So long and thanks for all the fish

Over the last eleven years I have been privileged to serve initially as Treasurer and then for the last six as Chairman of CMA NSW. During this time I have seen members come and go, some areas blossom, and others fade, and I am constantly reminded of Ecclesiastes 3 – there is a season for everything, a time for everything . And whilst there are no constants in man’s world, one thing that has remained unchanged is God – Jesus Christ – The Holy Spirit. We, as an organisation and as individuals have had our ups and downs during these years, yes I’ve rubbed a few people up the wrong way and only just kept my hands off a few throats but His grace has covered all of this and His love and His hope have been at the forefront of our existence.
CMA is moving in a new direction, there is more cooperation between the states, no longer is it just an annual catch up but a cohesive national force working for good. We are also cooperating with CMA organisations across the world and reaping the benefits of this. Part of what I see in the international groups is the need to re-think the way we do things, be more flexible in our approach but more rigid in our fundamental beliefs.
In two weeks time a new committee will be elected, I pray that they will have your support and that you will ride with them and not just tag along on the journey. Be a participant and not a spectator. Some ten years ago I went searching for a verse CMA could use on stationery, on the website etc and found Psalm45:4 – for me it epitomises what each of us should do;
In your majesty, ride out to victory, defending truth, humility, and justice. Go forth to perform awe-inspiring deeds
There is also a verse from the Parable of the Banquet (Luke 14:15-24) which invites you to get out on your bike and achieve something for Christ;
Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.’

Grace, Gracious, Graceful….

One thing that no one can accuse me of is being graceful on the dance floor, my wife maintains I have three left feet!  But whilst I may not be graceful, I am grace filled and I am there by grace.

We all know the saying there but for the grace of God go I;

  • I see someone who is unemployed – there but for the grace of God go I
  • I see someone in an ambulance – there but for the grace of God go I
  • I see someone struggling with issues – there but for the grace of God go I
  • I see someone in a car instead of on a motorbike – there but for the grace of God go I

When we think of the hymn Amazing Grace it highlights how spoilt we are and how hard it is to amaze us, nowadays when we are lost we just consult the GPS, when we are blind we may be able to have eye surgery to reverse the situation – these things do not amaze us as we understand the theory behind them but amazing grace is something that defies human understanding and is an unexpected response to a circumstance created by man’s misadventures.

We cannot begin to comprehend the total burden of sin taken on by Christ to save us, we have trouble extending grace to someone who accidentally bumps into us let alone someone who has wilfully wronged us, and sin is a wilful choice.

We know the mnemonic God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense, but do we pause to concider that this was because Christ was Goaded, Ridiculed, Assaulted, Condemned, Executed – He suffered so you won’t.

And His grace is all we need;

Ephesians 2:8-9

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

John 1:16-17

Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:24

And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:14

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Biker’s 23rd Psalm

The Lord is my Shepherd
I shall not want.
He makes me to ride on smooth roads
near green pastures;
He leads me, and my bike,
beside rivers and still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me on the roadway of
righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I ride through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, and my bike,
they comfort me.
You prepare a journey before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head, and my bike,
with oil, my engine runs smoothly.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow
me, and my bike, all the days of my life;
And I will ride in the presence of the Lord.
Forever.

Onward Christian Commandos

One of the most stirring anthems of all times is “Onward Christian Soldiers”, it brings to mind an army of saints marching in unison, singing praises as the go forth in the name of Christ – sadly though the picture in my head has them all wearing long white robes and not a weapon to be seen – a bunch of hippie peace freaks – powerless to fight.  And yet the hymn says they are marching as to war!  Yes there is a war – but we know the outcome already – we will win the war but it is the battles along the way that have yet to be decided.

