Vigilance Vs. Fish

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  James 1:2-4

I caught my first rainbow trout, last weekend.  (By the way, the picture is not me.  Just a photo I found online showing the fish in more detail than the photos my wife and I took.) It was only one but, there was a definite feeling of fulfillment inside of me.  Let me explain.  Having grown up and venturing the various lakes of Texas, my fishing knowledge revolved around two species: bass and catfish.  If you were to look at the arsenal inside my tackle box, you’d see various soft and hard lures, meant for these two types of marine life.  Moving to Colorado, where trout is the top catch, what I had would not work.

My wife and I took off for a day of fishing.  I did my homework on some of the preferred live baits (since we would be fishing in a reservoir that ONLY allowed live bait), purchased what was needed, and headed out.  Now, the area that we went to consisted of three different reservoirs in the high elevation of the Pikes Peak Tollway.  The first reservoir we went to produced no fish.  Even after several hours, neither of us experienced even a bite on our lines.  Even though it was very peaceful, in spite of several others also out fishing, we still wanted to catch a little action on the lines that we had cast into the water.  After about four hours, we decided to go up the road to one of the other reservoirs. 

We set out to a spot on this body of water.  As we walked along the bank, we passed a couple of guys and inquired how the fishing was.  They replied that they had only caught two fish and that they had been out there for several hours.  Still determined to enjoy our time, my wife and I set up on a nice spot, baited our hooks, and cast out into the waters.  Within minutes, I had a bite!  While reeling in my line, I could tell that the fish wasn’t very large but, it was still putting up a little resistance.  Several seconds later, I had landed my first trout!  A beautiful rainbow trout.  Not long after, my wife also caught one…then a second one!  As much as this bit of action stirred me up, it would be the last of the catch that we would see, that day.

What is a successful day?  Yes!  It was a beautiful day to spend outdoors with my wife.  Guys, let’s face it.  How often do you come along a lovely woman that is willing to spend a day out fishing with you AND enjoy it?  That made the day a blessing in itself.  The added blessing was, after a lot of patience and vigilance, I received a catch.  It was only one trout but, I had caught it, nonetheless.  That experience became my first lesson into the world of trout fishing.  I am on the rode to learning about this new species, which will become my “bread and butter” living in a state where there are rivers and streams brimming with this species of fish.

Fishing offers one of the greatest biblical lessons, in my opinion: vigilance.  The act of remaining in one place for a long period of time, remaining alert and attentive to your surroundings.  When it comes to the art of fishing, vigilance is the difference between catching a fish and mindlessly letting one get away.  While I set out with the mindset of bringing in a full bag, I will not be discouraged if I made a worthy attempt and was not able to catch my limit.  Life doesn’t always allow those opportunities.  Most times, we need to stay in that one spot, give it due time, before moving on.  Leaving that one position, or situation too soon may cause a missed opportunity.  Staying around for too long, you may miss a definite opportunity elsewhere. 

How do you know whether to move or not?  Through time, patience, alertness, and understanding.  It won’t happen overnight.  It won’t happen in a few days.  It will be a while before I will be learned enough to be considered an intermediate, or expert trout angler.  I am enjoying the training and knowledge that comes with bettering oneself in a particular field, or situation. 

God gives us these abilities so that we may hone our talents.  Most importantly, to hone being the best, attentive Christians that we can be.  The learning does not end.  God calls us to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).  This type of fishing means learning how to catch a variety of “species” of mankind.  We catch one but, those methods don’t work for another.  We must continue to keep our senses in tune to our surroundings, pay close attention to everything, and try different methods if we hope to be successful anglers for God.

Tear Down to Build Up

"See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."  Jeremiah 1:10

My backyard looks like a terrible Greek tragedy!  Rock piles!  Clumps of dug up earth!  Uneven ground!  It’s less than pretty.  My wife and I have a plan: WE WANT MORE GRASS GROWING!!  To do that, all the rocks must go.  The concrete walkway (which is also uneven) has to be dug up and hauled out.  The ground needs to be tilled up for fresh soil to mix in.  Then, laying down new sod.  There’s a LOT of work to be done.  Every day, the yard looks just a little worse.  Ground zero!  However, this step is vital.  We cannot create the vision that we have until we tear down what is already there.

