“Fishing and Following”
I was recently reminded of the interesting parallels between Peter’s first and last encounter with Jesus during his ministry on earth. The first is recorded in Luke 5:1-11
- Jesus encounters fishermen who weren’t catching fish
- Jesus instructs them to try one more time
- On their last try they catch massive amounts of fish
- Peter responds in a memorable way to the power of God on display … “And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”
- The encounter with Christ compelled Peter to drop everything and follow Him (initial call)
The final encounter is strikingly familiar. Peter had denied Jesus three times and was back to fishing. I’m sure he was confused and grasping for answers. In the midst of his fruitless fishing, Peter encounters the risen Christ for the third time.
- Jesus encounters fishermen who weren’t catching fish (another night of laboring in vain)
- Jesus instructs them to try one more time (like their first encounter in Luke 5)
- On their last try they catch massive amounts of fish (again)
- Peter responds in another memorable way … “That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.”
- The encounter with Christ compelled Peter to drop everything and follow Him (reinstatement)
It occurs to me that our faith journey can be distilled to one simple concept spelled out in two words, “FOLLOW ME.” We are never too far down the path or too far off the path to take a step toward Jesus. Drop your nets, dive into the deep.
“Heal or Harden”
“And the LORD said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go’” (Exodus 4:21).
I was 11 years old. Up early on a Saturday morning to watch cartoons, long before anyone else crawled out of bed. The sound of a mower caught my attention. I looked outside, and to my surprise our neighbor was mowing his yard in his underwear. Shocked, I thought my dad might like to see this unusual event, like witnessing a solar eclipse. Dad quickly surmised that something was wrong. Our neighbor had suffered a mild-stroke. His speech was slurred, his legs were weak, confused about where he was or what he was doing. We found out later that this good man had endured a history of hardening of the arteries. Sometimes called “arteriosclerosis.” In our neighbor’s case, the hardening had clotted his brain. Sometimes this narrowing of the blood stream can impact the heart.
God had promised Moses that Israel was to be freed from Egyptian bondage. God knew that Pharaoh’s heart was not inclined toward releasing the Hebrews. His spiritual arteries were clogged. This mysterious interaction between God and Pharaoh has intrigued me. Ten times the Scriptures speak of God doing the hardening (Exodus 4:21, 7:3, 9:12, 10:1, 20, 27, 11:10, 14:4, 8, & 17), and ten times the Scriptures speak of Pharaoh hardening his own heart (7:13, 14, 22, 8:15, 19, 32, 9:7, 34, 35, & 13:15). Paradoxical. Strange. Hard to explain. I know this one truth: God alone can heal a hardened heart. Give Him your heart today. Amen.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son…” Hebrews 1:1&2
Sometimes when people are talking you can’t understand them. Often it is because they are speaking in an environment that is too noisy, like being outside when a plane is flying overhead. It can also be hard to understand someone because of your lack of attention, like when your child is showing you their artwork and you are preoccupied with an e-mail. Sometimes it’s just that the person talking can’t express their true inner thoughts well. We’ve all heard words that don’t make sense.
God has been talking to us since the beginning of time and we have often misunderstood. He spoke through rules and we thought he was keeping something from us. He spoke through promises and we thought we’d be better off on our own. He spoke through prophets and we didn’t believe his messengers. So he spoke as clearly as he could by sending His son Jesus to earth. Now I get it. In his Living Word I understand how much he loves me, that he has saved me, and that he has a future for me. I’m glad God kept talking.
“Come now, let us settle the matter, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 1:18a)
I have heard the words “let’s settle the matter” a lot. I’ve heard them in movies. I’ve heard my dad say them when I was growing up. I’ve even heard myself say them. They are typically said when whoever is about to say them has had enough of the current circumstances. Or there has been enough vacillating back and forth and it is time to make a decision. Or the waiting is over and it is time to finish the task. Let’s look at the words that come after the above statement:
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18
Jesus would settle the matter of our rebellious nature at the cross and in the grave. No longer would our sins keep us unacceptable in his sight. No longer would the color of our disobedience be seen as red as crimson. No. We shall be white as snow or wool.
In fact Jesus would say it this way: “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
I invite you and all those you know to Easter services tomorrow at Eastview Christian Church. It is an invitation to get things right. “Come now, let us settle the matter.”
“But the king replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” 2nd Samuel 24:24
King David was required by God to go to a specific area and offer a sacrifice for a sin he had committed, and to stop a plague that had resulted. When David arrived at Araunah’s threshing floor and wanted to buy it from him in order to build an altar and offer the burnt offerings, Araunah offered David anything he needed. David knew that this offering needed to be a sacrifice of his own. He declined Araunah’s offer saying that he would not sacrifice burnt offerings that didn’t cost him anything.
We’re on borrowed time, with borrowed money, borrowed resources, borrowed talents, and borrowed abilities. All of these God has entrusted to us to use in this world for His purposes. How many of my offerings have been easy and out of the excess of my life, causing little sacrifice, if any.
I am moved by David’s commitment that his offering needed to cost him something. I will be thinking about that each time I give my money, time, and effort to God’s kingdom.
“An Easter Reminder”
“Yet he did not waiver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but he was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:20 – 22
An unhurried reading and reflection on Romans 4 would be a great way to prepare your heart for the Easter weekend. In chapter 4 Paul almost exclusively focuses on Abraham’s journey of faith. Paul outlines a compelling argument that we’re justified by our faith and not our works. It’s our belief in Him and not our works for him that make us righteous before Him.
Which foundation have you built your life on? A life built on faith and a life built on works is fundamentally opposed. A life grounded in faith declares that God’s works and His promises are enough. I can’t add to it, it’s complete. A life grounded in works depends on my performance. It makes me anxious… it asks nagging questions like “Am I doing enough” and “is God pleased with me?” Let this be a timely reminder leading into Easter, that our faith in the authenticity of that one single event is the reason that God calls us his sons, his co-heirs, his children.
Paul dominates chapter 4 with “credit” talk. He uses this term in verses 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 (same Greek word translated count), 9, 10, and 11. It’s everywhere. Why? Because Paul’s constantly reminding us that the deposits coming into our spiritual account are not being earned by our works. Because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, God is consistently crediting our account based upon our faith in what He’s already done. That’s a timely Easter reminder from Romans 4. I can’t wait to celebrate with you on Sunday!
“Christmas and Easter”
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end”.
“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst’. A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:28-30).
As we approach Easter, I thought it might be helpful to see the two ends of the spectrum regarding Christ’s life on earth. His birth (Christmas) and his death (Easter) mark our calendars and our lives to this very day. Let’s take a moment to reflect on these two insightful passages.
This passage from Isaiah forecasts the coming Christ, but does so about 700 years before he would walk this earth. In these two verses, we see Him referred to as “son,” “Counselor,” and “Father.” Here we have a picture of the Trinity and a foretaste of His reign that will be characterized as peace-filled and everlasting.
In John’s gospel we are reminded that Scripture was fulfilled in the life of Christ. We see that He declared “it” is finished, rather than “I” am finished. In this passage, we see that the author of Life breathed His last breath, not as a victim, but as a victor.
This Sunday many will attend church for their first time of the year. Some will hear a familiar story and enjoy a nice event with their families. We hope and pray for much more. We hope and pray for people to encounter the risen Savior, the victorious “Prince of Peace” and “Everlasting Father.” Our prayer is that people recognize the death on the cross as one endured for each of us … and that the empty tomb signifies the victory spoken of from Isaiah to John. “Father, have your way with your church this Easter Sunday. May you reign victorious over us. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.”