Saturday, January 29, 2011

It wasn't pretty, but . . .

My son and I were on the river and he was hooking BIG fish - hooking, not catching. He was also getting frustrated because he was hooking but not catching. I was worried that he would quit, just sit down on the bank and quit. I worked hard with him, retied knots, talked him through every hookup with every fish, but it just wasn't working. Finally, though, he got into a fish and I just shut up (much to his relief) and let him fight it on his own.

(Understand something. We are fly fisherman, and we were catching 2 - 4 lb. trout in a fast running stream on 2.4 lb line. This is not like 15 or 20 pound test line for a 5 lb. bass. )

Just when it looked as if this monster would not get off, his line gave way. I thought he was going to just melt into the water from disappointment. Miraculously, though, the strike indicator (a small float about the diameter of a dime, was still attached to the line that was attached to the fish. So, we grabbed our nets and dove into the stream chasing the strike indicator (and fish) for about 20 minutes. Finally I thought, "We look like idiots chasing this fish. If I could snag that strike indicator with my line, my son could take my pole and land the fish." I did, and he did.  The picture above is that fish. It wasn't pretty, but he caught that fish.

Too many of us who take the Great Commission seriously want a pretty catch. We don't share the gospel unless it FEELS right. We don't share until we think we are perfectly prepared. We don't share until we think it's the PERFECT TIME. We are looking for pretty. God is looking for obedient.  We want an outline. God is just waiting for someone to cast out the lines.

It doesn't matter if it's pretty. It just matters that you keep casting the gospel into the waters.  Keep fishing, and keep your lines tight.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wasted Days And Wasted Nights

God wastes nothing in the lives of his children. No tragedy, no triumph, no sickness, no promotion is outside of his plan for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). Sometimes, though, people waste these opportunities. When someone faces a life-threatening illness or a life-taking tragedy, we, who by the grace of God have believed, often think, "as awful as this is, surely he or she will turn to God for comfort and hope."  When a windfall comes, and it is clearly a providential blessing, we think, "surely they will see the goodness of God, repent, and follow Christ." 

Yet how often that does not happen. The person who is not faithful to God before surgery is often not faithful to God after the surgery was successful. The unbeliever who heard, "this may be cancer," before the biopsy is not likely to believe when the doctor says it was not cancer.

Tragedy does not save us any more than a clear diagnosis does. Almost every man, woman, boy and girl prays to God for help in times of trouble, and almost as many turn from Him when the trouble has passed. The only power capable of changing a life is the gospel of Jesus Christ believed, received, and followed. 

God does not waste anything. We often do.

Pray, preach the gospel, love, repeat.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Star Light, Star Bright

Star light, Star bright
The first star I see tonight
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight

Most of us live in towns or cities where, on a good night without a moon in the sky, we can see perhaps a few dozen stars. That makes a dark sky full of stars so wondrous.  When we go camping, or driving in the country at night, or if we are truly blessed and get to live out in the country, we look up and see thousands.  The first time I camped in the Big Bend area of Texas, an area completely devoid of the light pollution of city lights, the Milky Way was so bright on the horizon that I thought it was a cloud.  While the stars seem innumerable, scientists tell us that at the most we can see 4,000 to 6,000 stars with our naked eyes.

If every child who has been aborted in this country were a star in the sky, there would be 53 million stars visible to the naked eye. If they were of average brightness, their light would blind us at night and during the day. There would be no darkness anytime, anywhere.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Uncommon Valor

"Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." ~ Acts 4:19-20

This week Jerod Lee Loughner committed a heinous crime. As he fired his pistol into the crowd, 76 year old Dorwan Stoddard died shielding his wife from the bullets. After emptying his first 31 round magazine into the crowd, a wounded 74 year old retired Colonel, Bill Badger, and another man wrestled him to the ground nearly on top of 61 year old Patricia Maisch. She saw his second magazine on the ground and wrestled it from him as Joseph Zamudia helped Badger hold the man on the ground.  When Maisch was called a hero and asked, "How could you do that?" she said, "You do what you have to do. I'm not a hero. Those other men are heroes."  No real hero every thinks he or she is a hero. I have never heard a medal of honor winner, or any other hero under fire take credit. Every one of them points somewhere else, to someone else.

Peter and John were heroes. They stood in front of a group of men who had murdered their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Without regard for their own safety, and with concern only that their Lord was glorified, they stood against the enemies of the gospel. After being threatened, they gathered the church and praised and prayed to God. Miraculously, they didn't pray for protection, but for boldness to go out and do it all over again. s to do it again. "And, now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness," ~ Acts 4:29

They demonstrated uncommon valor, because they believed in the one true hero . . . the one who had already laid down His life.  Their valor did not lead them to boast, but to pray. It did not lead them to pray for safety, but for boldness, and God granted their request, "And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness." ~ Acts 4:31

Who's your hero? 

