authority, bread, disciples, faith, fishing, Jesus Christ, John, love, miracles, Peter, work

It’s the Lord, #108

“Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” 

“So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” 

John 21:4-7 (context, vv. 3-8)

Perhaps this is the way Jesus comes to us. Every time he comes to the 12, it’s unexpectedly. Three times he visits them, and he never comes with a rebuke, or a harsh word of correction. In my mind at least, I certainly wouldn’t have let them off-the-hook that easy. I would’ve pounced on them.

They’re out fishing, following Peter’s decision. Peter again is blowing it. And Jesus, rather than a word of correction, shouts to them that they need to cast their net to the other side of their boat. He tells them, if they do that, they’ll catch more than they can handle.

This has come before, when they were first called to follow. It’s appropriate that what happened at the beginning, has now occurred at the end. Later, when they counted fish, they had a 153. And the nets, had not been torn.

John is the first to recognize Jesus, but Peter will be the first to the shore.

Peter instantly knows that this man is Jesus. He strips down to his underwear and jumps in. He must be with Jesus, the others are pulling in the net, and the boat is moving too slow. (Maybe Peter thought he would walk on water a second time?)

“When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”

John 21:9-10

The passage points out that they worked till morning, and they probably were hungry. The Lord is aware, and he’s built a campfire for them. It’ll be fried fish and bread for breakfast.

There’s a sensitivity here, and a proactive kind of love that is really concerned about others. He’s aware of what others might need, and he finds a way to serve them. That’s precisely the way love works. (1 Cor. 13.)

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:3-4

The resurrected Jesus is still the humble servant. The disciples could’ve fallen on their faces, and that would’ve been entirely appropriate. This after all, is the risen Savior of the world. Perhaps Jesus is more approachable than we think? Perhaps?

 “They ate the bread and fish that morning, I doubt not, in silent self- humiliation. Peter looked with tears in his eyes at that fire of coals, remembering how he stood and warmed himself when he denied his Master. Thomas stood there, wondering that he should have dared to ask such proofs of a fact most clear. All of them felt that they could shrink into nothing in his divine presence, since they had behaved so ill.”

C.H. Spurgeon

Oh, how he loves you.

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authority, disciples, faith, Jesus Christ, Kingdom of God, missions, rewards, slavery, work

I’m His Unworthy Servant, #81

Born to Serve Others

“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

Luke 17:10, (context, vv. 7-10)

After many years of ministry— this particular passage has become one of my favorites. The path I’ve walked has been challenging, and it seems to me that I haven’t done it very well at all. I’ve been a fool much of the time, and yet, if anything, God has held me firmly in place. I haven’t always been faithful:

“Through many dangers, toils and snares

I have already come

T’was Grace that brought me safe thus far

And Grace will lead me home.”

Amazing Grace, Third Stanza

There should be a humility in doing the work that we begin to learn, and I really hope I’m communicating that to you. I sometimes see it in myself, and more often see it in others. I used to kill rattlesnakes when I lived in Mexico. It demanded a certain cautiousness, and lesson #1 was this–you never, ever take your eyes off of the snake–no matter what. We must approach ourselves that carefully.

The Lord Jesus tells us one of those stories of his. This, IMHO, it’s one of his best. It makes a lot of sense, and it resonates within me. And I must watch myself, lest I forget the idea behind this passage.

We live in a society of equals–having a servant today is frowned upon. (I really could use 2 or 3 myself.) But in Jesus’ time, it was the norm–some people were regarded as property. It was more common than we think, as 30-40% of the general population were slaves. Early Christians condemned this, and regarded all men as equals, and as a result, many slaves became believers.

Jesus uses the concept very well. It seems that after a hard day’s work, a slave still needed to prepare his master’s dinner. No matter how much he toiled out in the fields, he had a duty to serve his master in this way; and it does seem unfair–we live in a land “where all men are created equal.”

But this is how the Kingdom works. Yes, it’s a foreign concept, and we can’t relate–we can only imagine it. Jesus uses it quite adroitly. The servant works for his master; completely, exclusively.

“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”

St. Augustine

Most of us work the “fields” pretty hard. We get dirty, we toil hard, and we sweat under the hot sun. We dream of a glass of cold lemonade (with ice), and a cool shower when we quit the fields. But that isn’t the way it works. Yes, Jesus gives his laborers rest–but the work continues.

