Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fishing Isn't The Same As Catching


My scripture today can be found in Mark 1:14-20

My daddy used to always tell me that “Fishing Isn’t the Same as Catching”

When I was a young girl, after my brother died, my dad and I would often take off on a Saturday to a nearby canal.  Florida is famous for them.  If we did not go to one of the canals off of the Florida Turnpike we would go to Lake Okeechobee or Lake Osborne.  We would stop and buy some crickets as bait and go out fishing for several hours.  Many times we never caught a thing!  But you know…it was not really about catching the fish as it was spending time with life lessons.  I loved the times we would catch some fish and I loved putting them in my dad’s fishing bucket.  We would take them home at the end of the day and my dad would prepare them for eating.

Read Mark 1:14-20 

As we look at our Gospel Lesson for this morning, two really important facts jump right off the page.  The first is how quickly—actually immediately—the disciples responded to Jesus’ call. The second is that He called them not to be catchers of men, but to be fishers; and there is a difference.

Verse 18 tells us about the quick decision on the disciple’s part: “At once they left their nets and followed him.”  Something is really happening here.  People don’t usually drop what they are doing immediately…especially fishermen.  Fishermen think things over.  They’re usually slow to act because they are used to having to use so much patience to get what they want.  But for these four disciples, well, their response was immediate.  They left their nets and followed Jesus.

How many people do you know who are willing to follow or respond so immediately?  How often are people asked to do something for the church and their immediate answer is: “Sure I will. I’ll be glad to.”?  How often do we immediately respond?  Is it only when our boss calls; or our spouses or mom?  Or do we even put off our response in those cases?

“Just a minute honey!”…  …or “Not right now, dear!”…  …or “How about during the next time out?”  …or the next commercial….  Or half time.

 

And what the disciples were called to do…well…it pales in comparison to the little things I’m talking about.  All the disciples of Jesus left something behind.  These first four left their fishing boats, their livelihood and their homes.  And it wasn’t the kind of situation where they could say: “Well, okay, we’ll try this out for a while, and see how it works out.”  They followed…plain and simple.  There was a finality about it.  Have we left anything to follow Jesus?

And I ask this because in order to follow Jesus we do have to leave something behind…for good!  It may not mean that we have to leave our present jobs, or our homes or families…but it might.  Just like Kathryn and Brian….they left a good teaching job and the security that goes with it and a good engineering job.  They left…and went off to do God’s bidding….trusting in Him to take care of them.

What it means for us is that we might have to leave behind some of the prejudices that we cherish so much…and that are so familiar to who we are.  And maybe there are lifestyle issues we must leave behind in order to follow Christ.  One day when I was an undergrad, on the campus of  Auburn University, I was witnessing to a fellow college student over a cup of coffee.  I asked him if he believed that Jesus Christ is Who He says He is.  His answer was yes.  Then I asked him if he would be willing to pray, repent of his sins, and ask Jesus to become the Lord of his life.  His answer was, “No. Not yet. I believe, but I’m not ready to give my life to Christ. There are too many things I’m not ready to give up.”  So let me ask you all this morning….How many of us ‘believe’, but are not willing to follow?

James, the brother of Jesus, tells us: “Even the demons believe…”  But we are also told that they will be thrown into the Lake of Fire!  “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.”  Let me tell you all….The power of the Gospel changes people’s lives.  Once we meet Jesus on the road of our own individual life, and decide to follow Him, we will be changed!  We will be different people.  But many of us tend to resist change.

 

So many folks just want to see the Gospel through rose colored glasses—wanting to see only the joy, comfort, and light—and not wanting to see the difficult or disruptive.  “Behold, I make all things new,” says Jesus.  Two very important words in this morning’s Gospel Lesson are repent and believe.  Too many people think repent means to feel sorry for what you’ve done—and then, go do it again.  But that’s not it at all. 

