Category Archives: Christianity

What are you storing up?

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.  Matthew 12:33-34

About two months ago, a second grade boy on the playground was involved in a kick fight on the playground. In the midst of a mean game tag that ended up with this boy and a couple of others kicking each other, he turned and kicked a kindergarten boy, an innocent bystander, and said, “F— you, little boy.”  The playground teacher brought him in for me to deal with him.

One of the things I talked to him about was his language.  I asked him when he began using words like that, and he said, “Last fall.”  I said if he could remember when he started using that word, he could remember when he stopped, because it’s a choice.  And today (that day) was the day he was going to make a choice to stop.  When I talked with his mom about the incident, I quoted this verse.  I knew she was a Christian.  I said something about him needing to get more good stored up in his heart, otherwise it’s those swear words that get stored up and come out at inconvenient times.

I talked with her about how going to church and singing worship songs stores us things in our hearts about God, His goodness, and our choices.  Those worship songs speak to our hearts.  Having those songs on in our vehicles and in our houses instead of other music is a chance to store up good things in our hearts.  I was thrilled when she told me that she was taking her boys to Sunday school and church about a month later.  Even though her husband wasn’t going, which had been her deterrent all of the previous years, it wasn’t going to be anymore.  Praise God!

Yesterday in Sunday school we talked more about Matthew 12:33-34 as we discussed again Brad Bigney’s book: Gospel Treason, Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols.  On page 60, Bigney makes the statement, “I’ve been shocked at things that have come out of my mouth–things that I’ve been forced to trace back to my heart.  It’s been a wake-up call, a sledgehammer for self-deception, because we always think we’re doing better than we really are.”

I think the reason bad things come popping out of our mouths is because they have been stored up in our heart.  We can have a “resentment warehouse,” where we keep all of our offenses, our bitternesses, grievances and unresolved conflicts.

Think about it.  Let’s say someone does something to offend you and you never resolve it.  You always remember it.  You might forget the dozens of nice things that person says or does, but you remember the one time that he or she had a birthday party and didn’t invite you (or whatever it was).  You never talked about it with that person, instead you ‘let it slide.’  But you really didn’t let it slide, you tucked it away in that resentment warehouse.

resentment warehouse.jpgAnd then, one day when you’re tired, or your guard is down, or you’re not feeling well, and–boom!  You say how you really feel.  You both look at each other like, “Where did that come from?”  Sometimes it comes out through sarcasm, or it comes out through passive aggressive moves, through back stabbing comments, or through some other destructive move.  And you have to trace it back.  Sometimes you can trace it back, sometimes you can’t.

In the case of the resentment warehouse, it isn’t necessarily evil that is stored up, like the boy that shouted out, “F— you, little boy.”  We might not call it evil, but it is.  Ephesians 4:30-32 reads, Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

It’s time to clean out your warehouse.

 


On the Other Side of the Lake

A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been freed from the demons.  He was sitting at Jesus’ feet, fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid.  Then those who had seen what happened told the others how the demon-possessed man had been healed.  And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept them…

On the other side of the lake the crowds welcomed Jesus, because they had been waiting for Him.  Then a man named Jairus, a leader of the local synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, plead with Him to come home with Him.  Luke 8:35-41 NLT

I am struck by this contrast on the two different sides of the lake.  On one side, Jesus did something huge, setting a man free from a legion of demons.  Everyone in town knew him as the crazy man in the caves, who probably screamed out at night and scared the kids.  Now he’s clothed and in his right mind and Jesus did it.  Yet they begged Him to leave because they were afraid.

Hebrews 3:12-15 warns us about not having the same reaction: Take care lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin…Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.

Waiting for Jesus on the other side of the lake were people who needed healing, people with faith, with a welcoming heart and open arms.  One lady knew if she could just get through the crowd and touch his robe she’d be healed.  Jesus told her that her faith had healed her.  The opposite of faith is fear.  The thing that made the people drive Jesus away was fear across the lake.

One of the things that makes us drive Jesus away today is fear.  When we say that Jesus doesn’t do miracles like that today, or that He can’t fix this or fix that…or whatever it is that makes us not come to Him in prayer believing that He can impact a situation–part of our unbelief is mixed with fear.  When the disciples called out to Jesus in the boat and said, “Don’t you care if we drown?” it was fear.  He rebuked them for their lack of faith.

