Saturday, June 30, 2012

I have fought the good fight………

“Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near.   I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.  And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return.  And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.”        II Timothy 4:2-8 NLT

In Jeremiah 6:16 we find the mindset of some people today. “This is what the Lord says:
“Stop at the crossroads and look around.
Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it.
Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.
But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’”  (NLT)

We must not develop this type of mindset—which says, “I know that I’m supposed to know the Bible and seek the old paths, but I’m not going to walk in those paths.”   

Paul warned Timothy that some people want to have their ears tickled.  Thus, some preachers no longer preach the Word of God they are preaching in an attempt to tickle people’s ears.  We must get back to having an answer, and to the best of our ability making sure that we give people book, chapter and verse for what we believe.

We need to be ready “in season and out of season” to teach people. We need to be willing to stand up and say, “There is something wrong” when something incorrect comes into the worship assembly. We need to say, “This is unauthorized, and I am ready to give you a biblical answer regarding why that is the case.”

We must never give up when it comes to battling false doctrine.  In 2 Timothy 4:7 Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  Paul was willing to continue to fight until his last breath.

In Jeremiah 20:9 the prophet even said, “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.”  It’s humorous—as Jere­miah says, “I’m done with God!”  Yet he then went on to say, “But His word was in my heart like a burn­ing fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.”

Jeremiah said that he could not hold back the Word of God because it was like a fire in his bones that he had to let out. That is the type of desire that we need to have. We should never give up when it comes to battling false doctrine.  We must remember what the Hebrews writer said in Hebrews 12:1-2:

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Friday, June 29, 2012

Be ready in season and out of season…….

Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.  They will reject the truth and chase after myths.

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation.  Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord.  Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.”  II Timothy 4:2-5  NLT

We have to be ready to battle false doctrine all the time.  In 2 Timothy 4:2-4 Paul told Timothy to “be ready in season and out of season.” That is like Paul saying, “Timothy, preach the Word of God when people want to hear it, and when they do not want to hear it.”

In fact, when people don’t want to hear the Word that is when they need to hear it the most. That is when we really need to be ready.

 In 1 Peter 3:15 we are told that we need to always be ready to have an answer. Peter said, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”  We are to always be ready to give a defense for the truth.

Does that mean that we have to know every detail about every verse?  Absolutely not.

 But we do need to be able to offer a defense for the fundamentals of our faith. We also need to be on guard and be ready. We should be growing in Christ every day. Some peo­ple will say, “I’m not very good at knowing Scripture.  I’m not good at memorizing or study­ing.”  Yet those same people can tell you their favorite sports team, favorite player, the fi­nal score of a game, or the statistics concerning the game.  They can even remember personal information, phone numbers and the size of clothing for each family member.

 Why?  Because it is important to them and the love they have in their hearts for the sport, TV, movies or family motivates them to remember what they want to.  In their favorite television show, they can tell you all the char­acters or what happened in the last episode.  But when it comes to the Bible, they say, “I’m just no good at remembering things.”  That is not always the truth. The truth is that sometimes we are not desiring the things of the Lord in our hearts, it is not equally as important as the things that we are passionate about.  

We are not really putting Him first in everything we do. If we were, then there would be a place in our hearts for God.  His Word would be engrained in our hearts.

Why?  Because He would be first in our life if loved and desired Him enough to study His Word, meditate on it and share Him. It is all about having a relationship with Him.  That is what we would talk about instead of spending our time on entertainment or sports. It’s not that such things are bad in and of themselves.  But when we spend more time on those things than we do on the Word of God, something needs to change.

In John 17:17 we are told that we are to be sanctified by truth because God’s Word is truth.  Just as we are set apart by truth, we al­so need to set aside truth in our hearts.  We always need to be ready to give an answer.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

But the Lord stood by me………..

“Alexander the coppersmith did me great wrongs. The Lord will pay him back for his actions.

Beware of him yourself, for he opposed and resisted our message very strongly and exceedingly.

At my first trial no one acted in my defense [as my advocate] or took my part or [even] stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them!

But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the [Gospel] message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was delivered out of the jaws of the lion.

 [And indeed] the Lord will certainly deliver and draw me to Himself from every assault of evil.  He will preserve and bring me safe unto His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen (so be it).   II Timothy 4:14-18  AMP

Have you been in a situation in which you were being attacked by others, and people that you thought would speak up and say something on your behalf just remained silent trying to avoid eye contact with you?

Imagine being the Apostle Paul for just a moment. Here is a man that has risked his life time and time again to get the gospel to people who have never heard about Jesus Christ.

People are continually telling him how much they love and appreciate him and are grateful for what he is doing. They know that without all the sacrifices Paul had personally made to reach them, they may have never come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Then comes the day when Paul is arrested for preaching the gospel.

