Blessed… You’ve Got to Throw Some Back

 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that people threw into the lake and gathered all kinds of fish. When it was full, they pulled it to the shore, where they sat down and put the good fish together into containers. But the bad fish they threw away. That’s the way it will be at the end of the present age. The angels will go out and separate the evil people from the righteous people, and will throw the evil ones into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth” (Matthew 13:47-50, Common English Bible).

I love to fish. I really don’t get much opportunity to do so, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy going when I get the chance. I enjoy fishing as sport but I enjoy eating the catch at least as much.

Still, I learned early as a child, you don’t keep everything you catch. I have fished in both fresh water and salt water. The same ideas apply to both. If a fish is too small, you throw it back. My dad would tell me, “Let’s throw him back. Let him grow up and we will catch him again next time.” My dad and I didn’t fish all that often but I can still hear him saying that.

I don’t really ever remember this as a kid, but at least these days, with some types of fish, if they are bigger than a certain size you have to throw them back as well. For example, a red drum has to be at least 20 inches long but no more than 28 inches long to keep it. Further, you can’t keep more than three per day. Well, at least those are the rules in Texas.

Another thing I remember is, you don’t keep every fish you catch because some just aren’t that good to eat. There was a fish my dad called a “hard head” (I think he called me that a few times too) that we never kept. We also caught a few small sharks. We didn’t keep them either. Some fish had a stronger taste. They always went back. Some fish had more bones. They got to keep swimming too.

Today’s lesson, “The Parable of the Nets,” reminds me of fishing for several reasons. First, of course, is the obvious reason. Though I never fished with a net, Jesus was still talking about fishing. And, Jesus also talked about separating the fish. It is basically what I did with my dad only over a longer period, as we caught fish.

What is different, however, Jesus wasn’t really talking about fishing. The Kingdom of Heaven is like the fish in the nets. When the catch is retrieved, the angels will separate the good from the bad. Perhaps some don’t measure up. Perhaps others just aren’t very good. Regardless of the reason, the lesson says, the good will enter the Kingdom while those who don’t measure up will be thrown away.

I know many people who ignore this parable. They believe in universal salvation, that in the end, God’s love will redeem everyone. I am not prepared to do that. I take what Scripture says here seriously, at least for me personally. I know that I need to live the kind of life in faith that will keep me in the net. If those who believe in universal salvation are right, I lose nothing. If, on the other hand, we should be living in a way that shows we belong in the net, and I don’t live that way, all is lost. Such an idea says to me, I need to strive to live in the will of God in the present so I know with confidence that my faith is well founded and I will stay in the net, entering the Kingdom of God.

What are you doing to stay in the net?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Author:

Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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