The Fishless Fisherman

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There was a group called Fishermen’s Fellowship. They were surrounded by streams and lakes full of hungry fish. They met regularly to discuss the call to fish, the abundance of fish and the thrill of catching fish. They got excited about fishing.

Someone suggested they needed a philosophy of fishing. So they carefully defined and redefined fishing and the purpose of fishing. They developed fishing strategies and tactics.

Then they realized they had been going at it backwards. They had approached fishing from the point of view of the fisherman and not from the point of view of the fish. How do fish view the world? How does the fisherman appear to the fish? What do fish eat and when? These are all good things to know.

So they began research studies and attended conferences on fishing. Some traveled to faraway places to study different kinds of fish with different habits. Some got PH.D.’s in Fishiology.

But no one had yet gone fishing.

So a committee was formed to send out fishermen. As prospective fishing places outnumbered the fishermen, the committee needed to determine priorities. A priority list of fishing places was posted on bulletin boards in all the Fellowship halls.

Still no one was fishing.

A survey was launched to find out why. Most did not answer the questionnaire but from those who did respond, it was discovered that some felt called to study fish, a few to furnish fishing equipment and several to go around encouraging fishermen. What with meetings, conferences and seminars, others simply didn’t have time to fish.

Jake was a newcomer to the Fishermen’s Fellowship. After one stirring meeting of the Fellowship, Jake went fishing. He tried a few things, got the hang of it and caught a choice fish. At the next meeting he told his story, was honored for his catch and was then scheduled to speak at all the Fellowship chapters and tell how he did it.

Now because of all the speaking and his election to the Board of Directors of the Fishermen’s Fellowship, Jake no longer had time to go fishing.

Soon he began to feel restless and empty. He longed to feel the tug on the line once again. He cut the speaking, resigned from the Board and said to a friend, “Let’s go fishing.” They did – just the two of them – and they caught fish.

The members of the Fishermen’s Fellowship were many, the fish were plentiful, but the fishers were few.

Lorne Sanny, Navigator Associate (thank you Cecil Bean for posting this!)

A Discipleship Path at Last!

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For the last 6 months I have been chairing a committee at our church that was tasked with designing a discipleship path for people of all ages and levels of maturity.  I was really excited about this project because I agree with Greg Ogden who wrote,

“If making disciples is the primary mission of the church, would we not expect some public pathway to maturity in Christ in most churches?   Yet it is rare to find a church with a well-thought out, easy-to-grasp process or path onto which people can get if they want to become self-initiating, reproducing, fully-devoted followers of Christ.”  Transforming Discipleship

Two weeks ago we unveiled the plan to 50+ teachers and small group leaders, asking for their input in support in this new project.  We hope to launch it this August.  Here is the overview:

Dicipleship Path

*Classes are generally 6 weeks.  This is an adaptation of materials from Saddleback Resources.

STARTING POINT
Introduction to our church and vision, weekly church activities, church facilities; opportunity to meet pastoral staff and departmental representatives; Introduction to the Discipleship Path and help to find best fit. 1 hour, monthly

NEW BEGINNINGS  Introduction to Jesus Christ, basics of Christian faith, and walking with Christ; For new Christians or those who have recently recommitted to following Christ; Various curriculum available. Class or with mentor, 12 weeks

101 MEMBERSHIP “Know” –  Commitment to Christ and the church family  Overview of United Methodist history, doctrine (including salvation, baptism, and communion), organization, Membership vows of prayer, presence, gifts, service, and witness.

201 MATURITY “Grow” – Commitment to habits necessary for spiritual growth Principles of spiritual growth & discipleship, habits necessary for growth, learning to read and study the Bible, developing a quiet time, prayer, tithing, fellowship and small groups, maintaining good habits, and a vision for maturity.

301 MINISTRY “Serve” – Commitment to serving God and others  Understanding how God has shaped you, spiritual gifts, discovering your gifts, heart passion, natural abilities, personality types, past experiences, developing a heart for service, serving in this church, ministry opportunities, expectations of those serving, connection with ministry leaders.

401 MISSION “Go” – Commitment to sharing the gospel with others  Discovering your mission to the world, your purpose in the kingdom of God, discipleship, developing your testimony, learning to share the gospel, building bridges to reach others, introduction to local and global missions.

There it is!  Now, we know that “Programs do not make disciples, people make disciples…” but I think this will be a fantastic tool for encouraging spiritual growth and engagement, and it should open the door for many one-to-one and small group relationships.

So now I’ll be writing curriculum and teaching notes all summer…. Ha ha.  What do you think?

