A Bad Day Fishing

Scripture Focus: 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.”

From John: As someone who has had a lot of bad days and made a lot of mistakes at things I am supposed to be good at, I relate deeply to Peter. It’s so true to life that every time the camera of scripture is on him, he’s failing at fishing… For all of us in moments of failure, this post can remind us that Christ will be there for us.

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 shouldn’t 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 come up empty. We also learn a lot about Jesus on those days.

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 to 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 lacks the ambition of the Zebedees but often takes initiative, leading other disciples and even attempting to lead Jesus.

Peter never seems to push 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.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
For your Name’s sake, O Lord, forgive my sin, for it is great. — Psalm 25.10

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

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

Read more about Recalling the Failures
The world calls us a bad debt. Jesus redemptively reinvests in us…Jesus has a following—a following of failures. Join us, won’t you?

Read more about God of the Weak and Doubtful
He calls. He loves. He holds out his hand, and trusts the gospel, to all of us doubters.

Our Opportunistic Opponent

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

From John:
I decided to do a touchup and rewrite on this post from 2019 as it occurred to me that many of us have been through, or are still in, deserts of isolation and fear in the season of Covid-19 and quarantine. Devils often come out for us in the deserts. I pray that we all will remember Jesus’ example of resistance and, if we have failed, we will remember that Jesus takes back repentant Peter, just as he will take back you and me.

Reflection: Our Opportunistic Opponent

By John Tillman

I doubt that the devil has horns, but when considering demonic influence in our world, there are two horns on which we can be caught.

It is unwise to 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.

It is unwise to make too little of Satan. It is dangerous to consider him and other evil spirits as mere phantoms of psychology or to explain him away as a metaphor of our inward sinfulness. This makes Satan less a dangerous foe and more a delightful fable.

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

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

Satan is a limited, yet dangerous, creature of opportunity. It is wise to attempt to deny Satan opportunity by avoiding temptation, but being led by the Spirit does not always lead to safety. Jesus went into the wilderness to face temptation head on and Satan made the most of his opportunity. The Spirit will often lead us, as he did Christ, into deserts, alone, through times of testing. The devils will come out for us in our deserts.

The disciples, even when 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 temptation, when we feel our limitations, there is comfort in 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.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Let not those who hope in your be put to shame through me, Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek you be disgraced because of me. — Psalm 69.7

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


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

Read more about Pride and Shortsightedness
The tempter overcomes very many, by making them presumptuously confident of their own strength.

Read more about Quotations from the Desert
From the temptations in the garden to the temptations of Jesus and his followers, Satan encourages us to misapply and misinterpret God’s words.

Resisting Cultural Pressure

Scripture Focus: Genesis 50.24-26
24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” 25 And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.” 

26 So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.

Reflection: Resisting Cultural Pressure
By John Tilman

Joseph assimilated a great degree into Egyptian culture.

It was impossible for Joseph to prevent or resist some assimilation to the culture he was unwillingly trapped in. Rising out of slavery did not make this easier. Greater levels of privilege create greater pressure to assimilate.

Joseph married into a powerful, prominent family. His father-in-law, Potiphera, was high priest of the Egyptian sun god, Re in the city of On, better known by its Greek name Heliopolis, meaning “City of the Sun.”

Joseph adopted Egyptian dress and cultural practices, including Egyptian burial practices for his beloved father and himself. (Genesis 50.2, 26)

However, Joseph maintained faithfulness to God and adapted to maintain his identity in many ways. He affirmed God as the source of his sexual ethic and his skills of interpretation. He named his children referencing his faith. He secured his family a separate area in which to live.

Regardless of his level of cultural assimilation or his comfort and privilege, Joseph recognized that Egypt was not his home, nor that of his descendants, nor that of the descendants of his brothers. Assuring his brothers that God would “come to your aid” (Genesis 50.25) meant assuming that they would need God’s aid.

Did “that dreamer” (Genesis 37.19-20) have another prophetic dream from God? If so, scripture does not report it. However, with or without divine revelation, Joseph saw trouble coming for his family in Egypt.

We also face these cultural pressures. Trouble is coming. Our culture does its best to get inside us and usurp our identity. Culture tells us that we are Americans first (or Indians or Europeans or Australians or South Africans…). Culture wants us to think we are primarily identified by our race or sexuality or gender or political party. (Galatians 3.28) But no cultural identity is our primary identity.

We are children of Abraham’s promise and carriers of his blessing to the world. That is our gospel identity. Anything else must submit to that or be swept away before it. We must adapt or avoid cultural mandates that conflict with our God-given identity.

Just as Israel claimed Joseph’s children as his, God lays his claim on us. We are not at home in this world or in our “home” culture. Let us not expect comfort but struggle, knowing that God will come to our aid and take us home.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
O God, come to my assistance! O Lord, make haste to help me!

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

Today’s Readings
Genesis 50 (Listen – 4:07) 
Luke 3 (Listen – 5:24)

Read more about Jesus with Axe and Fire
Ancient idols of silver and gold seem so simple, pagan, and foolish. How could people have fallen for them?

Read more about Public, Prayerful, Persistent Protest
Those who wish to regulate protests often say to protesters, “Not here. Not now. Not like this.”

Rulers with Borrowed Scepters

Scripture Focus: Genesis 49.10
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, 
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, 
until he to whom it belongs shall come 
and the obedience of the nations shall be his. 

