It’s about more than fishing

We do a lot of sitting and waiting. Thankfully, the advent of modern technology has given birth to such things as online mobile apps, Facebook creeping, and of course Angry Birds. So while we wait, we can be distracted, we can take our mind off the waiting.

Most of the time I hate waiting. Waiting in line, waiting for a date, waiting in the drive through, it can just get boring (right now I have been waiting, since 2003 I might add, for the new Blink 182 CD out on September 26th). We spend a lot of our lives waiting for things.

I am not taking simply about waiting in line at Starbucks, I am talking about waiting for life to happen. You start middle school and just wait until you can get to high school, start high school and wait for your license, get your license and wait to get to college, get to college and wait to get a job, get a job and wait to get married, get married and wait to have kids… you get the picture.

Sometimes we wait so much that I think we actually waste life waiting. I know a lot of people like this, “I will just slow down work when I get that promotion,” “I will just get married when I get enough money,” (guilty) I will actually do, just after I wait.  Its as if our life motto is alongside the lyrics of a song I like, “I’m waiting for my real life to begin.”

I love the story of the calling of the first disciples in the latter part of Matthew 4. Jesus, presumably an average looking young Middle Eastern man (immediately debunking 2 myths that Jesus did not often glow and float off the ground, nor did he look like a middle aged Swedish man) walks on the shoreline and came alongside two men who were fishing in their boats. Now these guys were not novice fisherman; they didn’t skip church on Sunday so they could go have a relaxing day fishing at the lake, these guys were true fisherman. It was their craft; it was how they made their living.

In any case, in the story we read, Jesus calls to them “come follow me,” and the guys actually do it.

So often I have heard, and preached, this story as, “and Jesus is doing the same to each one of you, give your life to him, follow him… etc.” I believe that message is true, but recently I wonder if a greater truth about God is unfolded here.

Ask yourself this, what if Simon and Andrew (the first two men in the boat) said, “Thanks for the offer, and we really were considering becoming pastors, but we are waiting till we make enough money. But then we will be right behind you.” That would be a terrible story wouldn’t it?

The next two guys Jesus comes across are fishing with their dad. Again they were career fishermen; perhaps they were even one day going to take over dad’s fishing business. Jesus called likewise to them and again they, “immediately” left their father and their boat and followed him.

I feel like culture (and all too often, the church) preaches a message that life is about waiting… Wait until your older, wait until you learn more and are more qualified, wait until you have enough money to fall back on, wait until you are established, wait…

Waiting on our plan is our attempt to kill God’s plan for us.

Relive again with me the story in Matthew 4. Here’s Jesus walking past the boats and he says, “hey guys, I see a lot of potential in you, but you are pretty young to follow me, give it some time, wait on it a little bit.” These guys would have perhaps remained average fisherman. Instead, they lead one of the greatest revolutions of love, rooted in and following Christ that changed the face of the entire world, 2,000 years later. How many of you have been to Simon’s fish market lately? It doesn’t exist.

God doesn’t want us to wait. God wants us now.

When I was graduating from high school, two great friends and mentors pulled me aside individually. At different times they told me that they saw great potential to me and believed that God was calling me into ministry. Now I greatly looked up to these guys, both pastors, and thought the world of their insight. On this occasion however I was not to keen on what it meant to give up my life to do ministry work.

I replied, “thanks, but I want to go to school and get a degree that will make me some money, that way if ministry doesn’t work out, I will have a fall back.” Yes I know realize that my comment toward how I perceived their income was likely offensive however they handled it with grace.

It wasn’t too long after the begging of my freshman year in college I realized this, if God has a plan for my life, I don’t need a fallback plan. I have never regretted transferring to a lesser known school, working and going to school simultaneously, and working at the my church which I love.

The four men in the boats that day could have stayed behind, said thanks Jesus, I am going to wait on it, I am going to hold back, maybe latter, just not now, now, things are OK. I don’t want to mess with that.

Our God loves to mess with the OK. He loves to show us his plan, and how it is so much better than OK. What happens when we wait is we look towards a future and miss the present. We value more of what can happen then than what is happening now.

