What is your Great Fish?
January 2020


By Phil Reardon

My Dear Family in Christ,

Ever-precious greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! I am well aware that I am, to some degree, institutionalized. I am stuck in a proverbial time warp. I have not been on “the streets” since July 15, 1991. My “so-called” freedom was really full-blown slavery. My life had been a living death in a drug-crazed, crime-ridden, alcoholic—blur.

For the last twenty years before I was arrested, from the age of 14, I only knew the world through sinful, foggy goggles of drugs and booze. Ironically, for 34 years I was free, but without Christ; thus, I was in prison. Now, for what will have been 30 years in prison with Christ, I am wonderfully and totally free! Praise God, being released is going to be a whole new life for me – freed from the very tomb of prison. Yes, a shadow of the glorious resurrection to come!

I went to rehab, in the height of my addiction, for an admissions interview. I was right off the streets, hopelessly suicidal, and with hindsight, I believe I was demon-possessed. I was the modern-day demoniac from Matthew, Chapter 9. I was a grown man and kept a knife in my pocket. I was dirty, and I stank. . .but, the Lord!

I made light of the Lord’s call upon my life. I had run from God as the likes of Jonah! Boy, if I had only known the “great fish” He had prepared for me! Nebuchadnezzar was told, “And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will.” (Dan 4:32) So also, it became me. . .

Yes – I, Philip, also ate grass as an oxen and my body was wet with the dew of heaven until my hairs were grown like an eagle’s feathers and my nails like bird claws. (Dan 4:33b para) Through it all, I shamelessly alienated my family and became a godless, selfish, societal leech with no conscience. I had no feelings – none. My heart was cold; hard as stone.

In the interview, the nice Christian lady said to me, “Philip, please fill out this admittance form.” She was very gracious; I was a bottom-dweller. When I went to fill the date in on the form, of a truth, I could not remember what year it was! I stopped in shock – I really did not know what year it was. I thought, “Am I really that burned-out? How can I possibly not know what year it is?” It was a deadly serious warning in my life! Still, I would not look up. I was used to the pen, and pigs never look up. I was too embarrassed to ask the lady what the year was, and so I just left it blank. She noticed and said, “Oh, Philip, you forgot the date,” as she graciously filled it in for me. The Lord condescended to meet me. He called; I did not answer. He gave clarity; I did not repent. I was a mule who would not heed. Instead of listening to the Lord, as Balaam’s ass had done, I had indeed become an ass like Balaam. I left that rehab and took a life.

It is written, “And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar [Philip] lifted up mine eyes unto Heaven, and mine understanding returned to me [I was born again], and I blessed the most High. . . He doeth according to His will in the army of Heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand. . . Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of Heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase.” (Daniel 4:34-37)

I am a tale of two lives – one in Adam and, graciously, one in Christ. (1 Cor. 15:22) We all are, really. Today, by grace, I can live holy and walk with the very King of Heaven. I love the Lord, and they are not just words. Yet always to humble me, still in my back pocket, albeit tucked away forever under the Blood, is the haunting memory of who I was and what I have done.

He who sins much, loves much. It really is true. I am living it today. Did you know that there is none that has not sinned much? We ought to have an inexpressible devotion, a loyalty of heart, even a fervent love for the Lord Jesus Christ that earthly words rise not to express. We should walk in a joyful holiness, a heavenly love of which the world knows not. Do you have a commitment to Him as He does to you? We love Him because He first loved us. The Lord of Glory purposely, by love and with joyful intent, went to the cross to be crucified for the likes of us!

My prison time was a missionary field flowing with milk and honey! Today, in resurrection power, we should be living for others who are still as we were. Are you? I remember who I was; do you? I was a mess, and that is why I now have a mess-age! Beloved, you can’t have a mess-age if you have never had a mess! Sinners sin; that is what they do. We have to do the grunt work and go find them. Jesus went down to the boat docks to get His boys. He changed the world through them! They, too, were grown men and kept a knife in their pockets. They were dirty, and they stank. . .