Someone once said, “the work goes on, even when God buries his workers.” Hopefully, the next generation will continue my humble efforts, and his work in his fields will continue. But, in the meantime I must “watch” myself carefully, and do his will out in his fields.

“What have we done for him compared with what he has done for us? Our service put beside Christ’s is like one single grain of dust put in comparison with the mighty orb of the sun.”

C.H. Spurgeon

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The Parable of the Good Mormon, #72

“”But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.”

Luke 10:33-34

As I write this, I’m waiting for my plane in Salt Lake City, Utah. I just passed by the Mormon Temple, and that’s always disturbing to me. I guess as a teacher to the body of Christ, to see this much deception concentrated in a place like this is evil. The LDS church has a staggering 16.5 million scattered worldwide. And it’s growing fast.

Back in 1982, two Mormon security guards ushered me off of the temple grounds. But as I was escorted off their temple mount, Christian believers outside the gate gave me tracts to read, and they were praying that I would find the Lord Jesus. Their ministry is hard, but effective,

It’s strange how things work out sometimes.

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was treacherous, well-known by the people as a haven for robbers and muggers. Think the south-side of Chicago; it was dangerous, and typically when you did have to make the trip, you traveled in a group for safety.

Samaritans were the unholy and the godless. Jews never dreamed of fellowshipping with them–both regarded each other with contempt and scorn. To the Jew, the Samaritan was apostate, and there was a deep distaste for them. And the worse part of it all, they believed that God agreed.

They did respect each others turf though, at least, to a limited degree. At best, they simply didn’t acknowledge the others existence–at worst, they did the jihad thing, and went to outright war with each other. It’s all very complicated. It almost always is.

We must modernize this parable in order to really understand its implications. Let’s make sure we understand a few things though:

  • The Jews and the Samaritan detested each other. Each declared that they were the true nation of Israel.
  • The priest and the Levite both had religious reasons for avoiding situations like this. They quite easily justified themselves, as their interpretation of the Law forbid them from touching a corpse.
  • The Samaritan was doing the will of God, the religious leaders were not. Plain and simple. Jesus’ parable has ruined our conceptions forever of a religion that costs us nothing, and somehow gives us everything.
  • Jesus schools the Jewish leaders with the responsibility of loving each other–no matter what the other person believes is true.

This is a present day parable. It’s lost none of its zing-and we can’t rationalize away any of its authority. It speaks to us today, as powerfully as when Jesus first spoke it. This particular passage has never lost its punch, and we dare not minimize the message. If we do, typically, it’s for carnal reasons, and we do so, it’s at extreme peril to our very souls.

Who is your neighbor? We needn’t look far for understanding–each parable that Jesus spoke was simple, and it could be understood by a child–and yet it carried the full authority, and weight of heaven. If we minimize it, we risk our discipleship. We’ll suddenly cease to be real and authentic.

Is this a Sunday school flannelgraph, or is it a real truth for real believers?

I easily could go on, and on, ad nauseam–pummeling you with insignificant details, but I won’t. The critical message is one of an active, aggressive love for each one who is made in God’s image–for the Catholic and the Mormon, the black and the white, gay and straight, republican or democrat, the homeless and the mansion-dweller–everyone who the Lord God has created. Everyone. (Even illegal aliens–egads. Not them!)

No exceptions can be made. When we serve others–sacrificially, if we have to–we’re really serving the Lord Jesus. And if a Mormon happens along, and if they do what the Samaritan did, they’re doing the will of God. And that disturbs us, and it should.

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

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To Fall, Like Lightning, #71

“The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”

Luke 10:17-19, (context vv. 17-20)

All seventy-two returned, not one had been eaten by the wolves. It was a good day, and the disciples are filled with joy. They came back to Jesus with stories to tell him, and with each other. I’ve no doubt that they were truly excited, astonished at what had happened.

The Bible mentions Satan falling four times, and each time it’s a dramatic plunge from a high place. There’s no question in my mind that the disciples, obedient to Jesus, brought to a end Satan’s claim on this planet. The Church had arrived, and the world was now at last a very different place.

The success of the disciples was the downfall of Satan.

Like the cavalry that finally arrives at the last possible moment, these followers of Jesus enter the scene, and the balance of power shifts. Their work has irrevocably disturbed the forces of darkness, and Satan has fallen. Nothing will ever be the same again.

Who can really fathom what really happened at this particular moment? There must’ve been something significant that shook heaven when the disciples obeyed Jesus. Satan was no longer in a position of authority–something was permanently altered in the universe when his Church became faithful.