Why must one tear down before they can build?  Think about it.  Can you build a new house over an existing house?  Of course not.  Can you build a beautiful deck over an old, rotting one?  Not without having a poor looking result.  Can you install new parts to your car and still keep the old pieces intact?  It just doesn’t work that way.  Let’s go one step further:  Can you be born into the life of your Savior, without dying first to the sinful life?  Futile.

If the old remains, it could ruin the new.  I could find shortcuts to creating a beautiful yard.  Let’s face it, it won’t last.  I will have trouble properly maintaining it.  It will create more problems down the road.  I want to create it once, then enjoy it.  If anything, making additions, as we see fit, will be easier to do.  Should it be any different on how we create our lives?

I would love to say that once you commit yourself to Christ and our immersed into the waters of baptism, then you are in great shape.  I think my fellow Christians know that isn’t true.  Many start out strong.  However, instead of clearing away their old lives, they attempt to build new pieces to what is already there.  The foundation isn’t solid and won’t support the new life.  We should ensure that we have totally torn down our old lives, making sure that we have removed every board and nail that we previously used to construct our daily lives.  We need to be able to begin again with an empty plot, so to speak.  Only then, can we start fresh.  A new beginning to a new life. 

While our yard may not look like we want, now; we do look forward to what it will become, with proper time, planning, and care.  

Climbing the Correct Mountain

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.”  Hebrews 12:22-24

If any book could be titled Out with The Old, In with The New, Hebrews would be fitting to this topic.  Do you know of someone that lives by the “Old Laws”, the Mosaic Laws of the Ten Commandments and nothing more?  Have you heard people exclaim that Christianity only requires them to be “good people”, without guidelines to determine what God deems as a good heart?  It is a broken record upon my ears.  A song that I have heard more than once.  While Jesus did not come to take away the ten simple rules that God presented to Moses on Mount Sinai, He did come to incorporate those into a new covenant. 

Within the modern church if today, I hear explanations of why they incorporate various aspects into their time of worship, or way of overseeing the congregation.  Those explanations were valid, until Jesus came to bring a new order to things.  A new way to view Christianity.  A new church, with a new way of handling things.  The “new kid” in town brought about an entirely new promise to everyone.  Yet, several of the churches just didn’t get it.  The apostle Paul, wrote to these newly established churches, warning them of the dangers of continuing to follow the mindset of the Old Law.  It didn’t work anymore.  Paul referred to the Old Law as a curse (Galatians 3:13), saying that if it had worked, God would have stuck with that alone to save us (Gal. 3:21).  Faith would not have been needed (Romans 4:14).  Christ came to abolish the old ways (Ephesians 2:15).

Mount Zion is the mountain that we should be directing our energies into climbing.  Mount Sinai had its day.  The practices of the Old Testament are no longer valid compared to the New Covenant of the Christ.  Why would we want to settle for anything less?  Those ten rules, given to Moses, are laws of morality.  However alone, they cannot nor will not save us.  Grace from Jesus’s selfless sacrifice gives us that opportunity.  It gives us a chance to live with a loving, giving heart.  A heart that is a home to our Father.  A heart that enables us to be willing to share the beauty of every blessing that God grants us, passing on our relationship with Him to others.  Following a few simple rules is easy, choosing a path of how to make every single choice pleasing to our Creator, takes more effort.

One mountain has a shorter path to its summit.  The other will take one’s lifetime to reach the summit.  Only one of these is the goal of a grand inheritance. 

Which mountain are you climbing?

Still Standing

If indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.”  Colossians 1:23

Yes, as a person that supports the Republican views, (meaning more conservative-based thinking that focuses on firm Bible-based values and a governing head that SERVES the people) it disgusts me that the Liberal society wants to silence a television sit-com, just because the theme is based on more conservative and Christians views.  Curiously, no one seems to be complaining about the ABUNDANT amount of t.v. shows or movies that promote more liberal and even un-Christian values!  I’m not knocking every Democrat out there.  I believe that many people of the Democratic society are just as unhappy with the more Liberalist views that have branched off from this political party.