Repent means to change direction.  It means a change in priorities.  It means living with a whole new approach to life.  It calls us to embrace the newness and change which Jesus brings.  And to believe…well…it doesn’t just mean listing our denomination as United Methodist on some application blank.  It means trust and reliance and placing one’s whole life in God’s hands, regardless of what happens in life.  It’s called “the leap of faith.”  That’s the kind of change that the Gospel produces.  That’s what makes us different.  And there’s no turning back, because it’s a difference that won’t go away.  This is what happened to the disciples as soon as they began to follow Jesus…nothing was ever the same.

It was the beginning of a new and exciting journey…the best journey imaginable…where God is not just a Sunday friend but a daily companion. And this is what happens to all of us when we heed the call of Jesus in our lives to: “Come follow me.”  And when we embrace this newness of life that Jesus offers…  …well, we see how good things can be…  …we experience God’s love up close and personal…and we want to ‘Pass it On.”   “Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.”

There truly is a difference between being fishers and catchers of men.  Jesus calls us to be fishers.  Think about your life journey.  How many people dropped a hook in front of you…before you finally grabbed a hold of the new life you found in Christ?  An awful lot, I’d imagine. Maybe you were brought up in church.  Maybe you were surrounded by the preaching of the Word, the invitation to accept Christ, and people who were wonderful/grace-filled examples of how magnificently different it is to be a follower of Christ.  But you still didn’t bite.  At the same time, there were hundreds upon hundreds of seeds being planted.  And then one day, well, Praise the Lord!…

…it all clicked…  …the decision was straight ahead of you and you became a Christian!  And you believed…really believed…and things really started to change!  Who was the One Who caught you?  Do you remember?  There had been a lot of fishers after you…  …but Who caught you?  Was it not the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself?

Paul writes in Ephesians chapter 2: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Even the ability to believe and make the decision to accept God’s plan of salvation is a gift of God.

Fishing is not the same as catching.  Jesus calls us to be fishers, not catchers, and that is good.  It means that we’re not alone in the project of proclaiming the Gospel to the world.  God is with us, since it is God the Holy Spirit alone Who enables our ‘fish’ to be caught, Who enables people to respond to our message.  And since it is the Holy Spirit Who does the catching, we don’t need to take the rejection of the Gospel personally.

Maybe it wasn’t the right time for that person; maybe the Holy Spirit has some other things to work out with them first; it may be a lot of things…maybe they will never accept Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives…  …We do have free-will.  The main thing we should be concerned with is the fact that we did witness to them.

And whether a catch is made or not, we are called to cast the net again, to proclaim the Good News to another person by words and deeds, and let the Holy Spirit fill the net according to God’s will.  Many of have invited friends and family members to church.  Many of us were at one time invited.  There’s been a lot of fishing going on!!!  And let me tell you….this church is a fishing church.  And we are praising God for it!  But you know…It is not us who do the catching…  …but we do the fishing and rejoice when the Holy Spirit convicts and a positive decision is made!!!  So let’s put ourselves in those boats so long ago, with the knowledge we have of a Savior Who wants to give everyone the gift of salvation.  And let’s remember that this gift can neither be bought nor earned by any human being; that it is, however, God’s free gift to those who call upon Jesus’ name, who trust Jesus for salvation and not themselves.

Let’s hear Jesus call us to be fishers of people…  …and let us respond by fishing and fishing and fishing…  …letting God take care of the rest.

 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Alaska or Bust

Today I visited with my cousin, Amanda.  We have not seen much of each other since early December and I have missed spending time with her.  We ran errands, visited with sister, Linda, ate a marvelous lunch with Emily, looked at all her pictures from her Iceland trip NewYears, and then of course the music and guitars came out and we spent an hour singing and learning some new material.  We are looking for a Coffee House gig somewhere nearby.  Just as my time to go drew near she pulled out a song by Andrew Peterson called Alaska or Bust.  As the song began we sat there and thought of Randy and Jimmy who both made it to Alaska before they died of the dreaded big "C".  Both of us cried....it was an ugly cry I can tell you.  My heart hurt.  However, the lyrics are amazing and I could not wait to get home and share them with you all. 


