January 17 – January 23, 2017

WORD

12Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.  13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”  17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

18As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen.  19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”  20Immediately they left their nets and followed him.  21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them.  22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.  23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

Matthew 4:12-23

Reading Scripture to Know:

  • What is happening/being said? (Observation)
  • Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
  • What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
  • What does it mean? (Understanding)
  • What does it mean for us? (Application)

Reading Scripture to Grow:

  • What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
  • Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
  • How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
  • How does this Scripture reveal God?
  • How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
  • How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
  • How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
  • What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?

Thinking through Scripture:

  • This passage makes me feel…
  • This passage makes me think about…
  • This passage reminds me of…
  • This passage teaches me that God is…
  • This passage challenges me to…

Reflection: And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”

What language speaks to your world experience?  What are your talents and passions?  Jesus had a way of framing his message in such a way that it spoke to people’s context and abilities.  In a society of shepherds and animal keepers, Jesus spoke about sheep, goats, and predators.  To those who knew how to grow things, Jesus spoke of vineyards, grapes, wine, soil, and seeds.  In a communal culture that knew how to celebrate, Jesus spoke of banquets and feasts and marriage celebrations.

So when he approached some old, crusty fishermen, he spoke to them of fishing and fish.  Now, when I have fished I have enjoyed it, but I must admit that I haven’t taken many opportunities to go fishing in my lifetime.  Growing up in the city I didn’t have much chance to get out the old rod and reel (definitely not a fishnet!) and sit by the water pretending to catch something.  I love to eat fish and I have enjoyed having aquariums at different times in my life, but that is the extent of my familiarity with the scaly creatures.  I did catch tadpoles as a little boy in the drainage ditch behind our house, but that was not quite the same thing.

So if Jesus were trying to get my attention, to invite me into his mission, Jesus wouldn’t speak about fish.  Jesus would speak to my passions, my talents, to what I was good at or what I love.  Jesus would probably speak in terms of basketball and baseball, or in terms of music, learning and reading, or in terms of family and friendship.

So as you consider the image above, you probably see what I see – squishy, slimy, smelly fish.  But Peter, Andrew, James, and John would have seen a connection to their world, their everyday lives.  How might Jesus speak to your world, to your context, in inviting you into his mission of finding and loving lost and hurting people?  What image would Jesus use to appeal to your passions and talents?  What mission fields and ministry activities would excite you about working side by side with the Savior?  Jesus wants you to join in this life-changing mission.  What bait might make you bite?

Daily Readings: 

  • Tuesday, January 17 – 2 Samuel 20
  • Wednesday, January 18 – 2 Samuel 21
  • Thursday, January 19 – 2 Samuel 22
  • Friday, January 20 – 2 Samuel 23
  • Saturday, January 21 – 2 Samuel 24
  • Sunday, January 22 – 1 Kings 1
  • Monday, January 23 –  1 Kings 2

SPIRIT

Prayer Focus: Jesus went throughout Galilee… curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

What does it mean to be healed or cured?  There are many physical ailments from which we need healing, and God indeed does work in such ways.  But there are many hidden hurts we carry around that need healing/curing of another sort.  What is it within you that needs healing?  How have you experienced disease and sickness – in body, heart, mind, and soul?  Trust God for healing, the healing only God can bring about.  Pray these words from Isaiah, who is here writing of the Suffering Servant (who is Jesus Christ to come), over you and your loved ones today:

Surely You have borne our infirmities and carried our diseases… You were wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon You was the punishment that made us whole, and by Your bruises we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)

Meditation Focus: Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 

Where is your place of withdrawal?  Withdrawal can be a negative activity, especially if you are using withdrawal to avoid someone/something or to isolate yourself from others.  But withdrawal can be healthy and holy, too.  Withdrawal can provide us with the space and time to recharge, reconnect with God, and rediscover our passion for the kingdom of God.  But physical withdrawal is not always possible.  Many Christian writers (St. Teresa of Avila for example) have advocated for the construction of a personal sanctuary of the heart and mind within the disciple of Christ.  In other words, Christians should work, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, to clear their hearts and minds from that which is unholy, to set aside a mental and affective space in which the holiness of Jesus resides within our thoughts and feelings.  This can become a place to which we can withdraw and find solace and communion with God in our mind and heart even when things around us are loud, confusing, demanding, or stressful.

Granted, this might all sound too difficult, fanciful, or esoteric.  “This is not practical,” you might say.  Constructing such an inner temple takes practice.  It usually begins with a mental temple that then descends into the heart.  If you can begin to picture a holy place within you, you will begin to feel that holy place within you.  If you can set your mind on Christ as a refuge, then you will begin to experience the refuge of Christ dwelling within you.  Remember that Jesus has called us to abide, remain, and dwell within him; the result is that he, too, will abide, remain, and dwell within us (John 15).

Start slowly.  Take three minutes to think about Jesus, focusing your mind on a mental image of a room in which only you and Jesus are sitting.  Set a timer if you need to so that you can focus your full self on this image for the allotted time.  Speak these words over this mental space: “Only Jesus and I together are welcome here.  This is our holy place.”  Say and do nothing else.  Rehearse this daily until you begin to hear Christ speak within you.  Notice how you feel when you are in this place alone with Christ.  How is it changing you?  How are you drawn into that place, mind and heart?  Begin to withdraw into the solitude of Jesus’s presence so that you might be fully present to Christ in the world around you.

Journaling Focus: From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Literally, the word repent means to turn around (Hebrew) or to go beyond thinking and put your thought into action (Greek).  Thus, when Jesus calls us to repent, he is asking us to turn away from sin, turn toward God, and follow/serve God with our whole selves and not just with our lips.  As I often say, this is seldom a one-time, 180-degree-at-once turn.  Often we take 180 small one-degree turns over a lifetime before we are fully aligned with God and headed straight toward the ways of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom.  In what ways do you still need to be realigned toward God’s direction and will?  How do you find yourself near the Kingdom?  How are you still far away?  Take some time this week to assess where you are on the path of Christ and the Kingdom of God.  Write about some one-degree turns you still need to make and how you might go about making those turns.  Our Lord is always ready to take your hand, turn you around, and help you put your faith into action.

Breath Prayer: Father, call upon us to join your mission.

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