Following and Fishing

Scripture Focus: Matthew 4.18-21
18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. 

Acts 4.13
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

Reflection: Following and Fishing
By John Tillman

It’s interesting that Matthew emphasizes that at least one-third of the 12 were fishermen. Jesus’ closest disciples, the three, were all fishermen.

We aren’t told the occupations of most of the disciples, but we know they were politically and economically diverse. Among them were those very close to the High Priest (John 18.15-16), those close to Herod (Luke 8.3), those advocating rebellion against Rome (Matthew 10.4), and those working for Rome (Matthew 9.9-11). Matthew had been a Roman tax collector. He was hated because of his collaboration with the occupiers and for having a lavish lifestyle and sinful friends.

Perhaps Matthew highlighted the fishermen because he recognized that they would be more sympathetic to his Jewish audience. Eventually, these simple tradesmen would stand before the most learned council of religious experts and stump them with their understanding of scripture and of God. The council would note that although they were “ordinary” they “had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4.13) By simply being with Jesus, they had “seen the Father” (John 14.9) more clearly than many on the council. How did that happen?

When they started, the disciples may only have understood how to fish or how to collect taxes for an empire. But they learned how to fish for people and how to distribute the blessings of the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, Knox Chamblin points out a two-stage process of being a disciple. The Greek word translated disciple is mathētēs, which means one who learns. However, Chamblin says, “A disciple is not first a learner, but a follower. Jesus calls first for a commitment to his person, which in turn entails obedience to his teaching.”

You don’t have to know everything before following Jesus. You just have to be willing to follow him. The disciples were often confused, often wrong, often frightened, and often in danger. But the longer they were with Jesus, the more fearless, the more reliable, and the more knowledgable they became.

You may be, like the disciples, confused or fearful and you may not have a perfectly formed theology. Follow him. In doing so, you will be formed by him. He will show you what God is like. (Colossians 1.15) He’ll teach you to fish.

The disciples left their tax collecting booths and fishing nets to follow Jesus. What will you leave in order to spend time with Jesus in scripture and prayer?

Whatever it is, it will be worth it.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God and worship him upon his holy hill; for the Lord our God is the Holy One. — Psalm 99.9

Today’s Readings
Genesis 43 (Listen 5:02
Matthew 4 (Listen 3:09)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 44 (Listen 4:38Matthew 5 (Listen 6:03)
Genesis 45 (Listen 4:10Matthew 6 (Listen 4:35)

Read more about Who Needs Anger?
“Why are you angry?” is a great question I need to remind myself of often, especially in this particular season where there is so much anger being spewed…

Read more about A Restoring Sabbath
Think and pray about ways in which you can abstain from technology’s addictive elements, while still using its powerful tools to spur your spiritual growth.

Who Needs Anger?

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Scripture Focus: Genesis 4.6-7
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Matthew 4.8-11
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” 

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. 

Reflection: Who Needs Anger?
By John Tillman

Anger is just one of the devil’s tools that he uses as he “crouches at the door,” ready to master us as he did Cain, longing to sift us as he did Peter. (Luke 22.31-32) When Jesus condemned being angry at one’s brother as being comparable to murder, (Matthew 5.21-22) it is likely that he had Cain’s anger, and its result, in mind.

Anger is out of control in our society. Two of the main reasons why are that anger feels good and anger is profitable

Anger feels good? Yes. We get a rush of self-righteousness from anger. Anger gives us a false feeling of control. We feel as if by our anger we are doing something about a problem.

Anger is also profitable. How? Because it is a reliable trigger for manipulation. Satan knew this in the garden and used anger to manipulate Cain. Article writers know this. Politicians know this. Advertisers know this. Angry readers click and share without verifying facts. Angry voters vote rashly. Angry consumers are suggestible and susceptible. Angry citizens tolerate and ignore the abuses of leaders who stoke their anger.

The sin of anger hides in other things. Anger hides in misguided love. (Abusive husbands and parents “love” their wives and children. Abusive leaders “love” their country.) Anger hides in our desires for justice. Anger tempts us to seize control. Jesus was tempted to seize the kingdoms of the world in the wilderness. Peter attempted to seize control with a sword in the garden.

