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Lost Sheep, Bridge Repair, Gold panning, Fishing, Caravaning and the Gospel.

April 9, 2011

I love combining my favorite recreational activities with personal evangelism, my latest effort was one of the most pleasant ever.

First I will set the scene. I have a friend whose name is also Michael and we met around 5 years ago when because of his circumstance he literally cried out to God for help and God answered by sending a couple of Christian’s to him on a Thursday night.  Michael was told the Gospel and responded by enthusiastically coming to church for nearly a year. We even became housemates. Unfortunately Michael lacked true biblical repentance and wasn’t willing to let some sins go.  So when some false brethren at the church behaved in a hypocritical and unchristian  manner, Michael dismissed Christianity as false based on that same manifested  behavior and  then used the opportunity to return to his previous life. After he stopped attending church, I maintained contact and a friendship with him for a couple of years. But as he sunk deeper into his old sinful life my presence became a painful conscience  prod and he became embittered with me also.  So we parted company after I enraged him one morning.

Fast forward 5 years and during Wednesday corporate prayer I asked God what had become of the people I had called brothers who then later had departed from the faith and I even called out the names of a dozen people (all of whom I ran into over the next couple of weeks) including Michael.

When I bumped into Michael we had a coffee together and caught up. Michael’s life had been in decline since leaving church and my life had generally been in the ascent. He had a falling out with most of the people whom he had previously plunged back into sin with and was now isolated and impoverished. I offered him a couple of days work to help financially and he was genuinely grateful. As he bemoaned his old friends about how selfish and fickle they were, he realized that he had done the exact same thing to me. He apologized to me and we re-established out friendship

Fast forward another two weeks and we were driving away from Ballarat for a three day caravan trip, which was to include gold panning, fishing, camping and unbeknown to Michael a fair slice of the Gospel as-well.

We set off Thursday at 10 am after some frenzied last minute packing in a Toyota Forerunner towing a classic silver 1948 Carapark Caravelle, which had been lovingly restored by yours truly.

Gold panning.

We drove a secret location where I had found Gold before only to find the creek was bone dry. So we made a cup tea and pulled the Gold detector out of storage. We worked our way along the creek and bumped into a man also panning for Gold. We spent an hour with him and he taught us 10 years of gold know-how as he found speck after speck of gold. In ten pans he found about 2 grams of gold flakes (about $800 worth).  Michael and I realized we were ill equipped for the task and have resolved to return soon with better equipment and put our new know how to work. The conversation was about gold and more gold as we drove away to a secret fishing location. The drive was uneventful and we talked a little about my new church and the people there but in general the Gospel door was still closed.

Fishing.

We arrived at the secret fishing location and even before we put the kettle on we had the rods in the water. We then set up camp and I showed Michael the practicality and coolness of the caravan, he wasn’t so convinced but humored me with an occasional “it works for me too”. Michael started the camp fire and I have to say he is probably the best camp fire starter and maintainer I have ever seen. That afternoon we caught about a dozen red fin and ate those same red fin for dinner, the meat was so sweet (the only pity was the 3 billion bones those fish have). Michael elected to sleep in the back of the truck because it was too dark to put up the tent and I went to sleep in the caravan – it was only 8 pm but after the hard work of panning for gold you get sleepy very early.

Still no Gospel.

I awoke the next morning at 2 am feeling rested and refreshed (I think it was God) because I got up checked the rods and then read and considered the whole Book of Romans in one go,  followed by sincere heart baring to the Lord in prayer and soft hymns by the camp fire. Michael awoke after the sun came up and I had already caught 4 fish by that time. As he made a cup of tea Michael saw the Bible open in the caravan and told me  about how a  secular research documentary had shown that shown that based on two grave sites the Israelis and the Samaritan’s were genetically the same. I then told him that the Bible agrees with the documentary because the Samaritans were the Jews left behind during the captivity of Israel and that they had intermingled with the other peoples that had been introduced as a labor force by the Babylonians.  So they should be genetically very similar to the Jews of the first century.

Better than before but still no Gospel.

That day I caught around twenty red fin and Michael caught three, he seemed almost apologetic about it but I reassured him that I still considered him a fisherman, but only if he does better tomorrow. That afternoon we decided to move to another secret fishing spot but first we wanted to get some supplies and takeaway in town. As we drove into town my caravan turned a few heads but my priceless moment was when a young woman crossed the road to get a closer look at the cool “old school” caravan.  She even tried to peek in a window unknowingly while Michael and I watched on eating our takeaway up the road.  I felt like a proud parent that was being credited for his son being an astronaut, it was nice feeling. Michael chuckled as I looked on  in my endorphin induced glowing smile.

We got to the new secret fishing spot well after dark and I was tired after driving, but Michael decided to sit down in the middle of the caravan. We had one of the most frank and truthful conversations that I had ever had, about life, the church and God.  We talked very late and shared very personal information and fully restored the friendship and I also think that my credibility as a Christian was elevated in Michael’s assessment after I had been dismissed on account of the previously mentioned  wicked behavior of the false brethren. Looking back I think during the earlier parts of the trip I had been keenly scrutinized and examined for signs of hypocrisy. I guess I was also assessing Michael and had seen some changes for the better in his character also.

Much better but still not a full Gospel.

Later that night I was violently ill as I deposited that nights chicken and chips takeaway outside the caravan door at 3 am. While I pulled  faces and made animal noises Michael laughed and commented at my expense.  I then quickly returned to sleep and didn’t awake until I heard Michael tell a man that his missing dog was behind the caravan eating what I had expelled the during the night. I was too embarrassed to get up immediately and played possum until I was sure the man and his dog were gone.

We then proceeded to fish and we fished hard. Michael caught over 20 fish and I got about a dozen. We caught red fin, golden perch, catfish and about an equal amount of carp.  We took all the fish except the carp back to the church dam and released them later that night. The drive home was in the rain but good conversation was about all manner of topics. We made plans for even grander excursions.

As I write this I feel I could have pushed the Gospel harder but strangely I feel in my spirit  like the weekend was complete and that what I had set out to do for the Lord’s glory was accomplished. I was confused. As I considered this I silently questioned God as to why I felt this way, and in my heart God told me – Michael already knows the Gospel, but what he needs now is to know is that the Gospel is true.

As I conclude this post I search for a pithy way to explain that a Christian’s behavior and conduct is as important as their faithfulness in preaching the Biblical gospel but it is just beyond my grasp.  What I can say is that I have seen many many people turned away from the truth of the Gospel before the Holy Spirit has done its work because of the way the majority of people in Christendom conduct themselves in the name of God.

Hypocrites in the Church make void the Gospel in the eyes of those who are examining and testing the Gospel as the absolute truth. A single righteous and holy life is the strongest affirmation of  the truth of the  Gospel and  draws a more  sinners into the Kingdom than a thousand Bible truths spoken by a thousand hypocrites.

As Christians we should be unique and distinct from the rest of the world because we live in accordance to the truth of God which is diametrically contrary to worldly wisdom.

The Bible states, he who does not gather instead scatters. Every day we need to examine ourselves and make sure we through our conduct are gathering into the Kingdom the lost and if we are not, then the Bible says we must be scattering people out of or away from the Kingdom. There is no third option.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 10, 2011 9:17 PM

    Great witness there Mike.. Yes it is so true, when those who are seeking the truth see professing christians acting hypocritically and no different to those caught up in the world they are led to question the power of the gospel to transform and renew, if this is questioned then the gospel as a whole is weakened and undermined. We must always remember that the world and those that are seeking are watching our conduct, we need to be living and growing in holiness..

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