Jesus transmits his authority to his own, he never will leave them defenseless. Serpents and scorpions, figuratively speaking, are not eradicated. They’re still very much alive and well, but they can no longer harm the believer–they’re rendered harmless and impotent. They can never hurt us again.

“There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.”

 C.S. Lewis

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Night is Coming, #69

“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

John 9:4-5, (context, vv. 1-12)

Jesus now understands that his earthly ministry is ending. He’s been working a long, hard day, and night is quickly coming. He has been doing what the Father has asked him to do on planet earth–but the work has its limits. The most challenging act of obedience will soon be upon him. Can he endure the shame? Will he really go to the cross–for us?

When he really resides within us, he will glow like a light-stick does in the dark.

It’s starting to get dark, the night is creeping in, and it’s getting to the point where one can’t see to do his work. It seems there are certain limits, one does what he can, as long as he can. Jesus understands this–but there are certain restrictions that must be considered. He will only do what the Father has laid out for him. Nothing more, and nothing less.

Jesus says he is “the light of the world, and I believe him. Oh yes, the darkness is still there–sin, selfishness and pride continue their ugly work. But there’s someone who illuminates everyone around him. When he’s present, he glows like one of those light-sticks.

Peter and two others once saw Jesus catch on fire up on the mountain top, and that’s what his whole ministry was like. When he arrives we can really see–and when he has worked out his earthly ministry, he has done his job.

The most astonishing thing is that he has made believers light, a city on a hill which can’t be hidden, (Matthew 5:14). He does it, not us–never us. It seems that the closer we get to him, the more we’ll shine. And Jesus shows us how to do ministry, in its truest sense.

“If I don’t do the things my Father does, well and good; don’t believe me. But if I am doing them, put aside for a moment what you hear me say about myself and just take the evidence of the actions that are right before your eyes.”

John 10:37, the Message

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The Plow, #56

“No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:62 (context, vv. 57-62)

Every disciple has his plow. Sometimes it’ll be obvious, everyone sees it; other times it’ll be buried deep inside, and no one knows. A plow is a perfect word to describe exactly what the Holy Spirit is doing–and its descriptive of the determination of a disciple who is slowly learning how to follow.

When you’re trying to grow-up you’ll grasp this foundational lesson. You have to be single-minded and really focused to stay moving ahead. You cannot look behind at what has been done. You can’t turn around to admire your work, rather we look at the tree that is keeping us lined up with Jesus.

You will sweat and get tired. Your full effort is needed to keep the plow in the hard earth. You aren’t pushing, the oxen is pulling, but you’re the one who weighs it down while keeping your furrow relatively straight. It’s harder than it looks. (Thank God for the modern tractor.)

In case the plowman starts to look back, his plow line would become crooked. If that happens, the field he is plowing will not yield a full harvest. A good plowman has learned he must hold on. In following Jesus, we are to keep our eyes on Him, and never let our minds and hearts wander away. (Hebrews 12:1-2.)

“To keep our hand on the plow while wiping away the tears–THAT is Christianity.”

-Watchman Nee

To follow means looking and moving forward. We must understand this–it’s the very essence of walking a path. We’re walking out the journey. Sometimes we feel Jesus’ joy as His follower, but occasionally we won’t. We’re learning to understand it more and more. But no matter what, we keep putting heel-to-toe. We are followers after all.

Jesus lived this; He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51).

“To learn strong faith is to endure great trials. I have learned my faith by standing firm amid severe testings.”

-George Mueller

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The Easy Yoke, Entry #35

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30, (context, vv. 25-30)

I have thought some on these two verses; I’ve come to the conclusion that it really must be understood as a holy ‘invite.’ A gracious bidding to come to Him, to find much needed rest, and discover meaningful work. This is a gentle summons to blend both rest and work and then live it out in our lives.

Jesus is aware of my weak and faltering steps. I stumble a lot, I weave and trip often. Yet He never criticizes me, He finds no fault, but matches His steps to mine. On His own, Jesus could do the work much faster. But He insists we stay yoked, connected with each other. This amazes me.

The moment we do this we’ll understand that the combination of these two will always balance and correct us. It will pour out of us love, grace and gentleness. The fruits of the Spirit can be seen, and we become salt of the earth.

He invites us to come and be yoked, and to enter into true rest, and true work.

“Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee.”

-St. Augustine

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