Fishers of Men

One of Theo’s favorite pastimes is fly-fishing.  The River Coln flows gently past his cottage on its way through the Cotswold Hills of southern England, and is filled with lovely brown trout.  Such a pastime allows one to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and spend time in a quiet stream or lake, relaxing in the beauty of God’s creation.  Great for us humans, not so great if you’re a fish.

Fishers of Men

Fly-fishing is the art of catching fish with artificial lures that resemble real bugs, or “flies” as in mayflies or stoneflies.  Like most sports or activities there’s an art to fly-fishing, a skill which is learned.  Some people are better at it than others, of course; some are naturals, some never develop a love for it and prefer other types of fishing.  People like me have to work very, very hard at it, and only catch fish with dogged determination and much prayer.  Not a joke.  

Also, the fly-fisherman must think like a fish.  If you were a fish where would you hang out?  Rivers have personalities; some are easy-going and gentle, some are treacherous, some meander with endless loops of cut banks and eddies.  The fly-fisherman must learn to read the river. A fly-fisherman must have a fair knowledge of the stream he or she wishes to fish, as well as a fair knowledge of the fish itself.  Not all rivers are alike, and neither are fish.  For example, barracudas don’t have the same diet as rainbow trout.  You won’t find a marlin in a trout stream.    

Finally, there are different seasons, as well.  Trout are bug eaters, but like all creatures great and small, bugs have life-cycles (egg, nymph, emerging adult, dun, spinner, etc.), so it’s best to know what’s hatching bug-wise.  The knowledgable fly-fisherman will “match the hatch,” by selecting an artificial fly from his fly box that best resembles the bug of choice.

What’s my point to all of this?  Temptation, of course.  Did you know that the devil is a professional with centuries of experience when it comes to fly-fishing?  He’s been around a long time, and knows what artificial flies will tempt us.  He’s basically got three types: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, the pride of life.  He bagged our great ancestors Adam and Eve with these three, and hasn’t added any new flies to his flybox.

He knows what artificial lure to use to entice the believer into sin.  James 1:14 reads, “But each person is tempted when they are dragged away and enticed by their own evil desire” (NIV).  The word for “enticed” is deleazo in the original language.  It’s a fishing term that means to lure.  

A wary trout may “sniff” at a lure, but then pass on it.  He knows it’s a fake.  I’ve had this happen many times in my own experience.  What do I do?  I’ll try a different fly.  Maybe he’ll go for this one.  If he does, I’ve caught him.  I’m a catch-and-release guy; that is, after I catch a fish I let him go.  The devil releases no one.  There are no “limits” he must abide by.  The devil knows his fish.  he knows what lure to use for every kind of human fish, for every kind of water condition––stream, lake, ocean––and in every season of the year.

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What are you thankful for?

This Thanksgiving, what are you thankful for?

By Mike Joens

The First Thanksgiving

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when someone mentions Thanksgiving Day?  Perhaps you will think that it’s a day of family get-togethers over a bountiful meal; getting off a day or two at work may come to mind.  Or you might think of traveling to visit family and friends.  Perhaps you’re history-minded, so you think back to the time when the Pilgrims gave thanks to God for His plentiful harvest in the New World.  There are many who regard Thanksgiving as the beginning of the Christmas season.  Others think of it as a day of endless football, of raking leaves, or regard it purely from a consumer perspective––the Black Friday kick-off that doesn’t end until the day after Christmas.   

Whatever comes to your mind first, I think most of us will agree that we are a people with much to be thankful for.  Most will agree that it is God who has blessed us.  Granted, this mindset has eroded over the past decades; even so, we are still a free people that can worship without fear, speak without fear, go to bed without fear.  We remain a nation of incredible wealth––the most giving nation in the world in times of national and global crises.

Are we a thankful people?  I hope so.  

The Bible says that we are to “Give thanks to the LORD for He is good” (Ps 136:1).  We are to “Enter His gates with thanksgiving” (Ps 100:4).  Paul says “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor 9:15).  The scriptural references are too many to list here.  Suffice it to say that “in everything we are to give thanks.”  Put simply, we are to be a thankful people.

Why?

