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Tag Archives: the Sea of Galilee

The Gospel and Politics

Certain topics can create division, friction and tension if not communicated in a civil manner.  Yet, when words are accompanied by a loving spirit, the gospel and politics can be persuasive.  One of my friends ran for the House of Representatives in the state of Delaware.  Up against a heavily democratic district, Bryan needed to introduce himself to complete strangers, express his political views and convince several hundred voters to switch parties.  This task required a dedicated team of volunteers.  Initially, I told my wife that I would commit to being part of the ground team, going house to house to drop off pamphlets to potential voters each weekend.  Just as Christians experience lukewarm stages, at some point my heart wasn’t into surrendering my weekends.  I guess you can say, I wasn’t dedicated to due do what was necessary for victory.  While Bryan received one of the largest percentages of votes for a Republican, his campaign to represent the 5th district ended in defeat.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many, Mark 10:45.

During the first century, an obscure carpenter from Nazareth, a shady town overrun by crime began a three year campaign.  While lacking the finances to make a big political splash, Jesus turned to mainly blue collar individuals, fishermen from the Sea of Galilee.  After John the Baptist’s death, Jesus began to travel from town to town, visiting local synagogues.  Before long, crowds of people started following this motley crew as rumors of faith, healings and miracles spread.  Oddly, anyone who experienced these supernatural events were told to keep quiet, unheard of in any type of political campaign.  As followers increased, curious spectators began to see that Jesus was the real deal, a person who practiced what he preached.  This fact only endeared the masses to this uneducated man.  When Jesus began to be embraced like a rock star, jealousy spread among political and spiritual leaders.  This threat resulted in false accusations, gossip and slander to squash Jesus’ popularity.  Yet, after three years of serving, teaching and visiting strangers, Jesus became a man of the people, king of the Jews.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace, 1 Peter 4:10.

The only way for the gospel and politics can work together is if genuine faith unites with statesmanship.  Modern debates has turned to identity politics, putting one class, occupation or race against the other.  If there is a disagreement, the non-conformist is immediately labeled as a bigot, homophobe or racist.  If an opponent can convince potential voters that a candidate is extreme, embellishments, half truths and lies will continue to bombard citizens every election season.  Some where along the way, good news has been watered down by endless smear ads.  The word gospel comes from and old English phrase godspel, meaning good news or tidings.  It’s hard to be positive in a negative environment, especially when shrewd politicians use raw emotions to stir up their base.  Yet, why does the negative make national headlines daily while good stories are avoided, disregarded or go unnoticed?  Perhaps, its time for modern politicians to follow the Jesus model.  Serve one another, help the poor, feed the needy and extend a loving hand to the unwelcomed.  If future leaders begin here, you won’t need a campaign advertisement to get you elected.  Rather, the people who see the love of Jesus displayed by you will form loyal supporters to stand by your side through thick and thin.  This is the possibility of the gospel and politics.

by Jay Mankus

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Troubled Waters

Bridge Over Trouble Water spent six weeks as the number one song in America, sweeping the Grammy Awards in 1971.  The inspiration behind this Simon and Garfunkel classic are connected to Elvis Presley.  A member of the Swam Silvertones, Reverend Jeter became good friends with Paul Simon providing biblical imagery.  Meanwhile, a song from the Everly Brothers album “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us” influenced the lyrics which formed Bridge Over Trouble Water.

When evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 and they got into a boat and started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It was already dark, and Jesus had still not come [back] to them. 18 The sea was getting rough and rising high because a strong wind was blowing. 19 Then, when they had rowed three or four miles [and were near the center of the sea], they saw Jesus walking on the sea and approaching the boat; and they were [terribly] frightened, John 6:16-19.

Unfortunately, most people don’t have a physical bridge to cross when storms stir up troubled waters.  Some people get caught by an unexpected squall, holding on for dear life until this weather system dissipates.  Meanwhile, those on shore try to survive hurricane force winds that create a tidal surge, causing the ocean to overtake land.  Those residents who endured Hurricane Florence and Michael now understand the concept of troubled waters.

