Monday, November 30, 2015

Fishing for People

Fishing for People
Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” (Luke 5:10b NLT)
As I was reading the account of Jesus’ teaching the people while sitting in Simon Peter’s boat, the Holy Spirit brought a new train of thought to my mind.
   The normal focus of this story is on the miraculous catch of fish. The nets were so full they began to break. Help was needed to land the catch. Simon called for more boats and they were so full that they were on the verge of sinking. No wonder Simon was afraid.
   How many times have I read this account as a fisherman and marveled at the enormous catch of fish! This time, however, a new phrase caught my attention. It’s in the statement made by Jesus to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper and let down your nets, and you will catch many fish.” (Lk. 5:4b). Several factors about Jesus stand out to me that I missed in previous readings.
(1) Jesus knew exactly where the fish were located. Location is always a vital factor when fishing. That’s why serious fishermen use a sonar type fish-finder to identify fish and tell how deep they are from the bottom.
(2) Jesus knew they had fished all night close to shore and caught nothing. Fish usually come in close to shore at night to feed.
(3) Jesus guaranteed that they would catch fish. His words “you will” indicates their success. All that was needed was Simon’s willingness to obey. Even though he had some doubts, Simon said, “If you say so, we’ll try again.” (v. 5)
(4) Jesus assured Simon that they would catch “many” fish. It wouldn’t just be a few, but an enormous catch.
   At first Simon addressed Jesus as “Master,” but after the catch he addresses him as “Lord.” What a change!
   It is important to note that Jesus instructed Simon to “go” out where the fish were located. He didn’t tell him to sit in the boat and wait for the fish to come to him.

   Are you out looking for the fish or sitting back and waiting for the fish to come to you?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Completing the Mission

Completing the Mission
He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. “Abba ,Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.” (Mark 14:35 NLT)
Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane reveals, without a shadow of a doubt, that He was on a mission and the completion of that mission was close at hand. This is evidenced by such phrases as “if it were possible,” “the awful hour,” and “might pass him by.” During the entirety of Jesus’ earthly sojourn he had one goal or mission in mind and that was “to seek and save those that were lost.” He established his authority to accomplish this mission by the many miraculous events that took place.
   The final hour has arrived. He is about to be betrayed into the hands of the hate-filled priests to be arrested, tried, and falsely convicted. After the verdict he is thrust into the hands of the brutal soldiers where he is beaten senseless and then executed in cold blood. And why? For what crime? For speaking words of grace and truth.
   Jesus, knowing the extent of the suffering before him, willingly volunteered for this mission. His very words in the garden, “my soul is crushed with grief to the point of death, make me cringe and shed tears of remorse.  How can anyone fault him for the dread and horror that descended on his soul when the moment arrived.
   What did Jesus see when he looked into that awful cup of suffering? The enormity of the wrath of God filling that cup was almost more than even he could bear. The dregs of sin were so repulsive, so vile, so horribly inhuman that even the Son of God cringed at the sight. Can’t you just hear his cry, “Father, please take this cup of suffering from me” (14:35). We must always remember that Jesus was both God and man at the same time. He was a unique person.
   The mission was completed. Salvation was secured. Redemption purchased by the blood of an innocent lamb without spot or blemish. If you are one of the lost sheep that has been found and redeemed, rejoice. If you have never fully trusted in Jesus, do it today.

Prayer: Dear Lord, praise your holy name for seeking me out and rescuing me from sin.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Putting Love in Motion

Putting Love in Motion
And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law. (Mark 12:33 NLT)
During one of Jesus’ many teaching sessions a teacher of the law asked him, “Of all the commandments which is the most important?” (Mark 12:28NLT) This opened the door for Jesus to emphasize to the Jews the importance of following the command given by God in Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.”
   The teacher of the Law agreed with Jesus, even going so far as to admit that Jesus had spoken the truth. He then proceeds to say that he has followed the command. If this were true, then what was keeping him from becoming a follower of Jesus?
   “Talk is cheap,” as the saying goes. It is one thing to know the right answers, to be able to quote chapter and verse, and to discuss the finer points of theology. But it is another matter entirely to put the words into practice, to be doers of God’s word.  It has been said that many people are only eighteen inches from heaven. Intellectualism will not get a person into heaven. What is needed is a heart transformation.
   The young man in today’s discussion knew the truth in his head: Loving God with all that we are and have. Thinking of him. Pursuing him. Ordering our lives around him. Serving him. Seeking to honor him. Obeying him. And out of that consuming love, loving others compassionately. The man understood all this and could articulate it. He just wasn’t able or refused to live out the truth.
   The discussion that Jesus had with the teacher of the law gets right to the heart of worship. What’s the bottom line? Why have we been created in the image of God? How should we spend our lives? Of all the good things we could focus on, what is the best?
   If you are struggling today to love God as he wants you to and show that love to those around you, call on him to fill you with his compassion.

Prayer: Dear Lord, give me the insight and power to live out your love today.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Lifetime Commitment

A Lifetime Commitment
Jesus called out to them, “Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. (Mark 1:17-18)
Abram, a business man in Ur of the Chaldees, the son of a father who worshipped idols, heard a voice from heaven telling him to uproot his family and move south to a land that only God knew about. And because Abram had just enough faith to obey this crazy wild call, he found eternal treasure and changed the course of human history.
   Then we find a man named Moses, out on the backside of nowhere, tracking along after a flock of smelly sheep, just killing time, when out of the corner of his eye, he sees a flaming bush that was burning but wasn’t burning up. He steps aside to check it out. And his life—and the world—are changed forever.
   History is filled with men and women who heard God’s call and dared to give up their earthly ambitions to pursue eternal treasures. Where would the world be without the likes of Hudson Taylor, David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, Dwight L. Moody, Billy Graham, and others. Countless saints and ordinary people like you and me who hitch their wagons (and lives) to God’s star and attempt outlandish, impossible tasks.
   Wasn’t this what happened to the disciples who were ordinary fishermen? Jesus gave a simple summons—only four words, “Come be my disciples!” Come, leave your families, livelihood (boat and nets), your favorite work to do what? Follow a lowly carpenter-turned-preacher/teacher? But what about…what if…what if?
   What about you? Christ is still looking for disciples who are willing to leave all and follow Him. And, more amazingly, his invitation to still to average—dare I say “flawed” folks who have the faith to join his cause. His only promise—“I will make you fishers of people!”  When we pursue Jesus, our lives will take on a new and different urgency, and go in new directions. Our gifts and abilities are suddenly focused on kingdom building and opportunities.
   Where does his call find you today in God’s overall plan for the kingdom?

Prayer: Dear Lord, give me an urgency to follow your plan for me in your kingdom.