What in your life is God calling you to now? It doesn’t have to be ministry (it likely isn’t) but what is God calling you to do that is bigger than what you are waiting on? Maybe you have felt like a career change is in order, maybe its time to start putting your family first, maybe its time to abandon popularity and start seeking those who are on the outskirts of your social circle…

I have no idea what it is, but I am pretty sure that he is not calling you to wait around for something better. A life guiding principle I learned when I was 19 is that it doesn’t get better than God’s plan, and his plan starts now, our God a God who is living, and active now.

Life isn’t about fishing, it is about getting out of the boat to a calling greater than you can imagine… (that is unless you are being called to be a fisherman, then get in the boat)

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God Makes Us Dangerous… But in the Best Way


When I can, I love to go to the ocean (I live the Midwest so that is a rare occasion) What has always struck me as amazing about the ocean is the balance of beauty and danger. I love standing on the beach at night and looking out into the endless horizon of deep blue meeting night sky. I am in awe of the size and the scope of it all. It’s beautiful. And yet, it’s a bit dangerous, this sense of wonder can be overwhelming. Standing amidst such beauty and yet feeling so small and weak in comparison of it all. There is an attractive danger in it all, being overwhelmed by a beautiful and great power, not fully seeing it all but in awe of what one can see.

I think God can be like that.

A little while ago I wrote about the power of God, seen in God the father, the split person(ality) as I call if of our Triune God’s three persons. I looked briefly at the begging of the Gospel of John, when John beautifully describes God, in trinity, commencing in the creative process.

Just after this whole creation bit, John writes something miraculous, unprecedented, and potentially dangerous for the Christian faith…

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14)

God is supposed to be better than us, greater than us, separate from us, not come and dwell among us. In much ancient thinking, this actually would lower God. God was not supposed to be like us, or among us, he really didn’t care about us, so God, as they thought, by lowering himself made it seem that perhaps he wasn’t even God.

God, on the other hand, was about to display his grand and brilliant plan of unveiling true greatness to the world. It wasn’t through the climactic destruction of creation, not in an impressive fire and brimstone judgment day, but in the birth of child, and not just any child… God in flesh.

And to what purpose? Why would God chose to partake in human existence, joining us in our humility, our frailty, our weakness, our death?

The answer is remarkable…

“God is love” (1 John 4:16, italics added) and to ultimately display is unequivocal love for all of creation, he poured out the Son, Jesus, the one whom through all things were created, to be living, breathing, love amidst us.

It is at this point, just as a side note, I challenge you to find anything as compelling as the one simple message, God came to us, lived among us, and died for us, so we might live with him… no tricks, no strings, just love.

The Lord and creator of all things infused love, and thus himself into the world in the form of a Son.

 God is the God of Love

I have been the recipient of some unprecedented acts of kindness, generosity, and love throughout my life thus far.

5th  Grade wasn’t the best year for me. What I mean by that is, it was a terrible year for me. I was still smoking cigarettes occasionally and had been cut from my soccer team. I was failing multiple subjects, and I had missed recess and social interaction for over three months rapidly trying to make up any work that I hadn’t completed.

I understand that these shortcomings, in the grand scheme of life are not monumental, but for the developmental trajectory of a 5th grader, I was not on the best path. Half way through the year, my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sarich, volunteered to take me to her classroom for an hour or two after school to help me with my homework and keep me focused on school. She didn’t do it for money, to my knowledge she was never compensated over her regular salary. She didn’t do it because my performance and test scores might boost her resume. They wouldn’t, I was already out of her class and my performance boost, being great in 4th grade and dropping in 5th was not going to bolster her career in any way. She simply helped me because she loved me. She loved helping young people. Whether she knew it or not, by showing her students, myself included, love, she showed them God.

Although maturity wise I am not sure I have surpassed the age of 10, I am not in my mid twenties. I have also been privileged enough to have attended and graduated my undergraduate college program as well as the first of two Master’s programs, earning academic achievements along the way.

I don’t whatsoever say that as a point of pride in accomplishment. I actually believe the longer you stay in school the more you realize you just don’t know. I say that because my academic trajectory was remarkably shifted due to the care and selfless love of a former teacher, and I feel there is a great part of my limited academic success that is due to her teaching.

I have had many other instances, from funds being donated anonymously so that I could attend or accomplish things, people donating time and energy to mentoring and caring for me and my well being, the way my parents raised me and what they taught me, of how my life has been altered significantly, by the love of others.