Paul is put into a hideous, dark dungeon.  He probably thanks God for the brothers and sisters in Christ that he can count on for their love and support at his trial.

When the trial starts, Paul is shocked at what he sees in the courtroom. He was alone as he stood there before Nero. No one came to his defense.

You can almost sense the pain in his voice in verse 16.

“At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me.  May it not be held against them.”

It’s when you have been betrayed or forsaken - abandoned in your time of need by those closest to you. Talk about a painful and lonely place to be.

Have you ever been there…..deserted, betrayed, rejected, left to face hard times and pain alone?   You discover those who are true and those who are all talk……..actions speak louder than words. 

Rejection hurts no matter who you are. In whatever form of rejection you have experienced ---you know the kind of pain that Paul experienced.

Forgiveness and the love of God will help you overcome and accomplish all God has called you to do.

Do you know how encouraging just one person speaking up would have been to Paul?  He stood alone. Where were the people who could have said, ’this man is telling the truth because Jesus changed my life?’

The silence and the absence of witnesses are not due to a desire to betray Paul, but rather a fear of what might happen to them if they sided with the truth.  How many of us have been there, where we know if we say something or get involved there’s going to be a price to pay, and we’re not willing to pay that kind of a price.

It is at such times when we are forced to take a stand that we find ourselves seemingly all alone.  It is true that when the “chips are down”, so to speak, people will desert us and we may find ourselves standing all alone.  

In all honesty, it is almost always the case that when we have to take a stand we are, by all appearances, outnumbered, if not totally alone. It is at such times as these that you find out who your friends truly are.

The apostle had come upon one of these times here. And he takes this opportunity to show us by example, a truth that should carry us through whatever may come our way.

But the Lord stood by me……..”

Praises be to God that, though we fail Him daily and often, though we forget Him at times, and His Word and His Blessings, He is still here with us.  He will NEVER leave us nor forsake us.

It is true.  We all fail God at times, yet He has never, nor shall He ever fail us.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Are we afraid of ridicule and rejection?

“So the officials took Jeremiah from his cell and lowered him by ropes into an empty cistern in the prison yard. It belonged to Malkijah, a member of the royal family. There was no water in the cistern, but there was a thick layer of mud at the bottom, and Jeremiah sank down into it.

But Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, an important court official, heard that Jeremiah was in the cistern. At that time the king was holding court at the Benjamin Gate, so Ebed-melech rushed from the palace to speak with him.  “My lord the king,” he said, “these men have done a very evil thing in putting Jeremiah the prophet into the cistern. He will soon die of hunger, for almost all the bread in the city is gone.” Jeremiah 38:6-9 NLT

The Scriptures tell us to think about Jesus and what He did for us.  Jesus was separated from God the Father, so that we would not have to be. Jesus went into the fires of hell, so that we would not have to go. Jesus paid for all the wrong that we have done so that we would not have to pay. It’s only when we see things from eternity’s perspective that we can begin to understand what God is doing.

I can imagine as they lowered Jeremiah into the pit, Jeremiah is preparing to either die of starvation or of some disease he might get from whatever else is down there with him. He has no friends who would speak up on his behalf.  Like Paul, he could say, no one spoke up on my behalf before they threw me into this pit.

But we should never forget, we do not know who God has placed in the right place to make a difference on our behalf. I do not know how he got there but there was a man, a Cushite from Africa, who was an official in the royal palace. This man’s name is Ebed-melech. He is a man of integrity and obviously one who loved the Lord.

Now when he hears about Jeremiah being put in the cistern, he knows that he is putting his life on the line if he tries to get involved to get Jeremiah out. But this man is willing to speak up, when everybody else kept their mouths closed. He goes and tells King Zedekiah, “These men have acted wickedly in what they did to Jeremiah. They have thrown him into the pit where he will surely starve to death.”

Now because Ebed-melech was willing to speak up, he gave the king enough courage to stand up to the other leaders. This brother did not care who they were. He called them wicked men because their actions were wicked. Now before, the King had told those wicked men, “I can do nothing to oppose you.” But now that Ebed melech was willing to speak up, the king spoke up and said, take 30 men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out before he dies. You need to speak up in order to give someone courage to speak and do the right thing.

Ebed-melch went and found some old rags and let them down with ropes to where Jeremiah was. Jeremiah’s skin was already becoming raw under the arm pits. Ebed-melech told Jeremiah to put the clothes around him under his arms so that they could pull him up out of the cistern.  As the men pulled Jeremiah one way, the mud tried to pull him back the other way. They finally got him to the top and held him in the courtyard.  He looked an absolute mess and smelled even worse. But he still is willing speak up for the Lord. He was held as a prisoner in the courtyard until the Babylonians entered the city.

