How Big Was That Fish?

Have you ever been regaled with a fanciful story of a fisherman’s retelling of the “big one” that got away? It seems like every-time the story is repeated the details get exaggerated just a little more. The fish is bigger, the fight to reel it in gets longer and the heightened leap out of the water and the seemingly impossible escape from the line is more dramatic. It might not be a fish story for all of us, but many of us can relate to the “size” of a story and how it can grow in its details. 

One of my all-time favorite verses in the Bible is found in John chapter 21:25. Throughout the book John writes about several miracles that point to Jesus’ power as the Son of God. At the conclusion of his book he writes, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose the even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

Is John telling us a “fish story” here? In a way he is. He uses a literary device called hyperbole in this verse to help us understand two things. First, he recounts only seven of Jesus’ miracles to draw our attention to his sovereignty as the Son of God. As we read the other gospels, we hear of many more miracles that Jesus performed. So yes, there is more to the story of Jesus life that have been written down in this gospel. Secondly, it speaks to the infinite power and most certain point that God, through Jesus is never idle in His purpose for our lives. He leads us, guides us, corrects us, challenges us, grows us, teaches us, and forgives us. (the list could go on). What we have presented before us in this gospel and the others tells us of God’s story and his incredible love for us. 

John’s words in this verse also speak volumes to the praise, honor, and glory that we as Christ followers are to give to our Father in heaven. I am often reminded of the Psalms and the words of praise that are lifted to God; Psalm 150 is a great example:

“Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
    praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!”

When his (Jesus) story becomes a part of our story today we have opportunity to praise him for the work that he continues to do in our lives and the lives of others. The way we live our lives as followers of Jesus can also bring praise, honor, and glory to him. Praise is not limited to the sound of trumpets, tambourines, strings, or the sounding of cymbals. When we reflect God’s love, his mercy and grace to others this brings praise to his name. 

Let’s praise the Lord together for what he has done in our lives and pray for exciting new chapters in life filled with stories to share with those around us. 

Electrician, Musician, Physician…

The English language has some interesting ways of connecting words, ideas and thoughts together. The “-ian” attached to each of the words in the title is borrowed from the Latin iānus, which forms adjectives of belonging or origin from a noun. Electrician, musician and physician describe the role belonging to a person who might specialize in a particular area of expertise. Electricians work with all things electric, musicians’ study or play music and a physician as we know, is someone who is qualified to practice medicine. Knowing this, what comes to your mind when you think about the word Christian?

Acts chapter 11:26 is where we find the introduction of the expression “Christian” in relationship to those who follow Christ. “So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch”. Known between themselves as “brethren”, “the faithful”, “elect” or “believers” the title Christian was given to followers of Christ by the community of unbelievers among them. 

Jesus, during his ministry among humanity called his followers disciples. The term disciple in the New Testament is used approximately 230 times and gives us a deeper understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ. A disciple in this context is defined as a “leaner” or “pupil”. It was the task of the disciple to learn, study, and pass along the sayings and teachings of the master. 

I am not sure about you, but I feel like we have seen the meaning of the title “Christian” change over time. Today many people call themselves “Christians” because they go to church and live a good moral and ethical life. While that is good, I think there is a much deeper connection to our faith in Christ when we identify ourselves with him as one of his disciples. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to worship him, serve him and be a witness to the transforming power of his mercy, grace and forgiveness in our lives. 

First, our worship of Jesus is all about how we live our lives, Romans 12 says that we are to “offer up our lives as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God”. All that we do in life, yes all, should bring honor, glory and praise to God, that is how we worship him. 

Second, we are called to serve him by serving others. The love that we show to one another through serving is one of the key elements that identifies us as true disciples to the world around us. 

Third, as disciples we are called to be witnesses for him. Jesus, sent by his Father was on mission to reveal himself to us so that we might know him and save us from sin and death. This mission was accomplished through his life, death and resurrection. Since then, as his disciples we are called to carry on the mission by telling others about his love for them so that they too can become a part of his eternal family. 

I am not proposing we discard the title “Christian”; I would suggest that we continue to work at learning to live out our faith as true disciples. Like the first disciples we should be set apart by our actions, our words, and our witness. Let’s pray together for a renewed commitment to the mission Jesus commanded us to carry forward; to worship him, love and serve others and be a witness to the world for his glory. 