I am sure my small group leader in middles school would be shocked if he knew I was now indeed, a youth pastor, and yet the love he showed me week by week, simply by being in my life, had a remarkable impact on my life, and on the way I see God.

We are dangerous

The way that we love people has the potential to change their lives for the better, and likewise, the way we restrict our lives from people has the power offer converse change.The infusion of love in the world, through God the Son, being born as Jesus Christ, and now proclaimed and enacted through us, serves to eliminate fear from the world.

As a wise and ancient pastor once wrote, “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:16-18)

Jesus, also called Immanuel meaning “God with us,” came as a reminder to humanity of who God is. God is love.

And humanity, regardless of how we perceive our own religious conviction, now remind people of God in way that we offer him to others in love. One can be agnostic and still show people the one true God by the way they love their brothers and sisters, one can be a devout Christian and restrict others from God by the way we withhold love. This isn’t and engagement in a salvation discussion, this is an affirmation of John’s words, that God is love, the ultimate display of which was on the Cross 2,000 years ago, and we as human beings are called to receive God and to show others God.

Yes I get it, that is dangerous. It is dangerous for God to be defined in such a powerful yet humble essence, this thing we call love. It is dangerous to say an agnostic, or someone from another faith, can show others God, even if they don’t see that they are doing it, more than a Christian can. However, could that be true? Jesus was consistently pointing to others outside the religious spectrum and saying that they got it. Conversely, he would look to the religious Jews and reprimand them for not getting it.

We have a dangerous responsibility. Love has the ability to transform lives, God has the ability to transform lives… and how we show others God or how we restrict others from seeing this unique infusion of love, defined by the Son of the Triune God, made flesh for us, has remarkable impact on the world around us.

God gives us the ability to show others the ocean at night, let them bask in the beauty and the awe, and the danger of it all… he makes us dangerous, but in the best way.

 

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Split Person(ality): The Father

So often, we reduce God. We try to push God into our boxes, paint God with our specific preferences, and paste God labels upon him. We are a people who try to make God into something else, something we can understand. This s especially challenging for someone like me, who’s job it is to communicate truths about God yet simultaneously declare that we can’t totally understand God. We try to define a God who by definition, cannot be defined.

All in One

I remember when I got offered to teach at our Jr. high ministry while I was working on my Masters program. I decided I wanted to aim big and teach the Jr. Highers about the Holy Spirit. So I prepared to wow them with my linguistic ability and theological mastery that I had gained to that point (sarcasm). I stood up and began, “today we are talking about the Holy Spirit, one of the Persons of the trinity.” They looked at me with both confusion and awe as if I had just recited the first 200 digits of pi. “This poor soul,” they must have thought. In any case, I sensed from their befuddled look that I should perhaps back track a bit. “Who knows what I mean when I say Trinity?” Only three people in the room raised their hands. It was at that moment I realized that I had twenty minutes to not only speak on the Holy Spirit, but on the entire Trinity, the definition of the nature of God that took some of the most brilliant people that have ever lived centuries to concretely explain…I had twenty minutes and a room full of 11-14 year olds. Needless to say, I failed.

When we try to over define, or oversimplify God, we fail; we fail because God is not simple, he is not finite.  So with that said, I understand that the following is not going to serve as some ultimate concrete enlightenment on the nature of God. The early church Fathers, early Christian thinkers thought to have been fathers of the faith declared in the early Fourth century that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, based on their individual references in Scripture, are three different persons yet homousios or of the same substance. This means they are all God (not Gods) but all are identifiable as unique. All three work as one yet all three can be identified as three. For Example, Jesus speaks of his Father in heaven as well as of the Holy Spirit who is an advocate that will come after he is gone.  Or, in Matt. 28:10, Jesus commissions the disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; all three different representations of YHWH the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

So lets talk about one of these persons of God. God the Father, very early in Christian theology was thought of as more powerful or the leader or patriarch of the Godhead (a word used to describe God as Trinity) because, an earthly father serves as that role in the earthly family.  Although the Father holds a unique role, his power is no more or less, his power is not even separate from the other two persons f the Trinity. God is powerful, not Just the father.