Alaska or Bust 
Margie, won't you listen to an old man's wish
They say it's mighty pretty in Alaska
My daddy used to talk about those deep sea fish
So there's something, darling, that I wanna ask you
So don't you turn me down

In the morning we would listen to the cattle calling
Lowing in the land of Okeechobee
Where it's flatter than the cardboard on the carport floor
And the cattails seem to wave just like they know me

Ah, but Enoch in the tackle shop
Goes on about the salmon caught
The time he and his brother sailed to Juneau

So get in, I'll do the driving
The bag's already packed and in the truck
Margie, get in, put down those dishes
The town will see us go if we're in luck
So come on, it's Alaska or bust

I've been holding down this farm that daddy left me, darling
The kids have married off and moved away
And the doctor says I'm healthy for an old man dying
Well enough to seize another day

So get in, I'll do the driving
Your bag's already packed and in the truck
Margie get it, these bones are dry
I've been running, but the cancer's catching up
So come on, it's Alaska or bust

There were days when I imagined that the clouds were mountains
Towering above the rolling ocean
And I was sailing on my tractor, turning hay out in the pasture
Catching salmon of my own while I was mowing

So get in, I'll do the driving
Your bag's already packed and in the truck
Margie get in, there's not much time
I've been running, but the cancer's catching up
The town will see us go if we're in luck

So come on, it's Alaska or bust

Alaska is number one on my bucket list.  Mary and I were planning to do an Alaska trip in 2016...the year we were going to retire.  She died in 2012 of cancer.  One day I will make it to Alaska so I can see it for both of us.  I don't know why today was a day heavy laden with a bunch of sad memories but it was.  When I got ready to leave she played one more song for the road...and I had to leave laughing...."Big Girls Don't Cry"....and I thought to myself...."oh yeah they do."

Follow The Leader


As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea--for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. Mark 1:16-18 (NIV)
Recently I was watching the movie, "Peter Pan." Have you ever watched this movie? In the movie, the children sing a song and play a game called "Following the Leader."

Following the leader, the leader, the leader

We're following the leader wherever he may go.

Have any of you ever played "Follow the Leader?" Of course you have! I played the game when I was a child, my father played the game when he was a child, his father played the game when he was a child. Follow the Leader is a game that is played and enjoyed by children all over the world.

The rules are very simple. You choose a leader and you follow him wherever he goes and do whatever he does. You stomp through puddles, climb over fences, swing from a tree—all to stay in the game because nobody wants to be "a quitter."  Follow the Leader is a great game, but in our daily lives we play follow the leader too. In school, in Church, in sports, in any activity we are in, there are always leaders. Every day we are faced with making a choice of which leader we will follow. We must be sure to choose a leader that will lead us in the right direction.

Did you know that Jesus is still calling people to follow him today. He has called you and me to follow him. Now it's up to us to decide if we will follow the leader.

Dear Jesus, you have called us to follow you. May we, like Peter, Andrew, James, and John say "Yes, Lord, I'll follow you—wherever you may lead." Amen.

 