In 2 Timothy 3 when it says that we will have a from of godliness but deny God’s power, is it fear that makes us comfortable with a lack of power?  We are comfortable with our own power, rather than relying on the Holy Spirit, because maybe we’re afraid of where God is going to take us, or what He’s going to demand of us, or who He’s going to ask us to love…So we stick to a less-than power out of fear.  woman-at lake.jpg

Or, as Hebrews 3 calls it, “an unbelieving heart–an evil, unbelieving heart.”  And that heart condition causes us to fall away from the living God.

Which side of the lake do you live on?

This link if my graphic.  It is an infographic and it can’t be loaded on this page.  Please click it, and then pray about the answer to my question.

On the Other Side of the Lake


Oh The Places He’ll Take Us

That day when evening came, Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’  Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat.  There were also other boats with Him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat,so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern sleeping on a cushion.  The disciples woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to His disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?’  They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey Him!’  Mark 4:35-41

“We’re going to the other side,” Jesus announced with a grin; He knew there was a storm ahead, as He told them to get in.  He promptly went to sleep just to see if they would choke; and sure enough the boat looked like it would go up in smoke.

“Wake up Jesus! Don’t you care if we drown?  What kind of prophet are you?  We’re all going down!”  “Relax you ninnies–have you no faith?  I’m the God of these storm clouds, the wind and the waves.”

“Be not afraid!  So please stop your big whines.  I’ve got places to take you that have no confines.  Your faith now is small, but grow it you must.  Place it not on the storm, but in Me and you’ll bust–

stick people motion.pngRight out of your boxes and fears and small boats, and soon you will be preaching to thousands, and you’ll host–all kinds of events and church gatherings, you’ll see.  That there’s no end to what I can do in you through your faith in Me.

 

Don’t tell Me to wake up–it’s you that needs awakened.  I want to do things that will shake you and keep shaking.  I have places to take you so wrap your heart around it; give Me your faith and I’ll equip you–now let’s get it started!”

*Photo from Pixabay

 


The River of God’s Delights

They feast on the abundance of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your delights.  For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light do we see light.  Psalm 36:8-9

I am in earlier stages of studying through the Gospels chronologically.  As I embarked on this, I prayed that God would do a fresh work in me, that He would surprise me new things as I took another walk through the life of Jesus.  I love the song by Meredith Andrews, “The Gospel Changes Everything,” with some of some of its words:

The Gospel changes everything, the turning point in history, even now it’s changing me from who I was; The story of my Savior calls me to the wonder of the cross, The Gospel changes everything and it is changing me…

Jesus changes everything, there is no greater mystery, that God would come to rescue me from who I was; The kindness of my Savior calls me to the wonder of His love; Jesus changes everything, and He is changing me!

I was pleasantly surprised this last week as I felt God answer my prayer, bubbling up within me.  I have been setting my alarm an hour earlier to spend more time with Him in the mornings, and quite often lately as I’m going through the Gospels He just puts things on my heart.  I was at our State capitol this last week to receive an award for our school.

The small group that I was with was walking to dinner the evening before and there was a gentleman talking loudly to himself on the street corner.  He caught my attention.  As I was eating, I had way more food than I needed and God brought the man to mind.  I stopped eating and asked for a to-go box.  I told my party that I hoped the man would be there on our walk back to the hotel.  They too had extra food and I thought they might follow suit, but didn’t.  But they did help watch for the man as we walked.

 

thank you river of delightsI couldn’t spot him and I was dashed.  But as I looked, there came another street person, a woman.  I stopped her, touched her gently on the shoulder, and asked if she would like some food.  She smiled broadly, took it and said, “Have a blessed evening.”  I walked away so happy inside, knowing that this was something that bubbled up from what I had just read from the Sermon on the Mount that morning.

 

God had put it on my heart, and the joy I experienced was from the river of God’s delights.  The neat thing is that God doesn’t just give us water, He establishes in us a fountain of living water that bubbles up from within. I don’t have to conjure this up, or vow each day to “be a nicer person,” He does it through me as I drink deep from Him.

