Luke 5:1-11 (AMP)
When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon [Peter], “Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch [of fish].” Simon replied, “Master, we worked hard all night [to the point of exhaustion] and caught nothing [in our nets], but at Your word I will [do as you say and] lower the nets [again].” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets were [at the point of] breaking; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats [with fish], so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw this, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” For he and all his companions were completely astounded at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon [Peter]. Jesus said to Simon, “Have no fear; from now on you will be catching men!” After they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him [becoming His disciples, believing and trusting in Him and following His example].
Have you ever had a rough night? A rough day? A tough year? Times like this can take the wind out of your sails. It’s tough to keep showing up for anything but the mediocre when life gets like this.
When life gets like this, all you want to do is retreat—to bed, to the recliner, to anywhere but here.
We also have this reaction when we’re asked to do something out-of-the-ordinary like serve in a new ministry, reach out to a sandpaper person, or go on that mission trip. Our first reaction is fear or doubt, which are close cousins. Our mind tells us, “No, not me. I’m too…I’ve too much…Not now…”
That’s what Peter does in the beginning of this conversation with Jesus on the boat. He’s cleaning up after a failed night of fishing and Jesus says, “Let’s go back. Let’s go fishing.”
Everything in Peter is telling him to not do this. He’s too tired and frustrated. That’s his human lens, but when he puts on his faithful lens, it says: “But at Your word I will lower the nets again.”
The result? When he lowers his fear and lets faith step in, Peter experiences the power of success with Christ. That’s the answer. We have to trust that Jesus wants us to succeed.
That first step of faith is radical. When Jesus calls us to Him, we want to do everything He wills for us. As we grow in faith, we face the struggle of this Christian life—the world’s way or Christ’s way.
Jesus wasn’t going fishing because He was hungry. He was firing up His disciples to do the real work. He explains the incredible journey He’s about to take Peter on—“Have no fear; from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10, AMP).
So, how do you do what Peter did? How do you become the man or woman Christ beckons you to become? Here are three steps from our passage:
1.Accept the risk of faith. Faith does not come without risk. It means we have to die to ourselves. It means we have to get to the end of our rope. We have to be willing to put the boat back in the water when He calls us to do it, even if we aren’t sure. But trust the risk. Jesus gives you power to overcome the objections, the fears, the naysayers. All you have to do is show up and keep watching Him.
2.Tap into your God-given imagination. This passage was interesting because Peter is a visionary. He’s impulsive and sees that Jesus is going to change the world. But sometimes, his sin and humanness catch up to him. Trust that vison. Trust that God has a specific plan for your life and you are his child. He wants the best for you.
3.Say no to your fear and stay close to Jesus. Peter was not unfamiliar with Jesus. He’d seen him heal. He’d seen him preach. He knew that Jesus was worth the risk of saying no to his fear. This exercise is immensely easier when we are close to Christ through our prayer, our presence, our practice of reading and applying His Word.
Don’t forget what Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16. You are His plan for reaching this broken world. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Hebrews 12:28-29 (NIV)
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire!
It’s storm season. This spring we’ve seen inches and inches of snowfall. We’ve seen nor’easters and snowmaggedons. The estimated damage in the Northeastern United States is well into the millions. It’s remarkable what wind and snow can do to powerlines, trees, and airline flights.
Life’s storms are usually just on the horizon. We may have some warning signs. However, we often don’t see the storms coming, or we think they’ll skip us. To the outside observer, Christians may seem to avoid the storms in this broken world, but that’s a misconception. Christians get hit with storms and suffering just like all of mankind. But the difference is that they don’t erase us.
What’s the foundation of this difference?
Our focus Scripture tells us: “We receive a Kingdom which cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28).
Our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is our foundation. We have been given a gift of the unshakable Kingdom of God. Its foundation is in His power. The power of God makes YOU unshakable in the face of the storm. Here are four reasons why:
1. God’s power is unstoppable. Our focus passage calls God a “consuming fire.” Ephesians 1:19-20 (NIV) says God’s power is “incomparably great for us who believe” and the same “power as the mighty strength that raised Christ from the dead.”
