“Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” Mark 1:16-18

…We are not transformed by a list of dos and don’ts, but we are transformed by the love, care, and grace of the Living God…

Israel, Sea of Galilee (Lake of Tiberias)
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So I took a little hiatus from my blog. I loved the psalms, but truthfully I made my blog a burden not the outlet I was looking for. However, for a little while I have thought a lot about the next subject that I wanted to pick up and write about. So I am going to strike out again, and see what happens.
Over the past few months I have been drawn time and time again back to the Gospels, and to Jesus. He is infinitely complex, and beautiful. He is like no one else I have ever come into contact with. So I thought for my next little project I would just blog about Jesus in the gospels. And I thought I would start with Mark, and the calling of the first disciples.

Mark 1:16-18

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

There are so many things in this passage, but I will just give what I think are 3 important ones.

First, Jesus is the initiator. It may seem like a small observation, but I think it is important for all of us to remember that it is Jesus who pursues us, and Jesus who initiates the relationship with us. Just like Simon Peter and Andrew were not out looking for Jesus, neither were we.  Simon and Andrew were just casting their nets into the sea. They may not have even Jesus as he walked by, but he called to them and that made all the difference. He called you too, and that was by grace. Jesus saves you from first to last.

As small sub-point notice  He chose them in particular. Given that Jesus went just a little further and called another set of fishermen that day, We can feel pretty confident that Simon, Andrew, James and John were not the only fishermen there. Yet Jesus selected these four in particular. If you are a christian, Jesus chose you in particular too.

Second, notice how they will become fishers of men. It is because Jesus will make them into that. The line is not “follow me, and make yourselves into fishers of men.” So it wasn’t by their own might that they would become fishers of men. And in the rest of the gospels you really don’t see Jesus sitting down and explaining “Evangelism Explosion” to the disciples. Jesus as far as I can tell did not set up a formal training of how to’s to win people to his cause. If anything for much of what follows in Mark you see Jesus in conflict with the powerful(and educated) men of his day. I write all this because I think it is important for us to remember that following Jesus isn’t following a set of rules or methodology. Following Jesus is coming into constant contact with Jesus himself. It is following a person who will remake and reshape just by being in his presence.  Jesus is an infinitely loving, and compassionate leader who walks with you, and makes you into the person he desires. I

We are not transformed by a list of dos and don’ts, but we are transformed by the love, care, and grace of the Living God.

Last, I see in this calling of the disciples that our call is not primarily about us. Two things concern Jesus. 1) that you follow him and 2) that you seek to bring in others to follow him. Jesus was concerned about bringing in as many others as possible. Jesus very call to them was showing that he wanted to build a community that was actively seeking to bring others in. Our call to be his followers isn’t solely about what it does for us, but should also focus on how we can now bring in others.

When I  was reading this for my own study I had someone ask me, “So if followers are fisherman, then if you ain’t fishing can you really be a follower?” While I stand 100% behind what I just said about rules and Jesus being the one who shapes us, and while I fully recognize that all of us have different spiritual gifts I have to agree that something is wrong if we aren’t seeking to bring others to Jesus. Either we aren’t following him, or he isn’t important enough to us to tell other about. And I would say that if you think the latter is true then the former is probably as well.

I don’t write this to place guilt on anyone (all three of you who will read this). I write so that if it is not true of you, that you do all that you can to come into closer contact with Jesus. That you ask him to reshape you so that you will have a desire, and passion to see others follow him. I know that is my prayer for my life. I pray that my walk with Jesus would radically change my outlook, and love for other people.

I want to be reformed and reshaped by Jesus. I want to follow him because I know that is where life is found.

So that is what I think, what do you think?

Psalm 44

How do you pray when it seems God has deserted you? Learn from Psalm 44

Intro: Psalm 44 is a tough psalm because it asks God why he has seemingly deserted his people even though they have done nothing wrong.

To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.

1 O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old: Continue reading “Psalm 44”

Psalm 42 & 43

Intro: Psalms 42 & 43 teach us about the importance of the presence of the Lord in our lives. There are those who will doubt his presence, and mock us for our beliefs. Our own souls will even begin to doubt, but in these times we must remind ourselves of the goodness of the Lord, and sweetness of his presence.

Intro: Psalms 42 & 43 teach us about the importance of the presence of the Lord in our lives. There are those who will doubt his presence, and mock us for our beliefs. Our own souls will even begin to doubt, but in these times we must remind ourselves of the goodness of the Lord, and sweetness of his presence.

To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.

1 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
Continue reading “Psalm 42 & 43”

Psalm 41

Intro: In this Psalm David asks for the Lord’s deliverance from his enemies, and from what appears to be an illness. David teaches us how to cry to the Lord asking for Him to be gracious to us.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1 Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him;
2 the Lord protects him and keeps him alive;
he is called blessed in the land;
you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.
3 The Lord sustains him on his sickbed;
in his illness you restore him to full health.