How do you pray?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Prayer Is Not Just Spinning Your Wheels

"Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate, to ask alms of those entering the temple." ~ Acts 3:1-2

A truck was stuck in the mud and its owner just kept spinning his wheels in the belief that somehow, if he just pressed harder on the accelerator, he would get out. Two other men found him and told him to stop spinning his wheels. They would push his truck and rock it back and forth as he did the same with his gears. It took a little work, but he finally got out.

I don't know if you have thought of this, but the lame man was stuck. No matter how hard he tried, he wasn't going anywhere. For years, people carried him and laid him at the gate to beg. That was helpful, but it didn't change anything. Then two men on their way to pray came by, and he got unstuck.

How many times have you heard, "Well, the least we can do is pray," or "I can't do much. All I can do is pray."?  What a misconception. So much of what we do is just spinning our wheels until we pray. We try hard and go nowhere. Sometimes we find someone who will carry us along for awhile, a new pastor or teacher or author . . . but we are still stuck. Then we pray, earnestly giving up on ourselves and trusting in God by prayer, and He frees us from the muck. The prophet (Zech. 4:6) recorded God's Words , "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of hosts."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Does Your Life Look Anything Like This?

I just finished reading Acts chapter 2. There is no command in the Bible for us, those who follow Christ today, to do what they did?  We are to pray, but there is no command to gather in an upper room for 10 days and pray until the Holy Spirit descends upon us. (There is a command to pray without ceasing.)  Acts 2 describes the moment of the birth of what we are - the church. There is no command, but there is a description that bears little witness to most of the churches that I have ever been a part of, or have been to, or even know about.

This scene begins and ends with a group of people committed to obey God until He comes through. It begins and ends with a people committed to one another. It begins and ends with a church that does alot more praying than it does anything else. In the middle, Acts 1:8 is fulfilled.  They are filled with power that does not result in the fulfillment of their own petty prayers, but results in their rushing into the street to preach the gospel. Peter, once coward, now puts his life at risk to preach the gospel to a known hostile crowd. Thousands believe in Jesus, though no one says the sinners prayer. The church grows from 120 to over 3,000 in one day. They worship daily, pray daily, hear preaching daily, and take care of every need that arises in the church family.  And, in the end, it doesn't stop. It continues.

Acts 2 does not prescribe. It merely describes. Yet, it describes a scene utterly unfamiliar to the experience of most of us who follow Christ.  And, in the middle is a prophecy that spans the church age from inception to culmination . . . the prophecy of Joel.

There has never been another time when it happened exactly like that, but there has also never been a time when we did not need the power of God more than now. And, may I remind you, it all began and ended with a group of people praying together.  At first, they were just lost followers praying together. In the end, they were the church of the risen Savior praying together.

That is worth praying for.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Black Cats versus TNT and Faith

TNT is the standard measurement of explosive power, containing 4.7 megajoules of energy per kilogram. If you're like me that's rocket science, so let me put this into perspective. When an apple falls from a tree and strikes the ground, that is about 1 joule of energy. A megajoule is the power of 1 million apples falling from the tree and hitting you on the head, or the power of a one ton vehicle hitting you at 100 miles per hour.

Every boy's favorite firework, the Black Cat, is filled with flash powder, which is significantly less powerful than TNT.  While a Black Cat can do serious damage to the fingers of anyone dumb enough to hold one too long, it would take about 3,000 black cats to do the same damage as just one stick of TNT.

The promise of God in Acts 1:8 is really an answer to a misconception that his disciples had. They asked Him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"  (Acts 1:6) In essence, they were asking, "Lord, now that you've risen from the dead, are we going to be powerful again?"

His response was, "But you will receive power when the Holy spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8) It was almost like He said, "You think your Black Cat is powerful. I'm going to send you dynamite."

Satan and the world want us to believe that our faith is the black cat and that "reality," as defined by them, is the TNT.  By and large, we seem to believe Satan and the world. We spend most of our days and most of our prayers trying to get stuff in this world, power that will keep us safe and comfortable. We must not settle for the kingdoms of this world when God offers us the power of His kingdom.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It Was Such A Small Chip

Over a year ago, a small rock struck my windshield. The chip was so small that I really didn't think it was necessary to have it filled. That was my first mistake.

Three days later, after baking in the hot sun, a three inch crack had appeared. However, it stopped. Things stabilized, and since the crack was on the passenger side of the windshield down low, I thought I could hang on for a few months. That was my second mistake.

The crack grew slowly, but still didn't move much. I thought I was safe. A few weeks ago it was time for my car to be inspected. The crack hadn't moved into line of sight so I passed. I felt like I could go another year with the crack. That was my third mistake.

Last week while fishing on the river in Oklahoma, the temperature dropped dramatically. It was about 21 degrees the night the crack travelled more than half-way across my windshield. Still, I thought, "Well, I just had my inspection done. As long as the crack stays low and doesn't interfere with my vision, I'm ok."  That was my fourth mistake.

Today I noticed the crack has turned up.  It won't be long before what was a small chip requires the replacement of an entire windshield.

Sin is often nothing more than a small chip in the windshield of our lives, but it will not just go away. It will continue to spread, sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly, until our vision is obscured.

Deal with your stuff, before it deals with you.