The Old Fisherman

Once upon a time, in a small town, there was an old fisherman. Every day for him, was much the same. He would get up, pray and spend the day serving the Lord. He was a simple guy, and was always thankful for the blessings God gave, even when they didn’t really seem like blessings to other people.

As time went by, the small town began to change. It started to get modern and the pace started to change, but not for the fisherman. He would get up, pray, and spend the day serving the Lord. He was just that simple guy.  

Eventually, one day, he got up and he noticed that the small town wasn’t much like the one he knew as a boy. People spent all their time inside, in front of computers. Kids didn’t run and play barefoot in the neighborhood. Everyone jumped into their cars in the morning, and raced off to some job without talking to each other.

That morning when the fisherman got down on his knees to thank the Lord for his blessings, the Lord spoke to him. The Lord told him that he wanted to use him to show the people that faster, newer, and shiny wasn’t always better. He wanted to use the old fisherman to remind them to do things God’s way.

The old fisherman was humbled by the Lord’s request, and didn’t really know what to say. He tried to explain to God, that he was just an old man with bad knees. He said that he walked slower than he used to, and that he just didn’t understand the world as it was today. He said he didn’t really use computers or the fancy new phones.

God replied, “You’re exactly the man I need.” So the fisherman thanked the Lord, and got up to serve Him, just as he had done every other day.

That day, the old man was working in his yard with his granddaughter, and he was handed a flier for a fishing contest. The old man smiled at the paper, and thanked the young man who had given it to him. He set the flier aside, and then was surprised when his granddaughter started reading it aloud to him.

His granddaughter told him that first prize for winning the contest was a five hundred dollar prize. The young man said that with that much money, you could get the best fishing equipment money could buy. The fisherman smiled, and told them that you didn’t need any of those things, just a stick, a worm, and a hook. God would do the rest.

The young man laughed and said that he was an old fool. There is no way anyone could win a fishing contest without all those things. Then the Lord made himself clear. The old man signed the flier that very moment and handed the form back to the young man. He explained that he and his granddaughter would be at the contest the next day.

The next day, the old man and the little girl showed up at the contest. It was crowded with motor boats, fancy rods, and all the latest technologies. He had a single rod with a hook. As they signed in they were given a number and told they could start precisely at nine o’clock.

At nine o’clock he was still walking slowly to his spot. His knees still ached and it took longer than it used to, but he wasn’t in a rush. Around him things beeped and buzzed as the other contestants tried to pull the fish from the water. Other children watched as the other contestants used all this cool equipment to win the prize.

When the old fisherman got to his spot, he and his granddaughter set the pole aside. They knelt down on the soft mud of the shore and began to dig. The other fisherman laughed as the old man dug through the mud wasting his time. He would never win. The kids, however, saw something a lot more interesting than just watching a computer screen and ran to join him.

As technology raced around him, the old fisherman sat back and watched the children dig through the mud pulling out worms and putting them in a jar. He thanked the Lord while he watched the kids provide his bait. It took them a couple hours to find enough worms for the fishing.

When they were done, he slowly got to his feet, and showed the kids how to put a piece of the worm on the hook, lower it into the water, and wait for the bite. Within a few moments he had pulled a nice silver fish from the water. The kids all “oohed” and “aahed”. The old man simple thanked the Lord and did it again.

Within the next few minutes, the old fisherman had three more fish. The contestants around him started checking their equipment, and they couldn’t understand how he was doing it. Some changed their bait. Others tried new flies. Still others rebooted their radar systems. The old man thanked the Lord.

After his third fish, he decided it was time to rest. So he sat back against the shade of the tree, and handed his pole to his granddaughter. She was hesitant to take it, but he assured her she would be fine. He winked and reminded her that she knew the secret. Joined by the other children, she stood on the bank and fished as her Papa had taught her. As he dozed, she caught seven fish. Still, the other contestants couldn’t understand.

That afternoon, all the kids from the contest gathered at the bank with the old man and his granddaughter. They took turns passing the pole around, and after each fish they thanked the Lord for his blessings. Eventually the other contestants gave up, and joined the old man as well.

