Fishers of Men


“As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him”

This was Jesus’ message to Simon and Andrew—follow Me, learn of Me, pass through My refining fires, experience firsthand My nature and My message. Only then will you be able to be fishers of men.

And yet many of us were never taught to follow Jesus. We were instead taught “Fishing for Men 101”. It goes like this:

As a believer of Jesus, it’s your duty to get out there and fish. Pull in those converts. You don’t need to know God to do it, only this simple formula: Build rapport with your target fish. Be interested in him. Gain his trust. Wait for it … Wait for it … Snag him! Reel him in! Then walk him through The Sinner’s Prayer:

Have him confess his sins, and ponder Jesus’s blood shed for him on the cross. Ideally he can muster up some guilt about that. Have him repeat after you, “Jesus is my Lord and Savior”, out loud, preferably in front of people. Hallelujah, he’s saved! Direct him to give God the glory for his great transformation. Prepare him for his upcoming role as a fisherman, according to The Great Commision. Invite him to church, and inform him that he’ll be mentored in “Fishing for Men 101”, in expectation that he perpetuate the practice.

And by golly, if you gain a sweet new notch on your fishing belt for snagging him, you’re just blessed. You’re humbled to have been used by God. To show how humble you are, you stand up on Testimony Night and ever-so-proudly — er, humbly, ever-so humbly — tell everyone how you — er, God, you meant to say — how God saved another lost fish.

Sound familiar? We don’t even question “Fishing for Men 101”, because people in authority and peers we respect don’t.

We never talk to the fish we were unable to snag — those still out in the sea — because if we did, we would hear that our fishing tactics violated them, disturbed them, and made them run from anything remotely “Christian” or “of God”. We don’t want to learn that the very thing we call “service to God” was the catalyst to their atheism.

We don’t accept accountability for representing God to non-Christians and Christians alike as a God who presumes, stereotypes, manipulates, and imposes; a God who is arrogant, obtuse and coercive. He’s none of those things, of course — but we are, and we don’t own that.

We never ask ourselves if we even know God. Why would we? We are the accepted ones. We choose who validates us — we surround ourselves with like-minded and like-behaving people, substitutes for direct feedback from God — and disown, block, slander, and unfriend those who discern our hearts or dare to address it.

We wouldn’t know if God is saying to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”, or the opposite, “I don’t know you”, because we don’t ask Him. We don’t pray with sincerity as David did, “Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart.”

‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said …

Know Me. Understand Me. Depend on Me. Listen to Me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for My sake will find it. Be an extension of Me — without your agendas, learned strategies, and preconceived ideas of what I might do with, through, and for you. Let Me implement with you the superior plans I have for you.

‘and I will make you fishers of men.’

The I is Jesus. He will teach, train, counsel, encourage, assign, position, and orchestrate so that we end up where He wants us. He is the one to make us fishers of men, if He so chooses.

When He leads, any impact we may have on humankind is not harmful, but helpful. Subjected to His discipline and refining fires, our impurities are removed over time so that it is not our ugly natures, but His indwelling Holy Spirit that is visible to others. It is not us at all, but God’s authentic love, mercy and justice that is the bread of life. That bread is indiscriminate — He offers Himself to each and every fish in the sea.

At once they left their nets and followed him.” 

Simon and Andrew were willing to follow.

Are we?

When Confounded Is Good


An old post with a new application. The issue of Syrian immigration and asylum has divided people across the world. Who is right? Who is wrong? God will reveal his thoughts on the issue, if we are willing ask and listen to his answer. What then becomes of our beliefs if he shows us that it is our thinking that is in error? Will we stubbornly cling to our thinking just to be “right”, or to stay aligned with our religious group, or because we prefer our stance to God’s? Or will we let go, and let him replace our thinking with his?

Originally posted on Cindi Gale:

Sometimes our beliefs fail us. Sometimes that’s a good thing.

If we consider all our current views or theologies solid but God disagrees, it’s an improvement to be confounded. When our old patterns of thinking are disrupted, it’s an opportunity for God to show us his thoughts. While we’re grappling with uncertainty, our understanding can be corrected.

The Apostle Paul wrote: Romans 12: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

When we become flustered by life; when we are confused, agitated, and wish we could feel solid again, let God be the one to solidify those rattled foundations. Rather than return to the old, allow his Holy Spirit and Word to instruct instead.

What if we still don’t get it? — We try but…

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You Have My Respect

People are complex beings. Yet we catch mere glimpses of another’s life and draw conclusions about him.

Only by knowing the mind of God about a person, can we be accurate in understanding him. Or let a person who knows himself inform us, as long as he is self-aware and willing to confide.

