Tag Archive for online Bible

Fishers of Men: Part 2–Track Record

 

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration.  When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They don’t have any wine.”

 Jesus replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with me?  My time hasn’t come yet.”

 His mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons.

 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,” and they did.  The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine.  He didn’t know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.

The headwaiter called the groom and said, “Everyone serves the good wine first.  They bring out the second-rate wine only when the guests are drinking freely.  You kept the good wine until now.”  This was the first miraculous sign that Jesus did in Cana of Galilee.  He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.  (John 2:1-11 CEB)

 

Jesus hasn’t even had a chance to start teaching or building into these guys who are following Him.  His disciples have only just met Him and have literally not had time to do anything but get to this wedding, perhaps chatting a bit on the way.  They really didn’t have any way of knowing for sure at this point what they were getting into.

 

But then, Jesus reveals His glory to His new disciples by changing the water into wine.  From that point on, the fishermen were themselves hooked.

 

Now go back to the passage at the beginning of Part 1, where Simon (now called Peter) and Andrew drop their nets to follow Jesus full-time.  This event takes place A YEAR after the wedding at Cana.

 

So Jesus wasn’t just walking along the beach casting hypnotic spells on ignorant and gullible people.  First, they knew their scriptures well enough to know that a Messiah was coming.  Second, John the Baptist had pointed them directly to Him.  Third, they had seen Him perform a miracle firsthand.

 

So by this time, Jesus had an established track record with these guys.

 

Luke 5 goes into much more detail than Mark 1 about what Jesus was doing at the lake that day.  He wasn’t just walking along; He was teaching people at the water’s edge.  Then He gets into Simon’s boat, and has him take it out into the lake a bit, so He is better situated to teach the crowd.

 

Afterward, He has Simon go out deeper into the lake and let down his nets.  This doesn’t make sense to Simon, because they hadn’t caught anything all night.  Nevertheless, Jesus already has enough of a track record with Simon that he does it anyway.  This is what happens:

 

They did it and caught so many fish that their nets began ripping apart.  Then they signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them.  The men came, and together they filled the two boats so full that they both began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this happen, he knelt down in front of Jesus and said, “Lord, don’t come near me!  I am a sinner.”  Peter and everyone with him were completely surprised at all the fish they had caught.  His partners James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were surprised too.

Jesus told Simon, “Don’t be afraid!  From now on you will bring in people instead of fish.”  The men pulled their boats up on the shore.  Then they left everything and went with Jesus.  (Luke 5:6-11 CEV)

 

They left everything.  Think about that for a minute.  Think of your job, your family, your house, your friends, your community—everything that makes your life what it is.  Is there anything, or anyone, that could make you leave all of that behind you?

 

If you said no, then consider these words of Jesus:

 

Those who love their father or mother more than they love me are not worthy to be my followers.  Those who love their son or daughter more than they love me are not worthy to be my followers.  Whoever is not willing to carry the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Those who try to hold on to their lives will give up true life.  Those who give up their lives for me will hold on to true life.  (Matthew 10:37-39 NCV)

 

These fishermen were ready to become man-fishers.  They were expectant, they were vigilant, and they were patient.  And because of this, we are still talking about them 2,000 years later.

 

So what about us?  Are we ready?  Are we willing to drop it all and go fishing?  Does Jesus have enough of a track record with us that we would follow Him wherever He would have us go?

 

If your answer is yes, then it’s time to go fish.

 

DN=: Part 2–Freedom

“All things are allowed,” you say. But not all things are good. “All things are allowed.” But some things don’t help anyone. (1 Cor 10:23 ERV)

 

We are big on freedom in this country, aren’t we?  We have a Bill of Rights in our constitution guaranteeing us freedom of speech, the press, assembly, religion and petition.  When our soldiers go off to war, we are told that they are “fighting for our freedom.”

 

It’s in all the songs we learn as kids.  America is the land of the FREE and the home of the brave.  We are proud to be Americans where at least we know we’re FREE.  From every mountainside, let FREEDOM ring.

 

Christians are also fond of the words “free” and “freedom.”  We also have phrases that we repeat or sing in songs, such as:

 

  • Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
  • If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed.
  • My chains are gone; I’ve been set free.

Nevertheless, Christians can easily fall into the same trap as the rest of the world in the sense of abusing personal freedom at the expense of the freedom of another.