By the end of the contest, there was no doubt, that God’s way was the best. The old fisherman had gotten so many fish, that there was enough for everybody to take one home. At the end of the day, with a twinkle in his eye, he watched as his granddaughter accepted the cash prize for first place. He smiled as she thanked the Lord for his blessing.

One the way home, they stopped at their church and put the money in the offering. The old man asked his girl if she were sure, and she nodded. “He was the one that caught all the fish, so He should get the prize. Besides I feel like we have enough already.” The old man nodded, took the girl’s small hand in his and walked the rest of the way home.

This post is inspired by the story of Elijah and our Papa Gooch, 
a spirit-filled man that taught us to fish.

Misconceptions: Pt II

I decided to follow up my last post on misconceptions, with another along the same theme. It can be so frustrating to see the Bible and Christianity so boldly misrepresented by the uninformed. So in the effort to bring clarity to some of these issues, I am confronting another common misconception…

Jesus was just a great moral teacher.

Now I have heard this argument on so many levels, and not just from unbelievers. I have heard this from those who claim the Christian faith. They stated that Jesus was just a teacher modeling a moral lifestyle. This couldn’t be further from the truth, at least not if you have read the Bible. I plan to confront this on three different points: 1) he wasn’t a great teacher, 2) he didn’t actually teach morality, and 3) he wasn’t “just” anything.

First, I contest that Jesus wasn’t a great teacher, but that wasn’t really His goal. I have been a teacher going on six years now, and I can tell you that based on our teacher evaluation standards, Jesus would be trimmed. He didn’t instruct people in a manner that would make it easy for them to learn and process new information, Jesus spoke to the masses in parables, or stories. The Bible says that frequently after teaching, Jesus would have to explain all of his teachings to the apostles privately in simpler terms. Even then, He instructed His apostles not to reveal His teachings until the appointed time. That meant that most people walked away with no idea what He had been talking about. It was part of His plan that only those with “ears to hear” would understand His teachings until the appointed time that the Holy Spirit arrived to dwell within us. So, if anything, the Holy Spirit is a great teacher.

Matthew 13: 10-14 NLT
His disciples came and asked him, “Why do you always tell stories when you talk to the people?” Then he explained to them, “You have been permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others have not. To those who are open to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But to those who are not listening, even what they have will be taken away from them. That is why I tell these stories, because people see what I do, but they don’t really see. They hear what I say, but they don’t really hear, and they don’t understand. This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah, which says: ‘You will hear my words, but you will not understand; you will see what I do, but you will not perceive its meaning.

Secondly, when Jesus taught to the masses, He wasn’t teaching morality. Jesus came to teach us about God and the Kingdom of Heaven, He did not come to teach us about right and wrong. God already did that when He presented the Ten Commandments to Moses. Jesus came to present absolute truth about the nature of God. He came to show us how to live in fellowship with God. He spoke of His relationship to God and His own divinity. He taught us how to break free from the bondage of sin. He forgave sins, healed the sick, and cast out demons. None of those things are distinctly tied to morality. If anything, Jesus taught us that our personal morality was insignificant to the plan for salvation. He taught that He was the fulfillment of the Law of Moses, because we couldn’t be moral enough to fulfill it on our own. He showed us that we were distinctly immoral and we were in desperate need of a savior, for not one of us is righteous. We needed the grace of a savior because we are bound by our own sin. He taught us that through a relationship with Him we would be forgiven and find everlasting fellowship with God.

John 14:6-7 NIV
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.

Finally, Jesus wasn’t “just” anything. Jesus didn’t live His life as a regular man. He never maintained that pretense. He repeatedly and consistently claimed that He was from God. He told people that God was His Father. He referred to the scripture of Daniel, when He identified Himself as the Son of Man, a name understood to mean the Messiah. When He stood before His accusers on Good Friday, He called Himself “I AM”, the name that God used when speaking with Moses, and told them that He would be seated at the right hand of the Father. He claimed to be the Master of the Sabbath and claimed the power of forgiveness. He taught He would destroy the temple, the holy place of God, and build it up again in three days. He taught that He was the only path to fellowship with God. To consider that Jesus was just a teacher, or just anything, is irrational. After the resurrection and ascension, the apostles and those that followed were willing to die to defend the divinity of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, there are people still being martyred today all over the world for Christ. Would you be willing to die for a man that was “just” a teacher?

