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Monday, February 24, 2014

Lessons we probably all need to learn

The end of the day has come, labors have all just about ended, and you are envisioning a nice bit of sea bass cooked over the fire with a side of some freshly harvested vegetable from your garden.  Then all of a sudden, you vision is broken in upon by an "outsider" almost putting himself upon you to get you to back at work.  At first, it doesn't seem like much - he only wants to use your boat - not too far from shore - so dinner will be a little delayed, but you can soak up a few rays and enjoy the gentle rocking of the boat as it drifts on the still waters.  So, why not?  After all, he is quite popular and he tells stories people really like to hear.  As you lay there gently lulled by the slight lapping of the waters against the side of your boat, your ease is interrupted by another request - this time a little harder to take than his first. At first, you complain a little - something we all are given to at times.  Then you go about explaining how this request is a little unreasonable - something we also engage in whenever we think the request is just a little bit beyond what we'd really like to be doing.  What we do in response to the hard requests makes all the difference, though!  We can reject the request as unreasonable and a little too much for us, or we can make excuses for why it won't work for us to do what is asked, but either way, we miss out on some pretty significant blessings when we do!

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 MSG)

A couple of thoughts from our passage this morning:

- The crowds push in to better hear what he is saying.  I don't know about you, but I think nothing is worse than to be at the back of the crowd, wanting to hear what is being said, but despite all your straining to hear, you still cannot make it out clearly.  When someone finally picks up the microphone and asks if we can hear them now, I am relieved to not have to "press" so hard to hear what is being said.  Yet, in the pressing in there is something which I want each of not to miss - the urgency to hear, to make out what is being said, to make that connection with the one speaking.  Sometimes I think "taking up the microphone" is okay - because it makes it a little easier to hear, but it also lessens the intensity I must exert in order to hear!  Maybe pressing in is not so bad of an idea.

- Jesus always used what he had at his access.  We don't find stories of Jesus supernaturally creating a pulpit so he could preach, or having manna rain down from heaven so the crowds could eat.  In fact, we repeatedly observe him using what was made available to him - what others placed at his disposal. He used the water in the jugs which someone already drew from the well to make the wine.  He makes a little mud out of dirt and spit to anoint the eyes of the blind man.  He gathers the few fish and loaves to feed the multitudes. He uses the fisherman's boat and the gentle waters of the lake to provide a pulpit and amplify his voice for the crowds.  What is put at his disposal will be put to gracious use by this one we know as Jesus - Savior, Creator, and Lord.

- Even when we think he is finished teaching, there is always another lesson just waiting to be learned.  This might be the hardest thing for us to grasp, but the lessons he teaches are everywhere - we just need to be open to the opportunities.  There is "formal" teaching - more like what we get from the pulpit on Sundays.  Then there is this "informal" teaching - much like the lessons we learn when we are "at work" doing what it is we normally do. Yesterday, my older brother was kind enough to give up his morning to help me assemble a shed.  I had many of the pieces already put together, but just needed his extra set of hands.  As we struggled getting some of the pieces to interlock as they should, we tried numerous things to try to get the connection to occur as the manufacturer had designed.  Yet, in all our struggling, filing, drilling, shaving away, and pounding, nothing seemed to work.  In a moment of almost giving up, I looked at him and suggested we undo the screws holding the floor together.  He doubted it would work, but low and behold, as soon as four tiny screws were let loose, the structure could shift that 1/8" to allow the piece to glide into place.  He looked at me in amazement and asked how I figured that one out.  I told him I just saw it didn't look "plumb" on the edges, so I thought maybe the little shift could make the difference.  It did! Sometimes the lessons come in the "regular" stuff of our lives - like putting together a shed.  It doesn't take much for us to be "out of plumb" - but it also doesn't take much for us to "re-align" to plumb!  When we do, the plan God designed "fits" perfectly!

- We don't expect much, but are frequently dazzled by the greatness of our God.  It shouldn't surprise any of us that we set our eyes and hearts far below the greatness God designs for us.  He sees the harvest before us, even when we think nothing exists.  When we take even the first step toward responding to what he asks, the "haul" begins!  We cannot always see what is just beneath the surface in our lives, but he can.  When he asks for us to "cast our nets", the excuses have to go!  We need to remember he is the Lord of the Harvest and he knows what he has in store for us.  Cast those nets and see his goodness!  I don't honestly believe any of us will be disappointed!

- His greatness and goodness often humble us.  There is a difference though between being humbled and feeling shame.  Shame is not from God - it puts us down and keeps us bound by the past.  Humility recognizes the need for God to touch what we are powerless to fix.  Humility allows the past to be put in the past and opens us to receive the direction for our future.  Peter didn't know what was in store for him that day, but humbled by Jesus and opened to receiving something new, he took the bold steps into his future.  We might just need to do the same.  Just sayin!