Friday, January 23, 2015

It Is Well With My Soul

It Is Well With My Soul


About The Book:  Living with chronic illness, growing older, or facing the end of life can be a frightening experience, even for some Christians. Where do you find strength to face the reality of your pain and suffering? Who can you depend on to care for your needs? How do you cope with life each day, knowing it could very well be your last? It Is Well with My Soul is an insightful devotional designed to offer encouragement to those who are receiving care. You’ll explore biblical perspectives on issues associated with some of life’s most difficult stages. With engaging narrative, personal experience stories, and the use of humor, author Shelly Beach helps you find hope and contentment in Jesus. This collection of brief meditations also provides scripturally integrated prayers, reflective questions, and space to journal. Gain a deeper understanding of God’s purposes in situations of suffering. Discover how you can experience His peace and have confidence in knowing it is well with your soul.
About The Author: Shelly Beach was born in Muskegon, Michigan, and grew up along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. She won the Christy Award with her first contemporary Christian novel in 2008 and was nominated for the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Book of the Year award that same year for her nonfiction. She has written two novels and authored or co-authored nine non-fiction books.  Shelly is the co-founder of the Breathe Writer's Conference in Grand Rapids and the founder of the Cedar Falls Christian Writer's Workshop in Cedar Falls, IA. She is also a co-founder of PTSDPerspectives.org and provides consultation services on post-traumatic stress disorder in medical, mental health, educational, criminal justice, professional, and faith-based settings across the nation. When Shelly is not writing, consulting, or speaking, she loves to travel. The parents of two adult children, Shelly and her husband Dan live in Western Michigan and love doting on their adorable and brilliant grandchildren and being entertained by their 16 year old dachshund, Beanie.
My Thoughts On The Book:  Where was this book when I was going through the loss of my parents to cancer and Alzheimer's?  This book was so helpful.  Firmly rooted in scripture each story of pain and despair turns into a beautifully thought out devotional.  This book is a must for your  bookshelf and one you will want to refer back to time and time again.  I loved it!  As a pastor and high school teacher I can see this book as a great resource tool and gift for people who are hurting or confused about what it happening in their lives. 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger Programs. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hodge Podge Galactica

Welcome to your weekly mid-week happy, also known as The Wednesday Hodgepodge. Newcomers are always welcome to play along. Answer the questions on your own blog (or Facebook page), then add your link at the end of Joyce's post(Hodgepodge answers only please!!).


1. American Idol is back for it's 14th season. Are you watching? Have you ever watched? If you were to audition for the show (or were made to audition), what song would you sing?
I have watched it a time or two.  I am not a fan. If I were to ever audition for the show I would sing Etta James "At Last."  Garrett Miles, who auditioned for this season is a blind young man I have actually sung with before.  He is an amazing singer.  In his audition I think he blew Jennifer Lopez away with a song she sang in the movie Selena.. 
2. Mark Twain is quoted as saying, "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first."  So when did you last have to 'eat a frog?' Or two? How'd that work out?
I am like Joyce with this one.  I know myself, so anytime I have an unpleasant task glaring at me from the top of my to-do list I know to tick that off straightaway. 
3. If you were going on safari, what's the number one animal you'd want to see?  My number one would be a giraffe. Especially a baby giraffe, because there are few things cuter than a baby giraffe. 
4. January 21st is National Granola Bar Day. I know. Do you like granola bars? Chewy or crunchy? Your favorite flavor? How about regular granola? Let's exhaust this topic in honor of the 'holiday', okay?  I am not a huge fan, but when I am hungry and need something to take the edge off I like them okay. I like chewy and crunchy both, but my favorite is probably the Nature Maid Oats and Honey-crunchy.  I love granola.  It is a great pick me up snack when I come home from school.  
5. If only__________________________________.
I had a maid.
6. You can add one item to your bedroom. What will it be? Keep it family friendly please.
Custom made darkening curtains.. 
7. What is one thing you've enjoyed about winter thus far? If it's not winter in your corner of the globe, what season is it, and what is something you've enjoyed about whatever season it happens to be?  Without a doubt, it's the sky. It has been so very crisp.  Have you ever seen Van Gogh's painting Starry Night?  Our night skies have been that vibrant.  The sunsets have been awesome too.
8.  Insert your own random thought here.
I have had laryngitis for the past couple of weeks.  As a teacher/preacher/singer that is not good.  Have you had the flu this year?  Did you get the flu shot?  I haven't had the flu and did get the shot.