*Image from Google Images

 


‘Cause I’ve got friends in low places and high places

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of Heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He himself gives to all making life and breath and everything.  And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him…He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.  Acts 17:24-31

I’ve been going to our County jail for some 18 years now, leading Bible studies with any interested women on Sunday nights.  I first went to meet with one Native American young lady who came in late one night and was intent on killing herself in any way she possibly could.  The jailer, a friend of mine, asked her if she had ever read the Bible.  She said, “Oh no, we’re not allowed to believe in Jesus.”

He asked if she would be willing to talk to a friend of his, and she said yes.  He got permission for me to come see her during visiting hours, and I talked through the plexiglass the first couple of visits.  That was highly ineffective and I asked if there was any way to meet face to face.  We were able to secure the room used to meet with attorneys, and from there, I was able to tell her about what she began to coin as the ‘Jesus Way.’  She soon began to invite the whole cell and I just kept coming back.

I used to think they just came to get out of their cell.  Though it is probably partially true, there is still something more that draws them.  There is a boomerang effect with many of the women.  They are back in again and again.  I like it, giving me the chance to speak truth into their lives for a longer stretch.  Once they get out, they fall so quickly back into their life of drugs and alcohol.

This Acts passage is one of my favorites to proclaim to them.  Paul spoke to the Greeks that were so polytheistic that they even had an altar to the ‘unknown god.’  Today we call our unknown god our ‘higher power.’  Our rock can give us the strength we need to get us through treatment, even though we’ve been here eight times before.  “I am here to tell you about a God you can know.  He has a name, and He knows your name…”

The truths that I get to present in jail are the ones I want to tell my nonChristian friends and coworkers.  They are ones I would put on a billboard in Hollywood or in Washington DC. If I could summarize them from Acts 17, they would look like this:

  1. God is the origin of all things and the Lord of all things.
  2. He is  unchanging (not relative).
  3. God has a name.  He has revealed Himself through His Son Jesus, the name that is above every name.
  4. Human life is sacred and important because He has created us for a purpose.  He gave us a purpose, a destiny, and He has a plan and a purpose for our lives.
  5. One day Jesus is going to return and judge the world in righteousness.

Acts 17.jpgThese are our reference points, fixed and unchanging.  You can call them ‘absolute truths.’  Just like Sir Isaac Newton named physical laws that governed the universe, these would be like the spiritual ones that govern us.  I’m sure there are more, like the ones Campus Crusades, or ‘Cru’, use.  Or others like “sin has consequences,” and “somebody has to pay the price for sin.”

What Paul proclaimed on Mars Hill says it.  He didn’t use Jesus’ name.  He referred to Him at the end when he said, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead. in verse 31.

The struggle today is over so many things.  We’ve tossed God out as our ultimate reality and our ultimate truth.  We’ve made truth relative and individual.  We have tried to teach kids self esteem and morality without a basis of a having a loving God who has created us for a purpose–someone who knows the number of hairs on our head, who gave us a plan and a destiny, and has a plan and a purpose for our lives.

Instead, we have taught a secular humanistic version of where we came from, described by Frank Peretti in The Chair: stripped down we’re really saying, “Kids, you’re an accident, with no reason for being here.  You are a meaningless conglomeration of molecules strung together purely by chance billions and billions of years ago.  All of the dust and the gas in the galaxy floated around and bumped into each other and said, ‘Let’s be organic.’  You have no reason for being here.  Your existence is pointless; the universe won’t mind when you die; you’ll just become compost…Now for self esteem class: You’re an accident, but a good accident.  You can do things–but what if you can’t?  Because people appreciate you–but what if they don’t? (This is a wonderful video series if you ever get time to watch it–do!)

The good news is that Jesus came to die on the cross for you and for me.  One day He is going to return and set the wrong right.  We will give account to Him.  Last night I got to sit with three delightful women in jail and shared the good news once again with them.  We laughed and prayed and had a great time in the Word of God.  They might be in low places now, but they get to hook up with my Friend Jesus who is in the Highest of High places…

 

 

 


Your Fifteen Minutes of Fame

He has made everything beautiful in its time.  Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end…I perceived that whatever God does endures forever, nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it.  God has done it, so that people fear before Him.  I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts.  Ecclesiastes 3:11,14,18

There are three ‘so that’s’ or ‘that’s’ in these verses.  The first one is: God has put eternity in our hearts yet so that we can’t find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.  In other words, God has put a longing in our hearts for the infinite, or the eternal, but He has rigged it so that we can really only know the finite.