4 As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you!”
5 My enemies say of me in malice,
“When will he die, and his name perish?”
6 And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words,
while his heart gathers iniquity;
when he goes out, he tells it abroad.
7 All who hate me whisper together about me;
they imagine the worst for me.

8 They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him;
he will not rise again from where he lies.”
9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
10 But you, O Lord, be gracious to me,
and raise me up, that I may repay them!

11 By this I know that you delight in me:
my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.
12 But you have upheld me because of my integrity,
and set me in your presence forever.

13 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!
Amen and Amen.

Main Point: David starts by telling us how the Almighty takes care of those who take care of the weak(1-3). While these verse can seem disconnected from the rest of the psalm, this stanza is really a set-up for the rest of the Psalm. We can see that David views himself as that man who has taken care of the poor. He knows the Promises that God has given to those who take care of the weak, and he makes his petition based upon those facts. In the second stanza (4-7) David asks to be healed, and delivered from his enemies. Which he brought up as a couple of the things the Lord does for those who protect the poor.  In the third stanza we see David goes into detail about how his enemies wish for his death, and how even his close friends have deserted him. The last three verses we see David reassuring himself that the Lord will be faithful to His promises.

This psalm quite simply is David reminding himself and the Lord of His promises to bless those who have taken care of the poor. David uses that reminder to ask for the Lord to be gracious to him.

Interesting Points: The Lord’s promise to bless(and command…funny how those are linked) those who take care of the poor can be found Deuteronomy 15:10.

It is interesting to me how David when starting his prayer reminds God all that is involved in Deuteronomy 15:10. He expounds on it. It just so happens to be pretty much the exact request that David is about to make of God. Is this an accident? NO! David is purposefully planning out his prayer, and seeking to persuade the Lord to answer his prayer. What better way than to remind the Lord what He has promised?

I love that David focuses makes his request as an act of grace from the Lord when he says “be gracious to me.”  It is a reminder that all the Lord’s blessings, even those that result from our obedience, are acts of grace. They are not things we earned or deserved.

The connection to Jesus here is also interesting. Jesus was also betrayed by a friend who broke bread with him.

Emotional Reactions: First, it reminds me that my heart needs to be much closer to the Lord’s desire to help the poor. That convicts. Second, it reminds me that I am a poor and the Lord has been gracious to me. That brings thankfulness and joy.

Psalm 40

Intro: Psalm 40 is an explosion of praise for the way the Lord saves those who trust in him. It dwells deeply on the goodness and mercy of the Lord. It is a psalm that shows how the Lord delivers his people from their sin and enemies.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.

4 Blessed is the man who makes
the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!
5 You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told.

6 In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
7 Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
8 I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”

9 I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.

11 As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
ever preserve me!
12 For evils have encompassed me
beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me.

13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
O Lord, make haste to help me!
14 Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
who delight in my hurt!
15 Let those be appalled because of their shame
who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”

16 But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
17 As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!

Main Point: As I wrote above, this psalm truly is all about the Lord’s deliverance of His saints. There is not a readily perceivable structure, and for most of the psalm David is speaking of the Lord’s deliverance, kindness, and goodness or how he will tell everyone of it. Only the last two stanzas really stray from that main thought.  Even then, those stanzas are asking for the Lord’s deliverance. Psalm 40 is true to its theme of the Lord’s deliverance through and through.

Interesting Points: In the first stanza notice who is taking action. It is not David. He simply cries out and waits. It is the Lord who takes David out of the pit and places his feet on solid ground. It is just another reminder that the adage “God helps those who help themselves” just isn’t true. We can do nothing and offer nothing. He is the one who saves and rescues. Notice even the song that David sings of his deliverance comes from the Lord. One of David’s greatest gifts was writing of psalms, and yet even this was from the Lord. Salvation, first to last, is from the Lord.

Notice also that David didn’t do anything that caused the Lord to act other than cry out to him. Verse 17 teaches us that he had nothing to offer God for his deliverance, and verse 12 makes it clear that David was a horrible sinner. But God saved him because he loved him.

Verses 7-10 are a perfect picture of Jesus. He was the long awaited King who came to deliver the Lord’s people. He was written about in the scrolls. He constantly spoke of the kindness, goodness, and deliverance of the Lord. He brought comfort to the afflicted and peace to the poor. He ultimately was our deliverance. He made us, horrible sinners, into saints.

Both verse 5 and verse 17 make mention of the Lord’s thoughts. In verse 5, David tells us that the Lord has multiplied not just his acts of deliverance, but also his thoughts towards us. Have you ever paused to consider that the Creator of the universe thinks of you? Ponder that for a moment. For me that can be a little shocking because I spend so little time thinking of Him, but He has multiplied His thoughts about you. It is almost like He is obsessed with you – like He would do something crazy like die for you.