Summer and Escaping the Prowling Lion

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Summer is here and our Bible study group is on vacation!  Now, this is a good thing because everyone, including ministries, needs a “sabbath” in order to stay refreshed, focused and energized. Additionally, we need time to plan and prepare for the new session, which starts in September.

But hear this word from my friend Susie Walther —

The bad thing about summer is that too many women choose to fall off their spiritual wagons during the breaks.. Le me ask you this:

Do you know what happens to the gazelle who separates lion-and-antefrom the pack on the African plain? She gets eaten by the lions! Satan is described in the Bible as a prowling lion. Don’t ever forget that. When we stay linked and connected to each other, we can protect, encourage, and spur each other on, but if we begin separating from the “pack” and isolating from Christians who are running hard after Christ, we become easy pickings for the hungry lions.

I want to encourage you to fight hard for a few things during the break. Fight hard for your time with Jesus – reading His Word, journaling your God-thoughts, memorizing some Scripture, and talking to God in prayer. Fight hard to stay with the “pack” by going to coffee or lunch with other women. Some of us go to the same church, so why not sit and worship together and then invite women to join you for the next session of your Bible study group? Stay connected through your ministry’s Facebook page.  Then look around and see if you see any stragglers. If you do – grab them before they become the Devil’s chow! Don’t slow down and for Jesus’ sake, don’t stop or quit!

Why become a spiritual carcass when you could have been spiritually alive and well instead? 

The Point of Holy Week

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crossThis week is Holy Week. That means a lot to some and absolutely nothing to others, unfortunately. This is the week leading up to the holiest day in all Christendom – the day Jesus Christ defeated sin, hell and the grave through one miraculous act of resurrection, making it possible for death to work backwards in our lives.

Now, what should be clear beyond a shadow of any doubt is that Jesus didn’t come to earth on Christmas Day, die a brutal death on Good Friday and raise from the dead on Easter Sunday so we could go to church once a week to sing songs and listen to a message.

What should be equally clear is that He didn’t teach for 3 years in a teeny country in the Middle East so we could sit around and read books and do Bible studies on the things He taught.

YET you’d almost think from the way we live and approach the Word of God that Christ’s life, death and resurrection were so we could go to church and join a small group. But it’s just got to sink in that neither of those is the point. Church and Bible study are good and they can be a means to the point, but they are not the point itself.

The point really is Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. God is calling us to participate in Jesus’ life, which is meant to define our character and ministry to others. God is calling us to participate in Jesus’ death, which is meant to define our expectations and sacrifice here. God is calling us to participate in Jesus’ resurrection, which defines our existence as new creations. As new creations, we are the light of this world. The ministers of Christ. The ambassadors of Christ. The witnesses of Christ. The martyrs of Christ. Our lives are not our own. They belong to the One who lived and died and rose again and told us to go into the world and make disciples of it.

So, go to church, friend. Go to Bible study. Join a small group. But if that’s mostly all you do, then I’m afraid you’ve missed the point.  

Yours, Susie Walther

Are You Wearing Borrowed Clothes?

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“So he took them off.” I Samuel 17:39

This past weekend our church hosted Hope For The Heart, a AllisonAllenone day women’s conference with Allison Allen as a guest speaker.  Allison shared many great things with us, and here is a thought I’d like to pass on to you:

You know the story of David and Goliath in I Samuel 17?  Remember when King Saul dresses David up in his armor, helmet, and sword?  And David “… tried walking around because he was not used to them.  “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off.”

David going to battle in someone else’s clothes would have been a disaster.  David needed to be himself… the young man who knew God, who travelled lightly with only stones, a slingshot, and a history of being delivered by God.

Whose clothes are you wearing these days?  Are you clunking around town, trying to do your job and wage battles in the clothing of another?  How’s all the dressing up and masquerading going for you?

Would you consider taking off the mask you’re wearing?  Would you consider being authentic, real, and known as you really are?  Has it occurred to you that God doesn’t want you dressed up and pretending to be someone else, something other than yourself?

He knows you.  He loves you.  And He has a plan for you, a purpose in life.  But first, you have to take off the mask.

Identifying Potential Idols in Your Life

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IdolsI’m guessing that you don’t have a little wooden figurine in your house to whom you pray and pour out daily drink offerings.  Yet, idolatry is one of the main issues in the Bible… so clearly we cannot just say “that doesn’t apply to me” and skip over all those passages.  Idolatry is alive and well today, it just looks different in our culture.

“What if I told you that every sin you are struggling with, every discouragement you are dealing with, even the lack of purpose you’re living with are because of idolatry?” writes Kyle Idleman in Gods at War.