But Jeremiah kept on speaking up for the Lord. God looked with favor on Ebed-melech for his willingness to speak up.  He told Jeremiah, say to Ebed-melech, “I am about to bring disaster on this city and you will see it before your eyes, but I will rescue you on that day and you will not be handed over to those you fear. I will save you and you will escape with your life, because you trust in Me.”

If Ebed-melech had not been willing to risk paying the price of speaking up, he would have been slaughtered by the Babylonians when they captured the city. But God intervened on his behalf.

Friends what position has God placed you in where you need to speak up, but you continue to be silent?

Are we afraid of losing a friendship, a job, a position?

Are we afraid of ridicule and rejection?

Ultimately whether or not we speak up, will be dependent on just how much we trust God to handle our lives after we are faithful to Him.

Jeremiah’s life lets us know, it’s not going to be easy, but Jesus assures us, but it will be worth it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Popular or Obedient???????

“Then the leaders said to the king, “Now let this man be put to death.  For he is making the hearts of the men of war weak who are left in this city, and of all the people, by saying such words to them. This man does not care about the well-being of these people, but instead wants them hurt.”

 So King Zedekiah said, “He is in your hands. The king can do nothing against you.”  So they took Jeremiah and put him into the well of Malchijah the king’s son, in the open space of the prison, letting him down with ropes. There was no water in the well, but only mud. And Jeremiah went down into the mud.”    Jeremiah 38:4-6 NLV

Jeremiah gets so frustrated with God, he says, “….that’s it God. Every time I open my mouth, nothing but bad news comes out. Why can’t I have something good to share with the people?” Jeremiah wanted somebody to like him at least some of the time.

Jeremiah decides, “I will not speak up any longer for the Lord.” But then he said, “Lord why are you treating me like this. The more I try to keep my mouth shut, the more I feel this pressure building up inside of me.  It’s like a fire shut up in my bones.  I have to let it out.  God said, “Go tell those prophets they are speaking lies in My name and that I will deal with them myself.”

Sure enough, the Babylonian comes back and surrounds the city. King Zedekiah sends secretly for Jeremiah and asks, “What are the chances of the Lord giving us a miracle to defeat the Babylonians.” Jeremiah says, “There is not a chance in the world.” If you surrender yourself to the Babylonians, your lives and the lives of the soldiers will be spared.  If you do not you and your sons will be killed by the Babylonians.”

King Zedekiah knew that he had not been serving God, and he preferred the message of those around him who were saying, the Babylonians will not enter this city. Jeremiah pointed out, “why are you willing to listen to the same people who said the Babylonians would never come back to this city.”

Now the King speaks up and saves his life and the lives of many others but he does not want to pay the price of going against the political and religious leaders around him. So he chooses to believe a lie that there is another way of escape.  We see this kind of thing happening on a spiritual level all around us.

Jeremiah takes his message to the streets.  He says, “Listen people, the only way you can escape the destruction that is coming on this city, is to go over to the enemy, the Babylonians, and turn yourself in. I don’t care what you might hear, the only way for you to survive is to give up before the fighting begins otherwise you will die either by the sword, famine or the plagues that will enter the city.”

Some of the King’s powerful officials get together and go to King Zedekiah and demand that Jeremiah ought to be put to death. They said he is discouraging the soldiers and the people left in the city. The king is not willing to speak up for Jeremiah, and he told the men, “I can’t do anything to oppose you; Jeremiah is in your hands.”

They go out and grab Jeremiah and put him in a cistern. They put some ropes around him and lowered him into this well that no longer had any water in it. It has nothing but mud at the bottom. Here sits a servant of God, in this dark stinking mud, with who knows how many insects and bugs there are down there with him.   There will be no way to lie down and go to sleep. I doubt if this is what Jeremiah had envisioned when God told him, I have called you to be a prophet to the nations.

So many people think, when you walk with the Lord, everything automatically goes well in your life. Our walk with the Lord is not about how well everything is going in our lives, but rather how well we are walking with the Lord in the things that enter our lives.

Jeremiah’s crime is that when God made it plain to him what he was to do, he did it.  He had been willing to speak up for the Lord. It’s amazing how we all want to be used by God, but we want to reserve the right to object to certain parts of God’s plan for us.  Popularity is too important! 

At what point do we have the right to complain about how God is using our lives.

Courage to stand alone………

Shephatiah, Mattan’s son; Gedaliah, Pashhur’s son; Jucal, Shelemiah’s son; and Pashhur, Malchiah’s son heard what Jeremiah had been telling the people: “The Lord proclaims: Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine, and disease. But whoever surrenders to the Babylonians will live; yes, their lives will be spared.  The Lord proclaims: This city will certainly be handed over to the army of Babylon’s king, who will capture it.

