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Archive for May, 2013

Cast Your Net on the Other Side

fishingboat-x

Cast your net on the other side…

Jesus therefore said to them,  “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him,  “No.”  And He said to them,  “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you will find a catch.” They cast therefore, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved said to Peter,  “It is the Lord.” And so when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea.  But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish. (John 21:5-8)

My fellow Pilgrims,

Today Jesus is asking us, his aspiring disciples-in-training: “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?”.

Putting the question to ourselves in today’s vernacular:  “Do you consider that, as a follower of Christ, you are being successful in reaching people for Christ and bringing them nearer to Him?

And, like the disciples, your answer, like most of us aspiring disciples, is also probably “No”, or “Not many”.

Now, in the incident after Jesus’ crucifixion and death cited above,  Peter was still so distressed, that it took John to remind Him that it was the Lord who was hailing them from the shore. And when He realized that it was truly the Lord calling He jumped out of the boat in response to His call.

John, realized it was the Lord because he remembered that when they first met Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, he also told Peter, after a day of fruitless fishing, to do out to the deep and cast their nets on the other side and the net were so full of fish they could not draw them into the boat (Luke 5:4-11). When reminded by John, Peter came out of his depression and swam to shore to be with Jesus, whom he had denied, which is what was probably augmenting his state of depression.

So also for us today, we, who are attempting to serve the Lord with the intent of being His disciples, sometimes feel somewhat depressed when our wholehearted efforts are not producing results for His Kingdom and we don’t seem to understand why.  While in this state we also, like Peter, may not be listening to Jesus’ call and need to be nudged into hearing His call – His call, telling us to “fish on the other side of our boat”. “Our boat”  being our basic human nature.

About the Other Side of Our “Boat”

Yes, there are two sides to our human nature, our soulish, fleshly, self-centered side and our spiritual or God-centered side.  Before we are born of the Spirit, as mentioned in Chapter 3 of John’s Gospel, the only side we are aware of is our soulish or fleshly side. For, as Jesus tells Nicodemus (Jn.3), unless one is born again (spiritually revived), one cannot be sensitive to the Spirit of God. And I might add, from my own experience, even if you are born again, if you are not walking in the spirit, you will automatically revert back to the fleshly side of yourself.

For those of us in this state, the story cited gives a lesson that, because, when we are in service to the Lord, we always need be walking in the Spirit or be part of a discipleship team that will nudge us back to the Spirit side when we find ourselves drifting back to the fleshly side of our human boat.  When we attempt to serve the Lord from our fleshly side you may be sure that your efforts will not produce lasting spiritual results, no matter how well motivated you are. The Lord has told us that … “without Me you can do nothing [of spiritual value]” (John 15:5). Yes our self-willed service may produce earthly results that lift up our ego, but we cannot reach men’s hearts without the anointing of His Holy Spirit.

For this reason, as we begin our walk in discipleship, it is extremely important that we not only accept Christ as our Lord and Savior but also be Baptized in the Holy Spirit so that, through the Spirit and personal prayer we may learn to be fully sensitive to the leadings of the Holy Spirit and thus permit Jesus to work in us and through us as we minister in His Name. In fact, that is what it means to minister “in His Name”!

All too often we get so carried away by the drive to “do something for God” on our own human initiative that we forget what the Lord wants is for us to yield ourselves to Him and be empowered by His Spirit so that He can work in us and through us, even in our moments of weakness, to bring forth His Purposes from our efforts. That is what is meant by learning to “cast our nets on the other side”.  He wants us to be His partners in bringing forth His Kingdom, while we in our human pride, mainly want to provide our services for the exaltation of our own egos rather than for His Glory.

Lay Discipleship  Today

The problem we, as lay disciples, have is that the Christian churches, as they are structured today, tend to ignore the need to train or make lay disciples at the spiritual depth needed for us to really function as disciples. It is my belief that the reason for this is that our modern Christian culture has downplayed the role of lay discipleship. The main emphasis for training has been placed on the education and training of clergy to minister and lead our churches and to send as missionaries to the world. Discipleship for the laity, if taught at all, is merely taught as an extension of the stewardship responsibilities and methods for “spiritualizing” our service to the community.

