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Showing posts with label Fishers of Men. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fishers of Men. Show all posts

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Summer Fishing Tips

Matthew 4:19 - Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”

Summer is a great time to go fishing (for people).  The sun is out.  The surf is up.  You're heading to the beach.  Nobody knows you there, so if you mess up and make a fool of yourself, who cares!  So get out there and cast your nets and see what you bring in!  Here are some fishing tips to try this summer as you fish for people.

Summer Fishing Tip #1 (for fishers of men):
While buying groceries or souvenirs on summer vacation, ask the cashier: "Where's a good place to go to church around here?" You might learn a good place to worship the Lord while you're away from home. Or it might lead to a conversation about the Lord with the cashier.  Maybe, you just plant a seed.  Maybe, you make a friend and invite them to come to church with you. Good follow up questions could be:  "Oh cool.  Do you go there?" Or "Are you active in a church nearby?"  This is an easy, friendly way to introduce the subject of Christ.  You could share how much it means to you to spend time with Him each week in worship.  Who knows how God may use it.  You could even say, "Would you go go with me (or my family)? It would make me feel more comfortable since I don't know anyone there."  Remember, fishing is a art, not a science.  So just go with the flow.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Go Serve

Introduction
            Jesus told his disciples, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)  In other words, I will make you into the kind of people who attract more and more people to be part of God's Kingdom.  Jesus spent three years giving the disciples on the job training, and then in in Matthew 28:19-20, he commanded all his followers:  “Go and make disciples of all the nations.”  This is an essential element of the Christian faith; not optional. We might think following Jesus is about being better people, getting more discipline, finding hope, salvation, or peace.  All these are benefits of following Christ, but Jesus said he wants to make us fishers of men.  He didn't say he wanted to make us better people.  He said, "I will make you fishers of men."
            It scares some people to think about telling others about Jesus.  Perhaps you get the image of a Jehovah's Witness going door to door trying to force their religion on people.  But that's not what it's about at all.  Fishing for people is not as hard or scary as you think.  It is simply saying what Jesus means to you. 
            This week, I used Uber for the very first time.  It was an easy way to get to and from the airport in San Antonio.  The Uber driver was friendly and we talked for the twenty minute ride to the hotel.  He asked me what I did for a living and I told him I was a pastor.  That got us on the subject of religion and he showed me a picture of Jesus he kept on the instrument cluster of his dash. He said, "I love Jesus.  One time I had someone accuse me of worshipping an idol because I have the picture and they thought it was Buddha, but it's Jesus!"  He went on to say he didn't believe in idols.  He said, "I don't believe a statue--something people make with their own hands--can do anything for you.  They have no power."
            I agreed and then I shared how we are made in the image of God.  We talked about how humans are uniquely different from all creation--even animals--because we have the ability to think and reason and the free will to choose our actions.  We are the image of God; the only ones authorized by God to represent Him and Jesus helps restore that image that is broken by sin.
            Now, I didn't get in that Uber driver's car with a prepared "Jesus-pitch."  I was just looking for a ride, but God gave me the opportunity and I took it.  He brought a middle eastern Uber driver in Texas and an American Pastor from Georgia together for a twenty minute conversation and steered us onto the subject of faith.  So I went with it.  How about you?  When and how could you talk about Jesus?  How could you cast your fishing nets out and fish for people?
            The process for making disciples at my church follows is the same pattern Jesus used in the
Bible.  1) It all start with relationships.  I didn't have a deep relationship the Uber driver, but I built on the small relationship we had and went with it.  Sometimes, the deeper your relationship, the greater your opportunity to invite someone to Jesus.  2) Next, people come in through a gate to see Jesus (an opportunity to come to church and be with Jesus).  3) Then we go deeper; we move from a conversation or an interest to a commitment.  4) We go out and serve.  And it doesn't end there.  The cycle continue as we build more relationships, invite more to come in, go deeper, and go out and serve.  And it goes on and on.
            Here’s an example on how Jesus invited Levi (A.K.A. Matthew, the writer of the Gospel of Matthew) to be his disciple:

Luke 5:27-32
27 Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. 28 So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.
29 Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. 30 But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?”
31 Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32 I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent."