 Then the officials said to the king: “This man must be put to death! By saying such things, he is discouraging the few remaining troops left in the city, as well as all the people. This man doesn’t seek their welfare but their ruin!”

 “He’s in your hands,” King Zedekiah said, “for the king can do nothing to stop you.”    Jeremiah 38:1-5  CEB

The people made fun of Jeremiah as he walked the streets.  “Here comes mister terror, look out the Babylonians are coming.”  Jeremiah did not like the ridicule anymore than we do when people laugh at us because of our faith.

The more Jeremiah preached, the worse the judgment that God was going to do to the city came out of his mouth. The city will be destroyed. The people will be slaughtered. The people who are left will go into captivity for 70 years.

Then the good King Josiah died, and his successor King Jehoiakim has no desire whatsoever to serve God.  He also does not like the preaching of Jeremiah. He tells him to stop prophesying.

Jeremiah has to decide whether he was going to continue to speak up now that he had to face more than just people making fun of him.  He may have to face the anger of the King.

Under Jehoiakim, Pashhur the chief officer in the temple got sick and tired of all this bad news from Jeremiah.  Pashhur had Jeremiah beaten and thrown into prison.  But locking him up could not keep what he said from happening.

The Babylonians did come, and they took King Jehoiakim and a number of the rulers away as captives and demanded that ransom money be paid regularly.

The Babylonians took much of the wealth out of the city with them. They made Zedekiah the new king. 

Jeremiah was preaching for twenty years before he saw what God had said would happen.  Do you see why we cannot always think all we have to do is walk into a situation and “zap” it changes for God?

When Zedekiah becomes king, he decides to break the agreement to send money and taxes to Babylon. The people are still doing all the things they were doing before the Babylonians came. Jeremiah starts preaching again, and before he knows it, he’s telling the people, the Babylonians are going to come back and this time completely wipe out the city. Those who survive will be slaves for 70 years in Babylon.

The other prophets prophesy, the Babylonians will not be back, and as a matter of fact in two years, Babylon will cease as a nation and we will get back everything they took from us. 

Just because people are telling you things you want to hear, does not mean it is the truth.

God’s Word is God’s Word and it does not change.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Standing Alone……………….

Shephatiah, Mattan’s son; Gedaliah, Pashhur’s son; Jucal, Shelemiah’s son; and Pashhur, Malchiah’s son heard what Jeremiah had been telling the people: “The Lord proclaims: Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine, and disease. But whoever surrenders to the Babylonians will live; yes, their lives will be spared.  The Lord proclaims: This city will certainly be handed over to the army of Babylon’s king, who will capture it.

 Then the officials said to the king: “This man must be put to death! By saying such things, he is discouraging the few remaining troops left in the city, as well as all the people. This man doesn’t seek their welfare but their ruin!”

 “He’s in your hands,” King Zedekiah said, “for the king can do nothing to stop you.”    Jeremiah 38:1-5  CEB

In the Old Testament we find the prophet Jeremiah.  God makes it clear to Jeremiah, that even before he was born, God had chosen Jeremiah to be somebody who would speak up for the truth.  At first, Jeremiah thinks he’s too young to be used by God, but God assures him by letting him know that Jeremiah will be a prophet to the nations.

This sounds like a great job, but there is a downside to the job. The people that Jeremiah will be speaking to have made the decision that it is alright to worship God, so long as it does not keep them from creating other gods and doing whatever they wanted to do.   Sounds a lot like what we have today in our society. The people were heavy into astrology and worshiping the stars.

They were in the middle of a sexual revolution in which adultery was not only running wild, it was encouraged and had found its way into the lives of the prophets and priests.

The rich were getting greedier and greedier as they took everything they possibly could get out of the poor. The people created their own truth as to what was right and what was wrong. The Word of God was no longer the foundation of their lives.

God calls Jeremiah to tell the people, “He’s sick and tired of all this sin, the mess, and the drama and He sending the Babylonian army from the north to destroy the city.”

Most of the people never even heard of the Babylonians.  They laughed at Jeremiah and made fun of him.  No sooner than he finished prophesying, other prophets would get up and proclaim, “The Lord will never allow the Babylonians to come to the city, for God Himself is the protector of His people whom He loves.”

God is more than willing to use Jeremiah, but God leaves out some critical facts.  Jeremiah begins preaching under a good king by the name of Josiah. Josiah did his best to get the people to turn back to God. But for twenty years, the only message Jeremiah preaches is repentance and change your ways for the Babylonians are coming with God’s judgment.

Do you know how foolish he must have looked?

