Friday, March 28, 2008

Lets Go Clean Some Fish

I like to fish. Now, I don't go as much as I would like to, but every now and then I get a chance to go. I enjoy it whether I'm fishing from the shore, in a boat, in a big lake, or in a small pond. I'm not sure what it is I like most about fishing, but there are a couple of things that come to mind. First, just the fact that its a relaxing endeavour makes it quite appealing. I love kicking back just taking it easy for a few hours, and feeling a million miles away from all the hustle and bustle of life.

Then there's the challenge of trying to outsmart the fish. Trying this bait, or that bait, this lure or that lure, until finally you hook a few. There have been times I've come home empty handed and I have to admit, fishing is much more fun when you catch some fish.

Of course, when you catch fish, you have to clean them. Now, I'm sure there are those who just love this part, but if you're like me, this is not my favorite thing to do in the fishing process. Its messy, and stinky (although not near as stinky as some of that catfish bait). The point is this, nobody takes off for the lake saying, "I'm going to clean fish." It's just a necessary part of the process when you catch them.

Fishing is a lot like evangelism. As a matter of fact, when Jesus called the fisherman to follow him he told them that he would make them fishers of men. And although we so often make it harder than it is, telling others about the love of God is really a breeze. Like a fisherman, in order to be successful though, we need to study people and their cultures in order to effectively reach them. For instance, catching a bass takes a different technique than catching a catfish, and catching a catfish is quite different than catching trout. In the same way, people are different. There are white collar workers, blue collar workers, urban dwellers, suburbanites, single parents, seniors, teens, widows, etc. The list goes on and on and on. You can't reach all of them using the same method. I'm not saying, use a different message, the message is always - we are sinners and can do nothing to fix it, God so loved us he sent Jesus to die for us in order to fix it, Jesus was resurrected 3 days later, and salvation comes as a result of me believing that and declaring Jesus as Lord. However, there are a million and one ways to present that one message. If we'll sit back for a minute and ask the Holy Spirit what is the best way to reach a certain people group, trust me, the Holy Spirit will download his wisdom into us.

Of course, catching the fish is just the beginning. Don't forget the cleaning part! Once someone is converted, the real work begins. Discipleship is the process of helping someone go from point A to point B then to point C and so on. It's the messy part. The part where it requires us to walk through life with someone. It's the part when we have to have the difficult conversations that lead to spiritual growth. It's helping others to move past the powerful truth that God loves them, to developing in themselves that kind of love for others. It's that part that requires patience as a new believer stumbles and helping them back to their feet when they fall.

Without our willingness to roll up our sleeves and walk through life with new believers, we leave them on their own which is both unhealthy and irresponsible on our part. In Matthew 18, Jesus is clear about His feelings about new believers and those who would do them harm. I think He says something like, it would be better to have a stone tied around your neck and be thrown into the sea. Ouch!!! We really need to learn to see new converts the way our heavenly Father sees them. Like new born babes who need a lot of nurturing. Only then will we see the urgency to walk hand and hand with them until they are able to step out on their own. But, oh what a powerful thing when they are able to stand alone and walk through life as a mature believer.

I don't know about you, but I feel like cleaning some fish.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

All Of This From A Tank Of Gas?

It finally happened. I finally paid over $3.00 a gallon for gas. Up until this week, I had always been able to avoid the $3.00 mark. It was sort of a game I played to try to beat the system. I would pass gas station after gas station with prices like $3.04, $3.06, $3.09 and finally find one for under 3. But this week, one couldn't be found. Finally they beat me.

Its hard to believe that gas prices have soared so high isn't it? I think the thing that bothers me most is I have no control over it. It would be great if I could protest and it have some effect. Or, how about boycotting? Oh sure, like they would really miss the minuscule amount of cash I spend. Perhaps it would make me feel good, but in the grand scheme of things it would change nothing. Besides, boycotting would mean I would have to buy a bike or walk everywhere. The truth is I am dependent on gasoline to do life. And although I can cut back, there is only so much I can cut back. So, here I am at the mercy of a powerful system that doesn't know me, doesn't care about me, and is driven only by their desire to have more. More power, more control, and more money.

This world's system takes after its father. Our enemy the devil. You can see his signature all over it. Here's how he operates. Picture Adam and Eve in the garden and along comes the sly one. He paints a picture of this fruit that makes it tempting for the first time. Never before this moment do we find that our two Eden dwellers are even drawn to this tree. But this day is different, there's an enticement, an allurement. And so they stop to check it out. Convinced that life would be better with it and convinced that they can't live without it, they indulge.

Have you ever wondered what satan's real motive was here? I've often thought that he was so ticked off at God that he just wanted to destroy what God loved most. But you know, I really don't think that's it. There's probably know way to know for sure, but consider this. Have you ever met anyone that is power hungry? Someone who is driven to be in control? We all have. The issue that got satan's tail kicked out of the presence of God was this very thing in him. He wanted to be in charge. He longed to be number one and wanted the power that came with it. Here's my point. Those driven by this thing, find life and energy in it. They can't do without it. They have to have it at all cost. Satan is no different. In fact, he's the author of it. Could it be that in the garden that day, his insatiable need to be the one in control was the motive? Since He couldn't manage to take God's throne, perhaps he could take control of this new creation of God? Could it be that his enticement of Eve and the subsequent fall of her and her husband, would feed his need to be in charge?

