Fish Story

FishingPeople go fishing for lots of reasons.  Some people go fishing just because it’s a chance to get away and relax.  Those are the people that say, “The worst day of fishing is better than the best day at work.”  Others go fishing for sport, to compete for the prize and catch the big one.  Others actually go fishing to make a living.  The two brothers in our story are of the latter.

And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. (Matthew 4:18–20)

What was it about Jesus that drew these men to Him?  You could make the point that they hardly knew Him.  Yet He called and they answered.  They even answered the call with such finality that they left their old nets in order to follow Him.  And Jesus did what He promised.  He made Peter and Andrew the finest “fishers of men”.  It wouldn’t happen overnight.  It took a lot of time to unlearn those bad fishing techniques and learn the way of the Master.  But fishers of men they would be.  And it all started with their response to the call, “Follow Me”.  I may not know what is up ahead for you this year.  You may feel that you don’t know that much about Jesus.  You may be wondering what is going to happen with your life.  Jesus extends His hand and says, “Follow Me”.  Will you?

Beautiful

Beauty PageantIn the world we live in, looks are everything.  They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but that’s exactly what most of us do.  It’s the flashy, shiny, brand new car that catches our eye in the parking lot.  We might form ideas about the inhabitants of the house down the street by the condition of the house.  They might ask the Miss America contestants to speak about their hopes for the world, but the thing most remember is the swimsuit competition. Solomon wrote, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).

Now don’t get me wrong.  It’s okay to take care of your physical body.  It’s not a bad thing to put a coat of paint on the old barn once in a while.  But beauty is, after all, only skin deep.

For those of us who are trying to “be beautiful”, pay attention.  Let your concerns go beyond what people see.  Take care with your heart.  Be sure to walk with God.  Cultivate a life of faithfulness.  Some of the people around you may only notice what’s on the outside of you, but God notices what’s on the inside.  The people that count in your life should also notice the inner you as well.

For those of us who are looking at what we call “beauty”, it might be time to rethink things.  Perhaps we ought to learn to treat others with the dignity of paying attention to what’s on their mind and what’s in their heart.  Look for what is truly “beautiful”.

Wait for it

Clock WatchingI don’t know about you, but I get kind of impatient.  I remember as a kid having trouble waiting for the moment on Christmas morning when we could open our presents.  On car rides I would be the one asking, “Are we there yet?”  As a grown up, I can’t wait for the next new gadget or the next software update.  And one of the things I have trouble waiting for most is the resolution of problems.  I want things fixed, and I want them fixed now.  The problem with my impatience is the fact that some things just take time.  If you pulled the cake out of the oven before it was done baking, you wouldn’t enjoy it all that much.

Over the years I have found something to be true.  God actually knows what He’s doing.  He knows just how long it takes for that cake to bake.  He knows the answer to “Are we there yet?”

The prophet Habakkuk wrote, Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry. (Habakkuk 2:2–3)

Habakkuk goes on to give us that marvelous truth that the “just” will “live by his faith”.  You might not see

the answer, but you can trust that God knows what He’s doing.  It’s not a bad thing to just “wait for it”

.

Pride and Prejudice

GloatingPride and Prejudice.  Sounds like one of those romance novels, huh?  But you see the two principles show up in the obscure book of Obadiah.  The prophet Obadiah was given a message of judgment from God to the people of Edom.  They had two problems that they needed to deal with – their pride, and their prejudice against God’s people.

When the nation of Judah fell to the Babylonians, the Edomites sat on the sidelines and cheered the destruction of their neighbors.  After all, they hated those despicable Jews.  Yet God had a warning for the Edomites, that they too would face judgment.

Their first problem was their pride.  God said, “The pride of your heart has deceived you… You who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’ (Obadiah 3) They felt that they were better than everyone else, and with that comforting thought, they turned their anger against their neighbors who were facing annihilation.  Again God spoke up, “Nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; Nor should you have spoken proudly In the day of distress. (Obadiah 12)

It’s our pride that causes us to ignore our own issues and problems.  And when other people run into rough times, especially our “enemies”, we can gloat over their difficulty when we might have deserved that judgment as much as they did.  What if that particular trouble was happening to me?  Humility and compassion might be the thing that could turn an “enemy” into a “friend”.

Street Corners

What a mess the kid got himself into.  The woman that he got mixed up with was one powerful temptress.  I imagine she was pretty easy on the eyes, and she was definitely “dressed to kill”.  It’s hard to not fall into sin when the temptation literally reaches out and grabs you like she grabbed the kid.  She even planted a big juicy kiss on him without his asking.  And talk about being prepared for trouble!  This gal had her “bed” made up with beautiful Egyptian linen and fragrant spices.  And even though the gal was married, her husband was conveniently gone on a long business trip.  So tell me, how can you blame a young man for giving in to such a powerful, enticing temptation?

