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!

His Loving Presence :: Love of Advent

Luke 24.36
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them…

Reflection: His Loving Presence :: Love of Advent
By John Tillman

Where did Jesus go when he disappeared from Emmaus?

We do not know, other than he traveled to meet them once again. First he was suddenly missing on the road, then suddenly standing among them back in Jerusalem.

He came to them.
He is always the God who comes to us—not just during Advent.

He comes to us in Genesis and in John 1 as the source of life, light, and goodness.
He comes, calling to us in the garden, “where are you?
He comes to us, burning in a bush, experiencing the suffering of those who cry out to him.
He comes to us, outside of Jericho—a mighty commander, neither on our side or our enemies’.
He comes to us in the voices of the prophets, crying in the wilderness, in the palace throne rooms, in the city streets, from the city walls, from the corruption-filled temple courts, from the bottom of cisterns—crying for justice, for the end of oppression and violence against the defenseless.
He comes to us as to Jerusalem, as the arriving king, the teacher of wisdom, and the healer of the blind and lame.
He comes to us as the unwanted king, a stumbling block, and a rejected cornerstone, weighed in the balance with a sinful thumb on the scale—righteousness himself, condemned by the sinfully corrupted.
He comes to us, resurrected. Both corporeal and transcendent. One foot in our eternity and one in our present.
He comes to us as the Holy Spirit, that we may carry out his actions in the physical world in his power.

The gift of his presence is why he came. It is why he left Heaven and eternity to enter time, and skin, and intimate relationships. Jesus chooses messy companionship over perfect solitude. He is the God who risks pain and death to gain our fickle friendship and vacillating love.

Where is God when we don’t see him? He is both among us, leading us, and coming to us. He comes, bringing us the gift of his loving presence.

What are we waiting for? He is among us. His love and power are present in our midst. With the gift of his presence, we need not be troubled. We need not shrink from suffering, service, or humiliating treatment.

We are with him. And wherever we go in the world may be blessed by his love and his peaceful presence.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
He sent redemption to the his people; he commanded his covenant forever; holy and awesome is his Name.  — Psalm 111:9

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Zephaniah 2 (Listen – 2:44)
Luke 24 (Listen – 6:16)

Additional Reading
Read More about Quieted with Love :: Advent’s Love
God’s love for us is passionate and unrelenting—he pursued us even to death on a cross.

Read More about Seeing the Lord :: Readers’ Choice
God’s presence reaches into every part of the world as his Spirit empowers people of faith in each vocation

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