It may ruffle some feathers to reveal that God is the ultimate definition of conservative.  Think about it, before you totally go blind to reading further.  God sent a part of Himself, to serve on Earth for the people (John 3:16, 1 John 4:9).  Backbone of the conservative (or Republican) government build; which is currently used in our government, regardless of the political party of the President.  God is unchanging, which also defines a traditionalist (1 Samuel 15:29, Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:7-9). 

Again, I am NOT attempting to attack another’s view.  I am simply trying to show a place where two political parties DID share the same point of view.  Today, that common ground has been trampled on, obscured, and completely obliterated.  Jesus made choices that were very unpopular with many people, including government officials.  Did that stop Him?  Thank His Father that it didn’t!  Consider what would have happened if Jesus kept quiet, or allowed the opposing party to silence Him!  Think about what would NOT be waiting for us, after our mortal lives have ended!  No glory!  No eternity!  NO GIFT OF SALVATION!  Not an ending that I would look forward to.

I am proud for the firm spiritual foundation that was instilled in me.  While I have stumbled plenty, I have resolved to gain firmer footing in the quest that God has laid before me; becoming stronger with each step I take.  I am not wanting to convince everyone to “become conservative”.  I am asking them to embrace the unchanging values that IS GOD and to not try to silence those that support the good Christian values that God’s Word teaches us.  The second thing that I am asking:  If you don’t like a particular t.v. show, CHANGE THE CHANNEL!  I don’t like or agree with plenty of Hollywood media that hits the airwaves but, I turn it off or watch something else.  I can still find some good, value-based entertainment out there. 

As for Tim Allen, his fellow cast members, producers, etc.:  Thank you for giving us a series that returns to showing that Godly values are still appreciated and accepted by His people!  

The Shadow Knows

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”  Galatians 6:7-8

While spending a day at my grandparents’ farm, I hit pay dirt!  I found a collection of old radio broadcasts, on cassette tapes.  Gunsmoke!  The Green Hornet!  Fibber McGee & Molly!  Sherlock Holmes!  I was a kid in the candy store!  I had known about these broadcasts through my family, even listened to a few syndicated broadcasts of Dragnet with my brother.  Having these priceless treasures to listen to, I couldn’t have asked for more. 

My favorite of these old broadcasts was (and still is) The Shadow.  I managed to start collecting more of this series on tape (20 broadcasts).  The crime-solving vigilante, with the ability to “cloud men’s minds”, rendering himself invisible.  He’s just plain cool!  “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?  The Shadow knows!”  I loved hearing that phrase, following the eerie theme song of The Spinning Wheel.  At the end of several of the shows, another line was often spoken by The Shadow: “As you sow evil, so shall you reap evil.”  Sounds like the words in Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, doesn’t it?

Quite true that Paul and the fictitious Shadow, were saying the same thing: whatever choices you make from within your heart, and equal result will befall you.  If you choose to live a life of deceit, corruption, greed, and sinful pleasures; you can expect greed, corruption, deceit, etc. to happen to you in return.  No good will come of it.  Allowing evil to dwell in our hearts will only envelope our lives in a world that only knows evil.  The result is…well, a scorching hot outcome!

The good news is, we don’t have to look forward to that end.  We can choose to do what is desirable by God: honesty, respect, helping others, following God’s command to the letter, spreading His message and Light.  By sowing these choices, making these spiritual habits the very essence that lives inside of us, will lead us to the Promised Land.  It will lead us to that spectacular dwelling that God created, of which the apostle John was allowed to see and record for us; giving us a glimpse of the glory to come (see Revelation).  Here come those goosebumps I get every time I think about what John saw.  I want to end up there!  I want to reap a good harvest, after planting good seeds in good soil! 

Remember this, you may be able to hide certain wrongful actions and desires from those around you but God, as The Shadow says, KNOWS!

Voices of the Wise

But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.  Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.  Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”  Titus 2:1-3

One of my favorite country songs is performed by Chris Young, titled Voices.  It expresses a young man’s thankfulness to the sound advice from parents and grandparents, alike.  Words that stay in his head, throughout his life.  Some things may be very simplistic, while others can be a little more in-depth.  Whatever the case, they are valuable lessons that the elder passes down to the younger generation.  These MUST be taught, as much as those lessons MUST be heard.