The Mechanic

I have the upmost respect for mechanics. I have attempted some DIY mechanics in my driveway and without fail every time I do, I am reminded that our wise and all-knowing Father in heaven gave that gift to someone other than me. Clearly there are many mechanics in this world but most of us “have a guy.” When it’s time for an oil change, brake job, or something else we have a trusted mechanic that helps gets the job done. I “have a guy”, he has been our mechanic now for many years and I trust in his ability to not only keep my vehicles in good running condition but safe for driving my family around each and every day. 1

In his first letter to the church Peter teaches us about living for God, to live not for what the world desires but for the will of God. Today, much like the audience Peter was writing to we face a similar battle. The habits or ways of the world have an uncanny way of drawing us into its power of looking out for number one… ourselves. In chapter 4:10 Peter says, “Each of you should use whatever gifts you have received to serve others… If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. 

One of the things that made me stop and think after reading this verse a couple of times, was that Peters instruction for us had nothing to us. Let me explain. It’s about serving others, not being self-serving; It is about bringing glory and praise to God, not putting ourselves in the limelight. It takes a 

supernatural strength of character and humility to live a life that brings honor and glory to God over ourselves. A strength that Peter tells us God provides. 

What comes to your mind when you think about “gifts” in context of your faith? For the most part we think about passages like Romans chapter 12, 1 Corinthians 12 or Ephesians 4 where we find references to the gifts of evangelism, teaching, giving, administration, healing and others. When we commit our lives to Christ, we, through the Holy Spirit are given one or more of these spiritual gifts. Being uniquely created by God, we use them in many different ways. The call to serve one another in 1 Peter 4:10 refers to an act of service done in genuine love and for the encouragement and growth of those who are being served. 

So, why did I choose to relate this message of gifts and serving to a mechanic?  Well, “my guy” the one who helps with my mechanical work, does so with an attitude of genuine love. Frist, he loves to help others. Second, he loves what he does. He does the work because it is a part of his ministry of serving others. I used this example of a servant’s heart because it is inspiring, it often sparks the desire in me to use the gifts I have been given to serve others. 

The things we do, the gifts that we have, whether it be fixing vehicles, creating cards of encouragement or thanks, making meals for those in need, lending a listening ear or quietly serving behind the scenes on a Sunday morning, each one when done with an attitude of genuine love for others brings honor, glory and praise to God. That is what he has called us to do. 

Weathering The Storm

Recently as I was sitting in my favorite chair reading a book my eyes were drawn to the quickly shifting clouds that passed by the large windows in my living room. Within a few minutes the bright light of the sun disappeared and was overtaken by a heavy gray cloud. Then came the storm! First, rain began to shower down like I have never seen it before. Moments later small pellets of ice followed and bounced off the metal railing making a loud machine-gun like sound. As the wind picked up momentum the giant fir trees began to sway as their deep roots held fast deep within the earth. A single clap of thunder followed by a streak of light passed over the horizon which signaled the procession of sleet then snow. Then, in the same way the storm so quickly darkened the day the sun came back to reclaim its rightful place. 

As I thought about the force of the wind and the incredible speed at which the storm came and went my mind wondered what it would have been like for the disciples as they experienced a similar storm on the sea of Galilee.

Matthew chapter 8 holds the account of the storm in which the disciples (some of whom were veteran fisherman) felt their very lives were threatened. They had just witnessed the incredible power of Jesus through the healing of a man with leprosy and Peter’s mother-in-law and other miracles. Tired and ready for a rest, Jesus and the disciples boarded a boat to sail across to the other side of the lake. Little did they know the next part of their journey would draw them into an epic storm that made them fear for their lives as they endured the wind and raging waters. 

Matthew’s account of this hair-raising experience through the storm is a testimony to the incredible power and sovereignty of Jesus as God. Verse 27 of chapter 8 describe the moment following Jesus’ rebuke (calming) of the storm, it says, “The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”” Matthew and the other gospel writers tell us that Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat as the stormy weather tossed them about; when I read this, I see a soul and mind warming picture of peace in the midst of the storm. Jesus, the author and creator of the earth we walk on and breath of life we live with is the anchor of peace that grounds us in a storm. 

