Lose your Life

In an earlier devotional, I referenced the story from Greek mythology of King Midas, who was granted a wish that everything he touched would turn to gold. Then he discovered that the food he needed to live could not be consumed, as it became gold the minute he touched it. I think this is a perfect allegory for what Jesus was talking about when he said, “Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives?” We are reminded that when we pursue worldly goods, ideas, agendas, and behaviors, we risk losing the eternal life to which all are called through Christ Jesus.

Take a look at this exchange between Jesus and his disciples:

Mark 8 (Common English Bible)

31 Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead.” 32 He said this plainly. But Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him. 33 Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”

Peter is admonished for thinking “human thoughts.” What human thoughts do you engage in that are ungodly? What behaviors would condemn you as someone speaking for Satan? Is Jesus trying to correct something in your life today? Say NO to yourself.

34 After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 35 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. 36 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives?37 What will people give in exchange for their lives? 38 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

The invitation is to follow Jesus. That means saying NO to all of the unholy things we say, do, think, and participate in. Those things are not worthy of a holy life, and those things are not worthy of you. Jesus invites us to take up our cross and follow him, and in that way we will save our lives as we lose them…in other words, lose the secular lives we are living and gain eternal lives in Christ.

The call is real. The circumstance is dire. The time is upon us. Lose your life because of Jesus, and you will gain heaven itself. And that, my friends, is good news.

Take Up Your Cross

Dropping Nets

What is in your hand right now? An electronic device, for sure. Possibly a cup of coffee, praise God from whom all blessings flow!

What will you fill your hands with as your day moves along? A computer mouse, a remote control, a paring knife, a child’s hand, a book, a cell phone, a wine glass, a steering wheel…we fill our hands, our time, our minds, our hearts, and our lives with many things in an ordinary day.

Now comes the question. Will those things you will hold bring you closer to God’s holy presence, or did will they in fact keep you far from it?

Most electronic devices come with an ability to monitor your screen time. If you want a moment of clarity about “where does the time go,” check it out. You might be very surprised to see how much screen time you are consuming. This is another fallout of the pandemic. And yes, I realize that right now I am contributing to your screen time, so hopefully it’s not all bad! Indeed, screen time can be good and productive when it contributes to our work and our lives….and then there is Netflix-binging.

In the first chapter of Mark, some ordinary guys were having an ordinary day filling their hands with ordinary work. These guys were fishermen, so their hands were filled with nets.

Mark 1 (Common English Bible)

14 After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, 15 saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!”

Jesus calls disciples

16 As Jesus passed alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” 18 Right away, they left their nets and followed him.

The immediacy of their response is noteworthy. RIGHT AWAY they left their nets.

Where is God calling you to put something down so that your attention can be directed toward his kingdom? Where is God calling you to change your heart and your life? In what way is he asking you to trust that this call is good news for you?

And it’s not just things we need to leave behind. Attitudes, entitlements, anger, misunderstanding, self-righteousness…God also calls us to drop these as well.

19 After going a little farther, he saw James and John, Zebedee’s sons, in their boat repairing the fishing nets. 20 At that very moment he called them. They followed him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired workers.

Some even left family and co-workers to follow Jesus. Maybe it’s time to leave behind all the people you have disagreed with over worldly issues and just follow Jesus. Maybe it’s time to leave Twitter behind. Maybe it’s time to leave main stream media, Facebook, Words With Friends, Tik Tok, and all those other distractions behind.

What is in your hand often dictates what is in your heart. Following Jesus requires leaving things behind. But you can trust that your hands will be filled with blessings if you empty them of all the worldly things.

Follow Me by Michelle Robertson

Follow Me

Unpopular opinion: I think requiring adults to attend church membership classes before they are allowed to join is antithetical to the Gospel. Fortunately, I have always worked in churches that supported my position and I have been able to invite and receive people into the life of the church without requiring the typical four-to-six week indoctrination class.