2. God’s power is LIVING in you. You are strong in your foundation of faith in Jesus Christ because that unstoppable power lives in you. “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20, NIV).
3. God’s power is for the living. You are ALIVE. You may be storming, but you are alive. That’s something to be thankful for and it’s often the power we need to overcome the storms—when we pray, when we worship. When we stand at the foot of the cross in awe, God’s power strengthens us from within and gives us the power to live for His glory and purposes. The Kingdom LIVES in you: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (I Corinthians 4:20, NIV).
4. God’s power is eternal. Isn’t the Word of God always fitting? When we talk about the storms of life, we picture a life that’s potentially sliding off the cliff. But the Word promises us that our faith secures us a foundation on the rock of salvation—an unshakable, eternal foundation in the Lord Jesus Christ. “For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11, NIV).
Application: Are you stuck in one of life’s storms? Remember, you are unshakable because you have Christ in you. Lean into thanksgiving and worship and you can access that power that raised Jesus from the grave.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Did you know that Jeremiah 29:11 consistently ranks as the second most popular Bible verse in apps and websites that keep track of such statistics?
It’s interesting because this verse is part of a letter written to the Israelites who were in the beginning of a seventy-year exile in Babylon. If you don’t have that context, you can easily misunderstand the intention of this verse.
The central message is that while God’s plan for you is not immediate, He still has big plans for your life. Jeremiah is telling God’s people to get ready for a long time of waiting. But Jeremiah is bringing them some good news. Despite the exile, God wants good for them.
In the verses preceding the famous 29:11, Jeremiah points out what God wants them to do–keep living!
Here’s a brief overview of the plan for the Babylonian exile and what you can do while waiting on the Lord:
• Build houses and settle down. Plant roots and live your life.
• Plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take care of yourselves and enjoy the fruits of the land.
• Marry and have sons and daughters. Keep doing the work God called His people to do. Go forth and have children.
• Do not decrease. Keep the line alive. Keep living your life–marry, have kids, build friendships.
• Seek peace and prosperity in Babylon. Wallowing in despair brings you nothing. Making the most of your situation brings you peace.
• Pray to the Lord. Keep your faith strong. Despite your circumstances, you are still a child of the Living God. He wants a relationship with you. And he wants good for you.
• Don’t let the prophets and diviners deceive you. Don’t fall for the lies that promise a quick escape. This exile time is a time to build faith and families.
Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet because he was often discouraged. He was often mistreated. He was often not believed. But he held on to hope. He held on to the promises of God. He continued to share the good news that God has a plan and you are part of it. That’s what he’s telling us in this encouraging, yet peculiar letter.
Here are five takeaways from the “plans for you” promise.
1. We may not understand God’s timing, but we do know that God is trustworthy. He had plans for the Babylonian captivity and has plans for your life.
2. You are part of God’s master plan. He is redeeming you for an everlasting life with Him and all His children.
3. God thinks about YOU every day. The word “plans” actually translates better as “thoughts.” God thinks about you. He wired you with unique gifting and specific plans for you. He has a purpose in mind for your life. He opens specific doors, allows certain circumstances, and gives you many blessings.
4. Impatience is not the way out of exile. In times of waiting, we get frustrated and impatient. God is calling us to live and love where we are. He’s got this!
5. If God is for you, who can be against you? Romans 8:31 reflects Jeremiah’s statement of hope and purpose. We may have to wait for it, but the plans and hope of God are so worth it!
It’s the beginning of the year. We’re posting our Bible reading plans on social media. We’re keeping track of what we eat, what we read, and what we do to better ourselves. But come February, an embarrassingly miniscule percentage of us will still be “resolving.”
Here’s a resolution worth keeping. Make a commitment to let Jesus be the majority partner in your life. It will change everything. Let’s look at how that happens.
1 John 1:3-4 (MSG)
We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!
John’s speaking as a pastor to his flock in this passage. He’s concerned about some disruptive behavior he’s seeing in his congregation. Some of them didn’t want to be pinned down to the God that Jesus reveals or to the love Jesus extends. They wanted God and love to be their idea.
