A Bad Day Fishing

Luke 5.8, 10
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”

Reflection: A Bad Day Fishing
By John Tillman

The Bible describes Peter as a fisherman. But every time we see him fishing in the scriptures he is failing at it. Peter never catches a fish without Christ’s help.

We are not meant to assume from this that Peter was a bad fisherman. Quite the opposite. We are meant to assume that Peter was a good fisherman. These days are recorded because of their uniqueness, not their normalcy. This means that we see Peter fishing on the worst days of his career. 

You learn a lot about people on their worst days. The days when nothing seems to work…when the project loses funding…when despite our best efforts, we came up empty.

Imagine for a moment that all Jesus was there for on his worst day was to solve Peter’s problem. Imagine if Jesus granted him a windfall of a miracle catch, then left Peter there to continue as usual, but now flush with operating capital flopping around on the beach. If we are honest that’s the kind of miracle we want from God. “Just bless what I’m already doing, God. Don’t ask me to change!” 

Peter’s first recorded words to Jesus in response the miracle are “go away.” Peter seems to believe that his sins disqualify him from the financial blessing he has just received and certainly from being a follower of Jesus.

But Jesus didn’t come to bless Peter’s business, he came to change it. Jesus didn’t ask for Peter to tithe a portion of the fish to his ministry, he asked Peter to offer his entire self, business and all to “fish for men.”

Peter is fascinating. He seems prideful at times, yet humble at others. He is outspoken yet hides when confronted. He does lacks the ambition of the Zebedees. But he often takes the initiative, leading other disciples and even attempting to lead Jesus.

Yet he never seems to seek directly for power or control. Perhaps this is precisely why Jesus specifically calls him to strengthen his brothers and places him in a position of leadership. Jesus, instead of solving Peter’s earthly problem made him part of Heaven’s solution to the world’s problem. He wants to do the same with us.

Jesus will show up on our worst days. He is calling us to fish. Peter never catches a fish without Christ’s help. And neither will we. 

Follow him today. Find out how he will direct you to fish.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Open my eyes, that I may see the wonders of your law.  —  Psalm 119.18

Today’s Readings
Exodus 2 (Listen – 3:18) 
Luke 5 (Listen – 5:04)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about In the Face of Grief
Peter’s experience on the shore with Jesus after returning to fishing for fish instead of men showed the raw and sensitive reality of his emotional state.

Read more about God of the Weak and Doubtful
Christ did not allow Peter to sink in the waves when his faith was too weak. He will extend his loving hand to you as well. Thank God, that he is the God of the weak and the doubtful.

Our Opportunistic Opponent

Luke 4.13
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

Reflection: Our Opportunistic Opponent
By John Tillman

I doubt that the devil has horns. But the problem of considering demonic influence in our world does have two horns on which we can be caught.

On the one hand, we can make too much of Satan. We stumble into dualism when we think of him as an all-powerful, omnipresent evil. When we imagine Satan hiding behind every inconvenience and minor temptation in our world we deny our own propensity to sin and the omnipresent Spirit of God that truly is with us at all times.

On the other hand, we can make too little of Satan. We can consider him and other evil spirits as mere phantoms of psychology. We can try to explain him away as a metaphor of our inward sinfulness—less a dangerous foe and more a delightful fable.

No devil is needed for us to be tempted or tormented. We are sinful, deceiving ourselves, and our world is broken, with sharp edges at every turn to harm us. But we will encounter specific times of spiritual opposition in our lives.

Scripture warns us that Satan desires to thresh us like wheat, that he prowls like a roaring lion, and that he has the power to deceive the elect and to appear as an angel of light.

Satan is a limited, yet dangerous, creature. And as such, he is a creature of opportunity. Jesus went into the wilderness to face temptation head on and Satan made the most of his opportunity.

It is wise to attempt to avoid temptation when possible. But being led by the Spirit does not always lead to comfort. The Spirit will often lead us, as he did Christ, into deserts, alone, through times of testing.

The disciples, physically present with Jesus, were surrounded by, and succumbed to, temptations of greed, lust for power, anger, vengeance, selfishness, and self-righteousness. That’s leaving out Judas’s betrayal and Peter’s foul mouth.

