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!

Not Exactly What I Had in Mind

God's ways aren't our ways..png

Has God ever answered your prayer in a way that differed entirely from what you had in mind? I have asked God for things and pictured all the many ways He could bring the answer to pass, but God chose something I would never have even imagined. I recall the time He allowed our only vehicle to burn to the ground in our driveway and then provided us with the vehicle I had crooned about for years. I never saw that one coming! Then there was the time when a financial blessing quickly turned into a nightmare, and then, at the last moment, turned back into a blessing. What a whirlwind!

I’m guessing the kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom would understand what I’m talking about. They experienced God’s unusual ways of dealing with problems firsthand. Second Kings 3 tells the story, but I’ll give you the setting. Jehoram, the king of Israel, was the son of Ahab, and according to the Bible, he wasn’t as evil as his parents, but he was far from being a saint. Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, feared God and lived right. The king of Edom is unnamed in this passage, but it’s safe to assume, he was probably more like Jehoram than Jehoshaphat based on the customs of his kingdom.

Jehoram discovers the Moabites are preparing to attack Israel, and he convinces the kings of Judah and Edom to join him in the battle. So the three kings lead their soldiers and cattle into the wilderness, but along the way, they discover they have another problem. There is no water.  

At this point, Jehoram, the king of Israel, falls apart. “This is just great! Not only is the army of Moab coming to destroy us, but now we don’t have any water either. God just led us here to destroy us!” Jehoshaphat—obviously the more mature of the two kings—interrupts Jehoram’s tantrum.

But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may enquire of the Lord by him? And one of the king of Israel’s servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah.
— II Kings 3:11

I don’t have time to get into Elijah’s witty retorts toward the wicked king of Israel, but I encourage you to read them. It’s worth the time!  In the end, he calls for a minstrel to come to play music. That was probably enough to send Jehoram over the edge. “Hello!!!  We need help from the Lord. We need answers. We need deliverance. We don’t need a song!!!” (Oh, Jehoram, why are your impatience and unbelief so familiar?) As the minstrel played, Elisha received a word from heaven.

And he said, Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches. For thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts. And this is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand.
— II Kings 3:16-18

Let’s break that down into pieces so we can experience the full impact of what the Lord is asking these frightened and weary kings to do.

First off, dig a bunch of ditches.  Of course! It seems so logical. They were thirsty and about to be overcome by an enemy probably three times their size, so what better way to spend their strength and energy than digging holes in the valley? (Sarcasm implied!) Seriously, though, it didn’t seem like the perfect solution to their dilemma, did it? But God wasn’t through yet.

Next, Elisha informed them though they wouldn’t see wind or rain, all those ditches would be filled with water. Not just some water, but enough for them and all their cattle and all their other animals to drink and be satisfied. That’s a lot of water which means they needed to dig a lot of ditches. Where was the water going to come from if not from a massive storm? Well, that was God’s little secret, now wasn’t it?

Elisha continues his speech, and I love this little tidbit he throws in here. He reminds the three kings that the miracle about to take place was a light thing in the sight of God. It was no big deal. The Almighty God would not have to expend any energy to fill the valley with enough water to meet their needs. It was nothing! (We discussed this concept a few weeks back in our series, The Negatives in the Bible). What a comfort to know our biggest obstacles are little things in the eyes of God.

Elisha finishes his message from the Lord, but the last phrase comes out almost as an afterthought. “Oh, and the Lord will deliver the Moabites into your hands too. Just saying.” How funny is that? It proves how insignificant the army of Moab was in the sight of God. He’s like, “Whatever!”

I have to wonder if the three kings looked around and asked, “Is there anyone else here that can speak to the Lord for us? This makes no sense at all! This isn’t a battle plan.” But whatever their initial reservations, they followed through with the Lord’s directions, and watch what happened.

And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water. And when all the Moabites heard that the kings were come up to fight against them, they gathered all that were able to put on armour, and upward, and stood in the border. And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood: And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil. And when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and smote the Moabites, so that they fled before them: but they went forward smiting the Moabites, even in their country.
— II Kings 3:20-24

Whoa, that’s priceless! The Moabites look out and see the water that looks like blood. Assuming the three kingdoms had turned on and slaughtered each other in the night, they march down to the valley to collect the spoil. But because they weren’t on guard, they were easily attacked and sent running all the way back to Moab where the slaughter continued. God’s ploy led to Moab’s destruction.

While it may not have been the plan the kings had in mind, no one can doubt its effectiveness. They didn’t have to understand. They only needed to obey, do their part, then stand back and watch God do His. And that lesson applies to us today. God’s ways are not our ways and rarely do they make sense to us. That’s okay. We don’t have to understand. We need to trust and obey. And in the end, we’ll stand back and marvel at what God accomplished and how He performed it!

Nothing Is Impossible For Those Who Believe

There is nothing God cannot do in and through us if we believe..png

“I can’t do it!”

If I had a nickel for every time those words came out of my mouth, I’d be a millionaire. Years ago, I was much more confident in my abilities, but now, with my joint issues and other health problems, I view myself as lacking. And in some ways, I think I even use it as an excuse to justify things I should do but don’t. In my mind, I’ve convinced myself I can’t perform specific tasks, but according to the Bible, my argument has no solid foundation.

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 17:19-20

Evidently, the disciples had the same problem I have. They didn’t believe in themselves. They knew Jesus could cast out the demon from the possessed child, but they didn’t trust that He could do it through them. They were blinded to His true power and ability. But Jesus quickly reminded them, if they had faith (even the size of a mustard seed), nothing would be impossible for them. They could perform miracles in His name and move mountains. And the same is true for us because we, too, are disciples of Christ. The apostle Paul agrees.

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
— Philippians 4:13

All things. There is nothing I cannot do through Christ. How many times did the psalmist refer to God as his strength? Didn’t Jesus Himself say that, without Him, we could do nothing? That’s true, but the opposite is true as well. With Him, we can do anything and everything (within His will, of course). If we could grab ahold of that truth and claim that promise every day, where would we be? I think we would be happier and more fulfilled. We would accomplish more and complain less. Each task would be a reminder of God’s great power in our lives.

Jason and I are putting this promise to the test in our mission efforts. We have taken an “outside the box” approach to deputation. What I mean by that is the direction we feel the Lord leading is not the typical deputation way. It doesn’t tick all the boxes of what most missionaries will tell you is the best way to do it. It doesn’t conform to the instructions laid out in various guides and manuals. But, it matches our natures and personalities, and we feel led to take a different approach. Every time we’ve explained our plan to a fellow missionary, they’ve given us the most skeptical look, and some have even exclaimed, “It will take you a lot longer that way.” Maybe, but maybe not. We believe if we follow God’s will, He’ll get us through our deputation and on the field in Wales in record time (again, if it’s His will). Though we are eager to be in Wales, we don’t want to rush through this process and take the “proven” path just because it’s the usual way. Instead, we’re stepping outside of the box and trusting that nothing is impossible.

What about you? Are you putting your faith into action today? Have you been telling yourself (and others) you can’t do something? Have your self-doubts caused you to forget about the mighty power of God? There is nothing God cannot do in and through you. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but it means it’s possible. You can do it through your faith in Christ. You’re strong in His strength. So, go out there today and move some mountains!