Nobody Likes Tax Collectors
            Nobody likes tax collectors.  That's true today (I hope you all got your taxes filed last month!).  Tax collectors were even more despised in Jesus' day and here's why.  The Israelites were conquered and ruled by the Roman Empire.  The Jews, as God chosen people, didn't like being ruled by a foreign, heathen nation.  And they especially didn't like having to pay taxes to them.  What made it worse was the Romans recruited Jews to collect the taxes from their own neighbors and the Romans might say to the Jewish tax collector, "You have to collect $10,000 from this neighborhood for us." (I'm just making up the numbers here as an example.  These figures have no historical value.)  They say, "Now, you have to pay us $10,000 for this neighborhood, but you can collect as much as you want.  You pay us $10,000 and you keep the rest."  So the unscrupulous Jewish tax collectors would often collect 2 or 3 times as much taxes as they were supposed to and pocket the rest as a huge profit.  They were getting rich at the expense of their own countrymen and they used the Roman soldiers to enforce their extortion.
            Levi (A.K.A. Matthew) was one of those hated tax collectors.  And Jesus invited him to be a disciple.  And Matthew left it all and follow Jesus, to be a "fisher of men."  Matthew wasted no time to start fishing.  He started right away.  He held a banquet for Jesus and invited all his friends to dinner.  You see, fishing for people doesn't have to be complicated.  It can just be a dinner or a hiking trip or a conversation during an Uber ride.
            Matthew's dinner relays an important principle about fishing for people.  Sometimes new converts, new followers, new church members are poised as much or more than anyone else to introduce their friends to Jesus.  Don't wait until you feel you've "matured enough" or got some training.  Just do it!  Do it now!  Do it from the very beginning.  If a tax collector can do it, so can you. 
            You have a unique ability to fish that no one else has.  Think about it.  I'm a preacher and have been one for eighteen years.  Almost everyone I know is already Christian (and probably a member of my church) or a preacher somewhere else.  I've already overfished my waters, but you have a rich fishing whole to tap into.  So go fish!

Go Serve
            And that brings me to our key idea today:  We grow when we go!  Let’s face it, we usually start out with Jesus for less than noble reasons.  Maybe we started coming because someone dragged us to Jesus (like our parents or spouse).  Or maybe we came because we were desperate and we thought maybe Jesus could help. 
            I knew a man once who was quite honest about it.  He said he started coming to church because his father was very sick and he promised God he would start going to church every Sunday if God made his father better.  His father got better, so the man started faithfully attending church.  Now, his faith grew much deeper as a result, but it started out as a bargain he made with God. 
            I became a Christian at the age of eight for the very self-serving reason that I wanted to go to heaven and avoid hell.  My children's pastor explained it very clearly to my 8-year-old ears: We have sinned and the consequences of sin is death, but Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins.  If we trust Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we go to heaven.  If we reject him, we go to hell.  Well, that was an easy choice for me.  I chose Jesus (and heaven).  Now, my faith has grown so much deeper than that in the last 36 years.  But it was a selfish, petty thing in the beginning.
            And that's the way it is for many of us.  We start very shallow, but as we go deeper with Christ, his love inspires us and overwhelms us.  We feel the (sometime troubling) conviction to serve.  The Holy Spirit gives us all the ability to serve.  And each of us is uniquely positioned to serve in ways that no one else can--because of our personal life experience, our abilities, and our connections.  If we don’t serve, the Body of Christ will not function correctly; the mission will suffer.  So we take a leap of faith and serve.  And, glory to God, there is nothing like fulfilling your God-given role.  It is a blessing to those you serve and it is twice the blessing for you.
            One of the things I hear people ask most is: "How do I know what God wants me to do?  If I just knew what my calling was, I would be glad to serve."  Well, I have an answer for you.  Thanks to the wonder of the internet, there is a simple and easy way for you to explore how the Holy Spirit has gifted you so you can find ways to serve that fulfill God's calling for you.  Click this link to complete a free, short survey that will indicate what is your spiritual gift(s) and explains what they mean and how you might use them to serve.

