Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Fisherman's Dream

A fisherman’s dreams are perhaps not much different from yours or mine. Their dreams are often conceived within the context and boundaries of what is known to them and they are not often realized as expected. But what happens when a fisherman’s dreams are fulfilled? What does he do then? 

“One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 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 fish for people.’ So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:4-11 NIV) 

Up until this event, Peter had one means of making his way in the world and that was to bring in each day’s haul and maybe…just maybe, bring in the “big catch.” That’s what fisherman dream about. Whether it’s the size of the fish, or the number, there’s always that prize that they feel will prove their worth. 

Then suddenly, it happened—a catch so epic that it nearly sunk two boats. This isn’t the fish story about the one that got away, this is a story about the massive haul that was abundantly more than Peter could ask or think, bringing a finale to his dream. And, that was the problem.

Where does one go when they realize that they’ve achieved it all, especially when they discover that achievement alone doesn’t bring real fulfillment? That’s where Peter found himself—undone, and at the feet of Jesus with his heart laid bare, declaring, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” But it was not Jesus’ plan to throw Peter back. He had skillfully chosen the right bait, knowing just how deep to go that he might catch the fisherman. While capturing Peter’s heart was a miracle, technically speaking, the catch of fish was not.

There is no indication that fish were generated out of thin air, transformed from some other state, or even multiplied. The text does, however, indicate that this was a supernatural intervention brought about by a prophetic word—that is, the location of the fish had been revealed to Jesus by what is known as a word of knowledge. The word of knowledge is one of the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. In the chapter preceding this story, Jesus had been filled with the Holy Spirit. Through that event, Jesus had been enabled to operate in all of the gifts of the Spirit. By them, Jesus found a way to untangle Peter’s life and set an example for us to follow—a path which Paul says we should eagerly desire to follow (1 Corinthians 14:1).

There is nothing wrong with a fisherman’s dreams, nor is there anything wrong with the dreams we dare to dream. God gives us the power to imagine and to set up goals for ourselves. He wants us to seek for greater and to go deeper. But once hooked, he will not hesitate to upset our dreams that he might reveal himself to us in the process. 

And, after all, Peter’s dream was not wasted, was it? Jesus was able to turn it on its side and motivate Peter to leave his past behind, pointing him towards his true identity—not as a catcher of fish, but as a fisher of men. How will God use your dreams to propel you into your calling, and, how will he use you to bring the destiny of others to the surface?

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Another Paul?

Another Jesus?

There will never be another Jesus. That’s not to say that the world can’t see Jesus expressed in his body today, but Jesus came and finished his earthly ministry. I think we all understand that. But here’s a question—will there ever be another Paul? 

Another Paul?

Many look to Paul and see him as their model in ministry. But, many also see his life as a goal beyond reach. So again I ask, when God created Paul, did he “break the mold?”

Paul is unique. He was a man who, in his own words, was “abnormally born” (1 Co 15:8). He was set on this earth for a certain place, a certain time, and for a certain task, yet still speaks to us today. He likely shines as the greatest voice for the Gospel outside of Jesus himself. Yet Paul is not the pinnacle. Jesus is the goal. While Paul told his readers to look to him as a model, he did so within the context of how he followed Christ.

Following Christ

We are all called to follow Christ. In doing so, what can we hope to attain? Can we attain to the stature of Paul, or Peter, or John? What did Jesus mean when he said that those who believe in him will do greater works than he? Was he speaking only to those whose lives fell within the confines of canonical Scripture? Do the apostles set the high-water mark while we operate at a lower water pressure? What goal should we set for ourselves and what can we set our faith towards?

Imagine a Kingdom

Imagine for a moment that there is no penalty for over-reaching. Consider a Kingdom that allows believers to pursue the highest ability to love and one that encourages a burning desire to be extremely effective ambassadors for Christ. Like I said, imagine that in this scenario, there is no penalty for over-reaching and along with that, there is a limitless supply to draw from. Imagine that in this kingdom that within this generation, there is not only the ability for people to have the same impact as a Paul or an Apollos, but that there is a demand for such people—and not just them. Imagine that there is a great need for people today who can fill the shoes of a John or a Timothy, a Barnabas or a Luke,  a James, or a host of others we’ve read about.

The Stars

In this storyline, every believer gets to shoot for the stars. But you may ask, "What if they reach for the stars and fail?" Did I mention that there is also forgiveness, restoration, and second, third, and hundreds more chances to overcome? I know this sounds too good to be true, but perhaps that’s been the problem all along. What if many have turned down the gospel they heard because they felt like it was setting them up for failure? And even worse, what if the gospel some have accepted has done the same thing?


Perhaps we've made the mistake of not heeding Paul's admonishment that we don't compare ourselves to each other, or to him. If we compare who we are today to what Paul ultimately accomplished, we will always come up short. Instead, we must set our hopes upon what is not yet seen, but what has been promised to us. “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed…Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20 NIV)

Laying Hold

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:10-14 NIV)

When Paul called us to follow him as he followed Christ, this is what he was talking about. He believed that he could take hold of it, and more importantly, he believed that we could as well.