No Fishing ?

Have you ever been asked, “What are you giving up for Lent?”? This year I am advocating that we ‘take up’ a Lenten practise. In fact I am encouraging one particular and seemingly long forgotten practise, that goes back to the very formation of our Faith Movement.

Jesus initial call to discipleship was a call follow after Him and be made “fishers of men”. Now we might have preferred that Jesus called us to be better humans or holy people, but his primitive call is to ‘fish’! Please do not hear what I am not saying, Jesus is keenly interested in  making us better and holier people but the first call is to ‘fish’. Our Christ-like character is developed somewhere between those two markers, birth and death. Finally, we are raised incorruptible and that work will be completed as we are made like Him. Our battle against: sin, the flesh and the devil, will be swallowed up in Christ’s final victory. So this sanctifying work of God in our lives is bounded by the limits of our time on this earth.

Fishing on the other hand allows us to partner in an activity affecting eternity.

When the disciples respond to this call to follow and be made fishers they have little idea of what that means, and they surrender to Jesus Lordship and vocation for their lives. It becomes clear from this initial encounter that following will necessarily involve fishing.

I do not intend to ‘lay a guilt trip’ on anyone or prescribe how you ought to fish, but I do want to encourage you in the knowledge that God is taking all you’re your experiences good and bad to ‘make you a fisher’. You have opportunity in your circle to live a life of following before your friends and neighbours that a religious professional never will. God has prepared a particular pool for you. He has given you a particular story, of failure and success, of suffering and joy, glorious and messy! All the elements are in place!

Cast your mind back. Think about the individual who influenced your journey to God or your return to God. That person had a particular place in your life and when the time and circumstances were right they were used to ‘fish’ you. We were all once fish but following means fishing! God has a plan for us to be useful for eternity through the ancient spiritual practice of  being ‘made a fisher.’

I joked recently that the things we do in Lent are actually things we ought to do all the time. Here is a Lenten practice I encourage us to add to our repertoire. Let us follow in such a way that Christ makes us fishers with eternal purpose and impact.

Tomorrow we are hosting our St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast. Three of the guys of Threshold House will be sharing their stories. They will be fishing!

Some of the guys have expressed a passion for smoking meat and making jerky. We have the idea of purchasing some equipment for this and selling it at a variety of venues. This will allow the guys to make some money and raise some funds for Threshold House at the same time.

We will be interviewing a new applicant to Threshold House this week and we are praying for discernment about this.

Two of our guys have had several interviews for prospective jobs and we are praying that they will find meaningful employment in a spot where they can ‘fish’.

We had to purchase a new washer and dryer. This was not an expected expense but a very necessary one. Please pray for our finances. We trust God will supply!

Thank you.

Not Struggling? Not Following!

Sometimes I surprise myself. When I am teaching or preaching or sharing I occasionally say something that makes me think “That’s pretty good!” In moments like that I know that the Holy Spirit is speaking to my soul.

I had just such a happening this week as I was reviewing Romans chapters seven and eight. I think that chapter seven, where Paul describes the battle within, describes an everyday occurrence. Our carnal (fleshly) nature leaves us in a struggle. We know what is right and good. We agree that that is the thing we ought to do or pursue, yet we often lose the struggle and wind up doing the very thing we do not want to do. Whether this is speaking harshly to my children, eating too much of the wrong thing, dealing with addiction of some kind or a myriad of other human tussles, so often we do the very thing we do not want to do. Into this terrible human dilemma steps God’s one true answer. Paul ask the question “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” and then answers “Jesus Christ.”

Chapter seven feels very familiar but the Good News is that there is another chapter to be written. We are a people of hope because our story has another chapter to be written.

Chapter eight begins with a definitive declaration, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Paul moves on to describe both the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, and Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity as interceding for us. I imagine an old fashion tag team wrestling (wrassling) match, in which our protagonist is battered and beaten but reaches out and tags in a partner. This partner leaps over the ropes and soon dispatches the antagonist and snatches victory from the very verge of defeat!

If chapter seven describes our life of struggle then chapter eight offers us the recipe to be more than conquerors. We simply admit our inherent weakness and ‘tag in’ the power of God! If the former chapter’s experience is normative for all humans then chapter eight can be normative for all Christ followers.  A few obstacles keep us from this though. We can settle for losing our battle and excuse ourselves. We settle for justification, that is being saved from the penalty of sin and so never experience the transformation promised in sanctification, that is being saved more and more from the power of sin in our life. This settling is not the following that Christ calls us to! We can also battle our chapter seven struggle in our own paltry strength and live lives of continuous loss. We wait patiently for Heaven and the glorification, that is being finally saved from the very presence of sin, that that moment provides.

If we long to be “more than conquerors” then we must be engaged in the battle. Denial or deferment do not cut it! If we are not fighting then we are not following. I have different struggles today than decades ago, but I have them. I live in the nexus between chapters seven and eight and my daily decisions make all the difference. “If God be for me who can stand against me?”

This week K. one of our residents, shared his testimony at church. The entire Threshold gang showed up to support him. He was very nervous but did a marvellous job! After he was done his buddies stood and cheered for him, the whole congregation joined in. It was beautiful!

On March 18 we are hosting a St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast and three of our guys will get to walk in the example of K. as they share their stories.

Mondays some of guys help cook and serve a meal at the Salvation Army.

Tuesday some guys pick up boxes of surplus pizzas from the local Little Caesar and these are directed toward the hungry of the city.

Saturday they help with an East Side Community dinner served at the local Anglican Church.

Two of our guys have found meaningful employment and others are actively looking.

Please keep Threshold House in your prayers.

Deja Vu (all over again)

I was feeling nostalgic this week. I was ‘looking back’ at my time caring for Up Town Church. We had planted a café style church peopled by a wonderful collection of neighbourhood characters. We came to describe ourselves (at our best) as: “An honest accepting community of broken people, who were experiencing the Father’s love, finding wholeness in Christ Jesus, and performing acts of kindness in the power of the Holy Spirit.” I would not have traded that church for the biggest mega church in Christendom. I felt that it could not get better than Up Town! I did not envy anyone their religious gig! There is a saying “All good things must come to an end.” And after over a decade of enjoyment Up Town ceased to be. I have grieved the loss of that wonderful experience and I came to believe such would never again be mine.

This week as I was revelling in the exciting growth of community at Threshold House it dawned on me, “This was that same kind of community.” It is quite different in many respects, but it seems to me that God is developing us as: An honest accepting community of broken people, who are experiencing the Father’s love, finding wholeness in Christ Jesus, and performing acts of kindness in the power of the Holy Spirit. It was a ‘deja vu’ moment for me. Here I was finding the very kind of community I had given up seeking.

God knows my heart and is giving me the desire of my heart. God birthed this desire in me long ago when I got a taste for this variety of community and now by God’s hand this  God-given desire is coming to fruition. I am amazed! I am gob smacked!

I don’t mean to idealize either the Up Town Community or the Threshold House Community, both are exceedingly messy! They are very raw and real. Our ‘brokenness’ leaves us messy indeed. We deal with real life issues. We apply, imperfectly, new skills to old besetting problems. Yet there is beauty in the raw honest reliance on God. For us there is no hope aside from that of God’s love, healing and empowering.

As admitted ‘broken people’ we are given access to speak into the lives of other broken people, sharing the hope we are discovering. As a community we reach out helping with food based ministries in the Uptown of Saint John and in our neighbourhood of Saint John East. C.H. Spurgeon talked about evangelism as “One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” I believe Mr. Spurgeon would be pleased with the ministry in deed and in word of our ‘band of the broken.’