In 17 David writes, “I am poor and needy.” David has nothing to offer God for His help. He is like a beggar. But the Lord takes thought of him, and this makes all the difference.

Emotional Reaction: This psalm brought me a lot of comfort in a difficult time in my life. It allowed me to see my ultimate deliverance from my sin and enemies. It allowed me to rejoice even in the middle of the darkness and allowed me to tell others to rejoice and praise the Lord too.

Now, it humbles me to think that Lord loves me and thinks of me even though I have nothing to offer.

Great is the Lord! For none can compare with Him!

Psalm 39

We all know it is true that often when the Lord disciplines us he goes after those things that we hold more dearly than himself. He wants us to hold him more dearly than anything else in the world. He wants our love for him to be rivaled by nothing and no one. He does this because he knows that only in Himself will we be satisfied. He does it because he loves us, and only wants what is best for us. There is only one place to find joy, and this is in knowing him.

Intro: It appears that David is still reeling from the arrows with which he was pierced with in Psalm 38. He pledges to keep silent so that he does not sin, but he cannot hold his tongue. He sees how short his life is, and so he cries out to God that he might relent.

To the choirmaster: to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.

1 I said, “I will guard my ways,
that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth with a muzzle,
so long as the wicked are in my presence.”
2 I was mute and silent;
I held my peace to no avail,
and my distress grew worse.
3 My heart became hot within me.
As I mused, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue:

4 “O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
5 Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!     Selah
6 Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!

7 “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.
8 Deliver me from all my transgressions.
Do not make me the scorn of the fool!
9 I am mute; I do not open my mouth,
for it is you who have done it.
10 Remove your stroke from me;
I am spent by the hostility of your hand.
11 When you discipline a man
with rebukes for sin,
you consume like a moth what is dear to him;
surely all mankind is a mere breath!          Selah

12 “Hear my prayer, O Lord,
and give ear to my cry;
hold not your peace at my tears!
For I am a sojourner with you,
a guest, like all my fathers.
13 Look away from me, that I may smile again,
before I depart and am no more!”

Main Point: In the first stanza(1-3) David begins by telling us that he had a plan to not sin. He was going to do so by not speaking, and especially when the wicked were in his presence. This didn’t work out too well though. He found himself getting more and more agitated. Finally he couldn’t hold it in anymore. David starts by speaking about the brevity of life. He speaks of life being a handbreadth, and man himself like shadow that is here only for a moment(4-6). David then turns his attention to the Lord’s Discipline in his life (7-11). He asks the Lord to deliver him from his sins. He asks the Lord to remove his hand of discipline from him not because he is undeserving, but because he can take no more. The Lord has taken what was dearest to him, and he is reeling. David closes by asking the Lord to hear his petition. David ask the Lord would please turn the face of his displeasure away from him so that he might experience joy again since his life is so short(12,13).

The point is this life is short. We don’t have much time. We better get busy with our lives. There is also a second point that is taught indirectly. David held his tongue as he went through his discipline, and it did him no good. It only agitated him, and ultimately looks like it led him to despair. We must seek the Lord as David did in the second half of the Psalm and speak to him about what we experience. We should ask him to relent as David does in the last stanza. It is here that the soul and heart can find rest.

Interesting Points: David uses great imagery when he speaks about the shortness of our life. We can be lured into thinking that we have quite sometime on this earth, but nothing can be further from the truth. Our lives are fleeting, and frail. David’s imagery helps us to see its shortness. We are truly like shadows that disappear with the changing of light. I think of the shadows around a camp fire, and how they almost have no substance. They are constantly changing; constantly appearing and disappearing. So are our lives.

David also calls attention to the foolishness of living your life to gather wealth. When you die it will be someone else’s. How foolish to spend your whole life seeking something you you can never have enough of, and will ultimately be given to someone else.

The most striking verse to me in this psalm is verse 11 that tells us when the Lord decides to discipline us he is “like a moth and consumes what is dear” to us. What a vivid image! Many of us have had the expreience of pulling out our favorite garment only to find it with holes all through it because a moth was in our closet. It is truly disappointing and frustrating to lose something you hold dear. However it is just a garment, and with the Lord what we lose often times can be much more painful.

We all know it is true that often when the Lord disciplines us he goes after those things that we hold more dearly than himself. He wants us to hold him  more dearly than anything else in the world. He wants our love for him to be rivaled by nothing and no one. He does this because he knows that only in Himself will we be satisfied. He does it because he loves us, and only wants what is best for us. There is only one place to find joy, and this is in knowing him.

