The Ones That Got Away

As you can see, I have not fallen off the face of the earth, and I do apologize that it has been so long since my last post.  Between getting our house ready to sell, finding a home for Barnabas (which we did), and traveling thousands of miles (yes, thousands!) over the past month, it’s been all I can do to keep straight where I am and what day it is.  But I can tell you this, I’ve missed sharing my heart with you, and I couldn’t let another day go by without writing to you.  So, from the comforts of the hotel room where I’m currently staying, I bring you today’s devotion.

And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
— Luke 5:1-8

I’ve written and taught from this passage so many times, I thought I knew it backward and forward.  I’ve discussed the empty nets, the hopeless fishermen, and the miraculous catch.  I’ve explored—I thought—every angle of this account, but this week, the Lord opened my eyes to something I’ve missed.  For as many times as I’ve read, studied, and quoted this passage, there was a glaring point I’ve overlooked.  Thanks to a sensational message by Dr. Caudill, the director of our mission board, I now understand this story in a whole new way.

I would like to draw your attention to Jesus’ command to the disciples.  Though they had fished all night and caught nothing, He commanded them to let down their nets for a draught.  Notice the plural form “nets,” as in, more than one.  I have no idea how many nets the disciples had, but we know they had more than one because the second verse of the passage tells us as much.  Besides that, being professional fishermen, it’s safe to assume there were multiple nets.  

So, Jesus tells them to let down the nets.  Pay close attention to Peter’s response.  On the surface, it seems good.  Obedient.  Of faith.  He tells Jesus that they had been out all night and caught nothing but because Jesus commanded, they would obey.  Then, Peter proceeded to let down “the net.”  Did you catch that?  Net, as in one.  Not nets—plural.  Just one.  One net.  Peter obeyed the Lord. . .sort of.  He acted but not in complete obedience.  For whatever reason, he failed to let down all the nets and settled for just one.

As a result of his incomplete obedience, notice what happened.  The net became so full, it broke.  Imagine how many fish the disciples could have caught that day if they had let down all the nets.  But instead, they didn’t even get a complete net full because when the net broke, some of the fish got away.  Yes, they brought in a great load, but they could have had so much more if they had only obeyed completely.  They could have had God’s best, but they settled for good enough.

I don’t know why Peter didn’t throw out all the nets.  Maybe he didn’t really believe it was worth the trouble.  After all, they had fished all night.  They were tired, weary, and frustrated.  Maybe Peter—even though he partially obeyed—didn’t truly believe they would catch anything.  If that were the case, why bother with more than one net?  Yes, maybe it was a lack of faith that kept him from complete obedience.

Or perhaps it was the inconvenience of it all that caused him to hold back.  The beginning verses tell us the disciples had already cleaned their nets.  If Peter were to cast them back into the sea, they’d have to clean them again.  Who wants to do all that work twice?  

Or, it could be that Peter thought he knew better.  Yes, Jesus said cast out the nets, but surely one would be sufficient.  I mean, it’s not like it really matters, right?

But it did matter.  It mattered a lot.  And Peter realized it, but by then, it was too late.  The net had already broken, and the fish had already gotten away.  And Peter was sorry.  Sorry he hadn’t gone all in.  Sorry he hadn’t obeyed Jesus to the letter.  Sorry he hadn’t received God’s best.  And perhaps even sorry that he had cost others a portion of their livelihood because of his lack of faith.  Peter held back, and it cost him dearly.  Even though he experienced a miracle, he couldn’t rejoice in it because he realized he missed out on so much more.

What’s holding you back today?  What’s keeping you from casting out all your nets?  What is it that’s preventing you from obeying God completely?  Whatever it is, I urge you to learn from Peter’s mistake.  Don’t miss out on God’s best and settle for good enough.  It’s not worth it.  God has so much in store for each of us, but sadly we never get to see the extent of it because we haven’t fully surrendered to God.  He’s urging us to cast out our nets today.  All the nets, so not one single blessing gets away.  Will you obey completely, or will you hold back?  The choice is yours, but remember, that choice may affect others as well.  Don’t be responsible for the ones that got away!

I Believe. . .A Little Bit

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Recently, the Lord has been dealing with my heart about a new book idea. The concept revolves around the many instances in the Bible where it seemed there wasn’t enough. Not enough money. Not enough time. Not enough faith. Not enough resources. As I’ve thought and prayed about this topic, more and more stories from the Bible have come to my mind, and with each one, I feel a sense of growing excitement—so much so that I’ve decided to start sharing a few of these ideas with you on this blog. The entries here won’t be as detailed as they will be in the final book (whenever that comes to pass), but it will give you a good idea of the insights the book will hold. Are you ready to get started?

And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!
— Matthew 8:23-27

This may seem like an odd passage to use at the beginning of this study, but for me, it’s a timely reminder. We all know the story of this great storm and how Jesus spoke peace to the winds and waves. We’re also well-acquainted with his rebuke to the disciples, but only recently as I explored this concept of “just a little” did I notice Jesus’ exact wording. He didn’t say the disciples didn’t have any faith. He said they had a little.  Just a bit. Enough to wake up Jesus, believing He could help, but not so much to calm their terrified hearts. A little faith.