For twenty years, the prophets who preach what the people want to hear, have been saying, “God is not going to send the Babylonians.”  Jeremiah has been saying God is.

Who do you think has the most credibility with the people?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Nevertheless…….. Part II

“When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”  And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.   So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.”  Luke 5:4-7 NKJV

What a lesson there is for us in this passage of Scripture.  Far too often our Christian lives are in reality a testimony of having "fished all night and caught nothing."  We get locked up into a natural, logical understanding of what we think the Scripture is saying, rather than living to hear the word directly from the mouth of Jesus.

It only takes one word from Jesus to totally change our circumstances.  But that word has to be obeyed before there is an outward demonstration of His promise.

The Word of Jesus often cuts across logic, and we have to make a conscious decision as to whom or what we will obey. Are we willing right now to put aside our reasoning and excuses to say, "Nevertheless at Your word I will . . . "  

When we trust our lives to the obedience of Jesus, we are releasing Him to be all He wants to be in our life.  When Jesus says, "nets" He doesn't mean "net."  When He says "today," He doesn't mean "tomorrow."  When He says, "I will provide for you," He doesn't mean you "go out and beg"!  He wants us to learn to trust and prove the truth of His Word!  He is God!  Do not doubt Him.

Yours and my miracle is on the other side of our obedience.  We have to decide to act, in order to obey.  It is more than a prayer.  It's an action.

Jesus said, “…Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Luke 17:20)

Peter’s faith was very small to believe he would catch fish after toiling all night.  However, his obedience interwoven with a tiny bit of faith changed his life forever.   Obedience is more powerful than we can ever imagine. 

Stop and think about it for a moment.   Peter did not act in faith as much as he did through obedience.   “Nevertheless”……. meaning…. “I really don’t think it will help or matter but to please you……, or to get you off my back, I will do what you said……”   Wow!  Obedience is a powerful tool for answered prayers!

When Peter trusted himself to an illogical word from the mouth of Jesus, he experienced a tremendous life-changing miracle that released him into a totally new life-style to the glory of God.

How about you?

Has the Word of Jesus had that kind of impact on you? That is where the answer to your needs lie. Listen to what Jesus says, and "Whatsoever He tells you to do, DO IT!" (John 2:5).

Then you cannot lose for winning!

Your life will be abundantly fruitful!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Nevertheless…….. Part I

“When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”  And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.   So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.”  Luke 5:4-7 NKJV

Peter logically knew from being out there all night that the fish weren't there. Would he trust his own "fisherman's know-how and experience," or would he trust the Word of Jesus the carpenter?

He began to logically reason with Jesus, but then stopped and made room for the Word of Jesus, "Nevertheless at Your Word I will let down the net."  In direct obedience to the Word of Jesus, Peter prepared a net, drew up the anchor and sailed out into the deep.  Peter's obedience was almost a reluctant obedience, for Jesus had said "nets," but Peter only let down one.

However with the partial obedience of letting down only one net, Peter caught the biggest haul of fish in his life! There were so many fish that two boats were in danger of sinking with the weight of them!  

What a powerful demonstration there was to even Peter's partial obedience.  It so impacted him that he fell down at Jesus' feet, repenting of his own sinfulness of doubt and unbelief.  Those with him were absolutely amazed at the demonstration of the power of the Word of Jesus through one man's partial obedience.

Imagine what could have happened if Peter had been totally obedient! That one demonstration had such a profound impact upon them that they forsook all and followed Jesus.

Nevertheless is a conjunction connecting Simon Peter’s fruitless experience with God's Divine guidance.  It's as if Simon Peter was fully acknowledging what he was about to do made no sense at all in light of the circumstances.  But this is not blind faith; this is a confidence that the spoken Word of God will trump the futile imaginations of men.  

Nevertheless is a word that changed the course of Simon's life. He had been moving in the realm of self-will; but now he will learn the wisdom of obeying God.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Launch out into the deep…………

When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”   And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.   So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.”   Luke 5:4-7 NKJV

Jesus told Simon, “Launch out into the deep.”   Some of the instructions you will receive from God may not be logical according to your experience or teaching BUT receive and obey the instruction no matter what.

Jesus gave them the instruction in daytime; but their fishing was done at night.  This did not make sense to these experienced fishermen.  But Simon said “Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net”.

Do not try to analyze any instruction you receive from the Master. He knows the end in the beginning and any instruction He gives is for our good.  In man’s opinion, the current economy is not doing well – God may give you an instruction to invest; you need to obey!  He may give you an instruction regarding your ministry and send you to a place that according to your reasoning is a “hard” place; just obey!  It may be in respect to your job, just obey!

Peter and his friends launched into the deep and there was a great catch. The Bible records that the boats were almost sinking!   This was the same sea that they had caught nothing in for the whole night.