We have a longing for eternity but yet we can’t figure it all out because we’re limited in time and space.  We  have a yearning for something more, because we have souls that are eternal.  We are really made for a relationship with God almighty.  We all have a God sized hole in our hearts that is only filled with Him.  Some people figure it out, some never do.  Those that don’t spin around in all different sorts of directions, filling that hole with a variety of things.

The second ‘so that’ is that God is eternal and His works last forever.  God has made it that way so that we would fear Him.  Solomon doesn’t embellish this fact much, he just states it.  God is infinite, and we’re not, so we ought to fear Him.

The final ‘that’ is in verse 18: I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they are but beasts.  In other words, God is God and we are not.  He wants us to know how much we need Him.  The thing we all have in common is that in a hundred years we’ll all be dead.  In that way, we are like the beasts of the fields.  There has to be a meaning to the life we are given, because one day we will die.

There is a classic little book, A Confession, by Leo Tolstoy.  He wrote it in 1882.  It’s an Tolstoyinteresting read, not very long, and although he was a Russian intellectual, it’s very easy to follow his logic and his journey toward God.  I highly recommend it.  In his search for God, he read Ecclesiastes, as well as Buddha and Schopenhauer (a German philosopher).

Tolstoy’s real faith was in himself and in his own perfect will, to be better in the eyes of other people.  But he found it all meaningless.  He realized that he was paid well to be a teacher, but he really didn’t know much of anything.  By the age of 50 he was obsessed with suicide, keeping loose ropes away from himself lest he hang himself on a beam.

His question was, “Why do I live?”  His answer up that point was, “In infinite space, in infinite time, infinitely small particles change their forms in infinite complexity, and when you understood the laws of those mutations of form you will understand why you live on the earth.”  ( From Chapter 5)

Another way of saying it: “You are an accidentally united little lump of something that ferments and become life.  Then one day it disintegrates and there will be an end of the fermenting and of all the questions.”  If that’s true, then why do we cry out for our ’15 minutes of fame,’ as Andy Warhol first tagged it?  Or, as Dallas Willard puts it in The Divine Conspiracy, (pg. 9) why did ever people want to be ‘The Oscar Meyer Wiener’ where everyone will be in love with me?

Tolstoy eventually moved from having faith in himself and in only the rational knowledge, which brought futility to having a faith in irrational knowledge which was found in admitting that there was a God.  He didn’t find this faith by being with the other rich intellectuals.  In his search for meaning, he found it by spending time with the peasants.  They worked in heavy labor but were content in life.  He spent the rest of his days living a simple life with them, sorting out a faith in God.

Tolstoy discovered in his late fifties what Solomon wrote about.  Our hunger for meaning in life and significance is a signal of what God planted in us.  It’s who we are and why we are here.  We were made by an infinite, eternal God.  We bear His image.  We were meant to count, just like water is made to run downhill.  God has placed eternity in our hearts, with souls that live on after we die.  That’s what makes us different than animals.  One day we will all stand and give an account to our Creator.

So if you get an urge to try out for ‘American Idol’ or to  do something to make a mark, know it is because God has placed eternity in your heart.  You were made to count because you’re more than just an accidental lump of something that evolved from some primordial goo.  You were made by a God who loves you, knows you by name, and has a plan for your life.  You don’t have to worry about having loose ropes laying around, and that’s good news.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Great Exchange

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God…but they became futile in their thinking…Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for stuff (me)…they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.  Romans 1:21-25

I used to think this was the progression that idol worshipers in places like Papua New Guinea followed–some remote island.  But not me.  I’m not an idol worshiper!  I don’t have carved images in my backyard or on my mantel.  And I’m not like the pagans in my community who go golfing on Sunday mornings while I’m up early for prayer meeting, Sunday school and church.  They have idols, but not me.

Think again.  I’ve been slowly working through Brad Bigney’s  book, Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols with a great group of women.  We’re just in the second chapter, so the best is yet to come in this archaeological dig of the heart.  I’m just in the first layer of unearthing my own heart.  I’m seeing that, though I might cloak my idols in a different veneer, they are there.