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Stitch In Crime: Quilts Of Love Series

About The Book: Thea James has accepted an assignment as co-chairperson for Larkindale’s first quilt show extravaganza. Juggling the new assignment with running her antique business, she’s already feeling frayed when things start to unravel. Mary-Alice Wentworth, a much-loved town matriarch, respected quilt judge, and Thea’s dear friend, is covertly conked on the head during the kick-off Quilt Show Soiree, throwing suspicion on her guests. It also appears that a valuable diamond brooch has been stolen during the attack. The family is furious. But is it because of their mugged mother or the missing diamonds? When a renowned textile expert goes MIA and the famous Wentworth heritage quilt disappears, Larkindale’s reputation as a tourist haven is at risk. Thea attempts to piece the mystery together and save the town’s investment in the quilt show before Mary-Alice is attacked again . . . with far worse results.
About The Author: Now retired from her day job as the Library Webmaster at a local community college, Cathy is a picky antique collector, an avid quilter, a musician, and ardent reader. Between activities, she polishes her dote-on-the-grandkids-skills. Crafting cozy mysteries and more, Cathy enjoys all aspects of the writer journey. Especially late in the evenings, when she turns into "Night Writer!" Or is that fly-by-night writer? When not tending to her own projects, she loves to swap chapters for emergency critiques at a local hangout.
My Thoughts On The Book:  All in all it was an okay read. It was not my favorite of all the Quilts of Love series books I have read to date, but it was okay. If you are looking for an Agatha Christie kind of mystery you will be very disappointed. The story line was a bit confusing. It was an attempt at a mystery and that was all it was. I was disappointed that quilting did not appear to be the main plot. This was my first book by Cathy Elliot and I plan to try out another one to see if it will change my mind.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Litfuse, Net Galley Publicity, and Abingdon Press in exchange for an honest review. The response is entirely my own.

The Evangelism Study Bible

NKJV Evangelism Study Bible   -     By: Evantell Inc.


About The Book:  The Evangelism Study Bible provides all the tools needed for sharing the gospel in a clear, simple, and guilt-free way.  Using the highly regarded New King James Version®, The Evangelism Study Bible brings together a wide variety of resources, some never before paired with the text of Scripture. Users will benefit from:
• a brief, informative introduction to each Bible book, focusing on its contribution to evangelism
• more than 2,600 study notes pertaining to evangelism
• over 260 tips on practical issues in evangelism
• 125 in-depth articles on crucial issues
• 85 how-to features that provide hands-on advice
• 45 inspirational devotions
• easy-to-follow double-column format with explanatory notes
• helpful cross references
• biblical concordance
• full-color maps

The Evangelism Study Bible not only provides the training to explain and make clear the good news of the gospel, it also will motivate readers to evangelize out of grace rather than guilt. 
About EvanTell, Inc. - For more than forty years, EvanTell, Inc., an evangelism training and outreach ministry in Dallas, Texas, has focused on one mission: the gospel, clear and simple. Founded by Dr. R. Larry Moyer, EvanTell, Inc., touches millions of lives each year with evangelism materials, evangelism training, and outreach events. Now those four decades of experience in training believers to share the good news in a clear and simple fashion has been paired with the one essential tool for evangelism: God's Word.  EvanTell's Mission is to declare the gospel clearly and simply; activate believers around the world; and prepare the upcoming generations to reach the lost.  For more information about EvanTell visit them at:  www.evantell.org/bible, twitter.com/evantell, facebook.com/evantell.
My Thoughts On The Book:  As a pastor I love reading and studying different Bibles.  When I am preparing a sermon I love to jump between the Common English Bible, NRSV, and NKJV.  When I began my reviewing process of this Bible I started with the List of Features in the front of the book.  I found highlights and references for each book of the Bible and loved it.  This would be extremely helpful for someone who is not familiar with the Bible or someone looking for a specific subject.  At the beginning of each chapter the reader could find an introduction and throughout each book there were numerous sidebars.  This book was AWESOME.  I am a rural pastor and my daughter and her husband are missionaries in Moldova.  This book is a Must Have for both of us and for anyone who is looking for a way to share God's love.  It is clear, concise, helpful and a great tool to have in your library.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger Programs. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!