The principle here is, the sea does not matter, it is the instruction that matters.  You may be on the same job, in the same country, with the same income, with the same educational level…none of these matters.  What matters most is the instruction that God has given to you.

I pray that God will cause you to hear His voice, receive His instruction and may He grant you the grace to perform that which He tells you to do.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Whom shall I send……………

“Master, Simon answered, we worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will let down the nets.  They let them down and caught such a large number of fish that the nets were about to break.

So they motioned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came and filled both boats so full of fish that the boats were about to sink.  When Simon Peter saw what had happened, he fell on his knees before Jesus and said,
Go away from me, Lord! I am a sinful man!”   Luke 5:5-8 GNT

In Peter’s mind it may have seemed improbable that they would catch anything after having toiled in vain all night, yet he was willing to obey the word of Jesus and make the effort to try.

“…… Simon answered and said to Him, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net." (Luke 5:5)

This was a remarkable instance of “faith.”  Peter, as it appears, knew little then of Jesus.  He was not yet chosen to be an apostle.  Jesus came to these fishermen as a stranger, an unknown, and yet at His command Peter resolved to make another attempt, and go once more out for fish.

We read in Isaiah 55:8-9;

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

This passage is often used, and rightly so, to present in a general sense the vast superiority of God’s thoughts and ways compared to our thoughts and ways.

Therefore, we should not seek to rationalize a commandment of God, or subject it to our analysis to determine whether or not we will obey it.

At the same time this passage seems to be a continuing thought to the previous two verses;

“Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7)

The context seems to say that God wants His people to come to Him, and when we do He will have mercy on us and abundantly pardon us.

This story also reveals to us what Jesus is looking for when He chooses His disciples.

Jesus chose His followers through the QUALITY OF THEIR HEARTS.

He looked for a person with an OPEN HEART (vs.1-4).

He looked for a person with a TEACHABLE HEART (vs.4-5).

Peter was a person who obeyed Him despite his personal reasons.
“…Put out into the deep water and let down the nets
for a catch. Master, we’ve work hard all night and
haven’t caught anything”. (Vs. 4-5a)

Jesus is looking for a person who will obey Him even if it does not make sense, who will submit and follow Him faithfully.
“…but because you say so Lord…” (v.5b).

Jesus is looking for a person with a HUMBLE HEART (v.5,8a).

He is searching for a person who will commit to obey Him wholeheartedly without demanding their conditions to be granted.
“…I will let down the nets” (5d,11), (Luke 9:59-62).

Jesus longs for a person who has emptied himself to serve God absolutely and without reservation.
“…Peter fell at Jesus knees” (8a,11).

Jesus is looking for a person with a CARING HEART and aTRUSTING HEART (vs.6-11).

How does He see your heart?

…… I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:

“Whom shall I send,
And who will go for Us?”

Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.””  Isa. 6:8 NKJV

To toil… be weary……..

“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 too much of a sinner to be around you.”

For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him.   His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.”   Luke 5:1-10 NLT

Very likely, Peter and all three of his partners were very tired, maybe even to the point of exhaustion: they’d just finished fishing all night, and had caught nothing. They were very likely discouraged at having not caught even one single, solitary fish for an entire nights work.

 Has something like this ever happened to you?  Have you worked, toiled, sweated, bled, and used up every ounce of your energy on a task, only to see absolutely nothing come from it?

If so, how did you feel afterwards?  You probably felt pretty down, and were happy to call it a day when the time came for you to leave work, right? 

Think about how Peter felt: he was probably exhausted from his work, discouraged, and maybe even terribly disappointed; after all, if they didn’t catch any fish, they couldn’t take them to market, and if they could not take a catch of fish to market, they would not be able to put food on their families’ tables.

Then, after what had been a good lesson and a great message, Jesus makes this one request.  How did Peter feel about that?  We see his feelings in his response to Jesus. “We’ve worked all night, and not caught even a minnow!” 

Discouraged?   Yes.   Defeated?   Almost! Yet, all the same, and, again, without a word of reason why, Peter said, “Yes”.

Toil means: To feel fatigue, to work hard, to be wearied, reducing strength, Pains/trouble.

When you work all night and accomplish nothing, you feel defeated. This is the way that believers feel at times.

How many times are we disappointed because things didn’t turn out like we wanted them to?  We did everything we knew to do, but nothing turned out right.

When you have come to the end of yourself, that’s when God can step in.

We are MORE THAN CONQUERORS–a conqueror DOES NOT QUIT. We must keep on keepin’ on.  We cannot afford to just give up.

You’d be surprised at how many people are depending on you.

We are important, unique, special people and nobody can take our place.

We are changing things. We are causing things to happen.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Try again………….