Anything I exchange for the one true God is an idol.  I can exchange the glory of God for stuff, materialistic things that I can hold on to.  And I can exchange the truth of God for any lie that I cling to that I think is easier to hold on to than to really believe what He has promised.  That’s my great exchange.

idol-7Back in Exodus when the Israelites were waiting for Moses to come back down from the mountain they had Aaron make a golden calf.  That seemed so silly to me.  They had just seen God part the Red Sea and drown the Egyptian army and all.  Now they have to wait 40 days and it’s too long?  But God has given us front row seats to His glory too and when He’s not on our timetable we go running off to something or someone else all too easily.  We turn to something we can control because we lose the faith or patience or the toughness that it takes to wait it out just a little longer until God delivers.

I remember working at an all girls’ camp and being over a dozen counselors and about 50 teenage girls.  The tricky part was that there was a boys camp across the lake and around the bend.  So my sleep was disrupted regularly by trying to catch the occasional interlopers.  The one that sticks in my mind was a twenty something counselor that was busted hooking up with a guy counselor at chapel point, (of all places) to have sex.  Her justification was, “in case she never gets a chance again.”  Really?  So like the golden calf crowd.

We get jumpy and stay in the drivers seat and exchange the truth of God for a lie.  The lie might be that trusting in money is better than trusting in God.  Isn’t it funny that we have “In God we trust” on our money (when we really trust in money)?  A friend from college stopped in about ten years after and I asked him how he was doing spiritually.  He was an engineer in a glass company and was doing quite well.  He was shockingly honest and said that he wasn’t doing well spiritually.  He said he had the same attitude he used to have when he smoked pot, but now it was money that he was smoking.  I looked at him funny, and he said that he was embedded in materialism.  No one at church bothered him about it. He said it wasn’t like when he smoked pot, but it was the same rebellion.  The good news was when I saw him about five years later and asked him if he was still smoking money, he said he wasn’t.  I could tell he was much healthier spiritually.

 God isn’t always on our timetable so we get take matters into our own hands, just like the golden calf crowd and we turn to something we can control, says Bigney–even though idols serve us so poorly, and hurt us and cost us.  But we think they’re more predictable than God is, and they keep us in the driver’s seat.

2 Corinthians 5:7 says that “We walk by faith, not by sight,” but I think at core we wrestle with that most of the time.  The first thing Martha said to Jesus in John 11 was “You’re late,” when she had sent word to him that Lazarus was sick.  Jesus didn’t come right away and now he was dead.  Don’t we tell God He’s late a lot?    Jesus told Martha it was for the glory of God that He waited.  In chapter 2 of his book, Bigney says that “God is good, but He’s not safe. He will mess with your life–not just to be messing with it, but to conform you to the image of Christ.”

Jesus came late to mess with Martha and Mary because He had something so much bigger up His sleeve than just healing their brother.  He wanted to prove that He was the resurrection and the life and to give them a sneak preview of a huge coming attraction–His own resurrection.  And they got front row seats.  Wow.  Follow Jesus and that’s what He’ll do with you.  Put your life on the line and He’ll take your clean little life and turn it into a big, messy one.  Is it safe?  NO.  But like Mr. Beaver told Susan in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: “Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course He isn’t safe.  But He’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.”

Still in chapter 2, Bigney quotes Richard Keyes, from “The Idol Factory,” in No One but God: Breaking with the Idols of Our Age.  Keyes says that, paraphrased, we make idols because we don’t want to face God himself and His holiness.  So rather than to deal with His lordship, we orient ourselves towards ‘creations,’ and kind of make up our own rules.

In other words, we have the evidence of God within ourselves and in the world, but it’s too demanding to play life by God’s rules.  So then we make up our own religion that looks kind of like God’s, but we’re the ones in control.  It’s too difficult to really draw near to God, because if you’re entertaining unconfessed sin, or flat out rebelling, you can’t be in the same zip code with God.  His holiness will consume you.  You’ll go nuts.

Keyes goes on to say, “Since we were made to relate to God, but do not want to face Him, we forever inflate things in this world to religious proportions to fill the vacuum left by God’s exclusion.”  That’s why we have elevated sports to such an over the top status, even in Christian families.  Bigney words it so well: “As Christians–lovers of Jesus Christ–we have a higher calling.”

