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Showing posts with label Fishing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fishing. 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, April 30, 2018

Go Deeper

            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.

            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?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Jesus Cooks Breakfast

Caution Fish Stories Ahead             One Sunday, a man woke up and told his wife, "I'm not going to church today." 
            His wife replied, "But you have to go.  You always go to church on Sunday." 
            "Well I'm not going today!  I'm going fishing!" 
            "You can't go fishing.  You have to go to church!  It's the Lord's Day!"  She said, very irritated.
            "I don't care.  I don't like those church people.  They're a bunch of hypocrites.  They're mean.  They're judgmental and rude.  I don't like them and I'm not going to church!  I'm going fishing!"
            "But you have to go to church!  You're the preacher!"

            So a preacher was fishing one morning when a drunk came stumbling by carrying a fishing pole.  He looked up and nodded to the preacher as he stumbled by.  The preacher just shook his head in disgust.  The preacher fished all day long and didn't catch a thing.  The drunk came back by that evening lugging a full stringer of fish. He looked up at the preacher and ask, "Preacher, you catch anything?" 
            "Nope," said the preacher.
            The drunk just shook his head in disgust and said, "You ain't livin' right."

            Some people have said Easter is just a fish story.  You know how fishermen tell exaggerated tales about the "biggest fish I ever saw."  Well, I'm here to tell you, the Easter story is true!  Jesus really did rise from the grave.  He is not dead.  He is alive and we can still see him if we have faith to see.
            Jesus appeared many times to people in many places the days immediately following his
resurrection.  He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, and then to the other Mary, Salome, Joanna, and other women.  He also appeared to Simeon Peter, Cleopas and his friend, to the Twleve Disciples (minus Thomas) and then again to the Twelve when Thomas was there.  (By the way, the term Twelve became a term used to describe any collection of the original twelve disciples, even if it was only a partial group.)  Jesus also appeared to the disciples and a large crowd of followers on a mountain, to his half-brother James (who started out as a skeptic, but became a believer after seeing the risen Christ), and to the Disciples when he ascended back to Heaven.  Jesus also appeared to Stephen (who was the first Christian martyr) and Paul who had a hand in Stephen's murder.  And Jesus has shown himself in many ways over the centuries since.  We can still see the risen Christ today if we have faith to see.
            The Easter story says that Jesus rose.  He is alive, not dead.  Easter is not a fish story.  But Easter does have a fishing story.

John 21:1-14 1 Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened. Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples.

Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”
“We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.

At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?”
“No,” they replied.

Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.

Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore.
The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.

10 “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.

12 “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. 14 This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead.