“When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”  For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.”  So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”                 Luke 5:8-11 NIV

Peter was not only sleepy and aching to go home and catch some sleep for a catch-less night; Jesus instructed Peter to go and put out his boat into the deep and again lower the nets to catch a haul!

If you were Peter, what would you do?

Peter’s answer would probably be our response as well.

"Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing..."

HAVE YOU FELT THAT WAY TOO?  So have I. Probably all of us have at one time or another.  At times it seems we don’t have much to show for all the efforts we have invested.  We still come up short. 

But Peter’s words did not end there...
"...but on the ground of Your word, I would lower the nets again."

Wow! These are rhema words! Words of life! Words of confidence and obedience and of submission!

For me: Jesus’ words echoed in the hearts of Peter and into my spirit right now, that our Master is saying…."Keep trying, keep believing and hoping in Me, as I have spoken in the past I am He speaking to you now!"

God wants you to try once more.  Launch out into the deep. Let go of your nets.

And so it happened.  When he lowered his nets in defiance of his own experience of the sea and OBEYED, a great catch was enclosed and the second boat was needed to bring the once elusive fish ashore.

 I can sense in my spirit that when Jesus spoke the words "lower the nets for a catch..." the fish were so restless and so excited as they heard the words of their Creator tingling in their ears that their time to be used by the Master, their moment of bringing the glory back to God for their existence is now at hand!  I am sure that each one of the fish is trying to outdo one another in jumping from the sea to the nets.

Before the boat could make it back to shore, Peter had a life-changing experience.

Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!"

Why would Peter talk that way to Jesus?

Peter was struck by the Almighty presence of Jesus and the sinfulness of himself.

The miracle accomplished its goal for the disciples, but not so with Jesus... The purpose was greater than the catch of fish, JESUS HAD CAPTURED THE DEEPEST RECESSESS OF PETER’S HEART AND THE DISCIPLES!

“Do not fear, from now on, you will be catching men."  Zogreo was the Greek word for catch used by the writer of this text which means; “to take alive and is used of captives taken alive.” 

Jesus wants to convey to His listeners these words..."you zogreo them, I will clean them.  Just as I have zogreo your heart, I will do them also!"

When the boat made it back to the shore, the disciples left everything and followed Jesus.  They left "everything", including the miraculous catch of fish. They finally understood that fish were no longer important for living but catching men for Jesus was now their reason for living!

What happens in the deeper water?  It is scary and it is more unstable, at least more unfamiliar.  But it is also where there are more fish.  Fishermen never catch many fish from the shore; they have to go out into the deep water to catch larger fish and more fish.

Likewise, Jesus wants to take you from your comfortable shoreline to a deeper place where you will find more food for your soul and more dependence on Him.

The journey to the deeper water is always to help us to know God better.

Jesus is calling us today the same way that He communicated with His disciples to move a little further from the land. From our old life, old ideas, our treasured possessions in exchange for a new deep and exciting life of following Him.

Let Him capture your heart.
Let us launch out into the deep and catch our miracles.

The Master is issuing the same call to you and me today.  Let’s get back out there to the deep waters once more.


Try again. 

Risk again!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fishers of men………

“When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.”

For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him.   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!”  And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.                Luke  5:8-11 NLT

For most people that would have been one of the greatest days of their lives. They had a great fish story to tell their friends the next day at the market, all of the people watching would want to know what it was like so they would have gained popularity.  What an amazing day.  

On top of that they had truly found the Messiah, this long awaited Redeemer. They had recognized Jesus for who He was in astonishment. Imagine the moment as Peter turned around and fell before Christ in humble fear.

Jesus speaks a statement that would completely change Peter, James and John’s lives forever.  “Don’t be afraid, I want you to come with me now and be fishers of men.”

Once they were confronted with the power and reality of Jesus He asked for their whole life, nothing less.  Basically He was saying, “…you trusted Me for fish, now trust Me for everything.”

On that day they had their best day ever doing what they do best Jesus calls them to leave it all behind.  With no ‘what if’s or buts’ this time they left everything, fully devoted to following Jesus.

The interesting thing about Jesus is that He does not want to give you a good story; He wants to transform your life.  Your choice to obey Him will only lead to you giving up more of your life for Him.  It’s not about church on Sunday’s and not swearing anymore.  There is so much more to Christianity than that.

Jesus will call you to leave what you know, like Peter’s boat, and everything you know to do when He calls you to do it.  It is tough, but that is when you begin to experience the life more abundant like Christ speaks about in John 10:10.  

Our Messiah is not like a thief taking away your fun He wants you to know life like it was meant to be experienced.  Look at what happened with Peter. Jesus took a loud mouth fisherman and made him into the pioneer of the early church. 