As soon as we drift away from Christ and the centrality of the gospel, we start erecting substitutes for God.  That’s why our culture is so desperate to make heroes and celebrities our everything and everybody–because of our innate yearning for God and the freedom of His gospel, both of which we as a people have rejected.  And we try to fill the void with hero and celebrity worship.

The antidote?  Shine a light on your heart, but quickly turn it to Jesus.  Read the Gospels, delight in grace and what Jesus has done.  Don’t drift.  In Sunday School we decided to ask ourselves the question about what we needed to fast from that might have a foothold where it ought not have.  Bigney’s question in identifying idols is “Am I willing to sin to get it?”

Where have I exchanged God’s best for a lie, a cheap substitute?  Where have I caved to something that is easier than to walk by faith and have chosen instead to walk by sight?

We’re going on an archaeological dig straight into our hearts.  I’ll tell you what I find.


Let’s go Fishing

fishing with a net

Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’  And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!  But at Your word I will let down the nets.’  And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking…They were all astonished at the catch of fish they had taken…’Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’  Luke 5:1-11

This caught my attention today.  It was our fishing opener last weekend.  Our lake country is flooded with trucks pulling boats.  So I can picture it.  The guys had been fishing all night.  No luck.  I’ve had those days of fishing.  I’m a fair weather fisher.  My husband always says, “A bad day of fishing is better than a day at work,” but I still gauge my day of fishing on how many fish we come home with.  I’m with Peter, “We toiled all night and took nothing!”

The disciples still aren’t sure of who this Jesus was.  “But at Your word we’ll give it another try.”  And, boom!  There are so many fish both boats start to sink.  My thought would be, “I’m sticking with this guy, he knows where the fish are.”  But then Jesus says, From now on you’ll be catching men.

Catching men?  They were still in awe about the huge catch of fish that just wasn’t there.  And now this guy tosses in that they will be catching men?  Jesus must have hooked them, because verse 11 tells us, And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.  

Jesus knew where the fish were.  He could take them to depths or catches that they couldn’t humanly do.  Stick with Him and this could be the norm.  Peter caught the bigness of the moment.  He sunk to his knees and cried, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.  He knew that not just anyone could fill empty nets.  Just wait Peter, I am going to fill those nets with people.

I am left with two thoughts spinning around in my head to mull over:

  1. Only Jesus can take me to the depths of life.  If I listen to Him, He’ll tell me where to cast my net and I’ll catch fish where there weren’t fish before.  Fish=people.  Fish are temporal, people are eternal.  I can fish all night on my own, but it’s not until He speaks and puts prompts on my heart to tell me who to go to and where that I am effective.  That’s the gist of the abiding life described in John 15:5, Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  Take me out into the deep God!  I need you to lead me.  Dr. Seuss’ “Oh The Places You’ll Go” is nothing compared to the places Peter went, and we go, led out by the Spirit.  Where do you want me to drop my nets today?
  2. From now on we’ll be catching people.  That word ‘catching’ is zogreo in the Greek.  Try to use that word in a sentence today at work to impress people (just kidding).  It means to entrap or catch alive.  It can mean to make a prisoner of war, like Satan does when used in 2 Timothy 2:26, that they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.  Or it can mean to set people free from the trap they have been in.  In other words, “From now on you will be catching people out of Satan’s trap, setting them free for God’s kingdom.”  Some of those people that I know that are caught in traps are Christians. They aren’t free to do God’s will because they are stuck and aren’t running free.  They have what 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 calls a stronghold (or two or three) in their life and it needs to be brought down.  Others are nonChristians and they don’t know Jesus yet and need to call on His name first and foremost to get free.  Who do you want me to help get out of a trap today?

Now, let’s go fishing!


God is ‘The King of the World’ and the King of Me

Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.  Isaiah 40:21-23

 Do you remember that scene in ‘Titanic’ where Leonardo DiCaprio is on the bow of that great ship and cries out, “I’m the king of the world”? Or, Shirley MacLaine in the movie, “Out On a Limb” when she stood on the shore of the Pacific Ocean and sang, “I am God, I am God, I am God.” (see Fatheralexander.org)

What do you suppose God thinks of that? Frank Peretti humorously imagines in his video, “The Chair,”  from Compass International, God hearing this little squeal while Shirley MacLaine is beating her chest and declaring loudly that she’s God, and says, “Hey, Peter, get a load of this,” as He hears a little squeak.  In other words, He is God and we’re not. He is the true King of the World.

king-world-concept-25324632God sits above the circle of the earth and we are like grasshoppers. He spreads out the heavens like a curtain and brings princes to rulers to nothing. Isaiah 40 goes on to say that scarcely have the kings and princes established themselves when God blows on them and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

Proverbs 21:1 tells us that, The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will.  God controls the rulers of the world, even the evil dictators. They do His bidding. So when it looks like the world is falling apart, with a variety of situations that threaten to spin out of control—know that God establishes leaders and He brings them down.

