What I Saw – December 4, 2018

A few pastors came over on Tuesday, December 4 for devotions.  Our text was John 21:1-14.


This was a familiar text, the story of the resurrected Jesus meeting the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and giving them a second “miraculous catch of fish”.

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Familiar texts are difficult for me to receive a word from as they are too familiar; I think I know what they say and so I don’t look as hard.  Reading in a group often helps overcome this familiarity.  One thing that helped overcome it this time was the devotions leader, who said, “No detail seems unimportant to John.”  What he meant was that John records a lot of detail that seems superfluous to the “theological” content of the passage.  Here those details were Peter’s putting on his clothes and jumping overboard, the disciples struggling to get the catch of fish to the shore, Peter’s rushing back to help them, the number of fish caught (153), etc.  After the leader said this, I started looking at these details and realized that the disciples were acting chaotic.  Peter was jumping overboard and running around; I imagine the others were criticizing him for abandoning them and he was criticizing them for not being as devoted to Jesus as he was (imagination, to be sure, but not a huge leap based on what we know about the disciples); there was a huge catch of fish and a boat to take care of.

What I really noticed, though, was that Jesus was unaffected by this chaos.  The disciples weren’t.  They were in the middle of the chaos.  They were creating the chaos.  They were driven by the chaos.  But Jesus was unaffected by that chaos.  He stood apart from and above it.  He even had His own fish, which He was quietly cooking, and some bread as well (where did those come from?  I don’t know; maybe He created them, maybe He got them from some person not recording in Scripture; either way, I bet it is an interesting story).  He was moving slowly, calmly, confidently, and was just waiting for the disciples to drop down to His speed so He could speak with them.

What I see in this are three related things: 1) My Lord doesn’t need whatever it is I’m trying to bring Him (again, He had his own fish), 2) My Lord isn’t affected by chaos as I so often am, 3) My Lord is waiting for me to escape the chaos, slow down, and sit with Him.  This was a great comfort to me.  The truth that my Lord is not as “double-minded” and “tossed back and forth by the waves” (James 1) as I am encourages me with both the understanding of His power and the opportunities His power gives me.

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And that’s what I saw on December 4, 2018.

Being Friendly

I am about to start a new discipleship group.  My church leadership and I believe The Faith is best spread by making disciples in small groups.  Some of our nearby congregations believe this as well, so this is what we do: we meet with others in small groups to discuss how to hear from/walk with God.

I told my mentor about this, and he said something surprising to me.  He suggested I be more friendly to the guys I invited into my group.  Actually, he suggested that I start the group not as a disciple-maker but as a friend.

And I understood a little of what he was getting at there.  He once shared this little picture with me:


This little picture illustrates the three levels of intimacy that a disciple-maker can have with the people who interact with him/her.  Some will be friends; they will serve (or share is a word he sometimes uses), but they won’t do much more.  Followers go deeper; they submit.  Family goes even deeper still; they surrender.

There’s a lot that could be said about that, but the big point for me is that I needed to start at friendship.  My mentor told me that I am very serious and ready to get down to business, but that I needed to back off that a little, that I needed to befriend people before discipling them.

Again, this was surprising to me, not just because I am eager to get to the disciple-making level but because I think I’m a fairly-friendly guy.  I am a Celt, after all (by descent, anyway), and a common Celtic saying is:

I think I really do regard people in that way.  I am open to most anyone that wants to be open to me.

Still, my mentor said this and I think there is some truth in it.  While reading Matthew 9 recently, I noticed that Jesus is having dinner with some “sinners and tax collectors”:

Picture2What I realized while I read this is that many of these tax collectors and sinners must have kept Jesus on the “friend” level.  They “friend-zoned” Jesus, in other words.

But Jesus still interacted with them.   He must have wanted more.  He must have wanted to disciple them.  That’s one of His primary objectives, after all.  But He still interacted with those who friendzoned Him.  He was willing to be friend to those who stopped at that level.

I’m not sure what this looks like for me.  I’m not even sure I’m capable of doing.  I will always be the serious, down to business guy, I think.  But I am sure it is a part of disciple-making.  Maybe that’s the best way to think about it.  Being a friend isn’t all there is to disciple-making; it certainly isn’t the goal.  But it is part of it, and I have to be as open to it as Jesus was.

Right But Wrong

My daily reading took me into the book of Job.  I heard the story of Job when I was in Sunday School.  That is, I heard the first part of the story of Job in Sunday School just like I heard the first part of the story of Jonah there.  But I didn’t hear the whole thing.  When I finally read the book for the first time at the age of 18, I was surprised to discover it was 42 chapters long and that the part I knew was over by the second chapter.  Most of the rest of the book were lengthy speeches by Job and his friends.  When I learned in Bible college a couple years later that most of what Job’s friends say is “wrong”, I was even further surprised.

My third surprise came when I did my reading just a few days ago.  I was in chapter 5, which is part of Eliphaz the Temanite’s first speech.  Most of that speech was new to me.  I had read the book several times since I was 18, but not much of it had lodged in my memory.  And then I found something I recognized.  It was verse 13:


I knew those words.  I knew them as 1 Corinthians 3:19:


I knew Paul was quoting something there in 1 Corinthians 3, but I didn’t know what it was.  You can imagine my shock, then when I discovered that it was not only from Job (being one of only two times Job is quoted in the New Testament) but from one of Job’s friends’ speeches, one of the “wrong” speeches.  Paul, I realized, was quoting something that was wrong.  He was quoting something that was wrong as if it was right.  It was quite the theological problem for me.

And just as soon as I identified the problem, I identified the solution.  It isn’t that Eliphaz was wrong in what he was saying there.  It isn’t even that Eliphaz and the other two friends were wrong in most if not all of what they were saying.  It isn’t that they were wrong in what they believed or “knew”.  It was that they were wrong in the way they were applying what they believed or knew.   They were taking a general truth or one truth (God punishes wickedness, which is indeed a general truth/generally true) as the only possible truth.  They were applying that truth across the board to every situation.  They were misapplying that truth in other words.  This is how they word can be “right enough” (for lack of a better term) to be quoted by Paul yet “not right” as God says in Job 42:7.

Now that was an interesting insight, and I could stop right there.  But I don’t think that’s what God wants me to do.  My Lord Jesus has made it clear that I should be far more concerned about the logs in my own eyes instead of the specks in others’ eyes (Matthew 7:3-5).  Therefore, I can’t just stop at what other people are doing wrong (though that is also so easy to see and thus so tempting).  No, I have to push on to whether or not I am doing the same wrong thing.

And I imagine I am.  I’m not sure where or how I might be doing this (that’s part of the problem; the friends couldn’t see that they were doing this, and we often can’t, either), but I have to imagine that I am doing it somewhere/somehow.  And I need to keep that in mind.  Next time I’m so sure that somebody is wrong/has done wrong, next time I get righteously indignant, next time I point the finger, I have to consider the possibility that I might be “right but wrong”, that I might be misapplying a truth and, like the friends, angering God in the process.