Last, in verse 13 David asks the Lord to turn his face from him so that he might experience joy. I don’t think that David is asking for the Lord to go away from him, or for the Lord forget about him. I think it is more likely that David is speaking as he does in Psalm 34 when he says, “the face of the Lord is against the wicked.” I believe that David is asking for the Lord to remove his gaze of displeasure from him.

Emotional Reaction: It is motivating to remember that this life is short, and good for me to remember that it really could be over at any moment. That is a little nerve racking, but really motivating as well. I think also after reading the Psalm it makes facing the Lord’s discipline a little more frightening as well. It brings a note of seriousness to this life and the way we live.

Psalm 38

Psalm 38 serves a twofold purpose. 1) It is a psalm of repentance in which David is taking ownership of his sin, and its consequences. 2) It is a psalm that ask for deliverance from those who are trying to use David’s sin against him. It is a psalm that seeks the Lord’s mercy from first to last.

Intro: Psalm 38 serves a twofold purpose. 1) It is a psalm of repentance in which David is taking ownership of his sin and its consequences. 2) It is a psalm that ask for deliverance from those who are trying to use David’s sin against him. It is a psalm that seeks the Lord’s mercy.

A Psalm of David, for the memorial offering.

1 O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath!
2 For your arrows have sunk into me,
and your hand has come down on me.

3 There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

5 My wounds stink and fester
because of my foolishness,
6 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all the day I go about mourning.
7 For my sides are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
8 I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.

9 O Lord, all my longing is before you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
and my nearest kin stand far off.

12 Those who seek my life lay their snares;
those who seek my hurt speak of ruin
and meditate treachery all day long.

13 But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,
like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
14 I have become like a man who does not hear,
and in whose mouth are no rebukes.

15 But for you, O Lord, do I wait;
it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
16 For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me,
who boast against me when my foot slips!”

17 For I am ready to fall,
and my pain is ever before me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
I am sorry for my sin.
19 But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty,
and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
20 Those who render me evil for good
accuse me because I follow after good.

21 Do not forsake me, O Lord!
O my God, be not far from me!
22 Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation!

Main Point: In Psalm 38 David ask for the Lord’s mercy. David starts by describing his poor condition (1-11). He has been afflicted by the Lord for his sin. David acknowledges that his sin is his own doing, and he never once tries to tell the Lord that his discipline was undeserved.  Instead he pleads mercy. This psalm is truly about mercy, and grace from first to last. Even when David turns and ask for deliverance from his enemies (12-22) he doesn’t make his usual forceful argument as to why the Lord should deliver him. David simply writes “Do not forsake me, O Lord!” This psalm is about a sinner who knows that the greatest gift he can ever receive is mercy.

Interesting Points: David’s use of the imagery of God piercing him with an arrow is a striking one, isn’t it? This is a major wound and life-threatening normally.  This wasn’t some minor conviction of sin. This was a major deal and a major intervention in David’s life by the Lord. Think about what David is describing here. In today’s language this is the equivalent of getting shot with a gun. What would have to happen to you for you to say in your prayers “you shot me with a M-16”?

My mind goes immediately to the ordeal with Bathsheba simply because of the way that the Lord specifically had to intervene in David’s life to convict him of his sin.  There are many other places in his life that could have fit this scenario. However, I think most of them come after his affair with Bathsheba. If you just glance through 2 Samuel 12 and beyond you see all of the trouble that David encountered late in his life. This psalm very well could have been prompted by one of those occasions.

Verse 5 is a reminder of what sin does and is. It is death, and the smell of death comes with it. It is nasty and gross. It is no fun cleaning it up, and there is often pain in the cleaning of the wound that it leaves. It is also a reminder that we commit sin because of our own foolishness. As the Apostle James tells us, we should not say that the Lord is tempting us. It is because of our own choices and desires.

On a side note many christians go through life making excuses for their sins. Some point the finger at the Devil; some try to get a little more sophisticated and point the finger at their parents. But we should all remember that our sin is our own, and there is no one else to blame.

I also like very much how David says in verse 13 and 14 that he acts like he doesn’t hear the things that his enemies say, and he doesn’t answer them. In verse 15 he gives the reason why. He does not answer because he is waiting upon the Lord, and it is the Lord who will answer his foes. David need not speak because it is the Lord who will speak on his behalf.

Verses 17-20 also have an interesting juxtaposition. David is lowly, and contrite. Yet his enemies are vigorous and strong. This teaches us that outcomes are not determined by strength or might, but by whom the Lord favors.

David closes, as I will close, reminding the Lord and himself that he has no salvation apart from the Lord. All David can do is wait upon the Lord, and ask the Lord to deliver him. Let us all remember that this is all we can do. As sinners we must simply come and ask mercy, and the Lord is sure to give it.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Quotation informationPurchase an ESV.