Yes, we lay people are taught about accountability to one another, and to live moral lives in accord with scripture and tradition but there is little training on spiritual discernment and how to totally yoke ourselves to Jesus so that we may faithfully follow Him in every situation in our lives. We also are lacking teaching on how to hear His Voice in our inner man, and how to sense and follow the leadings of the Spirit so that we can truly be obedient to the callings of God on our lives so that we may truly be His partners in bringing forth His Kingdom in this World.

In entering a path of discipleship, we the laity, need to follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit in order to move forward in our spiritual growth. We need to do this even if our churches and parishes are not providing instruction at the depth of spirituality needed to be continuously in touch with the Spirit of God whose guidance we need in order to function as a disciple.

Formation of Disciples

It is my belief the primary reason the formation of intentional lay disciples is not  usually supported at most parishes/churches is the lack of resources and trained personnel to get these programs started (see my addendum on such resources). However, once  a lay discipleship program is started it can usually sustain itself – for that is part of the discipleship mission.

Another factor, in this lack of discipleship formation amongst the laity in some communities, may be due to the structure of our modern Christian culture, which has created an imagined division between clergy and laity that blandly assumes that a deep spiritual intimacy with the Godhead is beyond the capacity or need of the un-ordained, thus, unwittingly relegating us, laity, to some kind of second-class citizenship in the Kingdom of God.

Paul, in His letters to the Corinthians asks the question, “Can the Body of Christ be divided? Yet, today, we are not only divided into denominations but also into the false distinctions between religious professionals (clergy) and laity.  We need to understand that, although we all have distinct roles within the Body, we are all attached to one another and to the Head of the Body Jesus Christ, our Lord and Master. We, each of us, has received through our conversion and Baptism, the same capacity to interact with the Head as any other part of the Body. And, with the Baptism in the Spirit we are all given the spiritual gifts needed for us individually and in groups to contribute to the building up of the Body of Christ in this world. Without the empowerment gifts (charisms) promised by the Father and provided to all the believers at Pentecost, we cannot fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) to make disciples until, we, like the apostles, are empowered to be His witnesses, wherever we are throughout the world (Acts 1:4-8).

In addition, our current modern intellectually-based Christian culture impedes the laity from truly being formed as deeply spiritual disciples because of its emphasis that all our thoughts and actions be solely based on our “natural” capabilities and with disregard to anything involving the “supernatural”, that is, anything beyond our ability to experience with our senses or rationally contemplate with our minds. This places a constraint on believers such that we look askance at anything in the practice of our “Faith” that is beyond our “normal” human traits and abilities. For that reason many churches avoid attempting to teach on the empowering spiritual gifts (cf.,1Cor. 12) or charisms received by believers at Pentecost and beyond. Spiritual Gifts, which go well beyond our “natural” capabilities and involve a direct interaction with the Persons of the Godhead.

Because of these attitudes, it also becomes difficult for the teachers in our Christian culture to teach on how the Holy Spirit communicates with us since the a majority of the culture does not recognize that we have been created with a “spirit” component as well as with a “soul” and “body”. Our “spirit” component being the channel by which we may interact with the Divine, not only to receive direction but also to receive the power of the Divine in our very selves to be used for His Glory. Now, since, it is difficult to deny that there are and have been persons who have exhibited such supernatural traits, it was only natural that the culture, again, creates a separation that “defines” such people as “mystics”, who have been given such traits because of their “holiness”, so that it is made clear that such traits are out of the scope of normal and should not be sought by the “unholy” laity.

Since we are all embedded in such a culture it is not difficult to understand why the reception of the “empowerment gifts” (cf. 1 Cor. 12)) is not promulgated or celebrated on the feast of Pentecost and why formation of lay intentional disciples, who require training in the use of these gifts in order to be fully effective, is something that our churches are not very anxious to take up.

What Can be Done?

As a result, we laity must also realize that we also have contributed to our own disenfranchisement by accepting and taking a passive role in acceding to our cultural impediments and not seeking the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual charisms to which we are entitled, regardless of our ordained status or lack thereof. Once we begin to understand the Word of God that promises all believers the empowerment to be His witnesses and we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39), then, and only then, will He begin to work in us to realize the true discipleship potential of every believer by fully conforming us to the image of Christ so that we can begin to truly be of service to the Father for the building up of His Kingdom. Praised  be His Holy Name!

