This morning I got to take my 9 year old son, Matthew, fishing at Anna Maria Island at a place called the Rod and Reel. It was a nice morning with a slight cool breeze blowing off the water. It’s Spring Break 2016 so everyone and their brother, cousin and bestie was there fishing this one particular morning. We rented a couple of fishing poles and bought 2 dozen shrimp that like to jump out of the bucket they gave us.
We walked around the back of the small older shack that sits on the water, only to find an empty bench where we would sit and fish for the next hour or so. Matthew counted on me to bait his hook and position his pole in the water where he would catch the fish he was after that day. After we sat down and got all settled in, I noticed that nobody was casting their lines out very far. Instead, they were just dropping their lines right down in front of them trying to catch the fish that directly beneath them. I got up and walked around to the place I had rented the poles looking for the guy who sold us the shrimp. He was not around however there was a another guy doing some busy work in the same area. I asked him, “Why isn’t anyone casting their lines out in the water, they are all dropping them straight down”? He replied,”All the fish hide underneath the dock”. He told me to drop the line straight down and try to catch them that way. After all, everyone else was fishing that way.
I went back to the bench and Matthew and I fished for the next hour or so and caught nothing. I just enjoyed spending time with my son fishing. Were we trying to catch something? You bet! So we kept throwing the lines over and over and over. Now something caught my eye at about the had way point I neglected to mention. Many of the people weren’t sitting on the bench anymore fishing, they were laying down on their stomachs, hanging over the edge of the dock and casting their rods underneath the dock. You see, thats where the fish were! I knew that, after all, the guy who works there had told me where to catch the fish.
I began to notice 4 or 5 people sitting around us lying down and fishing. Here’s the funny thing, they began catching fish. One by one, they reeled them in and celebrated catching a fish! They weren’t big fish but that didn’t matter, after all they were catching something. I was faced with a decision, do I make the sacrifice and lay down on my stomach to catch something or sit on my bench and hope for the best.
I wish I could give you a happy ending to the story. I had a choice that morning. I honestly didn’t want to get uncomfortable and lay down on the hard, wooden dock to fish. I wanted to catch a fish, but not sacrifice myself to that point. It felt as though the Lord was speaking to me and saying, “to follow me you will have to make some uncomfortable sacrifices in your life.” It won’t be easy but will certainly be worth it. The ones that chose to lay down and do the uncomfortable, were the ones who got the reward.
God reminds us all the same thing. How bad do you really want it? How much of a sacrifice are you willing me make for Christ? I was challenged this day and reminded that to follow Christ, will require me to get uncomfortable sometimes.
The Reward is always greater than the sacrifice!
It’s something we cannot possibly earn and certainly don’t deserve. If we all got what we deserved, it probably wouldn’t be pretty, at least in my case it wouldn’t. Grace. God’s Grace. His undeserved favor in our lives. Grace is a word that’s thrown around in culture but rarely unpacked. We have a ‘grace’ period in paying our monthly mortgage payment. We say ‘grace’ over our food. When we look into our lives and see what Jesus has done, we start to remember his grace in a whole new way. We fall into a state of thanksgiving and humble thoughts about who and what God has rescued us from. We remember what we used to be, a wretch, who said yes to a God who wants to teach us his grace the rest of our lives. This Holiday season allow God to use you to be a ‘grace giver’. Allow him to use you to be a ‘dispenser’ of his grace. His awesome, powerful, life changing grace. Offer it to those who certainly don’t deserve it, from the world’s viewpoint, and it will glow even brighter. It will take an intentional effort on your part & will more than likely take you by surprise. You will find yourself right in the middle of the moment where you get to be a ‘grace dispenser’. Will you ignore the opportunity or allow the Holy Spirit to work through you? You get to decide in the freewill God gives you. Watch God use you this season to be a ‘grace giver’ and a ‘dispenser’ of his grace. It will bless the person receiving the grace and bless the giver also. His Grace is Amazing……
Groups are where Growth Happens.
In my 19 years as a follower of Christ, I have been involved in larger and smaller churches. I have sat in services of 1000+ and services of 150. While both have their pluses and minuses, one thing they have in common is their inability to connect people in relationships how God has wired us.
You may hear a good sermon, listen to some great worship music but when it comes to truly growing in your relationships with God, others must be involved. Growing in your walk with Christ cannot just be vertical it must be horizontal. This normally happens in a Small group, Life group or Community Group, whatever you decide to call it. It is where people can get real with people and talk about spiritual thoughts in their mind and heart. There are not many places where talking about such things is acceptable but in a small group, talking about God is understood and expected.
The conversation should flow about life in general, but always point back to God. After all, He is the rock of our salvation. He is the main reason we are all getting together, isn’t he? Groups all have different ebb and flow, depending on their leader and culture to which the group is formed. But something happens when people get together in Jesus name, lives begin to be transformed. This is done intentionally and takes time.
Here are 6 things a healthy small group does:
1. Pray. The leader must encourage other group members to have a special, personal time with God daily. They must also pray for ‘one another’. There is nothing more encouraging than knowing you are being prayed for by somebody else.
2. Meet regularly. Weekly is the goal to shoot for. If weekly can’t be done than twice a month can work, but is not the optimum meeting time. A lot of life happens every day, so meeting weekly gives group members a chance to be able to share what God has done and is doing in their lives.
3. Pick relevant material to study/discuss. You won’t hit a home run with every study you do, but you should be close to where people are living life every day in your group. Mix up the topics as well as the method you are choosing for delivery.
4. Making group members feel Valued and Loved. While everybody has a different motive to get involved in a small group, one thing is common, when group members know that you care about them, they will continue to attend group.
5. Plan activities outside of your normal meeting time. Make sure you schedule dates and times just to do life together. Picnic at park, game night, bowling, dinner and movies, you name it; just make sure you do something away from your typical meeting environment.
6. Plan to serve together. A healthy group is not strictly inward focused, but strives towards meeting other people’s needs. When you serve together in the community, it brings a sense of unity to the group that you can only experience by serving others.
These are just a few of the things that will grow your group stronger!