Challenge
            Throughout this series of messages, I've tried to challenge you to be a fisher of men (or women).  I challenged you to choose three people you can mentor this year (pray for them, help them, be a friend to them, and encourage them).  I also challenged you to consider how you could go deeper in your relationship with Jesus this year (such as joining a Bible study or Sunday school, commit to daily Bible reading, etc.).  Today, I want to add one more challenge.  How could you serve?  God gave you a specific spiritual gift so you can serve in the body of Christ, the Church.  Take the spiritual gifts assessment to find out your gift and then use it to go serve.  Now, go serve!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Go Deeper

Introduction
            Jesus is Lord. What does Lord mean? It means He is sovereign. It means what he says goes. You do it. You don't talk back. It’s not a discussion. You don’t make excuses.  And it’s not that Jesus' followers obey grudgingly. Some leaders wield authority like a whip. Nobody likes them. Nobody respects them, but they have the power and you better comply or you’re going to a pay a heavy price. I had a boss like that when I was a teenager.  He often made poor decisions and didn't lead well, but you had to follow his orders or you would be punished or lose your job.  The company he worked for is no longer in business.
            Jesus is not like an overbearing boss.  Jesus’ authority is well earned.  He's a wise ruler.  He does what's best for the whole Kingdom and he cares about each individual.  He loves and serves his people.  He even died on the cross for us.  When he gives a command, he isn’t telling you to do anything he hasn’t already done. And Jesus' true followers (true believers) willingly and enthusiastically obey the Lord.
            Jesus commands his followers: “Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I promise I will be with you even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)  We are supposed to make disciples. Jesus made our lives better or he’s in the process of making our lives better. We feel forgiveness and grace and love and peace. We’re learning to live with wisdom and make better decisions. We’re finding healing and he’s breaking the chains that bind us.  It’s a process of healing and part of our process is reaching out and sharing what we’ve found with others and inviting them to come in and meet Jesus too.
            Making disciples is part of the healing process for us, but how do you do it?  Making disciples is a cycle that goes all the way back to Jesus.  If you study his life and ministry, you see four main principles at work that form a continuous cycle.  First, you start with friends (it all starts with relationships). Make friends and second, you invite people to come in (get them to Jesus anyway you can!).  Next, you and your friends go deeper (and that's what my discussion will focus on today).  Then, you go serve.  We see this whole cycle in Jesus ministry and it is the example we still follow.  Let's look again at how Jesus invited his first disciple to follow him.

Luke 5:1-11 
1 One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. 2 He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. 3 Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.

4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

5 “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” 6 And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! 7 A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

8 When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” 9 For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.

Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.

Key Idea
            The key idea for us today is in verse 4 - “…Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your
nets to catch some fish.”  Peter (also known as Simon or Simon Peter) didn’t really believe he was gonna catch any fish. He’d already tried.  He'd already called it quits and was washing his nets.  And then a carpenter/preacher urged him to try again.  And he did!  Why?  Why go to the trouble after a long and fruitless night and after you've already started packing it in?
            Well, it could be that Peter respected Jesus as a rabbi.  Maybe, he respected the position enough to just do what the rabbi said.  There’s a certain amount of deference you give to people just because of their position.  But I think there was more to Jesus and Peter's relationship and I think that's why Peter was willing to humor Jesus and let the nets down one last time in deeper water.
            More than likely, this wasn’t Peter’s first encounter with Jesus. Jesus and Peter already knew each other. Jesus had probably visited Peter before. Maybe he’d bought some fish from him. Peter had heard some of Jesus’ preaching. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus had had dinner with Peter before, maybe even prayed with him.  And because of the relationship/friendship Jesus already had with Peter, Peter was willing to humor Jesus (a carpenter) when he gave fishing advice to a professional fisherman.
            If you have a good relationship/friendship with someone, they will humor you about this whole Jesus thing. Play that card if you need to. Do whatever it takes to get your friends in to see Jesus (remember the two friends in Luke 5:17-26 who dug a hole in the roof of a house and lowered their friend down in front of Jesus from the ceiling because they couldn't get in the door for the crowd?).
            Peter already knew Jesus, but he had to go deeper if he was really going to see the power of Christ, if he was really going to have his life changed forever. Peter had a choice. He could have stayed safe, stayed a fisherman all his life. Jesus invited him to go deeper, but he could have declined. It was his boat.
            I'm glad he agreed to take a chance and go deeper.  Look at all he would have missed if he hadn't.  Think of all the lives he saw touched by Jesus.  Think of all the miracles and healings he saw.  He even walked on water!  (Sure, it was only a few steps before he started to sink, but still I've never done that!)  And yes, Peter made some blunders along the way.  He said some stupid things.  Jesus had to reprimand him once, saying "Get behind me, Satan!"  Peter even failed miserably when he denied Jesus three times, but Jesus forgave him.  Peter would have missed all that if he'd refused to let down his nets in deep water one more time.
            What will you miss if you stay in the shallow end of the church where you feel safe and unchallenged?  Jesus is calling you to go deeper, my friends. He says, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”  What miracles and power are you going to miss if you stay in the shallow water?

