To Get Off the Merry-Go-Round

I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, ESV)

The merry-go-round is fun, but only for a little while. The whipping forces and the whistling wind over time births a dizzying nausea. Everything is off-kilter and the world refuses to stand still. Life on the merry-go-round is no life worth living.

The whipping force and whistling wind of worry and confusion whirl us around like life on the merry-go-round. Our hearts become the playground of every fear that haunts midnight moments. The dizzying nausea of uncontrollable chaos closes down direction and clouds our minds with insecurity. Life on the merry-go-round is no life worth living.

It’s time to get off the merry-go-round. So, I set my heart and mind upon Christ who loves me and has proven His faithfulness countless times. Since we can’t trust the circumstances and since we can’t trust ourselves, we must set our heart and soul upon Jesus. He has conquered all troubling terrors in this merry-go-round world. Taking hold of His hand, we find the stability and security of life we long to know.

So, planting my life in the grip of Jesus, I am resolved to get off the merry-go-round and live in His peace.

Fly-Fisherman’s Guide to Evangelism (Part 1)

For those who know me, they know my deep love for fishing. It began as a little boy on my grandfather’s farm digging for worms, catching grasshoppers, cutting cane poles, and fishing for bream in Stock Creek. I remember the first time my dad took my older brother and me to Abrams Creek to fish for trout. I was more hooked than the fish I was trying to catch. Over time, I have fished in many different waters for many types of fish in many different ways. I’ve learned a lot about fishing and the fish I try to catch.

And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17, ESV)

Jesus has called His followers to be fishers of men (Mark 1:16-20). His call upon us makes us people for His mission: fishers of men. We need to cry out for God’s power to infuse our obedience as we share the gospel intentionally and consistently with those who are far from God. Perhaps, the lessons I’ve learned fly-fishing can help us faithfully fulfill our calling.

1. To catch fish, you have to understand the fish and the water.

In fly-fishing, we study the water’s flow, temperature, and clarity because they influence how the fish feed. We study the insect life of a stream during a particular season to understand when and how the fish will be feeding. In order to catch the fish, we need to understand them and their environment.

We should do no less when sharing the gospel with people in our world. We need to understand how their environment affects their receptivity of the gospel. The more we understand about the way people behave and live in their culture, the more we are prepared to share with them the life-giving truth of God’s gospel.

Distraction 1: Complaining about culture.

When you go fishing, complaining about the weather, water, or fickleness of the fish never helps. In the same way, complaining about the culture in which people live serves no positive purpose in sharing the gospel.

The darkness of culture serves to enhance the light of the gospel. If indeed there are fewer cultural Christians, and if indeed fewer people claim to be Christian simply because it is not as fashionable today as it was a few decades ago, then we are living in times that are more similar to the New Testament church. And we would agree, I’m sure, that the church in the book of Acts was pre-eminently effective in sharing the gospel and leading others to faith in Jesus Christ, regardless how dark the culture may be.

2. To catch fish, you have to get to the water.

It’s not enough to understand the fish and the environment. We’ll never catch fish if all we do is remain cocooned in a cabin, studying the ways of fish in our aquarium but never venturing to the water. Fishing isn’t about aquarium fishing, catching fish that have already been caught. Fishing is about going to the water to catch the fish that have never been caught.

When Jesus called His disciples to be “fishers of men,” He was calling them to make disciples of those who weren’t yet disciples. He sent them on mission to the nations (Matthew 28:18-21). Think about His journey. He didn’t remain in the community of heaven, but determined to “dwell among us.” He came to the water in which humanity lived to build a bridge to God for sinners far from Him. His mission is our calling, but we have to get to the water.

Distraction 2: Comfort in the cabin.

So often, we compartmentalize our journey as followers of Jesus to our time spent inside the walls of our gathering with other believers. We love the community of God’s people gathered together for His glory, as we should. But we forget that our journey as followers of Jesus is also outside the comfort of the church. With God’s mission pulsing through our hearts, we must leave the comfort of the gathering of God’s people to share the gospel with people in the world in which they live.

3. You can’t catch fish unless the line’s in the water.

When I was first learning to fish, there was a simple principle that I learned. Unless the bait was in the water, I wouldn’t catch a fish. I’ve learned a lot of different ways to get the bait in the water, but the principle remains the same.

In the same way, if we’re going to help those far from God find life in Jesus, then we need to share the gospel. It’s not enough to get to where they are, but we must also talk with them about spiritual things, purposefully pointing them to Jesus and His gospel.

Distraction 3: Never wetting the line.

Spiritual conversations aren’t always easy to initiate, but I believe people truly want to talk about spiritual things. Jesus has called us and he is making us to be “fishers of men.” Without talking about Jesus with them, we are not fulfilling His calling on our lives as His followers. We have to “wet the line” if we’re going to catch fish. We have to talk about the gospel with those who are far from God if we are going to help them discover life in Jesus.

Jesus has called us to be His followers. He is working in us by His Spirit and through His Word to grow up as His followers so that we will join Him on His mission to help those who are far from God find life through Him.

So let’s understand the people to whom He is sending us every day. Let’s go to where they are. Let’s share the gospel!

Resolved to Celebrate the Colors

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2–3, ESV)

Soulful blues color the canvas with the sadness of circumstances swirling toward sorrow. The haze of purple highlights the confusion of shattered dreams. The red unveils the wounded heart. The ashen shadows blend into midnight’s sable, telling the tale of darkness shrouding the soul. Each color paints the portrait of pain’s plentiful hues. The sweep of the colors across the canvas of my life reveals the touch and tone of various trials.

But there is joy in the colors on the palate of pain. God is making a masterpiece, painting even with troubling tempera. The picture of my life is incomplete without the shadowed hues of aching anguish. Every dark color of trouble bleeds into the vibrant colors of God’s grace, mixed perfectly by the sure and tender hand of the Artisan. God unveils the sublime design of victorious triumph.

The blues of sorrow, the scarlet of suffering, and the black shroud of death give way to the bursting brilliance of hope’s fulfillment in Easter’s sunrise and death’s defeat.

Therefore, like Jesus, I am resolved to celebrate the colors.