 

FREEDOM DN= LICENSE TO DO WHATEVER WE WANT

 

Within a generation of Jesus’ death, both Paul and Peter were dealing with this problem in the early Church:

 

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then? (Galatians 5:13-15 (MSG)

 

Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government. (1 Peter 2: 13-17 MSG)

 

Do you see the tie there?  Freedom = service.  Some translations actually use the word “slave.”

 

Now for Americans, that notion can be jarring.  For Americans of African descent in particular, it can feel like a harsh slap in the face.  After all that this country and its people have gone through to win freedom, God wants us to be slaves again?

 

The original Greek word in Peter’s letter is doulos, which does mean slave, but not in the way we Americans think of it.  When we hear the word “slave,” we think of forced labor.  In other words, a slave’s status is determined by the work the slave does and the conditions under which he is compelled to do it.

 

A doulos, on the other hand, is also a bondservant, or one permanently bound and subservient to a master; however, their slave status is determined not by their work, but by their relationship to their master.

 

The implication then, made by both Peter and Paul, is that to be a bondservant of Christ, one must no longer be a slave to sin.  After all, as Jesus Himself said, “No one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24a NIV).”

 

Furthermore, in this context a doulos is a VOLUNTARY bondservant.  We are born slaves to sin, but we CHOOSE to be “slaves” for Christ.  The only way to be in a position to make that choice is to have first been freed from the grip of sin in our lives.  A slave cannot free himself; he can only be freed by the master.  And the Master said this:

 

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  (John 13:34  NIV)

 

And also this:

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:40b NIV)

 

Therefore, serving God and serving other people are actually one and the same.  So being a doulos to Christ means being a doulos to the world as well, but to its people, not its philosophies.

 

As no one can serve two masters, and as it is impossible to serve both Christ and our own sinful desires, so it is also impossible to simultaneously serve the world while doing whatever we want.

 

This is the reason that no one is justified by their works alone apart from having been freed by the Master, with whom they have a relationship.

 

Which brings up another DN=.

 

(Which will be covered in Part 3–Righteousness)

 

Breaking Catholic: Part 4–First Hand

 

 

I received a Bible, probably at about age 9 or so, in Catholic Sunday School, or CCD as we called it.  (This has now been changed to PSR, most likely because “Parish School of Religion” is much easier for a grade-schooler to say than “Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.”)  By then, it was already too late for me.  But it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.  The Bible was something we carried to CCD, not something we actually used.

 

Without studying the Bible first hand, you don’t really know anything about the real Jesus, his inner circle of disciples, and how they gave birth to what is now known as Christianity.  It wasn’t until I actually started to read the Bible that I realized that most of what I thought I knew about had been shaped not by the Church, but by popular culture.  What faith I had was based not on the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but on that of Cecil B. Demille and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

 

As our pastors at Cherry Hills say, “You can’t be deeply influenced by something you don’t know.”  The significance is that you can’t live out Jesus’ teachings without having read them yourself.  And even reading about the teachings isn’t enough, because that’s just head knowledge.

 

But the Catholic Church doesn’t even allow for the head knowledge!  If you can’t even go that far, then you are NEVER going to get to the place where head knowledge becomes heart-changing, life altering Truth.

 

And here is where Catholicism begins to break down completely.  Catholics, historically, have not been encouraged to read the Bible.  According to Monsignor Daniel Kutys:

Until the twentieth Century, it was only Protestants who actively embraced Scripture study.  That changed after 1943 when Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu.  This not only allowed Catholics to study Scripture, it encouraged them to do so.[i] 

 

Although the pope issued this encyclical 70 years ago, there has not been much trickle-down to the laity (i.e. the folks in the pews).  According to a 2012 survey commissioned by the Bible Society, in partnership with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, 57% of churchgoing Catholics don’t read the Bible week-by-week outside of a Church setting.[ii]

 

Since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s (known as Vatican II), the Catholic church has been on a mechanical three-year cycle of readings, called the Lectionary, in which they tell their followers that at the end of the three-year cycle, they will have covered all of scripture.  Therefore, a faithful Catholic who attends mass every Sunday is under the impression that after three years, they have had the entire Bible read to them.

 

This is dangerously false.  According to the Catholic Lectionary Website, only 27.5 % of the verses in the Bible are covered by the Lectionary.  And that’s if you go to mass EVERY DAY!  If you’re only meeting your minimum obligation of every Sunday and Feast day, that figure drops to 12.7%.

