While sitting on the beach I noticed a boy around the age of ten cast his fishing net into the rough ocean waves. I sat with eager anticipation waiting to see what filled his net. He found success on his first try as he discovered a small fish caught in his net. He turned and quickly ran back to the place where his young sister stood and placed it in her small plastic bucket. She squealed with great delight when seeing the small fish and he grinned with pride at his accomplishment. As quick as he arrived at the bucket, he made his way back to the edge of the water. As he fought his way through the waves he cast his net again. My eyes stayed fixed on the net as he pulled it back in from the water but this time, it was empty. He cast it out again. I suppose I observed this process at least fifty times each without any success but never without the greatest determination.
As I sat watching I was left to think of another fisherman I have read about in stories. This fisherman “fished” for men. He fished for men who one day would become great world changers. Ordinary men, some with shady pasts and others just simple fishermen, were the ones chosen to follow this fisherman. Jesus didn’t seek after the “preachers” and great theologians of His time but instead the less qualified. People much like each of us. One of my favorite sayings, “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” says it all.
Come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.
I love imagining the picture of Jesus with the men He chose. What did those first evenings consist of as they all hung out together. How did these men fresh off the boats behave around Jesus? They were normal men with normal lives until Jesus came in and turned their worlds upside down. So in the beginning did they act like their normal selves? These men chosen by Jesus to help change the world did not become miraculously perfect the instant they accepted His invitation. Instead they were a work in progress just like each of us. Every day spent with Jesus was a day of learning as they began to live a life different from the one they lived before meeting Him. None of it happened overnight. Peter is a great example. At the end of Jesus’s ministry Peter cut off the ear of a soldier and denied knowing Jesus three different times. Peter turned his back on Jesus. Even those closest to Jesus got it wrong but something brought them back. There was something about Him that was different. Something so special about Jesus that even in their mess-ups, they still felt safe enough to return to Him, choosing to follow Him and in the end died sharing His message.
Have you ever stopped and wondered why? What did Jesus do differently? What was so different that made these men follow Him and trust Him? How did Jesus draw the hurt, broken, shameful and sinful to Him? I’ve seen “the church” fail at this more times than not and so I’m left wondering, how? Here are my conclusions. These are my conclusions. Yours might be different but this is my discovery.
1. Jesus was not judgemental. He met people in their present condition. It didn't matter their sin, their past or their life status. He loved and He spoke in love the truth that needed to be heard without judgement. Jesus personified great love, grace and kindness.
2. He was not egotistical. Jesus is God. He could boast all day long about who He was, the books he had written but he didn’t. He was humble. A scarce trait in this world today. Born in a stable, He was a carpenter who lived life loving, healing (physically and spiritually) and sharing God's love with those who needed to hear.
It is not difficult when reading through scripture to understand our calling, We are to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind, to be like Jesus and love as He loves. We are to be His hands and feet to everyone.
"Love the Eternal One your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is nearly as important, Love your neighbor as yourself. The rest of the law, and all the teachings of the prophets, are but variations of these themes."
Following Jesus has been a learning experience. I used to believe that to effectively follow Him I had to be involved in every Bible study offered, serve in every capacity at church and spend the rest of my waking hours with my nose in my Bible. That is no longer my belief. I am however the girl who believes that time spent with Jesus softens our heart to accept and embrace what He wants us to hear. I’m the girl who sits to pray with her Bible in her lap asking as she reads, for the Holy Spirit (not someone else) to permeate her heart with truth. I am a firm believer the best Bible teacher is the Holy Spirit Himself. Ask Him and He’ll show you. From there you take what He shows you and you live it out. It is that simple. The more time spent with Jesus, the more we become like Him. Jesus didn’t make it difficult for His followers. He taught them through practical stories that related to life and lived a life they could follow. He spoke truth in love to each of them and those He encountered listened to what He had to say. It’s not hard. Many Christians make it hard. Make it into work. People are turned off when Jesus becomes a project.
I have five great kids. Four have chosen to say yes to Jesus and follow Him. I would love to tell you we do a devotion time each day. We don’t. I also cannot tell you I sit my children down and force them to read their Bible every day. I don’t. Instead I use everyday life and scripture to teach them who Jesus is in our interactions. My husband and I try to live lives in front of them that reflect Jesus. Throughout my christian life, being forced to study my Bible, turned me off to Jesus. The more I saw Him as another person who required certain things of me in order to love me, the less I wanted of Him. It took reaching adulthood to realize all He wanted from me was me and my surrender. As I realized there were no strings attached I craved time with Him. I wanted to know Him more. That is my desire for my children. I want them to crave Him. I want Jesus to be real to them and not someone they were forced to believe in or follow. I want their faith to be their own and their journey of following Jesus to be one they can look back on and call their own. Over the course of the last five years, I have learned my children do not belong to me. My children belong to God. I cannot be the Holy Spirit of my children. I can speak truth into their life, discipline when needed and help steer them in the right direction but ultimately they belong to God.
Just as those men that Jesus chose made the decision to follow Him, I want my kids to choose to follow Jesus out of their own desire. To say yes because He is real to them. It is amazing how real Jesus becomes in our lives when we surrender and allow Him to lead the way. When we surrender everything (including our children) to Him and let Him do the work in lives, He changes lives.
I’m thankful for the fisherman who changed my life. I’m thankful for the hellish circumstances I had to endure to learn to trust him. I’m thankful for every lesson He taught me about His character so that I can live a life that reflects who I follow. Most importantly I am thankful that though I may have slipped from His net more than once, He never quit fishing.