How many of you have tasted that fullness of life?  

The level of your devotion will directly affect the level of fullness you have in your life.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Obedience takes determination……….

“Once when he was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, the crowd was pushing in on him to better hear the Word of God. He noticed two boats tied up. The fishermen had just left them and were out scrubbing their nets. He climbed into the boat that was Simon's and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Sitting there, using the boat for a pulpit, he taught the crowd.

When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, "Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch."

Simon said, "Master, we've been fishing hard all night and haven't caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I'll let out the nets." It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch.

Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. "Master, leave. I'm a sinner and can't handle this holiness. Leave me to myself." When they pulled in that catch of fish, awe overwhelmed Simon and everyone with him. It was the same with James and John, Zebedee's sons, coworkers with Simon.

Jesus said to Simon, "There is nothing to fear. From now on you'll be fishing for men and women." They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him.”  Luke 5:1-11 Message Bible

It is interesting to note that Jesus does not ask Peter whether or not he feels like casting the nets once more. Peter then feels compelled to explain to Jesus that they had been fishing all night and had not caught a thing.

It took about two seconds for Peter to come out with his next response, “BUT if you say so we’ll try again.”  I’m sure there was something inside of Peter that wanted to know how they were possibly going to catch fish in the middle of the day.  He knew full well that if they had not caught any at night then for sure they would not catch anything in the day.

Maybe he wanted to prove Jesus wrong or maybe he wanted to believe that Jesus just might be this Messiah they had been waiting for all these years. He chooses to be obedient and see what happens when you follow directions from Christ.

What Peter and the other fishermen would learn that day is a valuable truth for you and me.  Doing what God asks does not always make sense and it’s not always logical, it takes trust and faith.

Obedience will always be the best course of action, regardless of whether you know what the outcome will be or not.

When these guys put their nets in the boat, go out to where Jesus instructs and throw the nets in. Low and behold the nets come up bursting so much that they had to call the other boat to come and help them.

Obedience takes determination. You have to set aside yourself and commit yourself to choose Jesus, no matter what. Many things in this life will compete for your attention, but you must make an effort to concentrate on Jesus and trust that following His direction will be the most effective, important, and wise decision that you can make.

The disciples learned that it was not about their logic, fish in their nets, their ability to fish or the boat, it was all about Jesus.

Are you ready to determine today that you will listen to what Jesus has to say to you and be obedient?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

He who believes……..

He who believes……..

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.   For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its savior.

Those who believe in the Son are not judged; but those who do not believe have already been judged, because they have not believed in God's only Son.”            John 3:16-18 GNT

I think that it is worth mentioning that some form of the word “believe” appears 4 times in these three verses.  In fact, some form of the word “believe” appears over 320 times in the bible. Even with limited understanding of the Scriptures, we can conclude that believing in God is an obvious necessity within the Christian faith.  

Hebrews 11:6
“Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe the He is . . .”

You cannot come to God when you do not believe that there is a God to come to.  So belief is a prerequisite for dealing with things that pertain to God.  More specifically, belief is a prerequisite for salvation.

Mark 16:16
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved . . .”

Acts 16:30-31
The jailer asked, “ ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

2Chr 20:20
“Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established.”

John 2:23-24
“Now when He (Jesus) was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men.”

Did you notice that it said many believed in His name?

If we read the paraphrased version of this verse in the Living Bible we would read this: “Because of the miracles Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many people were convinced that he was indeed the Messiah.”

Notice what Jesus did in spite of their “‘belief.’” Verse 24 says that, “He did not commit Himself to them.” In other words, Jesus did not reckon them to be genuine disciples.

Matthew7:21-23 Jesus paints a picture for us of Judgment Day and those people that have been living a life of self-delusion. He says:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord’ have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

Here Jesus is referring to a people who had professed Him as Lord. The fact that they cried out, ‘Lord, Lord’ indicated that these people understood who Jesus was and also indicated that they thought that they had made a commitment to Him as Lord.

Faith produces a relationship with God which in turn produces right living in us.

Genuine faith produces righteousness in us.  Belief equals proper behavior or righteous living.  If we truly believe in Jesus and surrender to Him we can’t help but want to live right.

If we want to live in sin, then our relationship to Christ is not right.  Something is missing.  You may ask, “What is missing?”   A lack of repentance is missing and a lack of true surrender and submission to the will of God.

How sincere is your commitment to Jesus?  

What is your limit in following Jesus, are you willing to give Him all?   Don’t be so quick to answer.   There is a big price to pay. 

The leaders saw how bold Peter and John were. They also realized that Peter and John were ordinary men with no training. This surprised the leaders. They realized that these men had been with Jesus.”   Acts 4:13 NIRV