Because God is our Creator, He is our sustainer, provider, savior; He is our Lord, King, the lover of our souls, and so much much more.  For as James says, “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).  He is a good and kind and loving Heavenly Father.

Every breath we take is a gift from God for which we should be thankful!  When we are thankful, our eyes are fixed heavenward and the weighty burdens of our hearts are given wings.  

Though Thanksgiving Day began as a religious celebration in the early Puritan days, it became celebrated by the nation as an annual tradition during Abraham Lincoln’s term in office, regardless of one’s religious inclination.  President Roosevelt signed Thanksgiving Day into law as a federal holiday in late December, 1941, the holiday to occur on the fourth Thursday of November.

Was this good or bad?

I think good.  Thanksgiving Day gives believers the opportunity to give thanks openly to God when they gather with their families, whether or not everyone at the table knows Jesus as their Savior.  What an opportunity as well to share our faith!  

I think it’s a good practice to have everyone sitting at the table, young and old, share one thing that they are thankful for.  Perhaps you are thankful for our servicemen and women, past and present, or for a new job, or for an answered prayer.  Personally, I am thankful that the Lord Jesus saved me out of darkness when I was a young Marine stationed in Naples, Italy, 1972.  O the blessings that have flowed into my life since then!  

Now it’s your turn.  What are you thankful for?

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Spoiler Alert: Christ Wins!

Written by: Michael Anderson 

In Romans 8:36, Paul quotes Psalm 44:22, “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered”.  He goes on in verse 37, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us.” How providential that Paul writes this to the church which would soon be at the center of oppression.

On July 19th, AD 64, a fire broke out in Rome and burned for six days, causing terrible damage. Some believed Emperor Nero was to blame.  So, in an effort to divert blame from himself, Roman historian, Tacitus records that, Nero found and tortured a group of christians until they confessed.  Nero argued that the christians were trying to destroy the city.  They were after all “a class hated for their abominations” (Tactius, Annals 15.44).  Nero used this as justification to begin killing christians.  Some were thrown to the dogs, others were crucified, and still others were burned at the stake to serve as lights for Nero’s parties.

But in the midst of all this oppression, in the face of that “hideous strength”, Christ wins.  Nero went on to become a symbol for all that was corrupt and debased.  While two of the martyrs whom Nero executed, Peter and Paul, would go on to be loved and revered.  Christ wins and Nero loses.  Rome would become the center from which the gospel message would go out.  When Jesus commands His disciples to “go out and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), who would have thought that they would “go out” traveling on Roman roads? It should be no surprise that we love best those stories in which the underdog triumphs.  After all, our Creator does too!

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The God Who Died and Bled

It is sometimes easy to forget the cosmos-shattering significance of Christ’s Resurrection.  We hope this poem serves as a reminder for you and your family this Easter. 

This is an Easter Poem by C. S. Lewis printed in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy, 1950-1963 (HarperSan Francisco, 2007), p. 955.

Lords coeval with creation,
Seraph, Cherub, Throne and Power,
Princedom, Virtue, Domination,
Hail the long-awaited hour!
Bruised in head, with broken pinion,
Trembling for his old dominion,
See the ancient dragon cower!
For the Prince of Heaven has risen,
Victor, from his shattered prison.

Loudly roaring from the regions
Where no sunbeam e’er was shed,
Rise and dance, ye ransomed legions
Of the cold and countless dead!
Gates of adamant are broken,
Words of conquering power are spoken
Through the God who died and bled:
Hell lies vacant, spoiled and cheated,
By the Lord of life defeated.

Bear, behemoth, bustard, camel,
Warthog, wombat, kangaroo,
Insect, reptile, fish and mammal,
Tree, flower, grass, and lichen too,
Rise and romp and ramp, awaking,
For the age-old curse is breaking.
All things shall be made anew;
Nature’s rich rejuvenation
Follows on Man’s liberation.

Eve’s and Adam’s son and daughter,
Sinful, weary, twisted, mired,
Pale with terror, thinned with slaughter,
Robbed of all your hearts desired,
Look! Rejoice! One born of woman,
Flesh and blood and bones all human,
One who wept and could be tired,

Risen from vilest death, has given
All who will the hope of Heaven.


