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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Loose Lips

“Once upon a time, there was a village called Smoldering Pines.  Smoldering Pines… lay at the foot of the great sleeping volcano, Mt. Discordia.  Spoken words in Smoldering Pines take on a physical form.  Whenever people talk, their words appear in the air and then fall haphazardly to the ground.  Homeowners then rake their discarded words into piles at the edge of their property.  Over time, these piles…become fences.  Thoughts, like words, can become visible, too.  Granted the town does like dangerously close to a volcano.  But this isn’t a concern for the residents.  After all, Mt. Discordia has been dormant for hundreds of years.”

Bet you can guess the rest of David Hutchens’ story.  Listening to the Volcano is a marvelously funny yet thought-provoking fable about many things including the power of our words.

Research says that women speak about 20,000 words a day – some 13,000 more than the average man.  That alone ought to caution us because Proverbs 10:19 (ESV) says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”   Admittedly, I have to agree.  Somewhere among that many words we are bound to find some that would have best been kept behind the teeth.

In Hutchens’ fable, spoken words actually materialize into wooden placards and fall to the ground.  They mound up into piles and form fences around the speaker.  Likewise their thoughts.  Guess what?  In reality our words and thoughts form fences, too.  We do not see them as readily as in Listening to the Volcano, but it might be a good thing if we did because they would be a very visible reminder to us.  How powerful if we actually saw that hateful thought, that sarcastic word, that vengeful or vindictive contemplation and that spiteful, spirit-killing word – materialized and lying right before us at our feet.  I can’t help but believe we might have some pause before speaking again and that we might be more obedient to 2 Corinthians 2:5 and actually take captive our thoughts.

As wedding presents my maternal grandmother gave me gifts of her wisdom.  One tidbit I remember is, “Choose your words very carefully.  All the “I’m sorries” in the world cannot take them back.  Even if your husband tells you he forgives you, he will remember what you said.”  That was good advice for me as a newlywed, and it is good advice for anyone.   We can say we’re sorry, that we didn’t mean it or that we weren’t thinking.  We can offer a ton of other excuses about not feeling well, misunderstanding and being confused.  But once a word is spoken, it’s out there, and you cannot take it back.  No one can ever misunderstand a word not spoken!  Proverbs 21:23 (ESV) says, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”  Another way to think about it might be as my grandmother put it.  “The Lord gave you two ears and one mouth; that ought to tell you something!”  Practice listening and speaking proportionately.

Sometimes we feel pressured to speak.  Someone angers us, falsely accuses us, slanders us.  This is one that I have struggled with.  As a retired school administrator, I’ve had more than my fair share of false accusations – some, stretches of the truth; others, just out right lies.  Proverbs 26:4 (ESV) teaches us, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself,” but I had a friend that summarized this lesson with his own adage, “When you argue with a fool, you become the fool.”  Ecclesiastes 5:6a (ESV) says, “Let not your mouth lead you into sin,” and Proverbs 17:27 (ESV) adds, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”  Proverbs 21:23 (ESV) goes further, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”  When I taught Junior High School (where there were a lot of hot, angry, teenage tongues) I posted an African proverb on one of my bulletin boards, “Must you turn around and look at every dog that barks at you?”  It was a good reminder for my students to ignore the lies, accusations and gossip their classmates spread.  More than 25 years later, that is still good advice.

Finally, we sometimes get caught up in conversations and dialogue because we are around others who talk too much.  I am convinced that a loose tongue can be caught – something like a cold or the flu!   Do you work with colleagues who tell “off color” jokes?  Do you have family members that curse like sailors or girlfriends that should be on gossip television?  Perhaps you have friends that are super negative – every spoken word is a complaint or a put down; they see (and point out) only what is wrong; their throats are open graves and their mouths are full of curses and bitterness (Romans 3:13-14 ESV).  We do not have to be unfriendly, and we need never act superior to others, but 2 Timothy 2:16 (ESV) teaches us to “Avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.”   You need only remember this childhood ditty, “Loose lips, sink ships.”  They will sink you, too.  When we dwell in the presence of these individuals, it is often not long before we sink to their level – we repeat the jokes, begin cursing and spread the gossip.

Words are powerful. Consider the following Scriptures understanding that there are at least a dozen more found in the pages of the Bible.  God’s word is never in vain. It always achieves its purpose (Isaiah 55:11).  Surely there is purpose in so many Scriptures addressing our tongues and our words.

“Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18, ESV) 

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21, ESV) 

“Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.”  (Proverbs 17:9, ESV)

“By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”   (Matthew 12:37, ESV) 

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”  (Proverbs 29:20, ESV) 

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  (Ephesians 4:39, ESV)

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.”  (Matthew 15:18, ESV)

THIS WEEK, observe your speech and consider your words.  Are you talking more than listening?  Do your words heal or thrust as a sword?    When you speak, are you building up or tearing down?  What do your words reveal about your heart?

Remember, “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.”  (Matthew 12:36, ESV)  Don’t you want to stand before our Lord knowing your words restored, built up and made better?


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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