My friend, if this young man’s struggle sounds like you and how impossible it seems to not give in to whatever “temptation” you are struggling with, pay attention.  Of course the temptation was too strong for the kid.  There are very few who could “just say no” to an invitation like this young kid got.  So how do we find victory in a temptation like this?

Most of our problems don’t occur when we’re grabbed and kissed.  By then it’s too late.  The bigger issue is the choice we make that put us on the woman’s street in the first place.  “Passing along the street near her corner; And he took the path to her house” (Proverbs 7:8).  Know your street corners.  Choose the right streets that keep you from temptation’s reach.  That’s where the victory is.

Confession

It’s the thing that brings forgiveness.  It brings reconciliation.  God promises that if we “confess” our sins to Him, He will indeed forgive us.  Confession also has the potential to bring forgiveness between individuals, though this isn’t always guaranteed.  Reconciliation between individuals takes a commitment from all parties involved, and to be honest, not everyone is interested in reconciliation.  And yet without honest confession, the process never gets off the ground.

Confession involves an admission of guilt. One of the problems I have with admitting guilt is pride.  I don’t like to let my faults show, let alone do it willingly.  Another problem comes with the confusion that accompanies my excuses.  Sometimes it’s my excuses that keep me trapped in sin in the first place.  Something inside me tells me that I have permission to do this bad thing.  Maybe I’m angry with you and feel like you deserved my bad behavior.  Maybe I’m going through a lot of hard circumstances and tell myself that this “sin” is going to make me feel better.  The problem is my excuses make my confession an ugly thing.  No one wants to hear my excuses.  What they want to hear is my admission that I was wrong.

Daniel prayed, “We have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.” (Daniel 9:5).  No excuses.  Not one.

Restoration

Restoration.  If you pay attention, you will see it going on all around you.  A new neighbor moves in down the street, and things start to change in the neighborhood eyesore. Lawns are mowed, fences are repaired, and paint is applied.  Sometimes the project is more than just superficial.  One house I drive by every day has had the entire roof ripped off and the walls stripped down to the studs.  It’s been a slow process, but I have the feeling the house will be mighty fine when it’s all done.

Did you know that God was in the business of restoration?  Some folks have the idea that God’s job is to point a finger, pronounce judgment, and blow things up in their lives.  And while God is certainly concerned about identifying things in your life that are dangerous to you, His heart is always aimed at restoration.

In Ezekiel’s day, the nation of Israel had pretty much been “blown up”.  Having been scattered throughout the Babylonian Empire, there was very little Jewishness left in the land of Israel.  But like my neighbor’s stripped down house, that was just the beginning. In Ezekiel 37, Ezekiel sees a vision of bones being covered with flesh, then skin, and finally breath (or “spirit”) coming to the body.  God’s goal in restoration is always to get to the “spirit”.  It’s not until His Spirit is fully at home that the “project” is finished.  Don’t settle for fresh paint on the outside when God wants to produce love, joy, peace, and self-control on the inside.

Uncertain Riches

The city of Tyre was an amazing place.  It was the “shipping hub” of the ancient world.  As a part of the Phoenician empire, it had an economy based on shipping and trade.  The influence of Phoenician merchants reached the entire known world.  When Ezekiel describes the kind of merchandise that was traded through the shipping hub at Tyre, I imagine it sounded like an ancient shopper’s paradise.  I counted over forty places mentioned as having some sort of goods or trade alliances with Tyre in Ezekiel 27, including, “Damascus was your merchant because of the abundance of goods you made, because of your many luxury items, with the wine of Helbon and with white wool” (Ezekiel 27:18).  As amazing as Ezekiel’s description of Tyre’s wealth is, he wasn’t writing about wealth, he was warning them of the future.

The people of Tyre were facing a time of God’s judgment.  There would be a time coming just around the corner for them when they would lose it all.  Even though parts of Tyre have been rebuilt in the modern country of Lebanon, the vast ruins of the ancient city are a testimony that the judgment did indeed come.  What’s the “take away” from all this?  Be careful my friends that you don’t trust in the “stuff” of this world.  It’s not wrong to enjoy what God has blessed you with, but what happens if it is taken away? Things can change in a moment.  We have one place where our “trust” is secure.  Let your trust be in God (1Tim. 6:17) and in Him alone.