Habakkuk wrote (v2:1 NLT), “I will climb into my watchtower ….” meaning that he would go to a place away from distractions, away from people, away from busyness, away from his own thoughts.  And this is what we need to do – find a quiet place away from the distractions of life and take a God Break.

This Week:  Begin making it a habit to press the pause button and take a God Break.  Psalm 46:10 teaches, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Take time to “be still” before God and alone with God.  Use this time to align your heart and mind back to God – to His Word and to His plan for you.  You may need to begin with a reminder –  a sticky note on your bathroom mirror, an alarm on your cell phone, a note penciled in your day planner.  Remember, it doesn’t have to be a LONG break, but it needs to be an intentional, focused and private break – just between the two of you..


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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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Launch Out Into the Deep

Summer has ended and fall has truly begun – not just on the calendar, but in the weather.  We’ve had some really cool nights and mornings.  I love the change in the seasons, especially between summer and fall.  But I’m a little sad, too.  This summer seemed to fly, and it is the first summer in years that we did not get to the beach.  Once.  Never.  Not even a drive by.

I am really fortunate to live about an hour’s drive from the ocean – the real beach!  Ponds are nice.  Lakes are lovely.  But nothing compares to the ocean.  Waves lapping.  Squishy sand between your toes.  Seashells and Seagulls.  Sometimes we’ve driven to the beach just for a walk along the shore.  With sandals in hand we let the waves wash over our feet, and we occasionally stoop to pick up shells.

That’s a good day – walking hand-in-hand with someone you love along the water’s edge.  But to really enjoy (and experience) the ocean, you have to go beyond the shore.

The same is true with life.  The same is true in ministry.  We have to go beyond the shore.

“And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.  Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” (Luke 5:1-4 KJV)

Obediently, but possibly with some hesitancy, Simon launched out.  Isn’t this His command for us, too? Aren’t we to launch out into the deep doing what our Lord commands? No excuses. No hanging around the periphery? No sticking with the familiar and the comfortable. No waiting for something to wash up onshore.

Faith can bring the most unexpected of miracles. Verses 6 and 7 of Luke 5 (KJV) tells us that when Simon and his men had done what was commanded, “they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.”

Faith is about action. We can say that we have faith, but faith without works is dead (James 2:20 KJV). Simon could have responded to the Master, “Thank you for letting us know that there are fish in the lake. Wow, we were wondering since we didn’t catch any. Maybe we’ll go out tomorrow night.”

Faith requires us to yield – our thinking, our possessions, ourselves. Our Lord’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and neither are His ways our ways. (Isaiah 55:8) We must trust His commands and be quick to obey them.

As Alvin Slaughter sings, “…by faith we must climb into the boat, and follow His command” letting our faith take us somewhere that we’ve never been before. “Launch out, Launch out into the deep.”

Launch Out (by Alvin Slaughter)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVhSy8Ql6AQ

“Sometimes we hold on a little longer than we should   Letting go can be hard but it’s sometimes for our good   The fear of what’s ahead sometimes makes us fall behind.  We can see the times are changing but pretend that we’re so blind   You’ll never really know just what the future holds   But we know God holds us in His hand.   So by faith we must climb into the boat; And follow His command.  

CHORUS   Launch out into the deep. Let your faith take you somewhere that you’ve never been before.  Launch out into the deep. Let your faith make you fly. Let your faith make you soar.  Launch out, Launch out into the deep.”


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TGIF!

“Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”  Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing…” (Luke 5:1-5a, NASB)

The last thing fishermen do is wash the nets and pack them up, and that is what Simon and the others were doing. It had been a long night. They had worked hard. And caught nothing!

Are you right there with them? Been a long day? A long week? Are you glad that it’s finally Friday? Feel like washing the nets, packing them up and heading home – or somewhere other than where you are? So did the disciples. But over walks Jesus and tells them to put out into the deep and let their nets down for a catch. Excuse me? Isn’t this omniscient Jesus who already knows that they’ve been at it all night? Doesn’t He see them washing the nets? Surely He understands the routine – washing the nets means we are quitting?

Yep, that’s Jesus. He waits until we get to the end – not of the rope, but of ourselves. Because as long as we believe that we are in control and that we can handle things, we don’t look to Him. We don’t listen to Him. We don’t seek Him. We don’t follow Him.

Let’s look back at the Scriptures. Luke 5:5-6 (NASB) says, “Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break.” How did the disciples go from packing the nets to breaking the nets with a heavy catch? Immediate surrender (of their own thinking), immediate acknowledgement (of the command) and immediate obedience (to Jesus). Jesus said, “Put out…and let down your nets.” Simon said, “I will do as You say.”

If things don’t seem to be working for you, perhaps it’s past time for you to surrender your thinking and look to Jesus. One more thing – look ahead at Verse 11 of this same text. “When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.”

TGIF! Thank Goodness I Follow!