 

Spoken into Creation

To help us understand God and God the Father, we trace all the way back to eternity past, when God was, and all else was not. John 1:1-3 declares,  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” In the Beginning was God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and yet John distinguishes between “he/the word” and God before stating that they were God.

 

In the very begging ALL of God is present and yet God is functioning in different ways.

 

Now if we god back to Genesis Chapter 1 we read the God speaks creation into existence. This voice this echo, this creative presence was and is God the Father. God the Father is evident and present in creation. He speaks through the Son, through the Word, the logos. The voice of the Father is the presence of the Son. And yet things would not be complete if not for the Power of the Holy Spirit.

 

The Father, speaking through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit brings all things into Creation.

 

One thing we find is that although one person of the Trinity may be highlighted, all of the Trinitarian God is always present.

 

God is a God of Power

What we see in the creation accounts as well as the action of God throughout the Cannon is that God is a God of Power. Our God, the God who is with us now, the God who died on the cross of us, the God who spoke creation into existence, that God is a God of power.

 

Our problem is we often forget. When we are faced with problems, trials, struggles, just life, we forget that God, all of God is a God of Power. We read in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” And Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us.” And yet we forget who God is. We forget when we see the changing of the seasons, when we walk outside and see the afternoon clouds take shape, when we see the sun duck below the horizon, when we stand on the shores of the ocean, when we watch the flowers bloom and the wither, we forget that our God is a God of power.

 

We forget that he can do all things and wants to do all things through us. We forget that we can do great things because he powerfully created us to be great. We forget, and the very creation that our God spoke in to existence was spoken as a reminder, “remember that I am a powerful God.”

 

Don’t believe me? Go outside to your lawn. Stand in the grass. Pick a spot and try to talk a tree into sprouting up…

 

 

 

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Humans Being

I think both those of us who love our work and those of us who dislike our work share he same fear, that we are defined by our work. Im not an occupation psychologist but I would theorize that the two groups both have a different way of falling into this fear.

On the former group, we love what we do and we cannot imagine doing anything else. That is a line of thought that often gets twisted into, “I am good at what I do and I like being good at what I do, but what if it is all I am good at,” and even more so, “I can no longer do what I love in this context but and I worry it is all I can do.”

With the latter group, much of the same is true however this group believes, “I am defined what I do and I hate it therefore I hate part of who I am and how I am seen.” still the same is true that often this group is good at what they do and they fear that if they hate what they are good at, how can they possibly not but despise anything else.

Both, if you ask me, are terribly bleak options.

My dad has a great quote he has used for years that, “we are human beings, not human doings.” I have no idea if he borrowed it from some prolific author so forgive me for the misquote if it is indeed the case. Nonetheless there is great truth in the few words, we were created to bring glory to our creator by no other action than being.

We were created to give value and be valued by one another for no other reason than we, all in our own unique way, reflect our Creator.

The hard truth, that I admit I often struggle with, is that we seek our value, our worth, and our definition in what we do, not who we are created to be. Now I am a pastor, I feel it is a noble profession and I love what I get to do and who I get to interact with. However being a pastor does not exempt me from in falling into the belief that if I mess up a conversation, if a blow a sermon, if I don’t have a hi turnout to an event, if x, y, and z, don’t know as I intended, then I am not good at who I am… I am less glorifying than I could be.
I don’t know what you do or who you are but if you share the same performance driven self evaluating mindset, I would argue that it is wrong. We are created to be so much more than what we could ever do.

Moses and David were shepherds, Rahab was a prostitute, Josiah was just a kid, Peter was a fisherman,, Paul was a a tentmaker. They all did. They all had occupations. Yet each represents so much more in who they are.

But…
Moses led Israel out of oppression
David was a great king
Rehab enabled Israel to receive their inheritance
Josiah led Gods pele back to him
Peter was the founder of the Christian church
Paul started the greatest missionary movement in history and authored almost half of the New Testament.

Let’s not forget that while Jesus was in his home town he was accused of being simply a carpenter and his father Joseph’s son.

Was Nelson Mandela just a lawyer, Martin Luther King Jr. Just a pastor, Mother Theresa just a nun? They may have been good or bad at their roles but that is not really relevant in retrospect, what matters is were they more than simply what they did?

Instead of asking, what should I do, how can I do that we must ask ourselves who am I called to be and how can I best be that?