My position is this: Jesus recruited his “membership” with two words: Follow Me. He didn’t require a six-week class, so why should we? Mind you, we have always had an “orientation” meeting, so that new members could be introduced to the aspects of the church. But that is more about me getting to know them than them getting to know the church. We provide new members with literature about the denomination and encourage them to take Bible studies. But in regard to “joining” the church, I believe that if the Holy Spirit has called you to join, the church shouldn’t put a process in the way of the promise.

Today’s lectionary is one of many examples of Jesus inviting someone to simply follow him.

John 1 (Common English Bible)

43 The next day Jesus wanted to go into Galilee, and he found Philip. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter.

Watch what happens next. Philip was invited to follow Jesus. He immediately turned around and brought someone else in. See how that works?

45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and the Prophets: Jesus, Joseph’s son, from Nazareth.”

46 Nathanael responded, “Can anything from Nazareth be good?”

Remember that Jesus was rejected in his own hometown. There was a pervasive attitude that Nazareth, a little podunk place, was an unlikely location for God’s son, the King of Israel, to grow up. Kind of like being from New Jersey. (I can say that…I’m from Jersey.)

Philip said, “Come and see.”

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said about him, “Here is a genuine Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

48 Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?”

Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”

49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are God’s Son. You are the king of Israel.”

50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these! 51 I assure you that you will see heaven open and God’s angels going up to heaven and down to earth on the Human One.”

You see, when the church encourages people to simply follow Jesus, the people see heaven open up in their lives. They encounter the Son of God for themselves. They invite him to be the king of their hearts, with no membership class required of him before they welcome him in.

Where is Jesus calling you to follow him today? Is he calling you to a new path? Is he asking you to put your feet on a road of righteousness that you are not currently walking? Is he inviting you to follow him into a sincere way of repentance and cleansing, leaving the old things behind so that you can follow him in a new direction?

Jesus invites us to follow him. No pre-registration required.

Just say yes.

Follow Me by Michelle Robertson

Surf Fishing

Surf fishing is a very popular sport on the Outer Banks. Our entire coastline provides numerous spots that are perfect for this. Wherever you go on the beach, you are likely to run into a surf fisherman. I am a beach walker, so I know to carefully look for the sun’s reflection on their lines and walk under or behind them. It would be counterproductive to decapitate myself whilst trying to get in shape.

The beauty of surf fishing is that you can simply walk to your fishing spot. No boats, nets, piers, or docks required. Take off your shoes and cast your line! Of course the challenge is the surf itself. Negotiating the waves and the unknown depths of the water just beyond the break are part of the fun. More than once I have watched someone excitedly reeling in a fish while walking into the waves, only to hit the underwater drop-off and submerge up to their chest. By the way, the fish love it when that happens.

Surf fishing also requires a fair amount of “situational awareness,” especially as you cast. Always look around you, and especially behind you! Nobody wants to hook a sunbather in the eye. Or the bikini top.

Jesus knew a lot about fishing.

Mark 1 (The Message)

16-18 Passing along the beach of Lake Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew net-fishing. Fishing was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions. They dropped their nets and followed.

19-20 A dozen yards or so down the beach, he saw the brothers James and John, Zebedee’s sons. They were in the boat, mending their fishnets. Right off, he made the same offer. Immediately, they left their father Zebedee, the boat, and the hired hands, and followed.

So, had you realized that surf fishing is in the Bible?? Simon and Andrew were net-fishing from the beach. James and John were in a boat. All were given the instruction to leave their work and follow Jesus. The new job would be to fish for people.

Fishing for people also requires a kind of “situational awareness.” How ready is this person to hear the Gospel? What is the best approach? What do they need…a testimony, or a sandwich? What would communicate God’s love best?

You are also called to people-fish. Dropping the net you are currently holding is the best way to approach this new task. How can God use your abilities, resources, and personality to spread a word of hope, acceptance, and love?

Jesus calls us to follow him. May we be like the disciples and drop what we’re doing, leave everything behind, and immediately respond. You never know what you’ll catch.

Sunrise Surf Fishermen by Michelle Robertson