C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

There have been many great moral leaders in the history of humanity. There have been people that have left a mark on our culture, but none so much as Jesus Christ. Nearly two thousand years after the crucifixion, the teachings of Christ are still being taught. His truth has been spread across the globe, and billions of people have fallen on their knees and called him Lord. People are willing to trek through foreign lands and face death to spread the Gospel. Jesus is the salvation of mankind. He is the perfect lamb that was slain to take away the sins of the world. He is the Living God who has existed since the beginning of time. He was, He is, and He is to come. He came to save us, and is seeking a relationship with you.

John 1:1 NIV
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Misconceptions: Pt I

One of my favorite hobbies is to read the news on NPR. I like to read all the articles, and then go down and read the comments. When you read the comments you see the foolishness of both sides. At times, the article is faith related, and then both sides really come out swinging. In the midst of the name-calling (both sides) and sarcasm, I sometimes see misconceptions about God posted there, and I thought it would be worth confronting some of those misconceptions.

If God loves us so much, how could He send us to Hell?

I don’t think anyone has had a conversation with an unbeliever and not heard this question. The truth is, that this is a total misconception. God doesn’t send you to Hell… you are choosing to go. Huh? To understand, you must first understand a little about our Creator.

God is perfect. God is holy. God is just. He has the awesome power of the sun, and His radiance extends beyond Him in waves of glory. Because God is just, holy, and perfect He cannot tolerate sin. If He did, He would no longer be just. If He allowed sin, He would no longer be holy. See the pattern here? It would be like a judge handing out pardons in court because he likes the defendants, or cares about them as people. 

God created us to enjoy the world and exist in fellowship with Him. He also loved us so much that He didn’t want to force our love in return, so He blessed us with free will. Well, we take that free will and we get into as much trouble as we possibly can. We enjoy our sin, and some of us are even in love with it. This means we cannot exist in fellowship with God anymore.

It would be like standing next to the sun (remember awesome power of the sun?) without any protection. What would happen if we did that? Well, we would be a pile of powder and ashes. Now, would it be fair to say that the sun chose to destroy us? Or would it be more reasonable to say that because we chose to be unprotected we suffered the consequences of trying to be that close to the sun?

Suppose we decided, as some do, that we just don’t care to be in fellowship with God, then it wouldn’t be like standing next to the sun. Can’t we choose just not to get that close? Should we go to Hell for that? The answer to that question is this… imagine a life without the sun. Our planet would be a frozen block of ice, floating in darkness, without the ability to sustain life. Sounds like hell, right? Living for eternity away from the glory of God is like that.

Now, God could have told us that because we had chosen to live a life of sin, that we were doomed, and he would have been just, holy and perfect to do so. After all He did present the Ten Commandments to Moses telling us how to be perfect, just and holy.  He could have watched and waited for us to reach that standard.  However, God loves us so much, that He chose to save us from ourselves before we deserved it. He knew we could never stand next to the awesome power of the sun without protection, so He sent us (wait for it) Son-screen.

Jesus came to earth both God and man, and He was able to live a perfect, just and holy life. Upon His death He could have instantly rejoined God in fellowship. However, out of love for us, He didn’t. He chose to take all of our sins upon Himself and accept our punishment. So according to the eyes of God, I have never sinned, because Jesus paid for them in full. All of my sins have been washed away leaving me as white as snow. Not backyard snow, but the blinding snow of Antarctica that hurts your eyes if you look directly at it.  This means that when I die, I get to go stand with the awesome power of the sun, and I won’t be destroyed. I will get to have eternity with God in heaven forever.