So,  if you hear the Spirit calling you to follow Jesus as an intentional disciple, do not hesitate, commit yourself to Jesus right where you are and, in prayer,  ask Him to lead you along the narrow path. Pray that the Holy Spirit inspire the Word of God so that it will enter your heart and  open its meaning and its truth to your spirit. Do not let any of your circumstances or other persons prevent you. He is Knocking at the Door, open the door to your heart and let Him In to sup with you.  If you do this He will begin to work in your circumstances and your relationships so  that you can begin your discipleship right then and there.  He will lead you and  instruct you step by step and if you stumble he will pick you up and take you to the next step. Place yourself entirely in His Hands; He will mold you and take you to where He wants you, where you will partner with Him in bringing forth is Kingdom,. He is, after all not only your Teacher, but also your Master, your Shepherd, your Savior, Your King and your God … and, above all, your Friend! Praised be His Holy Name!

Initially, when we set out on our own private formation as intentional disciples, we may be loners, who in attempting to use our gifts in a community that has not yet experienced the power of the Spirit, will experience some form of rejection or distancing from the community – a rejection that may seem at first painful – but a rejection that, because we are acting in obedience to Jesus’ calling in our lives, our efforts will eventually be redeemed and bring forth fruit for the Glory of His Name!. Blessed be the Name!

Of course, I would hope we all have come to a personal encounter with Jesus, but how many of us have yet to encounter the person of the Holy Spirit and received His empowering charisms, without which we literally cannot fully function as God’s emissaries to our families, to our community, and to the world? And, even more important, how many of us have entered into the deep, intimate prayer relationship with the Father, that we need to really worship Him in Spirit and in Truth? In order to be true disciples of the Lord and walk in the spirit it essential that learn how to release the Holy Spiirt in us so that we may truly operate at these levels of intimacy with Our Shepherd and His Father.

Always keep in mind that a large part of our problems as laity stem from the fact that, to some degree or other, we are all afraid of yielding to the Holy Spirit in our lives.  A basically misplaced fear, that emanates from the fact that most of our churches do not place a high priority on teaching us about interacting with the person of the Holy Spirit, His desire to fill us with His Love, the Empowerment Gifts He provides to work through us, His gentle approach to working with us, and, how through our cooperation with His Grace we can bring His Blessings to the entire Body.

In saying all this, I am not trying to place blame on our church leaders because I understand that they are in the same “human” boat as we are, and, that since many of them, though devoted to Christ, have not yet experienced the person and power of the Holy Spirit in their own lives, we should, therefore, not expect them to be able to teach us about the leading of the Spirit and the charisms. Instead, as part of our discipleship, we need to lift them and our churches in prayer to God for an all-encompassing spiritual revival among us all, and, at the same time, turn to our Head Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, to lead us and guide us until such a time as our churches catch up to where the Spirit is leading all those of us who have opened their hearts to “cast our nets on the other side” of our human boats.

Listen to what the Apostle John wrote regarding the inner anointing we have received through the Holy Spirit to teach us individually as we walk along the way of the Spirit:

“And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”  (1 John 2:27)

In closing, let me conclude with this exhortation by our fellow pilgrim, St. Paul, regarding walking on “the other side”, that is, in the Spirit!

“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”        (Gal 5: 24-25)

May the Holy Spirit guide you in all that you do to bring forth the Kingdom for the Glory of the Father.

Praised be the Name of Jesus! …   Bartimaeus

(For your benefit I have referenced several sites below that can provide resources to parishes that are interested in beginning a Disciple-Making ministry)

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Disciple-Making Resources For Catholics:

In order to inform you, I bring to your attention, a discipleship movement in the Catholic Church that I am sure will assist you in furthering your calling into a deeper discipleship relationship with Jesus and, as result receive the empowerment, you need to serve your local parish or diocese. Sherry Anne Weddell and Fr. Michael Sweeny, O.P. initiated this movement, represented by the Catherine of Siena Institute for the purpose of promoting the formation of “Intentional Disciples” within the parish structure. Their Mission Statement follows:

“The Catherine of Siena Institute (CSI) is an affiliated ministry of the Western Dominican Province dedicated to equipping parishes for the evangelization and formation of lay Catholics for the sake of their mission to the world. The Institute provides innovative resources and programming that are faithful to the teaching of the Church and will enable parishes to become lively and dynamic centers of evangelization and formation.   Since our founding in 1997, we have worked with over 65,000 lay, religious, and ordained Catholics in hundreds of parishes in 100 (arch)dioceses on 5 continents.

