Christianity 201

November 6, 2014

When You Feel Like Quitting

This week regular columnist Clarke Dixon ran a more topical piece, Do Muslims and Christians Worship The Same God? which you’re invited to read.  For C201, we went into his archives from the summer and found a piece that actually deals with the verses immediately prior to the passage from Clarke we ran last week.  Click the title — note the alliteration! — to read this at source.

small__4804167810[1]Five Questions for Frustrated Fishers of Men

Frustrated with being a Christian? John 21 begins with a group of disciples who understand frustration as they have been out on the Sea all night with no fish to show for their efforts. But the darkness and frustration will soon give way to new possibilities when “early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore” (John 21:4 NIV). Has the Christian life become full of frustration for you? There are some questions lurking here which may help bring a new morning to your life and witness. Let’s take a look.

5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish (John 21:5-6 NRSV)

The miracle catch of fish is reminiscent of an earlier miraculous catch, which we can read about in Luke 5:1-11. What is significant about this earlier catch is that it leads directly to Jesus’ call of Simon Peter, James and John to be his disciples. Now remembering that all the disciples had proven that they were better at fleeing than following at the first hint of danger, here is a significant and symbolic moment of affirming the call. Despite everything, they are still called. Are you ready to affirm God’s call on your life, or are you about to call it quits? No matter the mess you may have made of it so far, He is still calling. You have not been uncalled. Its a new morning, hear again His call.

7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.  (John 21:7 NRSV)

We should look at Peter’s reaction to the miracle and the Miracle Worker in light of his previous reaction. The first time there was a miraculous catch Peter “fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man’” (Luke 5:8 NRSV). This time, he was so excited and in such a hurry to be with Jesus he “jumped into the sea” (John 21:7 NRSV). Clearly Peter has grown in his relationship with Jesus. Are you ready to jump ship to get to Jesus, or would rather Jesus walk the plank and leave you alone? Does your worship and prayer life give the answer away? It’s a new morning, a deeper relationship with Jesus awaits you.

9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread (John 21:9 NRSV)

Another charcoal fire has been mentioned recently in John’s Gospel, but it is not one of warm friendship. It was the fire at which Peter was warming himself when questioned if he knew this Jesus who had just been arrested. He said he did not. This fire is different. This fire is Jesus’ invitation to breakfast, but more than that, it is Jesus’ invitation to experience grace. Going forward Peter, along with the other disciples, will serve Jesus as those who experienced deep grace. Is grace the fuel that feeds your service, or is your service a fire that consumes grace? Let’s not serve to earn favour or fame, that only leads to frustration. Let’s serve from our experience of forgiveness. It’s a new morning, you are not just a servant, but a forgiven child of the King.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty- three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn (John 21:10-11 NRSV)

Does the presence of bread and fish, and the miracle of so much being abundantly supplied remind you any other miracles? Yes, Jesus has done this kind of thing before, many times actually and we are reminded of the miracle recorded in John 6:1-15 where Jesus takes what they have: “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish” (John 6:9 NRSV), and makes it more than enough to fill the need. Here in John 21 God is going to take what is available, a band of fisherman, and use them to begin a movement that will change the world. Are you making yourself available to God, or are you making excuses to Him? Don’t worry if you not gifted like that wonderful Christian in the next pew. God will take what you have and make it more than enough. It’s a new morning, God will use what you make available to Him today.

12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast” (John 21:12 NRSV)

While there is so much to be done and so much to get doing, there is time to stop for meal. We sometimes hear loud and clear the call of Jesus to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19 NRSV). But we forget that he also said “Come and have breakfast.” Meals are wonderful things. Time to sit down without a goal to be accomplished, or a task to be done. Time to spend with loved ones. Time for nourishment for our bodies.  Are you taking time for meals? Are you resting? Are you having some downtime with your Christian family? Are you feeding on the Word of God? It’s a new morning. Stop fussing about and sit down for some breakfast!

November 6, 2013

Where I Do I Go To Resign?

Galatians 6 9 Let us Not Grow Weary

I left work today in one of those moods where I just wanted to go home, sit at my computer and write my letter of resignation. Problem is, I own the company. I don’t have a job per se, I do what I do as a response to what I’ve felt is a calling, and a natural fit for my gifts and abilities.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get discouraging, frustrating and exhausting some (most) days.

In the first of the seven letters in Revelation, the church at Ephesus is commended for their perseverance:

Rev. 2:2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. … You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

In Hebrews, we’re reminded that, having Christ as our example, we should not give up:

Heb. 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Our Old Testament heroes knew what it was like to have their backs against the wall:

II Chron. 20:15 He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

Parents are told not to “embitter” their children, not lest they sin, but lest they become discouraged.

Col. 3:21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Though we are surrounded by people who are idle and disrupted, we are reminded not to grow weary of doing right.

II Thes. 3:13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.

But the verse that came to mind for me today, is the one which I always come back to:

Gal. 6:8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

Ray McDonald writes:

Some might tire from doing good.  The reason for some is that we don’t always see the benefit or reward from doing good.  It isn’t always immediate and of course we are an instant society – needing instant feedback on everything.  We see people taking short cuts and doing what pleases them and they seem to reap the rewards while we strive to do the right thing – the good things – and don’t see the reward or benefit at times.

Of course Christianity is a heart thing my friends.  Christianity boils down to attitude – the condition and position of one’s heart.  We shouldn’t do good to reap a reward – to see a personal benefit.  We should do good simply because that is what God wants of us.  We should serve God because God is God and for no other reason.  Yet God wants us to know there will be a reward – a blessing – from doing good.  We will reap what we sow He says.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Here’s a song from Danniebelle Hall with which to conclude today’s meditation:

Today’s bonus item: The verse that follows in Galatians 6 is a verse that we use to determine our financial policy:

Gal. 6:10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

When push comes to shove, we make a point of paying our brothers and sisters in business first and foremost where an option exists on paying several companies at once. And of course, if someone owes us money, we’re quick mention this verse. Sometimes a church will faithfully pay its utilities on time but not consider an issue to be weeks behind on paying other invoices. We feel this verse is a challenge to us (and them) to rethink wrong priorities and policies.