Luke 2.30-32
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, 
and the glory of your people Israel.”

Reflection: Rulers with Borrowed Scepters
By John Tillman

Most of what Israel says to Judah has little to do with the son in front of him, but the Son who was to come through him.

The ruler prophesied would eventually come to Judah. The staff of rulership that Israel saw, resting between the feet of Judah’s descendants, would one day be claimed and taken up. 

Ten tribes broke away from the Davidic kings’ after Solomon’s death. The Northern secessionists kept the name, Israel, and the Southern kingdom, composed of Judah and Benjamin, was called Judah after the tribe of its rulers.

Judah and Benjamin managed to preserve their identities and heritage through Babylonian captivity and, eventually, were returned to their capital of Jerusalem to rebuild. The northern tribes were less successful, if at all, in holding on to their unique identity. This is perhaps due to how muddled and corrupted their identity was even before captivity. 

The Northern kingdom never had a ruler who could be classified as “good.” In fact, King Ahab, whose name is synonymous with poor leadership and corruption, might be considered one of the better kings Israel ever had. He set quite a low bar, but most who came after him were even worse. Almost half of the kings of Israel took the throne by insurrection or assassination.

The rulers of Judah fared better but still suffered political swings from evil and idolatrous rulers to pious and faithful reformers. However, none of them were the one foreseen. That is Jesus alone.

Jesus is the king we are waiting for—every other ruler is using a borrowed scepter. 

From Joseph’s beneficent Pharaoh to Moses’s genocidal Pharaoh, rulers are highly variable. But no ruler, not the best of Pharaohs or of Judah’s kings, not any emperor or empire past, present, or future, is worthy of our unswerving loyalty. Any of them will betray our hopes. None of them can be trusted to deliver us. The best human rulers are but poor stand-ins for Christ and the worst of them are anti-Christs.

No matter if we live under Pharaohs or Sauls, under Davids or under Ahabs, under Hezekiah’s or under Nebuchadnezzars, they are only shadows that will pass and grass that will dry up and blow away. 

We, like Simeon, (Luke 2.25) are waiting for our true king, Jesus, the root of Jesse, the “glory of Israel.” (Luke 2.29-32) Our king and kingdom are from another place. (John 18.36

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals himself in glory.
Let the heavens declare the rightness of his cause; for God himself is judge. — Psalm 108.2

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

Today’s Readings
Genesis 49 (Listen – 4:54) 
Luke 2 (Listen – 6:11)

Read more about To Wicked Kings, Foreign and Domestic
Jonah took God’s messages to wicked kings, foreign and domestic.

Read more about The Thriving Tree
Zedekiah didn’t make his bad decisions alone. A host of religious leaders and yes-men helped.

Becoming a Blessing

Scripture Focus: Genesis 48.14, 17-20
14 But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn…

17 When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.” 

19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” 20 He blessed them that day…

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

Reflection: Becoming a Blessing
By John Tillman

It took generations for the blessing God promised to grow and come to pass but we see glimpses of it in the process, such as the way, through Joseph, Egypt and the surrounding countries were blessed.

God’s blessing that he promised would come through Abram continued to grow more detailed and more defined as time went on. He changed his people as he went.

In Israel’s crossed arms, we see God subtly pushing to overturn unfair practices. Even though Israel sets Ephraim first, he provides an equivalent blessing to them both rather than a blessing similar to the one Jacob had stolen from Esau.

Eventually, a young girl descended from Judah would pronounce the fulfillment of and growth of the promise of blessing. The good news Mary proclaimed was also an overturning of blessings. The poor would be filled. The rich would go away empty. (In The Face of Wonder)

Today we will pray a prayer based on the blessing spoken to Abram, the blessing spoken over Ephraim and Manassah, and the blessing spoken by Mary to all people.

Becoming a Blessing
From Abram, you made a great nation
Through Abram, you promised to bless the nations
Make us, O Lord, a blessing in our nations

You blessed Jacob, renaming him Israel
Israel gave the blessing of being called by his name
To his children and his children’s children
Rename us, O Lord
Remake us, O Lord, worthy to be called by your name

May our pursuit of holiness increase in your name
May our ways of righteousness increase in your name
May our working of justice increase in your name

Through Mary, you helped your servant, Israel
You remembered to be merciful
You did great things for the small
Your powerful arm worked mightily for the weak
Your rich blessings poured out to satisfy the hungry
Yet, those who considered themselves full and rich went away empty

Our broken world seeks righteousness.
Bring it through us.
Our lost world seeks truth.
Speak it through us.
Our hurting world seeks justice.
Work it through us.
Our sickened world seeks healing.
Heal it through us.

May no king gain our fealty.
May no prince dominate our praise.
May our soul glorify only you, our Savior.
May our spirit rejoice only in the true and only God.

Make and remake us, Lord, into a blessing.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
The Lord is King; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of the isles be glad. — Psalm 97.1

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

Today’s Readings
Genesis 48 (Listen – 3:43) 
Luke 1.39-80 (Listen – 5:16)

Read more about In The Face of Wonder
Your glory, Lord, overcoming and transforming our weaknesses is cause for our souls to sing.

Read more about Identity Lost, Identity Gained
God, our father, longs to bless us with every spiritual blessing. No one who comes to him will need cry, “Do you have only one blessing, my father?”

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