In those moments while I was watching the storm from the comfort of my chair it reminded me of Gods incredible power, authority and control over all things in life, especially in the storms. The “storms of life”, the trials we experience can come as swiftly as the ones mentioned here. The outcome or weathering of the storm can be hard to navigate on our own; when we have the assurance of Christ as our anchor, we can be strong and courageous. In the storm we may be frightened or dismayed but often those feelings draw us closer to Jesus, we grow deeper into our relationship with him, and he uses those moments to know and trust him more. As believers Jesus is always in the boat with us, in full control as we live through the storms of life. He is our comfort and peace, what a beautiful promise for all of us.   

Isaiah 41:10 reads, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Go in peace today as you seek God in the storms of life and give thanks for his provision in the times of calm. 

Building Your Own Jesus.

Recently a good friend of mine shared an illustration during a Sunday sermon that stirred up some creative juices that inspired me to start writing in my blog again. While this mouthwatering illustration has been simmering in my mind for the past couple of days, I just had to share it with you.

Burger King introduced the world to the Whopper in 1957 along with a revolutionary concept that changed the way we order fast food. For the first time you could customize your burger to fit your personal taste. Don’t like pickles, no problem, like a little extra ketchup or mustard, of course. Aptly named, the whopper was a big hit, especially because it outsized any of the competitors burgers and you could order it just the way you wanted. Burger Kings mantra continues to ring out as, “have it your way”. 

Today this might not seem like a big deal as we tend to customize everything, burgers, pizzas, computers, cars, ringtones, music playlists, water bottles, watch bands and so much more. Over the passage of time our mantra has become “have it our way” While I am sure you can come up with a long list of things that you can customize, have you ever considered how this tendency to tailor things to our own taste/needs may intersect with our relationship with Jesus? 

Admittedly, like my friend, I have over time “customized” my relationship with Jesus to suit my own needs or wants. I have ordered off the “menu” choosing what I need or want and leaving out the rest of who he is. As we all face a multitude of different circumstances in life we sometimes slip into a false sense of who Jesus is thinking we can “have him our way”. 

Sometimes in life we choose to create a Jesus that works for us. We like the idea that Jesus loves us and watches out for us, that he leads, guides and protects us. And then on the flip side there are things we don’t like. It might be something he taught that stands in the face of a lifestyle choice we are living comfortably in or something that we want to do. We want to live life our way and fit Jesus into that life. As we check out the menu and build our own Jesus, we might like my friend order the following:

“A super-sized Jesus with extra grace, double forgiveness, hold the truth, with an order of don’t make me feel bad about anything that I want to do on the side.”

Throughout the ages individuals and groups of people have viewed Jesus through their particular lenses, building a version of him for themselves. Even his closest followers, the twelve disciples, didn’t fully understand who he was. The truth of God’s word holds the keys to truly knowing who Jesus is. The grand narrative of scripture reveals to us bit by bit the incredible truth of hope we can have in Jesus as we draw closer to him. 

When the disciples asked Jesus about which is the greatest commandment he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” When we invite Jesus to be the Lord of our lives, we must commit to the “full meal deal”, every aspect of our heart, soul and mind must be given over to him. It’s not “have it your way”, “have it our way” or “have him our way”. In life and in death, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life that we must follow. 

To listen to message that inspired this blog entry click here

High-Beam Headlights

Have you ever been driving at night and found your eyes momentarily blinded by the piercing stream of light from the high-beam headlights of an oncoming vehicle? Many of you have. What’s your first reaction? Do you give a quick courtesy flash of your lights back to the driver coming your way in hopes that they dim their lights and pass you by? Or, do you return fire with fire and burn your halogen bulbs at full candlepower until the other person gives in and relents to your stunning retaliation?

The apostle Paul has received word about a “high-beam” situation infiltrating the church in Corinth. Various groups within the church were beginning to “flash their lights at each other” over who they were following along with reports of sexual immortality, lawsuits and other troubling activities. Paul deals with the first issue of divisiveness before the others in chapters 1:20-4:21. He describes the problem in 1:12, “What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another “I follow Cephas”, still another, “I follow Christ.” 

The opening of Paul’s letter “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people” was a call to unity where disarray was brewing. “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you.” What was Paul’s plan? How in the midst of disagreement can the church come together in love for one another? 