Temptations are a time for us to come to terms with our limitations and recognize our sinfulness. In times of tempting, when we feel our limitations, there is comfort knowing that our tempter is also limited. His opportunity to torment us will come to an end. By Christ’s mercy we can resist Satan and he will flee. But just as when Satan left Jesus in the wilderness, he is only waiting for an opportune time to return.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
O Lord, watch over us and save us from this generation for ever. — Psalm 12.7

Today’s Readings
Exodus 1(Listen – 2:32) 
Luke 4 (Listen – 5:27)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about Saved by Mercy
Frodo ‘failed.’…one must face the fact: the power of Evil in the world is not finally resistible by incarnate creatures, however ‘good.’

Read more about Pride and Shortsightedness :: Throwback Thursday
O know your own weakness, the treacherous enemy which you still carry with you, who is ready to open the back-door to the devil!

In The Face of Wonder :: A Guided Prayer

Luke 1.46-47
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

Reflection: In The Face of Wonder :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Before she delivered Jesus as a child, Mary delivered the gospel. 

Mary’s powerful confession, prayer, and prophecy, shows her familiarity with the scriptures and an intimate connection with God like the prophets of old. God’s Spirit breaks through into the world through the worship that is initiated by Elizabeth and Mary’s joyful reunion.

Pray this prayer repeatedly over the weekend, seeking God’s face and asking Him to break through into your world, asking him to speak the gospel through your worship and its resulting action.

Praying in Wonder, with Mary

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.

Oh, God, when your wondrous work sweeps in to our world, we have no better way to respond than worship. 

From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.

Your glory, Lord, overcoming and transforming our weaknesses is cause for our souls to sing. 

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.

Your power, Holy Spirit, working on behalf of the outcasts and the downtrodden is the beat that our boots must march to. 

He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

Your call, Jesus, beckoning us to abandon our broken world for your righteousness, is a cry for freedom. 

The freedom the world seeks is freedom to dominate, dictate, and destroy. This freedom is a lie that seeks power and blessing for ourselves.

May we seek instead the freedom to serve, to create, and to restore. We can do this only in your power and through your Holy Spirit.

Jesus come to us. Jesus come through us to the world.

Amen.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Our God will come and will not keep silence; before him there is a consuming flame, and round about him a raging storm. — Psalm 50.3

Today’s Readings
Genesis 48 (Listen – 3:43) 
Luke 1.1-39-80 (Listen – 9:26)

Today’s Readings
Genesis 49 (Listen – 4:54) , Luke 2 (Listen – 6:11)
Genesis 50 (Listen – 4:07) , Luke 3 (Listen – 5:24)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more from Unsurprising Oppression
Neither Jesus or Solomon would have expected their words to be portrayed as endorsements of a laissez-faire attitude toward poverty or oppression.

Read more about Good News to the Poor :: Epiphany
Today we see poverty as a result of sin against the god of Materialism and the god of Competence. When the pursuit of happiness is enshrined as humanity’s highest good, failing to achieve it is a marker of spiritual or moral poverty.

In the Face of the Impossible

Luke 1.18, 34, 37
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this?”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
“…no word from God will ever fail.”

Reflection: In the Face of the Impossible
By John Tillman

Luke plunges into visionary tales of the impossible and people who, to one degree or another, expressed doubts, reservations, and fears, and felt themselves unqualified for the task.

Madeleine L’Engle, in her book, Walking on Water marvels at how often God gave glorious visions and impossible tasks to those who were ill equipped.

“We are all asked to do more than we can do. Every hero and heroine of the Bible does more than he would have thought it possible to do, from Gideon, to Esther, to Mary. Jacob, one of my favorite characters, certainly wasn’t qualified. He was a liar and a cheat; and yet he was given the extraordinary vision of angels and archangels ascending and descending a ladder which reached from earth to heaven.