 

Understand, this is only since Vatican II, when the Magisterium began openly encouraging Bible study.  Before that, when the mass was in Latin and only had two readings instead of three, the figures are even more shocking.  Only 4.7% of the Bible was covered.  Forty-five of the 73 books in the Catholic Bible were ignored completely, including all of the Historical and Wisdom books of the Old Testament and the book of Revelation.  [iii]

 

But even if the Bible were being covered completely in the 3-year span, it wouldn’t matter to the congregation, because how is the Bible going to sink in if you’re having it read TO you?

 

Actually, that is possible in certain situations.  For example, back in the Middle Ages, when most people were illiterate, the only way they could obtain knowledge from the Bible or any other book was to have someone read it to them.  Indeed the worldwide literacy rate today is not much above 40%, with the exceptions of course being in developed nations such as our own.

 

If you were one of those people who could not read, then you would be ready to receive whatever was read to you, because you would know it was the only way you were going to learn.  Your receptiveness would be even more acute if you were prepared specifically to hear what was in the Bible.

 

But this is overwhelmingly not the case in 21st-century America.  I don’t know ANY Catholic who goes to church to hear what is in the Bible (there may be some, but I haven’t met them).  They go because it’s what you do on Sunday (or Saturday night).  It is all part of the tradition (more on this in Part 6).

 

Bible study simply isn’t part of the Catholic culture.  It never has been.

 

The Word of God is proclaimed during the mass, but the people in the pews don’t have their own Bibles to follow along.  At best, there might be a worship aid in the pew.

 

Without the opportunity or active encouragement to be in the Word first hand, Catholics disconnect from the readings.  They are just waiting to hear “This is the word of the Lord,” so they can wake up and robotically respond “Thanks be to God.”

 

How rare is the priest who actually TEACHES practical application of the Bible readings in their homily (a commentary that is the ancient predecessor of the modern-day “sermon”).

 

(I did meet one priest that got it though.  For a more uplifting story, come back for Part 5—Confession)



[i] http://www.usccb.org/bible/understanding-the-bible/study-materials/articles/changes-in-catholic-attitudes-toward-bible-readings.cfm

[ii] http://www.catholic-ew.org.uk/Home/News-Releases/2012/Catholic-Bible-Engagement

[iii] http://catholic-resources.org/Lectionary/Statistics.htm


Breaking Catholic–Part 2:The Word

 

 

Catholics do, of course, know about Jesus.  They know who He is, how He died, and that He rose again, which are key elements in the Gospel.  But do they know Him?

 

I can only speak for myself here, so I will do that.  I did not know Jesus when I was a Catholic, either as a child, or later as an adult.

 

God the Father is revealed through the Son, the Son is revealed through the Word, and the Word is revealed through the Holy Spirit.

 

The Catholic church does indeed reveal the Father through the Son.  Jesus as the Son of God is taught.  There is no doubt in my mind that any Catholic with a brainwave knows who Jesus is.  Therefore, they know of the Father.

 

But do they know the Father?  The Father is revealed through the Son, who is revealed through the Word.  The only way you can know what is in the Word is to be in the Word yourself.

 

God’s work from His creation to our redemption is recorded in the Bible, which was written by men under the inspiration (literally, “God-breath”) and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  As Paul said:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV)

 

So the Bible is God’s book about God’s plan to redeem God’s creation written under God’s inspiration by God’s people of old for God’s people throughout the ages, even unto this present age.  Understanding this, is it any wonder that the Bible cannot be understood without God’s guidance?

 

In my adult Catholic life, I decided that I was going to read the Bible cover to cover, as though it were a novel.  I had received a very nice bound Bible from my aunt at my confirmation nearly 15 years before, which had never been out of the box.

 

So one day I decided that I was going to read it front to back to see what was in it.  It was a King James Version (I’ll pause here to wait for the Baptists to stop laughing at the concept of a Catholic trying to get through Leviticus in the KJV—if you’ve tried that, you know where I’m coming from).

 

No matter what the translation, it’s a good bet that if you’ve ever tried to read the Bible like that, you probably made it about 1/3 of the way through.  If you did manage to get through the Pentatuech (the first five books), then you probably got bogged down somewhere in Chronicles and gave up.

 

Obviously, the Bible wasn’t meant to be read this way.  Even in a modern-day, prose-like paraphrase such as Eugene Peterson’s The Message, you’re still going to struggle with the “thick parts” near the beginning.  Unless you’re an architect, you’re probably not going to find much life application in the pages describing all the dimensions and details of the tabernacle or the temple.

