My grandfather, Parker Holmes, was the postmaster and owned a general store in Palzo, Illinois. There are no original buildings left in Palzo, although the Springhill Baptist Church is still located on its original location and there have been homes built around the area where the store and blacksmith shops once stood. One of the things I still have from my grandfather’s store is a half-dollar. Well, it’s a half-dollar but it’s not a half-dollar. It’s a counterfeit half-dollar. My grandmother gave it to me when I was just a small boy. It was made of lead and actually has knife cuts along the side because my grandfather was suspicious of it when it was handed to him as payment for goods. But, it was a pretty good counterfeit. It could fool someone who was not looking very close, and of course once taken he really did not have a real half-dollar, he had nothing. You know where I’m going, right? Life can be like that. Especially like that. Life (big L) and life (small l) are two different things and not to be thought of as the same. Life (big L) is the Life that God provides and life (small l) is biology. Little life is best described as the best man can do for man. Man is not sufficient to give Life, only God can do that. The Greek word for the Life of God is Zoe. Man’s life, in its boiled down meaning, is ‘life with the breath’. Life is ‘Life as the Father would have it for us’. The other life comes from just being born. Plants and animals have life. ‘Life as the Father would have it for us’ comes only from God and can’t be simplified to meat or drink only. It is Righteousness, Peace and the Spirit. Those characteristics of Life only come from God, can’t get them any other place. Life with the breath doesn’t have any of those to give, but it will tell you that it can. It will fool you into believing it has the answers to a satisfied life. And, life with the breath can give you ‘riches’ and ‘ease’, but it can’t give you what you need to have a real Life…Life as the Creator God would have you experience it.
This is a Rapala. It’s a beauty. I guess I’ve caught more bass on this lure than any other lure that I’ve tried. I actually got my first one when I was in college and working at Tempo Department store in Marion a few years ago, back in my brown hair days. That baby right there is a ‘for sure’ lure! Do you know why it’s so ‘for sure’? I’ll tell you in one word: mimic. Yep, fish try to eat that thing but it’s really a plastic fake.
This is a minnow. It’s a beauty. I’ve caught lots of fish with minnows as well. Minnows swim like minnows, they are shiny like minnows and fish love minnows. That’s the rub if you’re a fish. That plastic Rapala looks just like that minnow. Sounds like a minnow as it’s pulled through the water. But, if a fish falls for the fake, woe to that fish! Those two minnows produce two completely different results, just as Life and life produce two different results as well. In the water a minnow and Rapala appear pretty much the same in that environment. Even the plastic one, the one with the 6 hooks, is pretty harmless until you fall for it. There’s no real ‘sting’ with the plastic one until you try and consume it, try to use it to your advantage. Once a fish falls for that Rapala, it’s too late. Not only is there sting but usually it becomes a very complicated trap that not only hooks you with the first barb but ends up hooking you with all 6 of the barbs. Well, everyone knows what happens next. The result of that simple act of the fish grabbing on to that Rapala most the time cost it its life, or at the least injury.
Our problem is like the fish’s problem. So much of the time we can’t tell the real from the fake. Culture and society (i.e. man) offers a life that is attractive and it looks good. It’s usually shiny money, cars, women or men, or grand homes to make you complete. It swims like Life, but is life. It looks like Life, but its looks are deceiving. It’s a life that seems like the right way to live but its end leads to calamity. The life that men have created and offer mimics Life. Perhaps it offers a momentary reward just like that fish was thinking before it actually contacted the barb. But, in the end we get trapped into depression, discouraged, perhaps unhealthy, and usually filled with melancholy. Trapped into something we wish we had never ‘struck’ at, wish we had known better, wish we had been able to recognize it as a fake life, not the Life the Father had prepared for us. The Father’s Life will have us chase the contents of our heart and bite onto something real rather than the content of our head and its chase to simple existence.
Of course this all started in the first Garden. The literal translation for the words used to describe the serpent tempter in Genesis was ‘the shiny one’, the most beautiful thing in that Garden. It was attractive and what it had to offer was tempting to our ears and our flesh. It was a lure away from Life then, it is a lure that pulls away from Life today. Nothing has changed. Today, there’s always a tempter to persuade us away from the God kind of Life. A persuader wooing us to seek bio-experience only: appealing to our senses rather than our hearts. It’s a daily lure that swims by and it shows no favor to the unbelieving or believing fishes. Amazing, that lure never comes ugly! It swims by just like the real Life minnow. It appears often as an ‘angel of light’ not showing itself in darkness but rather as a shining. Much of the time it appears with authority as a roaring lion, but it’s only a roar, not much lion. It looks so much like the real that we follow it, slowly at first and more rapidly as we close in on it. And once entangled, well it’s very difficult to get off the hook. Youth and inexperience are its most likely targets, but every now and again a ‘lunker’ will bite. What’s amazing to me is that fish are for the most part smarter than humans once they’re caught. By that I mean fish put up a passionate fight, I might add to the joy of the fisherman. Humans seem to just get dragged along. Some of the most entangled never seem to acknowledge being entangled. I sometimes think if fish could talk they would say ‘my fault’. Humans, well for the most part, it’s never their fault. Many times they’re not even alarmed by the hook. That lure suggests to us there is another way that will be a successful alternative to the real minnow (the God Life). But, a successful fish never chases, never bites at that Rapala. Or, if it does move toward it, that fish quickly recognizes the craftiness of the plastic and stops its run up to the lure. Fish can be like people you know, or is it that people can be like fish? Some fish run up to the lure and suddenly turn away while others fall for it ‘hook, line and sinker’. People do the same thing.
There is a Tree that is a proper source of Life. There’s another tree, the tree of good and evil. Anything that separates us from the first Tree satisfies the second. You can be as bad as you want to be or you can be self-righteous to the point that your approach to the Father ‘is as filthy rags’. That tree promises you prestige through your money, position, education or power. The Tree of Life promises are much different, much more. To source the Tree of Life, who is Christ Jesus and has been placed back in our Garden, you again have to choose between those two trees. The more of the Tree of Life that we can consume into your life (bio) the more of His Life we can experience in this present darkness we call the World, its culture and its solutions for life. After going bankrupt, the famed author Ernest Hemingway was asked how that could happen to such a successful writer. Hemingway responded that it happened a little at a time and all at once. As we chase the wrong things, as we follow and increasingly approach the wrong source and solutions in our lives, as we bite onto the imitation, all at once we are entangled. We don’t know how we got there, but there we are. Everything seems ok on the way. We never did see any hooks, only minnow! Like Hemingway’s bankruptcy, it usually doesn’t happen all at once. Gradually and subtly we eventfully arrive at the entanglement. By then it’s usually very complicated and hard to untangle ourselves. One barb simply leads to another barb. It was shiny all the way, attractive. It promised to satisfy us and it disappoints in the end. We have no real excuse, it’s just our attempt for independence from God, swimming away from His Love and Way toward trouble, content along the way, but in many ways a frying pan awaits. We leave the safety of His presence for the terror of the fake.
The tree of good and evil is subtle. It so easily seems the right way. It seemed right in the first Garden. It is a tree, so it looks like The Tree. It is however a counterfeit. Just like that coin from my grandfather’s store, it will get you nothing in the end, certainly not what you needed or wanted in the end. As I mentioned earlier, it never comes ugly. Its dangers and tragedies may not be obvious at first but God had given us a manual on ‘Rapala’ recognition. Use it to identify the fakes, pull off before getting to the ‘all at once’ and choose Life as the Father has made it for us, rather than the sly and whispering mimic!