John knows that before we can correct the behavior, you have to establish right thinking, or doctrine. He tells them, “God wants a relationship with you. Jesus wants a relationship with you. Jesus and God are ONE. You don’t see one without the other. I want to see you find your place in this relationship.”
He continues, “We saw it. We heard it. We witnessed this relationship, and when you experience it, you’ll double your joy.”
When we get our thinking right, we can live the Truth. Basically, John is telling us that how we relate to other people lets them know how we feel about God. Everything we do is a reflection of that relationship.
And we work on our relationship with God through devotions—prayer, worship, study, and fellowship with other believers. That’s Christianity 101. But there’s a piece missing for many of us. That’s what John is telling us.
He’s not the majority partner in the business of your life. Many of us make Him a minority partner. We want Him to step in when we need help. We’ve got this until it gets bad. That’s when we need Him. He wants and deserves more.
Here’s how to correct your thinking:
- Realize what God did for you. We all know that the wages of sin are death. But do you realize God broke His own rule for you? He loves you so much. He wants a relationship with you so much that He forgave you. He sent His Son to restore you to Him. That relationship is the most important thing to Him. Let that really sink in this year.
- The life of faith is not based on mountaintop experiences. You’re not going to walk on water every day. You’re not going to see a basket of bread and fish feed 5,000 people every day.
- Give up your majority ownership. If you give Jesus the majority ownership of your life, you’re going to find a joy that doesn’t go away. He wants to be there when things are rough. When things are good. When things are okay. Your reward? Love that always has your back.
- Stop treating church like a private affair. Church is not for you to practice a private faith. Church is for you to be impacted by congregational life. Get in there and love Him and love the people He’s put in your home and church. Do life together.
- Reflect His love. When you are in right relationship with God, your life exudes His love in the words you speak and the way you treat others. That’s been His plan all along. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NIV).
John 8:2-6 (NIV)
At dawn he [Jesus] appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
The Pharisees had the master plan. They were going to take down this Jesus who ate with sinners and healed on the Sabbath. They had caught a woman in the act of adultery. Surely, Jesus would throw the first stone. He must because the law required it.
The same law they said she’d broken required them to testify against her.
However, Jesus knows that the woman is just ammunition. The teachers and Pharisees don’t care about her act of infidelity. They care about taking down their foe—the radical who sought to upend their way of life.
You can feel the tension of the moment—the condemned woman standing in the temple court with men surrounding her. An audience beyond them. Jesus writing in the sand. The crowd of accusers was growing frustrated with the man they sought to trap.
At their persistence, Jesus replies, “You who is without ANY sin, cast the first stone.”
It’s a mic drop moment in the temple court. The men fall away silently one by one. When they all leave, Jesus turns to the woman.
He could bring condemnation to her, but instead He gives her a way out.
Jesus said words that ought to strike triumphant chords for each of us, “If none of your accusers remain to condemn you, condemnation is not what I want to give you either. The gift I am giving you today is compassion. Go and sin no more.”
The message here is that no one who is in Christ has to live condemned. Jesus knew then and knows now that you need divine compassion, not condemnation.
Jesus knows something about this woman and you. He sees the you on the other side of this season of turmoil. His why is: “If I can just give her a chance to live on the other side of these bad choices, she will prove to creation that she can honor God with a better life.”
The reason you are not condemned is because God sees that same chance in you.
You are not who you should be—yet—but you are not condemned.
Compassion will always cure more sins than condemnation. Jesus knew this woman didn’t need to die. She needed a chance to change. That’s why He didn’t join the guys trying to condemn her. He knew her capacity for change.
Do you know how much Jesus wants you to have a better second half? Do you know why He won’t let you withdraw from life? Do you know why He snatches you up when your emotions get too low?
The only explanation you need is that God saw something in you that you couldn’t see in yourself.
God knows you don’t need to die, you need time to change. Go and embrace His compassion.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death,” Romans 8:1 (NIV).