Going Deeper
            You have to go deeper. Maybe you already go to church and that's good. But you have to go deeper or else all you will ever get is some great music, a few prayers, and a mediocre sermon. If you really want to see the power of Christ, you’ve got to go deeper. If you really want to find peace and healing and forgiveness, you’ve got to go deeper. If you want Jesus to change your life, you’ve got to go deeper. And I have to tell you, if you really want to find eternal life, you’ve got to go deeper.
            I can hear some people objecting now: “Wait! What? I thought salvation was a free gift and we didn’t have to do anything to earn it.”  Yes, that's true.  That's what Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches.  You don’t earn salvation.  It is a free gift from Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.   However, Jesus becomes your Savior when he becomes your Lord.  Remember what is a Lord.  A Lord is sovereign. What the Lord says goes. You do it. You don't talk back. It’s not a discussion. It’s a command to be followed without reservation. And Jesus is a Lord who sacrificed his own life to save you. If he’s your Lord, you’ll do what he says.  Faith is following and trusting is doing, because Jesus is Savior and Lord.
            In Matthew 7:21, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  A disciple follows their Lord wherever he leads. A true disciple eats with Jesus, walks with Jesus, serves with Jesus, and sleeps where Jesus sleeps.  A real disciple fishes where Jesus says to fish.  A disciple is all in—100%.
            Now, Jesus may not expect you to jump in whole hog from the very beginning.  He is a patient Lord.  First he preaches the truth.  Then he gets your boat.  Then he says, go a little deeper and let down your nets.  Then he says, "Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men."  Ultimately, Jesus invites us to leave everything behind and come be his followers.  He starts off easy, but as you see the power and love of Christ is real, Jesus calls you to go deeper. It's how he makes disciples.  It's how we truly become "fishers of men".
            We have to go deeper and we have to invite our friends to go deeper with us. Not all at once.  Maybe the first step is just to come to church one Sunday and hear the Good News.  You start off by seeing what this religion thing is all about.  And maybe you see the people following Jesus aren't so bad after all.  They have a lot of hope. There's a sense of peace and joy in their hearts and they really do care.  And maybe you decide you don't mind hanging around them.  But there's got to be more. 
            So next you go deeper. Maybe you decided to go to Sunday school or join a Bible study to really start seeing what the faith is all about.  Then, you go deeper still. You start contributing to the church offering and it feels good to be invested in Jesus' mission.  Or maybe you go deeper still and decided to practice the biblical principle of tithing--giving 10% of your income to church.  There are many way's to go deeper in the faith.  You can serving as a volunteer.  You could go on a mission trip.  You could sing in the choir, serve in the nursery, help with children or youth, teach a class...  The opportunities are endless.  But if you're going to continue to following Jesus and grow, you've got to go deeper.  And an essential part of going deeper that Jesus commands of all his followers is to go out and make disciples--to be fishers of men.

Challenge 
            I want to repeat the challenge I've issued for the last two weeks:  Pick three people you could mentor.  Pray for them.  Be a friend.  Help them and invite to church.  But I want to add to the challenge this week.  I challenge you to go deeper in your faith with Jesus.  What could you do to go deeper with Christ?  Do you need to pray to invite Jesus to be your Lord and Savior and become a Christian?  Do you need to join the church?  Maybe you need to recommit your life to Christ because you've been slacking off.  You could also go deeper by starting to read your Bible every day or setting aside 15 (or more) minutes to pray everyday.  You could go deeper by joining a Sunday School class or Bible Study, volunteer to help with children or youth ministry or sing in your church's choir or praise band.  An excellent way to go deeper is by attending a spiritual retreat like The Walk to Emmaus or Chrysalis.  These are all specific things you could do to go deeper (and I challenge you to commit to something specific).  How might Jesus be calling you to go deeper as his disciple?