“The Church clearly teaches that all of the baptized are called by Christ to proclaim his Gospel in the world. Although the Church teaches that “Formation is not the privilege of a few, but a right and duty of all.” (Christifideles Laici, 63) parishes rarely attempt or are equipped to provide a formation that prepares Catholics for so great a mission. We seek to bridge the gap between the Church’s vision for the laity and the reality of the current evangelization and formation practices and structures in our parishes, which are the only contact that 98% of Catholics have with the Church.” (http://www.siena.org/Article/who-we-are)

Disciple-Making Resources For all Christians

For those of you from other Christian traditions I recommend the CDM Church Discipleship Ministry site: http://www.navigators.org/us/ministries/cdm/about/

“CDM is deeply committed to serving local churches and communities in the venture of spiritual transformation. To this end, we help churches develop three intentional environments: 1) intimacy with God, 2) community environments of grace and truth, and 3) living and ministering among those distant from God. We have organized our key resources into the Intentional Disciple-making Church Process to facilitate the development of these three environments.

“We have over 100 staff ministering in strategic locations in the United States and internationally with the skills and knowledge to help coach you and your church or group in the process of intentional disciplemaking. This includes reaching those without Christ, helping believers grow in spiritual maturity, and helping develop missional leaders.

We invite you to investigate the Intentional Disciplemaking Church Process and the proven tools and materials we have developed in helping churches advance the Gospel of Jesus and His Kingdom.

Contact Us: Please contact our national office in Colorado Springs regarding any questions you may have about our ministry. We look forward to serving you. … Roy and Margaret Fitzwater, for the CDM Director Team (cdm@navigators.org)

PS: Link to the Intentional Disciplemaking Church Process

Discipleship is a process of growth. It is a lifelong pursuit of following Christ. Many churches want to make disciples but don’t have the empowering environment or the resources. CDM has identified nine components that are essential for discipleship to take place in successive generations.We invite you to utilize our tools and resources as your church pursues intentional disciplemaking.Our resources may be utilized individually, or experienced in a comprehensive process which is tailored to the distinctives of your church.

Get Started Today

• > Email Dennis Blevins: Dennis4pdx@comcast.net

• > Email Margaret Fitzwater: Margaret@thefitzwaters.com

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Recommended Articles for Aspiring Disciples:

Sweet Yoke of Love

Enter in by the Narrow Gate

Walking the Walk

Reflections  on the Beatitudes (Part 1)

Reflections  on the Beatitudes (Part 2)

Reflections  on the Beatitudes (Part 3)

Reflections  on the Beatitudes (Part 4)

The Making of a Disciple:  An Overview

Discipleship: Accepting the Challenge

The Cost Of Discipleship

The Crucified Life

The Renewal of Our Minds

Discerning The Lord’s Call

Praying as Jesus Prayed (Part 1)

Praying as Jesus Prayed (Part 2)

I Stand at the Door and Knock

Prayers of Commitment

Husbands Love Your Wives

Loving Submission is a Two-way Process

Discipleship: Accepting the Challenge

Receiving The Holy Spirit

Growing in The Spirit

Jesus the Source of Living water and Us

Christ In Us The Hope of Glory

Build Your Spiritual Life On the Rock

Pentecost and the Promise of the Father

Releasing the Spirit

 
Responding to the Spirit’s Call

The Kingdom of God: Our Spiritual Inheritance

Reclaiming Our Legacy In Christ

Hearing God’s Voice, and Obeying It

The Promise of the Father (Part 1)

The Promise of the Father (Part 2)

Sanctifying Gifts (Part 1)

Sanctifying Gifts (Part 2)

The Empowerment Gifts (Part 1)

The Empowerment Gifts (Part 2)

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