 

(For an easier method, come back for Part 3: Holy Spirit)

 

Doubt: Part 8–Healthy Doubt

 

The world is well equipped to fulfill our desires, but when it comes to our true needs– not so much.

 

We can have everything we’ve ever wanted, but it will never be all that we need.  All of our stuff can fail or vanish in an instant.  Most of us don’t find ourselves in that situation, but any of us could.

 

Therefore, we need to be aware that what we really need is what is provided for us, not what we can create ourselves.  For everything we create was created out of something that was already created.  We cannot create something from nothing.

 

That awareness is the key to the beginning of spiritual maturity.

 

You have to be aware of what you need.  You have to be aware of how you are unable to create anything that meets your true needs.  Finally, you have to be aware of who provides the means for your needs to be met.

 

Again, once you have reached this point, you have a choice.

 

Do you acknowledge your dependence and admit that you are a spiritual infant and that you really need your Daddy to come and make everything better?  Or do you reject that notion and try even harder to fix it yourself, blindly ignoring the reality that you are only repeating the same process that got you to the needy state you’re currently in?  That is the road that pride will lead you down every time.

 

We are left then with the inescapable conclusion that the only way to have our needs truly met is to surrender our pride and admit our dependence.

 

In other words, we have to use our doubt in a healthy way that leads us to the truth instead of away from it.

 

I am not saying that we should never doubt, because doubt will show up uninvited, and there’s nothing to be done about that.  What I am saying is that instead of letting doubt and skepticism rule our thinking, we should take our doubts captive and use them to eliminate everything on the “not real”  list.

 

Then we must make the final step of acknowledging that whatever is left over is real.

 

Not all of you reading this will believe it just because I said so (nor should you), but I can tell you that whenever you use your doubt to find what is real rather than what is not, God will always end up on your “real” list.  You can’t escape that, no matter how hard you might try.

 

(For a personal story of how I tried anyway, come back for Part 9–Skepticism)

 

Doubt: Part 5–Real/Not Real

“You love me. Real or not real?”
I tell him, “Real.”
Suzanne CollinsMockingjay

 

The key concept that must be grasped for a real relationship with God to be possible is to understand that your spiritual IQ is separate from your intellectual IQ.

 

No amount of life experience or number of college diplomas can get you any closer to God.  If anything, all that worldly knowledge gets you farther away from God, because the more stuff you’ve crammed into your own head, the more independent you feel.  You have moved WAY beyond your childhood belief that Mommy and Daddy are invincible.  You are making your own way, building your own life, and you don’t need anybody, not even God, to tell you what to do or how to live.

 

Except that you do.

 

Not all the time, but there are days and seasons where you reach the end of yourself and run out of answers, because your knowledge is incomplete.  When your spouse rejects you for another and you didn’t see it coming.  When you or a loved one get that diagnosis that only happens to “other people.”  When you lose your job.  When you get that phone call that no parent wants to get.  When the storms come leaving all your worldly possessions a pile of rubble.

 

The question is, what do you do then?

 

One of two things will happen.  Either you will become even more hardened and spiral downward from even the low place in which you have found yourself, or you will recognize that you are at rock bottom and look up.

 

Doubt happens.  Doubt is normal.

 

Doubt enters your mind the first time you encounter a fact that doesn’t coincide with your belief.  Doubt happens the first time you see your father cry.  It happens when you hear your parents fight.  It happens the first time you encounter someone who isn’t really all that concerned about your self-esteem.  It happens the first time you really watch the news.

 

Basically, there comes a day when the world doesn’t make as much sense as it did the day before.  And you start to wonder, “What else isn’t real?”

 

Now at this point, you have two choices.  You can make a list of what isn’t real or you can make a list of what is.

 

Most of us do a combination of the two, but I think our natural inclination is to lean toward the negative.  The problem is that going that way could be dangerous, because then our emotions kick in and overwhelm our logic.  Before long depression and apathy crash the party, and you just start not believing in anything.  This is frequently where God gets thrown out with the dishwater.

 

On the other hand, what would happen if you focused on what is real?  The positive things?  The things that don’t move?

 

This is the essence of being a Truthseeker, and the entire impetus behind my writing in the first place.

 

(What happens when you focus on the things that don’t move? Come back for Part 6–Abba (Father))