Nothing Bad to Say

It is not living that matters, but living rightly. ~Socrates

Governor Festus had taken over Felix’s office, and he was confounded about what to do with the prisoner, Paul. King Agrippa and his wife Bernice stopped for a visit and the king offered to hear Paul’s defense.

Festus brought Paul before the royals and explained that the Jews were ready to tear Paul limb from limb, but he, Festus, had been unable to find anything wrong with the man. He had committed no crime, said nothing deserving of death. In fact, if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar he could have been released.

That had to have been music to Paul’s ears.

Paul and Peter were brothers in Christ, apostles sent to different communities but with one purpose. They met on several occasions. I imagine they compared notes, prayed together; we’re told that they confronted and instructed each other.

Their camaraderie must have at one time included a conversation like this:

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority:whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 1 Peter 2:12-15 NIV

Paul had lived his life doing good. He submitted to the authorities, and he received commendations to the king.

How are you living?

Have you given your money to the poor, fed the hungry, and been condemned by brothers and sisters as ‘holier-than-thou’?

Do you tell your children no, screen their emails and chat rooms, and refuse to have cable in the house only to have your children slander you, your friends question your integrity as a parent?

Do you care for your elderly parents, putting off cruises with your own friends, to make sure Mom walks every day and Dad gets to have coffee with his buddies? It’s the right thing to do, but you cringe under the half-concealed anger your friends display.

Paul would understand. He went on to Rome and experienced several years of imprisonment all for doing the right thing.

Take heart; you’re in good company.

Stay strong and do what’s right.

For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 1 Peter 2:19 NIV

After Dark

The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach. ~Pliny the Elder

I have an older brother who basically ruined my teen years. He was a little on the wild side, so his shenanigans put a kibosh on my fun. I asked to have my curfew extended, but my dad said -you guessed it-

“Nothing good ever happens after dark.”

Truer words were never spoken on that fateful night in Jerusalem outside the Mount of Olives.

It was evening. Dinner was over. Jesus and his friends went to the garden to sing and pray.

Instead of a mountaintop worship experience, Jesus was met by a band of protesters, haters, and killers. His quiet night of fellowship with friends became loud with accusations and demands. Betrayed by one of his own inner-circle, Judas’s kiss sealed Jesus’s fate with an inky darkness.

But the tragic night became pitch-black for Peter.

He had started by wielding a sword in defense of his friend and ended in complete denial of his Lord and Savior.

Twilight to nightfall to darkness and gloom.

Have you been there?

You’re all about Jesus and his mercy, then you enter the doctor’s office and come out a total wreck.

Or you’re singing his praises while washing the dishes. Then you get the call that your teen was at a party with drugs and everyone is downtown.

You’re serving at the homeless shelter when your neighbor calls. Your spouse had a massive heart attack and was found dead in the driveway.

You were ready to brandish your sword, but now you just might fall on it.

This is not the time for decision-making.

This is the time to wait.

Judas made a fateful, final decision and lost the opportunity to see the brilliance of Resurrection Morning. Peter cried his heart out and beat himself up.

But he didn’t make a decision. He waited.

And he was there when Jesus assured him three times that he loved Peter no matter how dark the night.

In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this. Luke 22:20-23 NIV

Successful Failure

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. ~Winston Churchill

I have written lots of things over the years. Some have been great and others have been tossed in the recycling tub before they ever fully developed. The only writing contest I ever won was in sixth grade. My first book, Devotions of a Gerbil, was sent to twenty or more publishers before it was picked up by a small press.

The failures outnumber the successes, but in spite of all these failures, I continue to write.

Peter was a professional fisherman. He had boats- plural!- so we have to assume that he was usually successful. Yet, after a night of fishing on the sea, he sometimes came up empty.

A stranger walking along the coast yelled out some great advice, “Try throwing the net on the other side of the boat.” Of course! He’d forgotten that fish only swim on one side of a boat. As ridiculous as it was, Peter threw the nets over to show this stranger that there were no fish to catch, but up came the net with a boatload of fish.

Peter spent the next three years or so learning about fishing for men. He had some successes, but he also had many failures- failures that have lived through thousands of years and been shared with millions of people. How do you like those fish?

After the resurrection, Peter went back to fishing for fish. He didn’t know what else to do.

On the dark sea he did all of the things that professional fishermen should do– out at night, good boats, strong nets, deep water–  BUT NOTHING. After throwing overboard three years of following Jesus, here was yet another failure.

Then, a stranger called out, “Try the other side of the boat.”

The water was shallow. The sun was up. It made no sense, but Peter did it anyway.

He pulled in 153 big fish and nearly sank.

What is Jesus calling you to do? Begin a clothing ministry? Clean people’s teeth in Honduras? Write songs? Start a neighborhood Bible study?

Will you throw your net out and be a successful failure? Or will you turn back to the boat you’ve been sailing in for years and keep on pulling in empty nets?

Only when we work with Jesus do we succeed. Even if we are trained and doing all the things right, true success takes a call from Jesus.

But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. Jeremiah 17:7 NIV