Let Down the Nets

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ReDiscovered Word

(Luke 5)

“At your word, I’ll let down the nets,” Peter said.

Having fished all night, having passed the optimal time of day for catching fish, having spent his entire life fishing, Peter knew that Jesus’ idea was a long shot.

On the other hand, he had just listened to the Teacher’s words. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. The favorable day of the Lord is here.

What if His words were true? What if this man was God’s promised King? 

“Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing. But at your word, I will let down the nets.” Because it’s you, Jesus. Because you’re the one asking, I’ll take the chance.

Maybe you’ve been there.

“Master, I’ve worked on this marriage. For years. It’s changed nothing. But at your word, I’ll keep trying. I’ll keep praying.”

“Master, I’ve worked on this sin. For my whole life. I know this problem and I know it’s unsolvable. But at your word, I’ll keep fighting. I’ll pray again. I’ll try again.”

“Master, I’ve worked on my brother, my father, my friend, my co-worker. I’ve prayed for them. I’ve told them about You. It’s changed nothing. But at your word, I’ll try once more.”

Peter knew the odds were long. But maybe, just maybe, the odds were irrelevant here. He had heard the Teacher say it: the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

So he put the nets out one more time. The catch came in so quickly that he couldn’t haul it shore. The nets began to break, and so did Peter’s self-assurance.

The fisherman who was so certain that the fish weren’t biting was suddenly overwhelmed at how wrong he had been. Only God could usher in such a catch. And that was a terrifying realization.

A sinful man in the presence of God, Peter begged Jesus to go away. But Jesus came here for people like Peter. For people like you and me.

“Do not be afraid,” He said. “From now on, you will catch men.” From now on, you know that nothing defeats the King. You know that the kingdom is at hand. You know that He is Immanuel, God with us. And He will do things so much greater than catching a few fish. People will find eternal life. The Spirit of God will come and live with His people.

Peter thought Jesus’ expectations were too grand. Jesus knew that Peter’s were too small.

When Jesus says to let down the net one more time, let it down. Your experience and objections and fears are no match for the power of God. One more throw and you just might find that He wants to do something bigger than you imagined.

Maybe, just this once, the odds are irrelevant. Maybe, just maybe, He is who He says He is.

You think His promises are too big? Maybe your view of Him is just too small. 

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Ordinary Greatness Bible Studies

Yesterday was an exciting day for me and two of my fellow pastors. We received the first hard copies of our new Bible study series. They are available on Amazon now, and they’ll be available for Kindle on October 30th. The author royalties we receive will go back to the ministry of Grace Bible Church, in order to allow us to grow as a church and to be more effective in communicating the Gospel around the world. Although I rarely (i.e. almost never) engage in this sort of promotion on my blog, I am so excited about this that I had to let you know a bit about these studies.

The series is published by NavPress/TH1NK and is titled Ordinary Greatness. Each of the three studies examines the life of a different biblical character: Gideon, Daniel, and Peter. They are generally geared toward youth and college students, and particularly toward young men. However, we’ve done our best to write studies that are broad enough to be useful to anybody.

If you have ever used any of Grace’s Bible study curriculum, you will find the format of these studies familiar. Each lesson is divided into three sections: Look It Over (Observation), Think It Through (Interpretation), and Make It Real (Application). Our goal is to challenge those who study these characters to dig into the biblical text deeply and to wrestle with how it applies to their lives.

Here are some of the endorsements we received for these studies: 

“A good set of character Bible studies is hard to find. THE ORDINARY GREATNESS series is rich in its engagement with the text and directing users to practical reflection. This is a solid tool for spiritual growth.” — Dr. Darrell Bock, Dallas Theological Seminary

“Change is inevitable, but the right kind of change is special. God is the agent of lasting change in our lives. This series will help identify the changes God wants to make in you by showing you the changes He has made in biblical heroes.” — Gregg Matte, pastor, Houston’s First Baptist Church

“ORDINARY GREATNESS is a series that invites people to know the Word of God thoroughly, interpret it accurately, and apply it passionately. This is a key resource for anyone looking to break new ground in their knowledge of the Bible and their intimacy with the Lord.” — Timothy Ateek, Director, Vertical Ministries, Waco

“Many studies of biblical characters are designed to inspire and encourage, but this one aims at something different: transformation. By continually driving us back to God’s Word and pointing us to the person of Jesus, the ORDINARY GREATNESS series provides the perfect antidote to the boredom and inward focus of our day.” — John Dyer, Th.M., author of From the Garden to the City

It is our desire that God will use these studies, and more importantly His Word, to transform your life and to make you a more effective servant of Jesus. I hope you will consider using one or all of these for yourself or your Bible study group. Thank you for your continued support, not only of this project but of Grace Bible Church and this blog. It’s a privilege to connect with you each week and also to offer you tools and resources like these.