Paul outlines four methods for us to “dim the lights” and foster an attitude and environment where unity can flourish. 

First and foremost, Paul instructs the people to focus on the cross of Christ. (1:18-2:5) Simply put, the Corinthians have lost sight of the cross, their “high-beam” focus on other leaders for power and authority has to be refocused, the need to return to the truth of the gospel message. It is not about them but all about Christ. 

Second, He speaks to the truth of spiritual wisdom. (2:6-16) Without the leading and guiding of the Spirit in all matters of faith in life as believers we will fail in our own weaknesses. He reminds us of God’s wisdom as revealed by the Spirit. “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” (2:10b)

Third, he speaks to the true equality of all believers. (3:1-23) Paul uses two metaphors, one of farmers in a field and another of construction workers building together. He stresses in verse 9 that we are “co-workers” (working together) in God’s service. 

Lastly, Paul speaks to the true nature of leadership. (4:1-21) Called by God, the leaders are his faithful servants; “This then is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.” (4:1) In short, Paul highlights the truth that Christ is to be exalted over his chosen leaders (servants), while at the same time given the respect they deserve because of their calling. 

Having been momentarily “blinded” by the powerful lights of an oncoming car I will admit I’ve responded to the situation with both a quick courtesy flash and more aggressive retaliation. For all of us, whether sitting in the driver’s seat or walking through other events in life, Paul’s timeless reminder to “dim the lights” and focus on the cross and listen to the leading and guiding of the Spirit will do us well.  

The Great _ommission

An omission is defined as “the action of excluding or leaving out someone or something”. Today, I have purposely left something out in my title, did it catch your attention? I feel it is befitting of the mysterious tendency that creeps into the ordinary day-to-day pattern of life we as believers can sometimes drift into. The exclusion or omission of clear instruction in our spiritual life has an impact on our mission as followers of Jesus Christ. We all tend to drift without continuous reminders of who we are called to be and what our mission is as believers. 

Like the disciples, we have been given a clear and concise mandate as believers, it is recorded for us in Matthew chapter 28: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” This is the mission we chose to accept when we entered into a personal relationship with the Son of God. His words to us, his clear instructions are central to the life we are to live as his disciples.  We are called to be disciple making disciples. So, what does this look like for us today, in what context are we to “go”?

The first thing that we must consider as we walk in obedience to this command today is the promise that follows it; something that we often forget when we begin to slip into that mysterious tendency I mentioned earlier, Jesus says: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” There should be incredible encouragement found for each one of us in this promise, not just in the beginning as we are fired up and ready to go, but right through till the end. He is with us, (think about that for a minute). “Go” in this passage refers to the act of going in a particular direction. Figuratively, it refers to taking a particular course of action, and in this case has an effect on someone becoming a disciple (a follower of Christ). The Great Commission is not only meant to cross borders (all nations) but is a call for all believers to be active in their own little parts of the world. This means we are to actively influence those who are close to us, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, community members by living out our faith in a way that brings about change (transformational change) in their lives. 

Have you been living in omission to the Great Commission? Has life shifted your focus to a different mission? One of the best ways to build your confidence in sharing your faith so that you can fulfill your God given mission, is to immerse yourself in His word. The Bible is full of incredible testimonies of God’s amazing mercy and grace. His word has been inspiring believers for centuries to be on task, to be ready for action and to go out into the world on mission for him. It is my prayer for you that you are a disciple making disciple. 

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

This blog is a reflection and study on the Fellowship Pacific Statement of Faith

“Straight from the horse’s mouth” is a phrase that describes information that has been received straight from a source of authority and has not been constructed or distorted by a third party. When we want to make a statement or persuade someone that the information we have to share comes from a trustworthy source, the author himself, we often use this idiom to make our point. 

Paul, in his letter to the church of the Thessalonians makes an incredible declaration of truth that points us to the authority and source of the words given to the people through the ministry of Silas, Timothy and himself. He writes, “…when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” (1 Thes. 2:13). “But as it actually is”, fast forward a couple millennia and we have a different way of saying these words. 

I “believe the Holy Bible to be that collection of sixty-six books from Genesis to Revelation which, as originally written, was objectively the very Word of God” *. The writer of Hebrews says, “For the word of God is alive and active”, a statement that I believe is as true today as the moment it was written. As a believer, I hold fast to the truth of the promises found in the scriptures and have experienced the work which is indeed a part of my life. The Bible, filled with the words of God, communicate to us who he is; he reveals himself to us and leads and guides us into a closer relationship with him through his son Jesus (the word of life). 