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He Must Increase

Written by: Michael Anderson

My daughter is about to have her first birthday. And I can’t believe it. Before I was a parent, I inwardly mocked those parents who wanted their kids to slow down and not grow up so fast.  But I get it now.  There is a growing list of things that she can do on her own. She no longer needs me to hold her arms as she takes steps. She no longer needs me to hold her bottle. She can play by herself, she can feed herself, and yet I know that in the scheme of things she is still relatively dependent on me.  Her independence is only going to increase. And I’m not sure I’m ok with that. 

But when I’m honest with myself, when I’m clear-headed, I realize it’s not about me. It is about my daughter, and what’s best for her.  And it is good for her to grow.  It is good for her to learn how to do things.  If I truly lover her, not as my possession, but as a child of God who was put into my care, I will root for her growth because it’s for her good.  And as she grows, I know that she is going to become more and more independent and less dependent on me.  There will come a day when my wife and I will not be the center of her universe.  

I wonder if this is how John the Baptist felt.  In the book of John, we’re told that John the Baptist was called to prepare the way for the coming Christ.  And he does it very well.  He has a dynamic ministry; he is baptizing people left and right, he is doing so well that the pharisees ask him if he is the Christ, Elijah or The Prophet.  But as Christ’s ministry begins, John starts losing followers to Him.  What’s his response?  “He must increase and I must decrease”.  He might have responded by trying to regain control.  “No! Follow me!”  But he knew that it was better for him to be cast aside and for Christ to become the central figure in his followers lives.

I am a good thing for my daughter.  Out of all the men in the world, God chose to make me her father.  But I’m not the best thing for her.  Jesus is.  I pray everyday that as she grows up she would place her faith in Jesus Christ and then desire to follow Him all the days of her life.  I know though, that means I will not be the central figure in her life.  He will.  “He must increase and I must decrease”.  And that is the best thing for her.

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A Faithful Man

St. Patrick's Day - Four Leaf CloverWritten by Michael Anderson

I am not a Saint Patrick scholar, nor do I agree with every thing his sect of Christianity claims.  But as one raised in an Irish-American family that had corned-beef and cabbage every Saint Patrick’s Day, the holiday has a special place in my heart. There is plenty of myth surrounding Saint Patrick, but here are a few things we do know about him.  He was kidnapped by a group of Irish Marauders at the age of sixteen, and taken to Ireland where he became a slave.  After several years he escaped and returned to Britain. In Britain he studied to be a priest and became a bishop. Eventually, he felt God’s call to return to Ireland and spread the gospel among the Irish.  He says of his return to Ireland:

In his autobiography (Confession), Saint Patrick writes:

I testify in truthfulness and gladness of heart before God and His holy angels that I never had any reason, except the Gospel and His promises, ever to have returned to that nation from which I had previously escaped with difficulty. 

He spent almost thirty years sharing Christ on the island until he died.  

. . . Without any doubt, in that day we shall arise in the brightness of the Son, that is, in the glory of Jesus Christ, and, all redeemed, we shall be, as it were, the sons of God and co-heirs of Christ, and made like to His image in the future. For from Him, and by Him, and in Him, are all things: to Him be glory for ever. Amen.

It is difficult to read a passage like this without thinking of the many Irish who are “sons of God and co-heirs of Christ” because of the works God accomplished through Saint Patrick. Any choir director will tell you every good choir needs a diversity of voices.  Thanks be to God for the many Irish voices which will be singing “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, Who was, and is, and is to come.”

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We are Thankful for Steve Jobs

Written by Michael Anderson

No one knows what happens to a man’s soul in his last days here on earth. I am reminded of the thief on the cross to whom Christ promised paradise and I believe it is entirely possible that Steve Jobs could have come to a saving faith in his last days. As Steve Jobs’ biography is coming out, we learn more of his religious beliefs and they do not seem to be consistent with the core beliefs of Christianity. However, as a result of the fruits of his labor, God’s Word is able to go out into the world in new and exciting ways. In our case, Apple technology has allowed Theo to share Biblical truths to homes all around the world. For this reason, we are grateful for the work that Steve Jobs accomplished and grateful to a God who uses the labors, of even those who may not be His followers, to further His Kingdom.

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