Monday, April 16, 2018

Fishers of Men

Introduction
            I am always so thankful when people come to my church to worship.  I know there are other things they could do on a Sunday morning.  If it is rainy, they could stay in and stay dry and lounge around the house.  If the weather is pretty, they could go out side and enjoy it.  So I'm always thankful to those who chose to come to church.  And I know that it makes God smile too.  He appreciates it every time a person chooses to come worship.  In fact, that's why He created us.  He designed us to worship and when we worship God, we fulfill one of our basic purposes in life.
            However, you may be ask “What’s in it for me?  What do I get out of worship?"  I'll tell you.  If you want to grow closer to God, if you want the assurance of eternal life, if you want to find real peace, forgiveness, and joy, if you want true fulfillment in life, you have to worship God.  Through worship, we align our wills with God.  Jesus' disciples worship.
            Jesus originally chose 12 people to be his disciples.  He spent 3 years training them.  Then, before he returned to heaven, Jesus sent his disciples out with an important mission to recruit more people to follow Jesus Christ.  The disciples went out and got to work.  They told people about Jesus.  They invited them to worship and follow Christ' teachings.  The Church (Jesus' followers) grew exponentially--despite great persecution and opposition from powerful people.  The mission continued throughout the centuries.  The work continues through churches like mine today.  But how do we make disciples?  What are the steps? 
            The Gospel shows how Jesus made disciples.  We live in a different day and age, but the
process is very much the same.  We still make disciples the same way Jesus did.  You invite a friend to come see Jesus.  Then, you go deeper.  Then you go out and serve.
            Over the next four weeks, I'll be discussing the disciple making process based on Jesus' method we use at my church, Pleasant Grove United Methodist.  Today I’ll start at the beginning of the process.  It all starts with friends.  Making disciples starts with relationship.  Usually, people hear about Jesus and His Church from people they already know. 
            That's how it began for me.  Even though I'm a pastor now and was appointed to my church by my Bishop, I first came to church because of a friend.  As a child, I went to church because my mother took me.  As a teenager, I went to church with my friends.  My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) invited me to attend Wesley United Methodist in Macon, GA.  She was going with her friend.  I started going with her.  And that started me down the road to being a disciple of Christ.  How about you?
            Let's look at the story of how Jesus invited the first disciples to follow him. 

Luke 5:1-11 One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.

Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.