“Idolatry isn’t just one of many sins; rather it’s the one great sin that all others come from.  So if you start scratching at whatever struggle you’re dealing with, eventually you’ll find that underneath it is a false god. … There are a hundred million different symptoms, but the issue is always idolatry.”

It is difficult to see ourselves as idol worshippers.  The battle for supremacy is being fought in our hearts, and there are many things that war inside of us to take the place of God, the place of supremacy that only HE can occupy.  Potential idols are often good things that are morally neutral, until we elevate them, until we value them above their proper place in our lives.

How do you identify your idols or your potential idols?  Idleman proposes asking yourself these seven questions:

1. What disappoints you? When we feel overwhelmed by disappointment, it’s a good sign that something has become far more important to us than it should be.  Disproportionate disappointment reveals that we have placed intense hope and longing in something other than God.  Have you ever thought that our disappointments are God’s way of reminding us that there are idols in our life that must be dealt with?

2. What do you complain about the most?  Ask someone close to you what you complain about the most.  What we complain about reveals what really matters to us.  Are you whining about your finances, your sex life, how people don’t appreciate you, how your sports team is performing, etc.? Complaining shows what has power over us.  Whining is in many ways the opposite of worshipping God.

3. Where do you make financial sacrifices?  Take a look at your bank statement and your bills, and pretend you are examining a stranger’s finances to find out what is important to him.  Where your money goes shows what god is winning your heart.

4. What worries you?  Do you fear a particular loss of your spouse, your kids, or your job?  Do you fear ridicule, or being alone?  What are your bad dreams about?  Whatever it is that wakes you – or keeps you awake – has the potential to be an idol.

5. Where is your sanctuary?  To what or to whom do you run when it has been an awful day?  What place or person is your rescue and refuge?  Is it food, alcohol, exercise, television, novels, movies, porn, video games?  Where we run to when we are hurting says a lot about who we are.

6. What infuriates you?  Everyone has a hot button or two – something that we say makes us crazy.  Do you hate losing a game? Sitting in traffic?  Being disrespected?  Why does some stranger have so much power over your emotions? What’s the real issue here?  Maybe your quick temper reveals the oldest idol of them all – the god of me.

7. What are your dreams?  If nightmares are revealing, so are daydreams – the place where we choose for our imagination to go.  What dream has a grip on you?  Aspirations are fine, but the question is why you aspire to those things.

For me, these questions revealed quite a few potential idols that I might not have been willing to admit previously.  They are areas of my life – of my HEART – that I need to watch closely.

It turns out that I am prone to idol worship after all.  Thanks, Kyle Idleman, for helping me see that.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

These Are Our Stumbling Blocks

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Life is full of challenges.  In class this week we talked about the four things most Christians stumble over.  They are somewhat sequential in our walk to spiritual maturity, but not entirely.

The first thing we stumble over, our first hurdle, is SALVATION itself.  We struggle at the very beginning of the path with the idea that we are sinners, that we cannot save ourselves, that Jesus was the Son of God, that Jesus gave His life on our behalf, and so on.  It’s just not so easy to embrace the whole idea.

The next thing we stumble over is THE WORD.  Learning to read the Bible regularly, to study it, to actually understand it, and to make it a central part of our lives can be so darn hard.  We may not understand how critical the Word is to our lives.  And even if we know it’s important, we still tend to neglect it.  It takes commitment, discipline, practice, and maybe some outside help to become a consistent consumer of the Word.

Then there is the LORDSHIP struggle – the idea that God is to be the most important, all-consuming person in our lives.  There cannot be anything or anyone more important than Him.  He doesn’t want to just be at the top of our priority list, He wants to own our whole life!  Surrendering ourselves, our ideas, and our “idols” is an ongoing, life-long process.  We continue to stumble over this for much of our lives.  We may surrender one part of ourselves, only to discover a few months later that some new idol has cropped up.

And finally, we stumble over PEOPLE.  People can be so hard to love – because we are sinners, they are sinners, and that can make for a fine mess.  Yet Jesus clearly told us in Matthew 22:37-39 that the Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord and to love people!  We are not only to love people, we are to make disciples of them and help teach them how to follow Jesus – that was the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20.

So where are you at in your journey?  What are you wrestling with?  Salvation?  The Word?  Lordship?  People?

I challenge you to think it over and discuss it with a friend.  Then decide what you’re going to do about it.  Don’t miss the whole point of your life on earth after you come to know Christ… He has called us to love and to labor.  Let’s do it!

devotional 10/28/2014