We have another option to gain insight: observing behavior. Religious people call it “judging others by their fruit”. But be careful — if we’re not mindful of the environment a person is in, their “fruit” can mislead. What if he is in a God-appointed time of winter, wartime, or injustice?

tree in winter for blog pgIs it possible for him to satisfy our need or desire to judge? A person in winter is struggling to survive, not bearing tasty fruit. He is wrapped up and withdrawn to survive the frigid, dangerous climate. He will only open up and bloom when the climate is warm, welcoming and safe.

If a person must judge blindly, why not assume the best-case scenario instead of the worst? When somebody is in winter, war, or mistreatment, why assume that if he isn’t “bearing fruit” he must have lost contact with God? We could assume instead, that he is so dependent on the vine of God that he is digging deeply to stay connected. Deep calls to deep. He is relying less and less and less on things of this earth, (easy to do if nothing on earth is satisfying) and more and more on God alone.

As a person emerges from winter, war, or a season of injustice, do we presume his wants and needs? He doesn’t want pity. He certainly doesn’t want judgment, suspicion, or diminished status in society. He won’t re-enter relationships with people who make him feel “dirty” or unsavory because of the unsavory climate he was in. It’s no reflection on HIM that life was very tough. He may have been a victim of unrighteous peoples’ rights to exercise free will. Yet many people judge a victim as if he is tainted. He’s not “clean” enough. He’s inferior to their “morally superior” position. Religious people can be the harshest of critics.

Survivors of injustice want and need one thing: respect. Respect for not giving up, for having stayed with God when the temptation to bail was a daily threat. Respect for having assumed the ways of God throughout his troubles. Respect for not selling his soul during his agony. Respect for being faithful to God no matter the severity of his conditions. Respect for facing truth, including truths of evil he never wanted to see. Respect for choosing courage and trust instead of escape and denial. Respect for accepting the long season of winter that God controlled.

People who have not been there do not understand. They cannot. They are in no position to believe they do. If they take action without understanding, they are likely to further wrong the sufferer. If curious onlookers would just withhold judgment, they may be fortunate to in time hear about what happened in the suffering.

barn in autumn for blog jpgA person who endured years of injustice while dependent on God, no doubt has accumulated overflowing barns of God-given understanding, knowledge, and wisdom. What he gained can’t be summed up in an hour, a day, a week, a month, or even a year. When he shares his experiences, it will be when he is willing and inspired to. If outsiders are patient and nurturing, they may be allowed inside the sufferer’s overflowing barns of treasures from God. But it is never to be taken. It is for the one who suffered and endured to share as he wants.

His bountiful harvest is from God as a reward for a faithful life. He has finally reaped what he sowed. His harvest does not belong to anyone else. It is his. His barns are overflowing because he farmed diligently and tirelessly, even while alone and cold, scorned and unrewarded. When God determined it was spring and then summer and finally harvest time, he filled the barns of his servant.

produce, autumn, cornucopia for blogIt is the servant’s right to determine if and when he shares from his harvest.  A wise servant will distribute it the same way he acquired it: with God’s training, direction, teaching, and approval. It is a completely private thing, between God and the individual — the only way it can be, this “knowing Him in His suffering” — it’s not even for a spouse to bear or fully comprehend.

We’re each the owners of our own soul and will. It is alone that we reach out to God from the depths of our soul, and alone that we experience his response to us. If our personal experiences with God don’t fit into somebody else’s theology or belief system, firsthand experience wins the debate. He is who he is, regardless of what anyone argues to the contrary. Maybe if life were easy, one might trade what God has been to you, for the approval of people. But when you’ve suffered, you become unwilling to do so.

If you are in a season of severity or injustice, let God be your life and breath. Cling to him and do not let go. Don’t worry when you are incapable of displaying vibrant leaves or tasty fruit. It is alright if your usual, lively spirit is dormant. It’s winter. The branch is intent on clinging to the vine. Life for a branch in winter is not reaching out and distal in direction, but drawing in and proximal in direction. Proximally is where God is.

Remain faithful to God. Be as righteous as possible in your circumstances. Always take the high road. Hold on and know that your winter will pass. And be certain of this … you have my respect.

About God

I have thought about God and my own life’s existence
And it’s not like I’ve not been on my knees in repentance
Bigger than life and out on my own
I’ve come to these conclusions about God

I have thought about God when searching for solutions
Disappointment and cost birthing such confusion
Surrendered my trust to the truth, not a system
And to God

How can we walk underneath an open sky?
How can we say we have eyes and yet we can be so blind?
You have your race and religion and I guess I have mine
What about God?