Whatever the motive, the fact is, in the garden that day, he controlled and manipulated things and scripture tells us that sin began to reign in our bodies. Did you catch that? Sin began to rule and reign. Sin took charge. It began to control mankind. Check this out. After this event with Adam and Eve the next recorded sin in scripture is murder. Now, I'm not saying there wasn't any more sin after the fall and up until Cain killed his brother but I find it pretty crazy that in one generation sin went from taking forbidden fruit to murdering a sibling. How does that kind of thing happen? Sin is running the show.

Adam and Eve were under God's authority and with that comes true freedom and liberty. They were so free that they could choose to even reject God or not. When they believed satan's lies and then acted on those lies, however, they came under his authority which brings with it bondage and domination. Scripture tells us that "where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty," and I think its safe to say that where the spirit of the enemy is there is bondage.

Whenever we give power over to someone who truly loves us and cares for us, we will find true freedom. I'm not talking about someone who says they love us, I'm talking about someone who truly loves us and has our best interests at heart. Someone who wants to see us become all that we were created to be and will do anything they can to assist us to get there. In that kind of relationship, we will find encouragement, life, liberty and peace. On the other hand, when we give power over to someone who doesn't truly love us but instead is only looking out for number 1. Someone who is driven to succeed at all cost. Someone who is driven by the need to have power and to be in control, we will find bondage. And the more power we give them the more dependent we become and more dominated we begin to feel. Eventually, if things aren't corrected, we will become completely dominated and controlled by them.

Thank God, he sent Jesus to correct things for us concerning sin and it's dominion over us. Unfortunately, this world's system still operates that way. Yep, because we have given control and allowed ourselves to become dependent on others, we find ourselves under their control every time we go to the pump. And with every dime we spend they get more power and we become more dependent.

I could go on and on, but I've got to wrap things up. I've got a meeting I've got to get to and I have to stop for gas on the way.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

God's Hall Of Fame

Have you ever thought about the kind of people God uses to do awesome things? A quick look at scripture reveals to us that he seldom picks the ones we would vote most likely to succeed. Take Abraham for instance. We don't know much about him prior to his initial God encounter, but this guy who became the "Father of many nations," had several hiccups along the way. Because he feared for his life, he lied twice and was willing to allow another man to sleep with his wife. Oh yeah, and remember his one night stand with Hagar? Then there's Moses. A man who seemed to have things working in his favor only to blow it one day by beating a man to death. What about David? An insignificant shepherd who had a moral failure after becoming king, and then conspired to kill the woman's husband. Gideon probably could have been classified as a wimp. Peter was known for foot in mouth disease, not to mention the whole denial of Jesus thing. James and John seemed to have a bit of a temper. And Paul, who you will recall persecuted Christians, called himself the chief of sinners.

Of course, there are more, but as I look at that list, it makes me realize that God can use anyone to accomplish great things for the kingdom. Yep, that means there is hope for all of us. All God needs is a willingness on our part to allow him to work through us. With that, God can do some incredible things. Scripture tells us that God is able to do above and beyond what we can ask or think through His power that works in us. So, regardless of who you are, where you've been, what you've done, you can bet God is eyeing you for greatness.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Best Way To Learn

Have you ever made a bad decision? Of course you have. We all have. Sure, some of us have make bigger ones than others, but we are all in the same boat when it comes to making some bad ones that we later regret. Several years ago, I made a huge mistake in judgment that could have cost me dearly. I hopped on board a go-cart driven by a jr. high student.

Now, I know what you're thinking, big deal right? But, hear me out on this. At the time I was teaching at a school and one of my students got a brand new go-cart for Christmas. One day, while I was on my way home I saw him driving it in a field so I stopped to watch him for a few minutes. After he spotted me, he drove over to me and offered to take me for a spin. I was a little hesitant at first to hop on board, since I wasn't going to be at the controls. However, I eventually jumped into the passenger seat and we were off. We hadn't been at it long when this inexperienced jr. high driver did something really stupid. While the go-kart was at maximum speed, he cut the wheels as sharp as he could, throwing me out of the go-cart. Then the go-kart with the kid inside rolled over my back with my foot still caught in it. Needless to say, my body twisted and turned in a way it wasn't designed to do so. As I lay there with my face buried in the dirt, and my body aching all over, I was convinced something in my back or my neck had been seriously injured. In an effort to ease my mind, I just began moving things. First my fingers, then my toes, then my legs and arms. Everything was fine, just a lot of bumps, bruises, and pain.

I had survived. And because of the experience I was a bit wiser. Yep, to this day I have never again jumped into a go-kart with anyone at the helm other than me. The truth is that throughout life we will make some poor decisions. Of course, those poor decisions carry with them consequences, some worse than others. However, it's not all bad if we at least learn something as a result of it all. The tragedy would be if we went through it all and learned nothing.

Ok, so experience is an excellent teacher but there is something even better. Scripture tells us that one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to be our teacher. The great thing about learning from him is that it saves us all the pain and junk that comes from learning from the school of hard knocks. Remember, when I said I hesitated to hop on board with the jr. high student? I'm convinced that my "Teacher" was speaking at that very moment but I wasn't listening. I ran right past that Holy Spirit stop sign and applied for admission to the school of hard knocks. Of course, the school happily accepted me. Here's the point, the Holy Spirit is always speaking. He's always teaching us and if we'll make a decision to stop and listen for that still small voice, we will learn volumes. He'll help us to make wise decisions. Now, it doesn't mean that we will never again make a bad decision, but if we will learn to listen to the Holy Spirit, those poor decisions will become fewer and fewer.