Have you ever taken someone’s word as true? Have you trusted their words and been let down? I imagine we have all been there. The word of God is the ultimate truth, one that will never let us down. These written words, through the work of Holy Spirit awaken our desire to live like Christ, they become a part of who we are. God directed the lives of some incredible men and women whose stories fill the pages of the Bible. As we remain faithful to and live out the words and instruction found in these sixty-six books, we are to accept them not as human word, but as it actually is, the word of God. Like Silas, Timothy and Paul we have received these words it is now our responsibility to share them with others. 

*Fellowship Pacific Statement of Faith Article 1 – Scripture.

Strength (integrity)

A quick online search for “strongest material on earth” results in a storm of websites listing Graphene as number one. Graphene is a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon 200 times stronger than steel. One engineer said that It would take an elephant balancing on a pencil to break a sheet as thin as Saran wrap. Incredible when you think about it isn’t it? 

When I think about the strongest man in the Bible my first instinct is to think of the mighty Sampson. Called and gifted by God, Sampson displayed some miraculous feats of physical strength. Yet for me, another man jumps to my mind when it comes to a different picture of strength, and that is Job. Job’s integrity as a faithful servant of God withstood some of the most painful personal hardships that one man could ever face.  

Job 1:1 (NIV): “This man (Job) was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil”. The whole book deals with the realities of suffering and righteousness, something many christians continue to struggle with today. Verse one of chapter one describes Job as “blameless”, not necessarily sinless. Romans 3:8 reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of the Lord.” Job’s integrity and devotion to God was tested through the unfathomable loss of his family; his good health was stripped from him and every material thing he had was taken away. In the midst of all these things Job utters these words, “he tests me — I shall come out like gold” (23:10)…“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. (42:5). 

We are given a picture of Job’s integrity in heart, soul and mind as we read his story. There is no doubt in my mind that Job struggled with sin in his life, he was human just like you and me.  His story tells us that his suffering was not because of any sin that he may have committed (despite what his “friends” try to tell him). Job’s integrity came out of his fear of God, it was an attitude of respect, obedience and upmost trust that guarded his integrity of heart from failure.

Job’s life, his experiences, should not drag us down, it should build us up with hope as we continue to live in a world filled with suffering and injustice. It has the power to encourage and inspire each of us in our own lives. This life of integrity lived by one man is and has been a model for many generations of believers. 

Like Minded

Like-minded people tend to share the same opinions, ideas, or interests. You might say that when two like-minded people get together there is a “meeting of the minds”. There are many constructs in this type of relationship where like-mindedness can help build healthy relationships with others. 

In Psalm 101 David describes many qualities that contribute to what might sound like a tall order to live by when it comes to living a life of Integrity. Verse six highlights one in particular that caught my attention, “My eyes will be on the faithful in the Lord, that they may dwell with me; the ones whose walk is blameless will minister to me.” This is a statement of character and ultimately a guide for building ourselves a line of defense against the evils and temptations of this world. David is giving us some incredibly wise relationship counselling through these words. As king, David knows that if he surrounds himself with like-minded people, (persons who share in his devotion to live a life of integrity under the call of the Lord) both himself and his reign will prosper. David’s words describe a plan to have people in his life who will hold him accountable, people who minister or speak into his life when trial or temptation come along; and as a king who could do as he wishes, these things could (and in some cases did) happen. David’s integrity was constantly challenged as a king. The bible records many of David’s failures but at the same time gives us a picture of heartfelt confession and repentance of what he had done. 

The lives that we live are influenced greatly by those around us. No matter where we are in this world there will always someone or something that will try and break past the walls of integrity that we work so hard to maintain. 

As a parent, I try to give wise counsel to my children much the same way David prescribes when it comes to the friends that they surround themselves with. I work diligently to try to live by this same counsel. 

Like David, I have received the promise of forgiveness when I call on the name of the Lord. Through the amazing gift of grace that is freely given to me today through Christ, I am forgiven. You and I fall short of perfection and integrity as we live, but if we live and share life together in Christ we may not fall so far.