The only people who are going to Hell now, are the ones that are choosing to go. Jesus offered the same gift to you, that was offered to me. The only difference between me and someone else, is that I accepted it, and others reject it. If you choose to not take the protection of the Advocate who will speak to God on your behalf, it is your choice. It’s that same gift of free will that was given to all of God’s children. However, if you refuse, it’s because you are choosing to put yourself in Hell, and that’s the truth.

God loves us so much, that He died so we wouldn’t go to Hell.

John 3:16-17 NLT
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.

The Weeping Prophet

As I study the book of Jeremiah I consider the words that he spoke for the Lord to the people of Judah. He spoke of betrayal and a denial of their God. He spoke of a people who turned from God and embraced their sin. They cherished a life away from God and considered their sin to be a miniscule annoyance to God that should be overlooked. They searched for material gain and honored it above God.
In return for their disregard and disdain for their covenant with God, they were subject to judgment by a just and holy Creator. God brought in armies from the north to destroy their cities, ravage their land, and enslave their people. He sent them into exile, so that they would return to Him in time. He stripped them of their material goods and left them nothing except what they truly needed, a relationship with Him. He did all of this so that His people would remember their need for God to provide for them.
This book is written by a prophet overwhelmed with sorrow of the Lord’s judgment. He looks at his fellow countrymen and begs them to turn to God in obedience, but his words are ignored. The culture is beyond redemption without the intervention of God. They have succumbed to a culture that worships sin and evil.
Jeremiah 4:22 NLT“My people are foolish and do not know me,” says the LORD. “They are senseless children who have no understanding. They are clever enough at doing wrong, but they have no talent at all for doing right!” 
Jeremiah 3:5 NLT
Surely you won’t be angry about such a little thing! Surely you can forget it!’ So you talk, and keep right on doing all the evil you can.”
Those words could have been written today. I look at our country, and the way our culture glorifies sin and the pursuit of wealth. I look at our society and I see a country that has turned away from the providence of God, and relies on the individual to do what they think is right. We have a subculture of people that blaspheme God and his teachings. They mock the obedient and teach their children that God is a myth, a flying spaghetti monster. I see people so in love with their sin that they try to change scripture so that obedience to Jesus is not the path to righteousness. We lift up and honor those that bring glory only to themselves, and put down those that serve our King. We even make ourselves into gods, claiming that righteousness exists in us, and that it is not from God alone.
I look at our countrymen with sadness in my heart, and I understand the weeping prophet, Jeremiah. My heart aches for what we have become as a people. I look through the newspapers and I see nothing that glorifies, and I wonder how long God will be merciful with a stiff-necked people like us. I wonder how long he will tolerate our disobedience and gluttony, before He does what is necessary to bring us back to fellowship with Him. Will we realize our desperate need for God, or will we wait to see what His judgment brings to our country?
God is just, holy, and righteous. All of his acts are for our good. I only hope that we as a people can turn as a people in prayer to our Holy Father. I hope that our churches can step into the role that Jesus commissioned us, and that we learn to love as He did. I hope that Christians can come together to serve and glorify God through grace and mercy.
Jeremiah 3:22 NLT
“My wayward children,” says the LORD, “come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts.””Yes, we will come,” the people reply, “for you are the LORD our God.
However, there is more than just sorrow in the book of Jeremiah, there is also hope. In the midst of God’s judgement there is God’s mercy. Just as any parent, there is love in His discipline. Even as the children of Abraham left the promise land as slaves, God promises that they will return. God promises His children a new hope and salvation will come from the line of David. He promises them a King that will bring them peace and the Water of Life. As God watched His children leave Jerusalem, He knew that He would come down Himself and become the living and perfect sacrifice. God knew that sin would be defeated and evil would be banished for all time, and we will enjoy fellowship with Him forever in Heaven.
Those same promises exist today. We have the grace and mercy offered to us by Jesus Christ. We have only to turn from our sins and embrace our savior. We have only to repent from our temptations and live in obedience according to God’s will, and those promises can be ours too. We can have eternal fellowship with God in Heaven. We don’t have to continue to live in exile, when we have a King who came for us, and calls us by name. Turn to Jesus and accept forgiveness.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 NLT
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.