The SAS are often called to go into battle before any other force.  They are dropped behind enemy lines in small groups to prepare the way.  Much of their success in hostile territory has been through the use of their “Hearts & Minds” approach and it is something we can learn from as we fight to bring Christ to more and more people.  These commandos get to know the people who are living under tyrants and despots – people who are living in a world without hope – people who are waiting for a saviour.  The commandos help them through simple things, digging wells, improving harvests, improving health – the people rejoice in the hope that they now have and turn against the falsehoods they live under.

The SAS do not go in as a large body waving banners declaring they stand against the tyrants – this would only instil fear, loathing and suspicion.  They do not go in making a lot of noise about what they are fighting against – this would only cause fear and rejection.  They go in and prepare a way for goodness to follow – much as John the Baptist did, preparing a path in the wilderness.

As Christians we must get alongside those who live under the oppression of falseness, those who live without hope – we must perform acts of service to show that we are there to help and establish confidence and trust with those we meet.  By winning their hearts and minds we can lead them away from their circumstances into a world of hope.  In recent times here in Australia we have seen the rise of organisations claiming to be anti this and anti that – sure we need to take a stand against the spread of Islam, the branding of Halal food (funding from certification pays Imans etc) and many other things, but we need to do this in a way that brings honour.  Christ taught us to love our neighbours, He did not teach us to promote division and hatred through belonging to groups that are anti.  He taught us to get alongside people – to accept, to love and then to lead them to a better life.  He taught us to win their Hearts and Minds – just as the SAS does.

So let’s move on from being a horde planning to overcome through sheer numbers – let’s be like commandos, going in to the wilderness, behind enemy lines – preparing the way for Christs love to triumph by speaking into the lives of individuals – preparing their minds to receive the Word and their hearts to receive the love.

 

Matthew 22:36-40
X “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”  Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’

This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Angling for Glory

Matt 4:19 And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

I recently heard the story of a fishermen who regularly went to the creek, cast out a line and sat – waiting and relaxing before retrieving the line and re-casting. After years of accompanying the fisherman on these expeditions the frustrated friend discovered that the fishing line had no hook and no bait – the fisherman didn’t want the stress of having to deal with the catch – they just wanted the experience of fishing to make them feel better.

Sadly this can be the case with some Christians – we have the bait and the hook but too often we just cast out the weight of expectations and obligations. Too often we are ready to show that we love Christ but not willing to spend the time reeling in the catch, having all the right equipment but not using it as intended. Casting out evidence of our faith but not allowing others to accept our invitation.

As fishers for men we need to identify the type of fish we are after and then select the appropriate bait and size of hook. Sometimes we need to be prepared to let the fish run a little before setting the hook, sometimes the fish will just take it all at once – other times they will nibble away never committing to the hook so we have to keep resetting our bait. We also need to be conscious of the weight of our sinker – if it is too heavy the fish will discard the bait – if it is too light the bait will drift away from them.

So what are these elements and how do we become successful fishers of men.

  • The bait – what is it about Christ that drew you to Him? Which of these will appeal most to who you are reaching out to?
    • Unconditional love – forgiveness – acceptance – His sacrifice – His willingness to stand up for the oppressed – to challenge human authority
  • The hook – what is it that committed you to Christ – that kept you on the line?
    • Salvation – Redemption – The Cross
  • How big a hook does the fish need – what are they trying to leave behind?
    • Persecution – Addiction – Abuse –Hedonistic Lifestyle
  • The sinker – is it a weight or an anchor?
    • Does your faith hold you fast and in position or does it drag you down?
    • Be wary that you do not portray the Christian life, our expectations, obedience, morals as a burden that will drag the fish down and tire them out – a weight. Rather show that it is a lifestyle that guides, directs and protects you – an anchor for maintaining your place in the world.

In one example from the bible the fishermen relying on their own knowledge had been out all night without anything to show for it – then Jesus told them where to cast their nets – they obeyed and were overwhelmed with the reward.

Will you fish where Jesus directs or will you continue to give the appearance of fishing without being prepared to deal with the catch?