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I Want to Grow Up Now

I’ve been thinking about the topic of spiritual maturity a great deal lately. It seems to keep coming up in conversations, often with students and young adults who are frustrated by repeating the same patterns of sin over and over again. I know too well the discouragement of thinking that I should be further along than I am, that I’ll never amount to anything of significance because I still struggle with some very basic maturity issues.

But here’s the truth: maturity is measured in years, not in days or weeks or months. Sometimes that’s a tough pill to swallow. It bothers us that we still struggle with the same old sins, the ones we struggled with a year ago or ten years ago. Sure, there’s been some progress, but we want to be complete, fully mature. And we want it right now.

Whenever I feel that way, I take comfort in knowing that I’m not alone:

Abraham repeatedly made the mistake of lying about his wife’s identity because he didn’t trust God to protect him. Yet he was eventually willing to trust God with his only son.

Moses needed 40 years in the wilderness before he was ready for something great. He continued to struggle with impatience and a quick temper throughout his life, but he was the greatest leader Israel ever knew.

David needed several years of running from King Saul before he was prepared to ascend the throne. Even then, his reign wasn’t a perfect one and his character was often questionable. Yet God continued to forgive him and to use him in great ways.

Peter was a fascinating mixture of rock-solid faith and reckless personal ambition. But his impact for Christ was unparalleled in the early days of the Church.

I’m not saying we should sit back and complacently accept our sin. Quite the contrary. What I am saying is that maturity and eternal impact don’t come easily. And they don’t always come quickly. We live in a culture that idolizes youthfulness and expects us to make our mark on the world before we’re 25.

But that’s not realistic, or even biblical. Maturity is measured in years…and years…and years. If you feel discouraged by your lack of progress or by your lack of impact, remember that your story isn’t finished yet. In fact, when you consider the scope of eternity, it’s hardly begun yet.

The solution to your immaturity isn’t to throw up your hands in despair. Instead, the solution is to keep chasing the goal of knowing Christ, of conforming to His image, until the day you see Him face to face (Philippians 3:7-11). And along the way, who knows how He might use your life?

Do you ever feel frustrated by your lack of spiritual growth? How do you deal with that frustration?

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Writing Like Madmen

Well, hopefully we’re not writing like literal madmen, but it feels a bit crazy at the moment.

Last Fall, two of my coworkers and I signed a contract with TH1NK, an imprint of NavPress, to write three 8-week Bible studies. The elder board and staff at Grace have been extremely generous in allowing us time to work on this project. Because our church calendar is (technically) slow right now, we’ve pulled away this week to work on the third and final study.

We’re excited about these studies and the potential they have to introduce our church’s approach to Bible study to a new group of students and adults. For many years we’ve been writing Bible studies for use within our congregation (and that won’t change anytime soon), but this is a chance to share what we’ve learned with those outside of our walls as well. Most importantly, we believe that studying the Scripture in-depth is one of the surest paths toward spiritual maturity. We’re hopeful that these studies will facilitate that.

TH1NK publishes material geared toward high school and college students. That age group has always been a key focus of Grace Bible Church, so this feels like a good match. The studies are tentatively slated for release this coming Fall. Here’s a brief summary of each one:

Gideon: From Weakling to Warrior – Based primarily on Judges 6-9, this study examines how God can use an ordinary and fearful man to change the course of history. When we meet Gideon, he’s hiding from his enemies, afraid to take a stand. But through God’s power he becomes a strong and capable military leader.

Peter: From Reckless to Rock Solid – This study examines the life of Peter, one of the most prominent of Jesus’ apostles. Peter was also an ambitious man who assumed that by attaching himself to Jesus he would become powerful and famous. He often made foolish decisions that landed him in hot water. But once the Spirit of God took hold of his life, he transformed into one of the greatest leaders in the history of the Church.

Daniel: Standing Strong in a Hostile World – Daniel and three of his friends were exiled from their home because of the sin of their nation. Through no fault of their own they were forced to serve a foreign king in the midst of a culture that was hostile to their beliefs. Yet God provided them with the faith and courage to stand strong in the midst of hardship and persecution.

Each of these studies will look at how our lives can be similarly transformed through the work of God’s Spirit in our lives.

Pray for us as we finish up the third study (Daniel) and deliver it in February. If you’re a college pastor, youth pastor or ministry leader and are interested in considering these for your group, let me know. Once we have copies in our hands, we’ll try to get you one to evaluate.

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