Jesus Cooks Breakfast
            This was the third time Jesus appeared to his Disciples; not the third time he appeared, but the third time to the Twelve (remember, the Twelve was a title that indicated a group of the original twelve Disciples even if some were missing).
            In this story, five of the disciples are named and two are unnamed.  I kind of feel bad for those two who were not named and wonder why John didn't name them.  I guess it wasn't important.  However, God knows who they were.  Do you ever feel like you are forgotten or unrecognized?  Don't feel bad.  It happened in the Bible too.  But God knows who you are and He will recognize you in the end.  Count it a blessing, like these two unnamed disciples who got to see the risen Christ.
            Now the disciples couldn't see Jesus.  Perhaps it was still to dark or there was some morning fog or they were too far from shore.  They didn't know it was Jesus at first.  But then John realized it was Christ when they caught so many fish.  It reminded him of another time they had caught so many fish because of Jesus.  Once John's faith kicked in, he knew it was Jesus directing them from the shore.  Faith helps us see the risen Christ.  Peter had faith too.  When John told him, "That's Jesus!"  Peter was convinced enough to leap in the water and swim to Jesus to say hello.
            There on the shore, they found Jesus cooking breakfast and they all gathered around to share the meal.  Some have speculated Jesus was just a ghost or spirit.  But ghosts and spirits don't cook or eat.  Clearly, Jesus wanted everyone to know he was real flesh and blood and very much alive and healthy and walking around in a real body. 
            Food is always held up as a central element of God's Kingdom.  Jesus taught stories using food.  He described the Kingdom of God as a grand banquet.  Jesus gave us the sacrament of Holy Communion to remember him with bread and wine.  And here in this story, we find Jesus cooking and eating with his disciples.
Fish for Breakfast
            Where I live, we are not accustomed to eating fish for breakfast.  I was in Jerusalem a few years ago and they had a breakfast buffet for guests of the hotel.  I expected to find the usual fare--pancakes, fruit, cereal, etc.  I did find those, but also there was plenty of fish to choose from.  Fish is a big part of the Mediterranean diet--even for breakfast.  And it was so for the Disciples as well.
            Fish are an important element in the story of Christian faith.  Half the disciples were fishermen.  Jesus performed several miracles using fish and also used elements from the fishing industry to make his points.  And Jesus said the disciples would become fishers of men. 
            Early Christians adopted the fish as a secret symbol of their faith.  Even today, Christians often attach a fish symbol to the back of their car.  Why is that?  The Greek word for fish is ΙΧΘΥΣ and is the acronym for "Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr", which translates to "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior."  Sometimes, when a Christian met a stranger and wanted to find out if they were a Christian too, the Christian would draw one half of the fish symbol on the ground.  If the other person drew the other half of the symbol, it confirmed that they were also Christian and they could talk openly about their faith without fear of persecution.
Luke 5 vs. John 21             Our fish story from John 21 resembles another fish story from Luke 5.  Comparing the two stories is enlightening.  They both took place on the Sea of Galilee, but the one from Luke was at the beginning of Jesus' ministry where the one from John is near the end.
            In both cases, the Disciples fished all night long without success.  And in both cases, Jesus brought a miraculous catch.  From this we can see that Jesus is the source of the Christian's success.  If we are struggling and toiling and don't seem to be getting anywhere, perhaps we should pause and look for the risen Christ.  Perhaps we should listen more closely for his instruction and try something different and then we will find a great catch.  And just like the Disciples, our faith can be renewed.
            Peter responds very differently in the two stories.  In Luke, Peter is convicted of his sin and says to Jesus, “Please leave me--I’m such a sinful man.”  But look how far Peter has grown since the beginning.  In this story (after three years with Jesus), Peter leaps into the water and swims to be the first to greet Jesus. Peter knows he is still a sinful man, but he also knows that is why he must swim toward Jesus and not away from him and that Jesus will accept him unconditionally.  Do you realize Jesus accepts you unconditionally?  Are you swimming toward the risen Lord with hope or running away in fear?
            In Luke's story, the net starts to break because it has so many fish.  In the resurrection story from John, there are just as many fish but the nets don't break.  I think this is a symbol of what Christ's resurrection has done.  On the cross, Christ accomplished everything that needed to be done.  Now his “fishers of men” can fish with strong, unbreakable nets.  We can drag in the catch with perfect confidence.  Because of Christ's resurrection, we can live and serve unhindered and with full strength and purpose.
            John’s story is very specific.  153 large fish were caught.  That's so specific, it stands out like the smell of fresh fish cooking in a kitchen.  John did that on purpose because he had a secret, symbolic meaning to share.  Unfortunately, we have lost that meaning over the centuries.  Many have speculated what it could be.  Some came up with interesting ideas, but the we don't know of sure.
            One thing we can say is that a fishing net is indiscriminate.  You don't pick which fish you catch.  The net just drags everything up all the same.  But John says all 153 fish were large fish.  They were all "keepers" in modern fishing lingo.  And so it is in the Kingdom of God.  We are not called to discriminate about who comes into the Kingdom.  We are called to cast the net.  And whoever believes and swims into our Gospel net, we are to drag ashore.  Some will be slimy and smelly (all of us really are), but we are called to love them just the same.  Besides, it is Jesus' job to receive them, clean them, and prepare them for breakfast.  And he will make each one who is willing perfect in God's sight.
Breakfast is Served
            I want to leave you with three practical ideas to take home from this story.  First of all, have you been dragging up empty nets?  Look for Jesus.  Listen for his voice.  Maybe he’s telling you to try something different. 
            Second, have you had a miraculous catch?  Then, look for the risen Christ.  A miraculous success is often a sign he is near.  In those times, be thankful, and seek to swim even closer to him.
            And last, this story reminds you that you count.  The only way the Disciples could know the exact number of fish in the net is if they counted them.  Each one was numbered.  And so it is with each of us.  Jesus picks each one of us up, looks us over, and records us in the Book of Life.  He knows us by name.  He knows everything about us.  And he loves us.  We are all keepers in his sight.
            You are one of the 153 fish the Disciples caught.  You may be a little smelly and slimy.  But Jesus loves you.    And he loves that guy over there too--the one who has piercings and tattoos, the one who is gay, the one who uses vulgar language, and everyone else too.  It is not our job to decide who makes it in.  Our job is just to cast the Gospel net and let God decide who gets caught up in the Kingdom.