Fishing Is Simple

It’s Canada Day weekend 2007 and I’m going fishing with my not quite 5 year-old daughter Anya. I’ve got a tackle box full of lures, a container of worms, and a myriad of accessories to help me catch “the big one.”

Anya, on the other hand, only brings her pink, plastic, Barbie fishing rod with a single rubber worm on a hook.

I’ve packed a tonne of stuff because I’m attempting to prepare for every possible scenario. Anya brings very little because, for her, fishing is simple—attach the rubber worm to the hook on the pink plastic fishing rod and cast repeatedly.

Simple.

For the last month at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well, I have been delivering a series of messages under the heading “Go Fish” (the title is inspired by Andy Stanley). Go Fish is a series about evangelism. Go Fish comes from the agenda Jesus articulated to His first would-be disciples, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).These messages are aimed at helping followers of Jesus understand why we talk about Jesus to others, and how we can do that more effectively.

In my message delivered on Sunday November 15 (audio below), I made the assertion that the Christian church, when it comes to talking about the way of salvation, has often been guilty of muddying the water. My conviction is that we need to keep things simple. We need to remember that the Gospel is simple—profoundly simple, but simple nonetheless.

In an effort to highlight the simplicity of the Gospel, the message below unpacks one of the most familiar verses in the Bible—John 3:16.

If you’ve ever been anxious about talking about Jesus with others, if you’ve ever imagined the message to be beyond your ability to articulate, if you’ve ever doubted that you know enough to tell the story, then I urge you to listen to this message.

I’m convinced that my daughter Anya has it right. Fishing is simple.

And when you think about it, that makes perfect sense. If God wanted to have a relationship with us, you wouldn’t expect Him to make the way complex or confusing. You would expect Him to make the way clear and understandable. The way is clear. It is simple. May that give every follower of Jesus the confidence to Go Fish!

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What Has Changed?

I have changed. I want to change. I will change. 

Change is at the heart of what Jesus did on the cross. The language we most often hear is the language of ‘saving’. Yes, certainly there was a rescue component to the work of Christ on the cross, but the work was/is far more thorough than that.

The death of Jesus not only saves me, but it places me within a lifelong process of transformation. In other words, Jesus has designs to change me, and all those who seek to follow Him. 

The apostle Paul got this. He opened his letter to the Philippians with this message, “I am confident that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Phil. 1:6).

I love that verse. Sometimes I regard change to be coming too slowly. Sometimes I fear that the process of personal transformation has been altogether suspended. But then I am reminded that I do not ultimately drive this process of change. I’m a part of it, of course, by my resisting or embracing of God’s transforming power. However, at the end of the day, God’s will is going to prevail in my life. The process began in me, by Him, and will eventually be completed……by Him.  

My confidence in this transformation comes from observing the profound changes in the lives of men and women who witnessed the death and Resurrection of Jesus. On Easter Sunday at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well, I had us track Simon-Peter as an example of one of these. If you’ve ever doubted your capacity to be changed, or restored by God, I urge you to listen to the message below.

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The story of Simon-Peter is compelling. If Simon-Peter can be changed, if Saul (Paul) can be changed, you and I can be changed. I want that change. I look forward to that change!

A Sure Way To Ruin Progress

I’m the kind of person who likes to focus on the positive. I’d rather give attention to what I am able to do, rather than what I should avoid. But I must admit this perspective doesn’t always serve me well.

For example, I quite enjoy exercising—I like to lift weights, run, and play hockey. And you would think with this active lifestyle that I would be in decent shape. Unfortunately, the reason this isn’t exactly the case is because I’m not very good at avoiding junk food. Chicken wings, pizza, onion rings, potato chips, and the list goes on.  The reality is that I stunt my progress towards greater health by clinging to certain habits.

I fear that this is also true in the lives of many who seek to follow Christ. We read our Bible, we pray, we attend a gathering at our church and we expect that the sum of these activities will translate into progress for our spiritual journey. And yet, concurrently, we sometimes cling to certain habits which stunt our spiritual growth. Yes, there are certain practices which can become barriers to Christian progress. One of those is harbouring bitterness against another. An unwillingness to forgive has the ability to grind our spiritual growth to a halt.

As I survey the New Testament, I note that forgiveness is a HUGE deal. This is no periphery subject. In one account, Peter asks Jesus,

 Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? (Matthew 18:21)

Peter was interested to know if there were limitations to forgiveness. Jesus replies by telling Peter to forgive “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). I don’t think Jesus meant for Peter to count to 490. The parable which follows indicates that Jesus wants His followers to forgive without limits. I grant that this is not easy. There might be individuals in your life who you struggle to forgive. I get that. I struggle with this to. And yet I am struck by the clarity of Jesus’ standard (see the parable found in Matthew 18:23-35). Since God has forgiven our sins in Christ, we must forgive one another. The king in the parable states it this way,

 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? (Matthew 18:33)    

I also like the way C.S. Lewis frames it,

 To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.   

Or, as I’ve heard another put it, “Failing to forgive is to cut off the branch we’re sitting on.”

On Sunday March 22, I spoke on the subject on forgiveness, asserting that our capacity and willingness to forgive will largely determine the ceiling for our growth. Have a listen and let me know what you think. Why do you suspect forgiveness is so difficult? 

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I certainly don’t regard myself as an ‘expert’ in forgiving others, but I am nonetheless convinced that the follower of Jesus who forgives will be the follower that grows