In an age of anger, God’s question to Cain is more relevant to us than ever. God asks, “Why are you angry?” 

Are you being manipulated by anger? What is motivating your anger? What is your anger prompting you to do? Will you do it? Who will profit when you do?

How we respond to anger will determine how easily we will be manipulated. The anger that so easily trips us up reveals our need for Jesus. Peter thought Jesus needed him in the garden. Many today think that Jesus needs the angry swings of our social media swords or other dangerous weapons. Jesus doesn’t need our anger. We need his peace. 

Satan may sift us like wheat, but after we have turned back, may we, like Peter, strengthen our brothers with love and not anger. May we lay down our angry swords and take up feeding his lambs and carrying our cross.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Open my eyes, that I may see the wonders of your low. — Psalm 34.3

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

Today’s Readings
Genesis 4 (Listen – 3:54) 
Matthew 4 (Listen – 3:09)

Read more about The Focus of Christ’s Anger
In our culture of outrage, we can’t get enough of anger.

Read more about God’s Regret and Samuel’s Anger
Samuel’s mourning for Saul and angry night of prayer helped him share God’s regret and rejection of the man he formerly supported.

A Restoring Sabbath

Matthew 4.1-2
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

Reflection: A Restoring Sabbath
By Dena Dyer

I’m sick of the constant “ding” of Facebook messages, tweets, and emails. My shoulders ache from the tension of trying to fit too much into an already-packed schedule. And my head hurts from trying to remember all the people who need something from me.

What about you? Are you tired of 24/7 restaurants, instant messaging, and the strain of trying to pack one more thing into a week full of obligations? If so, you’re not alone…and our numbers are growing.

Peter Smith of the Courier-Journal reports that Dr. Matthew Sleeth, a former emergency room physician, is encouraging stressed-out folks to consider an ancient principle: keeping the Sabbath. Sleeth is the founder of the Christian ministry “Blessed Earth” and the author of several books, including the new release, 24/6: The Prescription for a Happier, Healthier Life.

The biblical Sabbath God commanded his children to take in the Ten Commandments included “not just work-free days, but also allowing pastures to rest and not harvesting a field completely, leaving gleanings for the poor and hedgerows as a sanctuary for wildlife,” says Sleeth.

He notes that a day of rest doesn’t necessarily mean “a day of just kicking back. It can involve such deliberate activities as walking and light gardening. What it does mean is powering down the laptop and smartphone. And slowing down enough to listen.”

*This devotional was originally posted as a part of The High Calling devotional series.

From John:
Many key leaders in technology have been public about taking strong measures to reduce technology use by their families and especially their children.

As you begin this year, think and pray about ways in which you can abstain from technology’s addictive elements, while still using its powerful tools to spur your spiritual growth.

Weekly sabbaths teach us that the sabbath doesn’t condemn the week of work, but it blesses it and redeems it. Sabbath is not a punishment to be endured but a blessing. Use a fast or sabbatical this month to reset your ideas about technology and how you will use it in 2019.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me out of all my terror. — Psalm 34:4

– 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
Genesis 4 (Listen – 3:54)
Matthew 4 (Listen – 3:09)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 5 (Listen – 3:18) Matthew 5 (Listen – 6:03)
Genesis 6 (Listen – 2:48) Matthew 6 (Listen – 4:35)

Additional Reading
Read More about The Value of Words
Words and writers are undervalued in the marketplace. But encouraging words? They are remarkably undervalued. Our purpose at The Park Forum is to produce words that are filled with life, not death.

Read More about Supporting Our Work
When you donate to The Park Forum, you are investing in sharing God’s word, primarily. But you are also investing in words of life, words of encouragement, and words to build up our readers across the world in love.

How far will you travel in God’s Word this year?
On January 1st we restarted our two year Bible reading plan in Genesis and the Gospel of Matthew. Join us on the journey. We read the Old Testament over two years and the New Testament and Psalms each year.

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Where will a journey through the Bible take your faith in the coming year? Jesus calls each of us, saying, “Follow me.”