Peter replied to Him, “Lord, if it is [really] You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 He said, “Come!” So Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw [the effects of] the wind, he was frightened, and he began to sink, and he cried out, “Lord, save me!” – Matthew 14:28-30

On two different occasions, Jesus was with his disciples on the Sea of Galilee.  During a gale which engulfed their boat, Jesus was asleep, likely testing these men to see how they would respond.  After waking up Jesus, these men acted like little boys who expected to die at sea.  The other encounter reveals Jesus walking on water, approaching the disciples boat at night.  Initially, fog made Jesus look like a ghost until Peter volunteered to join Jesus.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, [b]disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work], Hebrews 12:1-2.

From a spiritual point of view, Jesus serves as an invisible bridge.  The only way to access this structure is by faith.  As soon as Peter got out of his boat, he actually walked on water.  Yet, the moment Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink.  When individuals focus their attention on the storms surrounding them, most sink like Peter.  However, when you fix your eyes on Jesus, faith offers you a bridge to walk over troubled waters.

by Jay Mankus

Going Back to Your Former Way of Life

Following Jesus’ death and Judas’ suicide, half of the disciples began to contemplate what to do with the rest of their lives.  Apparently, Peter already made up his mind, deciding to go back to his former trade as a fishermen.  Based upon the passage below, it didn’t take much to convince several others, spending a night on the Sea of Galilee.  This short passage highlights what happens when people lose faith.  In many cases, the spiritually lost return to their old ways, to their former life before Christ.

Simon Peter, and Thomas who is called Didymus (the twin), and Nathanael from Cana of Galilee, as well as [John and James] the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said, “And we are coming with you.” So they went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing, John 21:2-3.

After a failed night at sea, these six men were dejected, striking out every where they went.  Desperate for redemption, these disciples take advice from a man standing on the shore.  As soon as their nets caught a large school of fish, John put two and two together, recognizing the man on shore as Jesus in resurrected form.  In the greatest fishing story within the Bible, the disciples hauled in 153 fish.  Like grilling on your own deck, Jesus set up a charcoal fire, starting to cook these fish as they were brought to shore.

So when they got out on the beach, they saw a charcoal fire set up and fish on it cooking, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three [of them]; and although there were so many, the net was not torn, John 21:9-11.

The term charcoal fire appears only twice in the Bible.  The first mention occurs just before Peter denies Jesus a third time, warming his hands over a charcoal fire during a cold night.  Perhaps, Jesus choses this form of fire to remind Peter of his past transgression.  During a private meeting in John 21:15-17, Jesus asks Peter if he loves the him three times, reminiscent of Peter’s public denial.  Between the smell of the charcoal fire and these three questions, Jesus is sending a message to Peter. “Why did you revert to your former way of life?  Look at me; I’ve risen from the dead.  Are you ready to get back into the game; eager to feed my sheep, the church?”  The next time you find yourself reverting back to your former way of life, remember this chapter of the Bible so that you remain connected to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

After the Storm

Depending upon where you live, everyone will face some sort of storm in life.  The northern states must cope with blizzards.  The heartland must be on guard against tornados.  The coasts need to keep watch for hurricanes, nor’easters and tsunamis.  Those who live somewhere in between might face a combination of these natural disasters.  However, no one, not even the weather forecasters foresaw how destructive Hurricane Harvey and it’s tropical moisture could impact southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana.

Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping, Matthew 8:24.

After this storm goes away, Texas and part of Louisiana might experience a 9/11 like effect.  Only God knows what lies underneath the millions of gallons of water flooding entire cities.  To rebound from this epic tragedy, communities, neighbors and residents are going to have to come together despite their political differences for a common goal, rebuild.  While news crews are waiting anxiously to air this carnage, nothing can prepare these individuals for the resolve needed to overcome these extreme conditions.  Like the motto following the Boston marathon bombing, Boston Strong, Texas and Louisiana need to unite to rise again after this storm.

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”  He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm, Matthew 8:25-26.

During the first century, Jesus had just turned down individuals who wanted to become disciples.  Perhaps, even some of the twelve disciples questioned their own abilities to meet Jesus’ expectations on a trip across the Sea of Galilee.  Out of no where, a violent storm emerged without warning.  Tired from healing countless needy people earlier in the day, Jesus took a nap.  Fearful for their lives, the disciples woke up Jesus, hoping He would save them.  Based upon Jesus’ response, his disciples had a long way to go, far from the faith expected by now.  For those affected by Hurricane Harvey and it’s tropical storm, may you possess great faith while you cope with the unknowns in the future.

by Jay Mankus

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