I can certainly relate to the lyrics within this song.  Often, I find myself in a situation which I invoke the advice from either my parents, or grandparents, enabling me to hear them inside me.  We all have those moments where we hear our mom or dad’s voice, telling us what we should or should not do.  Those moments make me smile, every time.  Not exactly because my parents spoke those words of wisdom to me but, because I listened and filed those words in my mind, for future use.  It was important that those words left an imprint on me that my parents could be proud of.

In reading this passage in Titus, I want to draw attention, not to the advisor but, to the listener.  More and more, as I observe society, it seems that fewer lessons are being handed down from one generation to the next.  I could only assume that the older generation decided to give up, since the younger generation stopped listening.  It feels to me that a lot of things shouldn’t change, as the years go by.  It happens when those sensible lessons of value are lost, ceasing all together.

Like many, I was a hard-headed kid, refusing to listen at times.  You know how it goes: I’m a teenager so, I know more than my parents, now.  It’s a common mentality.  The problem is, the parents cease to teach and let the kids run free.  No guidance.  Sure, kids want to rebel as they age.  However, deep inside, they want the wisdom of the generations before them.  Some openly seek it.  Others may try to avoid it.  They want it, nonetheless. 

The greatest teachers that ANYONE has to rely on, haven’t earned education degrees.  They have experienced making good and bad choices, on their own.  They had opportunities to listen to their parent, before them.  Wisdom given to them, passing it down to the next generation. 

I will continue to hear the words of my parents, along with my grandparents.  I could not be thankful enough.  Through those lessons, a part of them lives on within me.  God willing, they will live on in my own children.

Hearing The Call: An Ocean’s Story, Part 2

“There is the sea, great and broad, in which are swarms without number, animals both small and great.  There the ships move along, and Leviathan, which You have formed to sport in it.  They all wait for You to give them their food in due season.  You give to them, they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good.”  Psalm 104: 25-28

Mother, Mother Ocean, I have heard you call.  I wanted to sail upon your waters since I was three feet tall.  You’ve seen it all.  You’ve seen it all.  Watch the men who rode you, switch from sails to steam.  And in your belly, you hold the treasure that few have ever seen.  Most of them dreams.  Most of them dreams.

Whether gazing out over the Gulf of Mexico or taking in the ongoing horizons of the Pacific, these lyrics from Jimmy Buffett’s A Pirate’s Look at Forty drifts into my mind.  It is within those words that holds my amazement for this enormous frontier.  There is so much history to be learned from it.  Cut across its surface, and far beneath, lie hundreds of stories of what has unfolded, in the course of time.

  Within these waters, tales of those who first sought to explore uncharted territory.  Chapters have been written of those that set out looking for the New World, not knowing if they would ever see land again.  Personal adventures of everyone that first braved turbulent storms and violent waves; a true test of their mettle.  Accounts of numerous battles that took place across expanse of blue in hopes of claiming fortune and glory.  Novels about the first steamers sent on maiden voyages, going much further than their predecessors.  Sagas of steel machines created to explore the depths below.  Not to mention the mysteries of the ships and lives that have been claimed in Davy Jones’ Locker. 

That is just part of the story.  What about the creatures that reside beneath Earth’s largest biome?  While there are many aquatics that we mankind has studied, there are more undiscovered mysteries.  While it would be partly terrifying, I would love to be part of a voyage to explore the deepest realms and make new discoveries in the one frontier that has not totally been explored before. 

These tales are whispered to me through the winds that come off the waters as I sit on the shores, at total peace with my surroundings.  The waves roll toward me, the water stretches out along the sands, reaching out to pique my curiosity, before receding back to the deep.  The salty air lends a seasoned taste for my consciousness to want more of it, to unlock its countless treasures.  It is a thirst that I know I cannot quench in my lifetime.

Much like the sensations that the oceans give me, so our eternal Father gives us a taste of His endlessly flowing fountain.  As I sat, staring out on these ranges of wonder, I marvel at the works of the Creator.  Without His hand, I would not be enjoying this moments of peace and harmony.  God desires that we should remember, daily, who created the surroundings that we get to enjoy.  Whether it’s the high mountains or the lush green forests, birds in the air or the largest mammals in the oceans; it is He who made it all.  Reflect on Him and He will unlock countless treasures for you.

“Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; as for me, I shall be glad in the Lord.”  Psalm 104:34