I had thought about God when my own father was dying
I thought the idea of death and its timing
I turned the other cheek only because I was crying
Out to God

How can we walk underneath an open sky?
How can we say we have eyes and yet we can be so blind?
You have your race and religion and I guess I have mine
What about God? What about God?

How can we walk underneath an open sky?
How can we say we have eyes and yet we can be so blind?
You have your race and religion and I guess I have mine
What about God? Do you think about God?

You can look through the windows of a stained-glass cathedral
You can speak in tongues in a church with a steeple
Who holds the keys to your own heart’s temple
I wonder if it’s God, I wonder if it’s God

Do you ever think about God?
Do you ever think about God?

Written and performed by Rita Springer, “About God” from the album “Effortless”.

He Blesses

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Why is it that negative circumstances so often speak more loudly than positive ones? It’s as if they hoist megaphones to gleefully scream: TROUBLE! FAILURE! IMPOSSIBLE! LACK! RUIN! DISASTER! DEFEAT!

Their goal is to kill your hope, your faith, your expectations of good on this Earth we share, and thereby extinguish the life that could be yours.

On discouraging days, tune out the voices of cruel, mocking, arrogant circumstances — they are the words of an assassin — and refute deceptive rhetoric with truth:

God is a shepherd to the sheep. His ferocity is directed at marauding wolves, not his dependent charges.

To the vulnerable, he is gentle. He does not scream, he whispers. He does not accuse, he commends. He does not deprecate, he encourages. To the defenseless, he does not destroy, he builds. He does not take, he gives. He does not smother, he preserves. God does not kill, he creates. He does not defeat, he gives victory. He does not curse, he blesses.

Isaiah 44 

This is what the Lord says—
3  I will pour water on the thirsty land,
    and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
    and my blessing on your descendants.
They will spring up like grass in a meadow,
    like poplar trees by flowing streams.

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24 “This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:

I am the Lord,
    the Maker of all things,
    who stretches out the heavens,
    who spreads out the earth by myself,

… who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’
    of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be rebuilt,’
    and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’

… he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,”
    and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”’

fall with stones for blog, edited DSCN2020

Taming God

Throughout history men and women have tried to tame God. I liken it to damming a river to control the normal flow of the water. What’s possible with rivers is also possible in religion. A group of people can claim that a portion of the river is theirs. They construct dams to control the living water, pave a parking lot, pop up a building, and hoist a sign with a catchy company name. Let’s call ours Choppy River Church. The river is real, but already altered by the dam. Domesticated. Cultivated. Tamed.

ocoee2-4[1]Choppy River Church advertises, “Come whitewater rafting on God’s true river of life!” When you arrive, you’re handed a life jacket with the company logo, then shuffled to the formal boarding area where you step into a raft emblazoned with the brand name. Reps from the company man the rafts and guard the shorelines. If your raft catches an unexpected rapid and sends you off the man-made course, workers on the shore use long poles to push you back where they want you. The river is so controlled it no longer represents who God is.

When your ride on that short section of the river is over, you are expected to gratefully disembark and say complimentary things about the company. And its management. And the exciting river. Any honest reactions to the adulteration of the river are quickly met with disapproval from peers or company leadership. If you still don’t comply with the unspoken codes of behavior, you are summoned to a meeting for a stern rebuke. Those inclined to question or resist further find themselves evicted from Choppy River Church.

If that sounds familiar, you might think you were rejected from the river of God BY God. But that’s not the case. Not at all.

White_Water_Rafting[1]There is a river that extends far beyond the trifling range of Choppy River Church. There his river is unaltered by man. The water is unrestrained. Exhilarating. Powerful. Potent. Anyone is welcome at any time. People who gravitate to it are inclined to respect, love, and treasure the river. They bring rafts and ride the waters at will. Rafters come and go much like nature lovers come and go from the earth’s forests, deserts, and mountains—they leave it like they found it. Spotless. Pristine. Natural. Wild.

They don’t claim ownership of the river. Even those who work there full-time as whitewater rafting instructors don’t assert it’s theirs. Those who choose to frequent riverside buildings do so to exalt God together. And to support each other. Nobody aspires to subdue the river. They wouldn’t dream of exploiting it for profit or power.

They value it for what it is: Bigger than man. Mightier than man. Unpredictable and fearsome. But, paradoxically, also soothing. Calming. Restful. Healing.

Choppy River Church does not equate to God. They are not one and the same. A place that claims his name might be contrived, but he is not. He is infinitely more than a controlled, tamed, ineffectual river, and yours for the asking.

The river is available for all, but owned by none.

References: 1.