Key Verse
            The key verse for today is Luke 5:2 – “He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets.” 
            He noticed…  Among the crowds of people pressing around Jesus, he noticed two empty boats and the fishermen who were washing their nets.  Speaking from experience, I can tell you that when you are speaking in public, it can be hard to notice every individual people.  There's only one of me speaking up on stage and there may be hundreds in the congregation.  How can you notice what's going on with every individual.  However, despite the massive crowd surrounding Jesus, he noticed two empty boats and the fishermen washing their nets and decided to be part of their lives.
            Did you know Jesus cares about you and what’s going on in your life?  He notices when you are struggling with a tough problem.  He notices when you bow your head to pray.  He notices when you come to church to worship to focus on God, despite the many other important things vying for your attention.  And despite the fact that everyone wants Jesus' attention and help and forgiveness and grace, Jesus notices and cares about you.  He's never too important or too busy or too overwhelmed to notice you.
            The Gospels are full of stories where Jesus noticed and cared.  He noticed the woman at the Well--someone everyone scorned because she had lived with five husbands and was now living with a man who wasn't her husband.  Jesus notices and cared and gave her living water (John 4). 
            Jesus noticed the demon possessed man in graveyard--someone everyone had given up on.  He couldn't be trusted to live among society, so they tried to chain him up in the graveyard, away from town so he wouldn't hurt himself or anyone else.  And he would break free of the chains.  People just wanted to forget about the man, but Jesus noticed and cast out the demon and told him to go tell his family everything the Lord had done for him (Mark 5).
            Jesus noticed the woman in the crowd who couldn’t stop bleeding.  For twelve years, she'd tried every doctor, every treatment, every medicine, everything and nothing had worked.  Finally, in desperation she tried to come to Jesus for healing.  Unfortunately, there were so many crowding around, she couldn't get to him.  So she thought, "If I can just get on my hands and knees and crawl close enough to touch the hem of his robe..."  And she did and she was healed.  And even though crowds of people were pushing and bumping into him all around, Jesus noticed power had gone out from him and he spoke to the woman (Luke 8).
            Jesus noticed a sick man lying on a mat near the pool of Bethesda--someone who’d given up hope.  It was said the first person to get in the spring when the water started bubbling would be healed, but he was too slow.  Being very sick, he was slow and others always beat him the water.  For thirty-eight years he'd been sick.  And then Jesus noticed him and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”  Instantly, the man was healed! (John 5).
            Jesus noticed the leper--who everyone thought was too disgusting to touch.  He was forced to live in quarantine because he had a contagious skin disease and everyone was afraid of him.  Jesus noticed him and toughed him and healed him (Luke 5).
            Jesus noticed Matthew the tax collector--someone everyone hated.  Jesus noticed him and said, "Follow me and be my disciple."  And Matthew did!  And he even invited Jesus and a bunch of other sinners to come eat dinner at his home.  He started inviting others to follow Jesus before he even knew what he was doing as a disciple himself!
            Jesus ministered to thousands of people, but he noticed and chose 12 people to really focus on.  They became his closest friends.  He invited them to be his disciples.  And because they were committed, Jesus poured himself into them.
            Who do you notice? Life is busy. People are pressing in all around you and everything seems so important. But in the midst of the chaos, who do you notice? Who do you notice that needs a friend? Who do you notice that needs help? Who do you notice that needs Jesus? 
            There is a guy who comes to my church named Jeremy. Jeremy struggles with a severe
Jeremy
anxiety disorder.  It's hard for him to be in crowds and his disorder is a troubling disability.  I first met Jeremy a few years ago when he called my church office after hours and left a message on our voicemail.  He said he was interested in talking to someone about the Methodist Church.  He'd been reading about it in a book and wanted to learn more.  My church secretary got the message and noticed something about it that made her think it might be important.  She passed his name and number on to me and said I might want to follow up.  So I called Jeremy and we started talking over the phone.  Eventually, we got together for lunch a few times.  Then, Jeremy got up the nerve to visit my church.  After a few moths of regular attendance, Jeremy rededicated his life to Christ.  He is now involved a weekly men's luncheon, serves as an acolyte, and sometimes even helps serve Holy Communion and sing in the choir.  Jeremy invites everyone he meets to Pleasant Grove.  His mother eventually joined too and his nieces come regularly to our Wednesday night youth and children's programs.  This is an amazing testament to the power of Jesus working in the life of a man disabled by an anxiety disorder.  You can watch a video of Jeremy's testimony here.
            Jeremy and I have become good friends.  I asked him, "Jeremy, why did you call Pleasant Grove?  I mean, I know you were interested in the Methodist Church, but there are several of them in the area.  Why did you call my church?"  Jeremy said, “I called a bunch of Methodist churches, but you were the only one who called back”  I'm glad we noticed Jeremy, because everyone else missed out.  The people you notice can be a huge blessing to you. We are always more blessed than the ones we try to bless.
            People often tell me they don't feel qualified to talk to people about Jesus or invite them to church.  “I feel like I don’t know enough to yet to make disciples," they say.  No one ever really does.  I don't and I've been a pastor for 18 years.  The disciples weren't qualified either, but they didn’t wait.  They started immediately “fishing” for new disciples.  Notice, they didn’t wait until they “graduated”.  They got “on the job training”, meaning they were learning as they were doing.  That's how disciples always learn--including you and me. 

Challenge
            Do you want church to mean something?  Do you really want grow closer to God, have the assurance of eternal life, find true peace, forgiveness, and joy?  Do you really want fulfillment in life?  Then you’ve got to be a disciple.  Jesus said, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  I challenge you to follow Jesus.
            Disciples find a way to come in and get plugged in with His other disciples at Church.  I challenge you to make a specific commitment to come for worship each week.  I would love to have you worship with me and Jeremy and all the disciples at Pleasant Grove UMC in Dalton.  Or, find a church near you.
            Worship.  Join a small group, Sunday School or Bible study.  Be part of a men’s or women’s group, a group of young adults.  Get involved with serving.  Join the choir or volunteer with youth or children.
            And this is absolutely critical:  Be “fishers of men”.  Inviting others to come in to see Jesus and go on this journey with you is absolutely critical.  It's not optional.  It's one of the most important ways you grow in your faith and without it, you cannot really grow the way Jesus wants you to.  I want to challenge everyone to pick 3 people to really focus on of the next 12 months.  Jesus picked Peter, James, and John (and the other disciples) and poured himself into them.  He loved them, encouraged them, nurtured and mentored them.  He developed and deployed them.  Who are 3 people you can mentor, pray for, and help?  You see, it’s not enough come sit on the sidelines and be a spectator.  Jesus wants followers, not fans.  He wants disciples who come learn to be fishers of men.