In the first chapter of John’s Gospel, Nathanael is given a glimpse of what Jacob saw, or a promise of it, and he wasn’t qualified, either. He was narrow-minded and unimaginative, and when Philip told him that Jesus of Nazareth was the one they sought, his rather cynical response was, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” And yet it was to Nathanael that Jesus promised the vision of angels and archangels ascending and descending upon the son of man.”

God’s chooses to do the impossible with the unqualified, to frustrate the wise with the foolish, and to overthrow the strong with the weak. He subverts the systems we rely on and reminds us that our competence is an illusion and his grace shown through us comprises all that is good in the world.

We face the impossible, like Zechariah, when the world sees us as cursed and broken.
We face the impossible, like Mary, when the world strives to keep us powerless and vulnerable.

In the face of the impossible we are forced to keep our faith where it always should have been—on God. We are not qualified, but, L’Engle concludes, God will be glorified.

“In a very real sense, not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there’s no danger that we will confuse God’s work with our own, or God’s glory with our own.“

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. — Psalm 86.4

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 47 (Listen – 5:03) 
Luke 1.1-38 (Listen – 9:26)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about Ready to do Good
Can we really be expected not to counter-attack those who attack us with falsehoods? We tend to answer Paul by saying, “Sorry. That’s not possible or practical.”

Read more about Accepting Jesus
Her body returned to dust,
Like all who lived and died.
But that part she gave to him,
Is incorruptible! Eternal! Alive!

In the Face of Grief

Mark 16.6-7
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

Reflection: In the Face of Grief
By John Tillman

It is ironic that Christ’s resurrection—a event he directly predicted over and over in the scriptures—is the miracle the disciples seemed the most unprepared for. 

They continued with the normal obligations of life. They continued in societal expectations. But inwardly they carried a deep sorrow. And it is in this sorrow that Christ visited them.

Mary’s veil of tears concealed Christ from her, and he parted it by calling her name.

Peter’s experience after the tomb left him doubtful as opposed to convinced. Paul tells us that Jesus appeared to Peter specifically and Peter’s experience on the shore with Jesus after returning to fishing for fish instead of men showed the raw and sensitive reality of his emotional state. Peter’s fear of failing (again) paralyzed him, but Christ re-called him, reinvigorated him, and continued transforming him from Simon to Peter, the Rock.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus were described as downcast. They were headed the wrong direction, too grief-stricken to follow the instruction to travel to Galilee. Jesus enlightened them intellectually and changed their direction and purpose.

Mark’s account gives us the unique detail that the disciples in the upper room were gathered, weeping and mourning before the women reported to them and Christ appeared.

None of Christ’s followers had to leave their sorrow behind for Jesus to come to them.
They didn’t have to defeat their crippling fear before they were worthy of Christ’s presence.
They didn’t have to know the theological answers about why Christ died or where he had been for all this time.
They didn’t have to be in the right place. (Only the encounter after fishing is in Galilee, where Christ, through the women, told the disciples to meet him.)

The resurrected Christ seems to have a special preference for appearing to the grieving. Why then do we seem to assume that this stopped when he ascended?

Every instance of grief in our lives will not be met with the miraculous reversal of a resurrection. But in every instance of grief, we can be assured that Christ will come to us. He will call our name as he did Mary’s. He will seek to transform us he did Peter. He will change our direction and our purpose as he did Cleopas and his companion.

In the face of grief, seek the face of Christ. He is coming to you.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Show us the light of your countenance, O God, and come to us.  —  Psalm 67.1

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 46 (Listen – 4:47) 
Mark 16 (Listen – 2:34)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more from Remember Jesus Christ
Remembering the good news of the risen Christ provides perspective for our lives. Remembering the resurrection also recalls Christ’s suffering and reminds us that we may experience suffering, too.

Read more about Recalling the Failures
The disciples are slow to believe and understand what has happened, even after seeing Jesus alive. The resurrected Jesus is patient with them…he slowly and lovingly works to overcome their doubts and fears and reissue his call on their lives. And he is lovingly patient with us as well.

Spur a spiritual rhythm of refreshment right in your inbox
By joining this email list you are giving us permission to send you devotional emails each weekday and to communicate occasionally regarding other aspects of the ministry.
100% Privacy. We don't spam.