We don’t need to fret when we turn on the news. We do need to entrust ourselves into the hands of a God who sits above the circle of the earth, whose Ways are not our ways, and whose thoughts are not our thoughts, as Isaiah 55:8 declares.

The personal application of Isaiah 40 is coming to the conclusion that there is a God who sits on the throne and that this God of the universe if worthy of all of your praise.  I was reading about what Steven Hawking believed.  He was one of the smartest guys on the planet, yet before his death in March of 2018, he still claimed to be an atheist.  He believed that there was a grand design to the universe, but it had nothing to do with God.

 Throughout the years, Hawking has made many statements in opposition to religious beliefs. A few are listed below.  These quotes are taken from owlcation.com:

  • “We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”
  • “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”
  • “We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is; there is no God. No one created our universe, and no one directs our fate.“ This leads me to a profound realization that there probably is no heaven and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that, I am extremely grateful.”

I look at the contrast between his life and mine.  I am not as smart, by a long stretch, but I do know, to borrow the line of a hymn, “that at God’s right hand stands the One who is my Savior.”  The same power that enables Jesus to hold the universe together (Colossians 1:17) is the same power that holds me together.

 

 


No longer a drama queen

The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.  Isaiah 32:17

 Are you ever around certain people and all they do is stir up drama? And you wonder why it is that there is a trail of divisiveness, arguing, disputes, and intensity wherever that person goes? It takes a lot of energy to have that person in your life, at your family get together, or as a coworker. You might find yourself avoiding him or her, even subconsciously, because you just don’t want to play along.

Isaiah tells us of the opposite–that the effect of righteousness, of God’s righteousness, will be peace, quietness and trust. That is true of a life where God invades, compared to a life that is not surrendered to God. James 3:13-18 gives us that contrast:

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

That’s a mouthful. Hopefully you can see the contrast between the life of righteousness that comes from God, and the life that is characterized by bitterness and selfish ambition, that is full of disorder and every vile practice.  You are gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits and sincere.   And you will plant seeds of peace and righteousness, and hence, get peace and righteousness in return.

That’s such a contrast to those who aren’t ruled by peace.  James 3:15 goes as far as calling those driven by bitter jealousy and selfish ambition demonic.  Call it what it is. Titus 3:10-11 tells us, As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

The best thing that person can do is to stop and to figure out what root sin is driving that drama. Chaos and divisiveness is a characteristic of this. If you see someone whose life is filled with disorder, look for unresolved bitterness.   There are some people whose slogan could be, “There’s always something.” They think it’s funny, but it could be because of jealousy, selfish ambition or bitterness driving them.  If you have the opportunity, help the divisive person see the bitterness that might be driving the drama.

I’ve been thinking about that lately with a co-worker who tends to lean toward being passive aggressive. I’ve thought about telling her the verses from Titus about warning someone once and then twice and then having nothing to do with her, so as to let her know that she can’t keep being divisive. It isn’t okay.

So we can’t call someone a drama queen and just move on. If it isn’t okay to be like that, then we shouldn’t let that person continue to operate like that. Instead of just steering around him or her, taking a stand would be to do what Titus says, to be direct and warn him/her and then to not have anything to do with him/her anymore.

peaceable

Back to the positive side of being ruled by God’s righteousness—the outcome is peace is a quiet spirit, and a harvest of righteousness. That’s so much better. When you walk into someone’s home that this is the prevailing theme, there is order, calmness, and just plain peace. There doesn’t have to be drama or self-advancement—in fact, it is out of place. You want to be around those people, and that’s who you should want to be.

The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.  May it mark your life.  May drama, jealousy, divisiveness, selfish ambition be far from you.

*Image from slideshare.net