When we limit who we are called our career choices, our resumes etc., we hinder Gods creativity in authoring who he called us to be. If who we are being syncs with who God called us to be, I have a feeling that what we are doing will be filled with greater joy, fulfillment and value than we can imagine.

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Christians Know Everything

I was having a conversation the other day regarding a guy who I was about to hear speak. This guy has started a company that is very inspiring and that is doing great good for the wider world. Before the interview started, a person I was standing with asked me, “is he a Christian?” I responded that I didn’t know his story. With a follow up, this person asked me, “do you know if he tells people the Gospel and evangelizes while he is doing his work?” I responded that to my knowledge I didn’t think so, that although he may be a Christian, in the work he was doing, speaking the Gospel wasn’t something I thought they did. The person I was talking to responded that they felt any work that wasn’t also partnered with a verbal Gospel presentation just wasn’t fully worth it. I believe the words were something like, “it’s just not eternal.”

Really? Not worth it? Meeting someone physical needs ones they cannot meet on their own, not worth it? That’s funny because I recall Jesus meeting all sorts of physical needs and yes sometimes he also took in depth time to proclaim what he was about, but many other times he did not.

As Christians, we think we have it all figured out. I think as people we think we have it all figured out and Christians, being just a sub-category of humanity, are no different. We love to believe that we have finally figured out everything that is correct, in living, in practice, in life, and it is our individual responsibility to preach to and correct anyone who feels differently than us… because after all, we have it all figured out.

I actually think one of the coolest parts of follow Christ is the acknowledgement that we don’t have it all figured out. Christianity is messy and weird and at times not clear, but that is the beauty of it, acknowledging that we don’t know it all.

As I drove home, I thought of the conversation I had. St. Francis of Assisi is noted as saying, “preach the Gospel always, when necessary use words.” As Christians we stand and applaud when we hear things like that but seldom feel comfortable when someone is preaching the Gospel only with their actions, as if the world will be confused, as if unless we wave our Jesus banner in the face of those we serve, God won’t be glorified. I think serving people in love is the primary way their hearts become opened to the possibility that Christ may be real, living, now. Maybe serving is the way we show people Jesus.

I am currently sitting in a coffee Shop in Washington D.C. Now I have been here a few times but I can tell you that every time I come I am blown away by the monuments and the history that surround me. I don’t care how many history books I have read, or shows I have watched, or stories I have heard, being shown the city is far different, far more memorable and impactful.

In a like analogy, I have studies Theology and history for a few years. I know a decent amount about it. That knowledge can never stand in place however of walking the streets of Jerusalem, or visiting Galilee.

Maybe that is why standing on a street corner with a bullhorn proclaiming that the passersby are all going to hell is actually more hurtful than helpful. They don’t show others Jesus. I would love to know the percentage of converts these street side preachers are working with as well because I would guess it is a slim margin.

What if we lived in a world where Christians actually did preach the Gospel always? We didn’t fight or quarrel with one another, we were respectful of others, we didn’t judge, we weren’t angry or bitter, we selflessly served, we set an example. What is amidst political turmoil Christians weren’t screaming from our sidelines (yes I am talking to both Dems and Reps) but we were the ones seeking peace and resolution. What if we were the ones sheltering unwed mothers not judging them. What if we actually built relationships with other people, outside our denomination, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, political affiliation, etc?

The problem is telling someone of Jesus is a lot easier than showing them Jesus. Jesus touched lepers he held children he healed people. Jesus Got close. Telling people of him allows us to keep our distance, showing people him mandates that it becomes close and personal, that it sacrifices time, and energy and resources. St. Francis had it right, and he spent a lifetime wandering around towns impoverished, showing people Jesus. When it becomes about showing people Jesus, we can’t count converted lives, we can’t incrementally measure our impact, and we can only love those who the world doesn’t love.

The other truth about Christians, besides the fact that we know everything, is the truth that we are often very lazy. We love living the American dream with a hint of Jesus. We love having 2.5 kids, a dog, our upper middle class house, going to our nice church and not having to deal with anyone all that different than us. I argue that living the Gospel forces us to break out of our American dream, it requires us to sacrifice, to love when it hurts, to give when we have nothing, but I truly believe it is in these moments when we stop telling ourselves about Jesus and we actually begin meeting him as well.

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