But here’s the thing, a little faith is all we need. Jesus said so Himself. Check out this passage:

 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
— Matthew 17:14-20

In this instance, we see the disciples had no faith. Though they had healed the sick and cast out demons before, for some reason, they didn’t believe they could do it with this child. Maybe the situation was too scary. Perhaps they felt the need was too great. I don’t know, but Jesus stated they were faithless and unbelieving. But notice what he tells them next. He informs them if they had faith as small as a mustard seed, it would be enough to move mountains. Just a little faith can move mountains. Just a little faith makes all things possible.

This is such a comfort for me to know right now amid so many uncertainties.  My mind is clouded with questions. Will we ever finish these house repairs? Will we get the amount we need when we sell the house? Will we be able to purchase our motorhome before our crazy fall schedule for deputation begins? Will we find a new home for Barnabas before we leave for our big trip to Texas? If we don’t, what then? How? When? Where? Why? Oh, the questions!

Yet through all the noise, I hear that still, small voice whispering, “Have faith, Dana. I’m working things out.” And while my heart still races and my mind keeps swirling, there’s a mustard-size seed of confidence that brings me peace in the storm.  I may not have the great faith I want to have, but even if I only have a little faith, that’s enough to see these mountains of worry and stress fall away, just as happened with the father of this possessed child. We see more details of his story in Mark 9.

And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
— Mark 9:21-24

What an emotional story! This heartbroken father pleads with Jesus to heal his son, but notice his wording, “If you can do anything, help us.” If you can. That doesn’t sound much like faith, does it? But Jesus’ response changes everything. “I can do anything if you can believe.” At which point, the father cries out the prayer that spills from my lips day after day, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!” Do you know what that statement tells me? That father didn’t have much faith, but he had just a little. And a little was all he needed. Jesus proved that when he healed the son.

My friend, maybe you can relate to the disciples, the broken-hearted father, and this red-headed missionary/writer. Perhaps today you’re clinging to “just a little bit” of faith. If so, take heart. With that faith, you can move mountains.  All is not lost. And the more we exercise that little bit, the more it will grow, just like our muscles. So, hold that chin up high, face that storm, and cry out, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

Trusting in the Rock

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On Saturday, Jason and I took Barnabas out for a hike.  We hoped to get away from all the stress and decision-making taking place in our lives right now as we prepare to sell our home and purchase a motorhome for full-time deputation. Overall, it served its purpose, but more than that, God used a moment of that hike to point out a hard truth in my life. Allow me to set the scene.

We came to a water crossing. The stream was wide but not deep if one planned his steps carefully. Barnabas crossed first. No big deal. Jason followed, and I was next. I did well until I reached the last step, which was more like a leap to the river bank. I made it across but landed in the gushy sand that sank and squished as soon as my foot made contact. This is the conversation that followed:

Me: “Ew, I stepped in the gushy stuff.”

Jason: “I used that rock just under the surface so I could step far enough to be on the other side of the gushy stuff.”

Me: “I guess I didn’t see the rock.”

Jason: “It wasn’t a rock you would trust.” (He knows I’m very particular about what size and shape of rock I’m willing to put my weight on.)

Me: “Oh, well, I’d rather step in the gushy stuff than stand on a rock I don’t trust.”

At that moment, it was if those words flew out of my mouth then circled back and hit me right between the eyes. How often do I settle for the “gushy stuff” in life because I’m not trusting in the Rock? How many times do I take flying leaps instead of standing firm on the Rock? Why is it so hard for me to trust the Lord? He has come through time and time again. He has proven His power, His love, and His goodness. Yet, I still bypass His way for my way. I step around Him to take the path I see, the one that looks best to me.

As I discovered later that day, my trust issue with the Lord has wreaked havoc in all my relationships. Not only have I stopped trusting God, but I’ve also stopped trusting others. I expect the worst out of people and situations and have fallen for the lie that the only one I can depend on is me. When I realized this, I had to laugh out loud. Not because it was funny, but because it was so ironic. I know I’m a mess. I know me better than anyone, so surely, I understand I cannot depend on myself. Yet, I do. It makes no sense. And all of it began when I refused to trust God with my life.

Maybe you can relate. Perhaps you know what it’s like to follow your own plans and try to solve your own problems. Maybe you, too, live a life of fear, worry, and stress rather than trust, peace, and joy. If so, I will tell you the same thing the Lord recently showed me—it doesn’t have to be that way! It’s a matter of choice. We can choose to stand on the Rock or to make our own way through the gushy stuff. We can choose to trust God instead of fretting over every detail of our lives. We have a choice, so what’s it going to be—the Solid Rock or the sinking sand?

For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.
— Psalm 31:3
He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
— Psalm 40:2