FULLY ALIVE!

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


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Time to Fret…NOT!

According to the National Cancer Institute, “in 2016, an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 595,690 people will die from the disease. The number of new cancer cases will rise to 22 million within the next two decades.” Cancer is no respecter of persons.  “In 2014, an estimated 15,780 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 were diagnosed with cancer and 1,960 died of the disease.”

The New York Times reports that “for three quarters in a row, the growth rate of the economy has hovered around a mere 1 percent. In the last quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016, the economy expanded at feeble annual rates of 0.9 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively. The initial reading for the second quarter of this year, released on Friday, was a disappointing 1.2 percent.”  Profit Confidential writes that there are “more than enough indicators to suggest the US economy will come under serious pressure in 2016.” Wages are falling, US companies increasingly rely on foreign sales, the global economy is anemic and roughly one third of American adults have no emergency savings; about half of Americans could only cover their living expenses for about 90 days which means that if they are not already at their breaking point, they’re only about three months away.

Headlines tell us that the distance “overseas” is not as far as it used to be.  Our eyes are on Russia, China and North Korea.  You cannot flip one page of the papers without noticing alarming terrorist activity in Iraq and Syria and signs of expansion that indicate that terrorism may present on US soil in ways beyond even the horrors that we have already experienced.

Economy in Crisis reminds us that we “import tons of food from third world countries that have much lower standards than we do when it comes to food safety.”  According to their reports, we get seafood from polluted Vietnamese waters and unsafe meats from China.  Add to that the currently unknown (or at least unshared) risks of genetically modified foods and the underfunded, overworked FDA that has resources to inspect only 1-2 percent of food imports.  We cannot be sure of what we are eating much less of the safety of what we are eating.

And then, there is the recent US presidential election.  I am actually less concerned about the final outcome and more worried about what the process from campaign to election says about our country – the polarization, the changing values, the mudslinging, the morality (or lack of) of our leaders and would-be leaders, the violence, the fact that “we” have not overcome but rather are just as divided across race and ethnicity lines as ever.

Time to fret.

Not!

We are commanded in Psalm 37 to fret not.  Specifically, we are told not to fret the evildoers (verse 1) and not to fret the wicked who prosper (verse 7). If we boil it down to the core truth, those are the two things that cause us to fret the most – the evildoers and the appearance that the evildoers are growing, prospering, winning.

Look to 1 John 5:4-5 (ESV) and be reminded, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Fret? No. Believe? Yes!

Appearances can be deceiving and, if our eyes are upon the world rather than upon the Creator of this world, we will fret. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3, ESV); “his eyes are on the ways of a man, and he sees all his steps” (Job 34:21), and our eyes are to be on Him. Hebrews 12:2a instructs us to keep our eyes on Jesus.

Fret? No!

Believe? Yes!

Trust? Yes!

Rest? Yes!

 


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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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Risk or Trivial Pursuit?

Forrest Gump said life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.

Actually we apply a lot of metaphors to this journey called life. Oops, there was one right there! Perhaps you’ve compared life to riding an elevator. It has a lot of ups and downs and someone is always pushing your buttons. Sometimes you get the shaft, but what really gets you are the jerks. Or maybe for you, life is like cooking. It all depends on what you add and how you mix it. Sometimes you follow the recipe; at other times you just throw something together. Or maybe one of these best suits you:

Life is like a novel. You are the author and every day is a new page.

Life is like photography. We develop from negatives.

Life is like money. You can spend it any way you wish, but you only spend it once.

Life is like an onion. You peel off layer after layer and sometimes you weep.

Life is like a pencil. Sometimes you are sharpened. Sometimes you correct your mistakes. Always you leave a mark.

I think life is often like a game or at least that is how we play it. Something like Trivial Pursuit. We drift from day to day without a plan and without purpose, and we focus a lot of energy on things that don’t really matter. Like what we wear. Or what we drive. Or where we live. And what people say about us. All of these are trivial. Our focus should be what is important to God – what matters to Him.

Consider Psalm 50:7-15 (MSG), Scripture that you likely don’t read every day:

“Are you listening, dear people? I’m getting ready to speak; Israel, I’m about ready to bring you to trial. This is God, your God, speaking to you. I don’t find fault with your acts of worship, the frequent burnt sacrifices you offer. But why should I want your blue-ribbon bull,  or more and more goats from your herds? Every creature in the forest is mine,  the wild animals on all the mountains. I know every mountain bird by name; the scampering field mice are my friends. If I get hungry, do you think I’d tell you?  All creation and its bounty are mine. Do you think I feast on venison? or drink draughts of goats’ blood? Spread for me a banquet of praise,  serve High God a feast of kept promises, And call for help when you’re in trouble—  I’ll help you, and you’ll honor me.”

Did you get it?

He said, “This is God. I’m telling you what matters to me, and it’s not your religion, and show and rules even though you are following the laws and traditions of sacrifice.” For us today He might say, “I could care less about your fancy sanctuaries and what you wear to church and all those programs you have and rules you have made up. All of that is trivial.”

What God wants is faithfulness, obedience, full trust in Him, kept promises and praise, lots of praise, genuine praise, a “banquet of praise.”

Are you serious? Doesn’t God realize that we need those rules and procedures, rituals and hierarchies?

No, He doesn’t.

He wants you, challenges you, calls for you to step away from all of that and to risk simply loving, following and praising Him. And not just on Sunday. Every day. Every moment. He wants you to love Him with “all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind…” (Luke 10:27, NIV)

I think He’d rather you play a game of Risk instead of Trivial Pursuit.

Your move.