The Fisherman’s Trip To The Sea

The Fisherman’s Trip To The Sea

(Acts 9:32-43)

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Studying a map, Peter travels the road from Jerusalem northwest through Emmaus until he reaches the village of Lydda. This is the Lod of the Old Testament, part of the southern kingdom mentioned in 1 Chronicles 8:12, Ezra 2:33, and a few times in Nehemiah. The only time it occurs in the New Testament is in this paragraph. We can assume that the church was established by those present to hear Peter and the apostles preach on Pentecost. Or, perhaps, it was the efforts of those who were scattered from Jerusalem who went everywhere preaching the word (8:4). The route Peter takes to Joppa crisscrosses the road Philip took from Gaza to Caesarea Maritime (Azotus is a couple of towns south of Lydda). Whichever the case, there were already saints when Peter reaches Lydda. This includes a paralytic man named Aeneas, who Peter heals. This causes all who lived at Lydda and Sharon (Song of Sol. 2:1) to turn to the Lord (35). Faith is flourishing and the church is growing.

Peter continues his travels northwest until he reaches the seacoast city of Joppa (today, it is one of the most important cities in Israel, known today as Haifa). When Peter arrives, he’s also there to visit the church (36ff). About the time of his visit, one of the Christian women “fell sick and died” (37). We learn several things about her:

  • She was a disciple (36). This means she is a learner associated with Jesus’ views (BDAG 609).
  • She “was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did” (36). This should not surprise us, as it seems to further define and defend the fact that she is a disciple. Jesus went “about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (10:38). She was simply doing as He had done.
  • She was loved and missed by the local church (38-39). Her death was an urgent matter. They plead with Peter to come quickly. When he arrives at the upper room where she’s laid, the Christian widows are “weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them” (39). 
  • She was raised (40-42). Peter brings her back and presents her alive to the church. We can only imagine what joy this brought the church, but we know that this act caused many to believe in the Lord (42).

The miracles and signs performed in the early church all served the same purpose. They were to create faith in Jesus, the Man, His message, and His mission. Peter remains in Joppa many days, staying with a tanner named Simon (43). It is here that he will be a part of a dramatic turn of events that takes him north along the seacoast (Acts 10). 

When Peter was invited to follow Jesus, he was told, “…I will make you fishers of men” (Mat. 4:19). Did he take any opportunities to go down to the seacoast and fish the Mediterranean while at Simon’s house? I don’t know. I do know that his primary focus now was on fishing for men. God used him mightily in that effort, both to encourage the saints and reach the lost. Likewise, whatever we were and whatever we did before becoming a disciple of Jesus, He can use us in those ways (as He did Dorcas) and leverage our experience to bring about great results to His glory! 

Haifa (biblical Joppa) at sunset
THREE QUALITIES OF A FAITHFUL FOLLOWER

THREE QUALITIES OF A FAITHFUL FOLLOWER

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

preachingatPBL

Neal Pollard

Two parables and an incident in Luke 18:1-17 reveal three attributes Jesus is looking for in His disciples. As you read through these verses, ask yourself if you struggle with one or more of these. The examples Jesus holds up are all lowly characters–a defenseless widow, a sinful tax collector, and babies and little children. They were all either financially, spiritually, or physically dependent on others, yet these are the ones Jesus tells us to imitate. What are the qualities?

PERSISTENCE (1-8). The parable of the widow and the unjust judge is delivered to his listeners for a specific reason, “that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (1). A widow pleaded for legal protection from a judge who neither feared God or respected men (2). She wouldn’t stop coming to him and pleading her case until finally he relented and granted her request out of frustration and annoyance at her continual coming (3-5). Jesus’ point is that the perfect God will bring justice to His elect who faithfully pray to Him (7). He ties this persistence to faith (8). Jesus is giving us insight into God’s heart and desires. He wants to hear from us in prayer, and He is influenced by our prayers. Do we have faith in that? 

HUMILITY (9-14). Jesus launches into a second parable about prayer, to highlight another necessity in the practice of it. He focuses on an unlikely duo, a prominent religious leader and a contemptible tax collector. Both enter the temple, both for the purpose of prayer. Both prayers are recorded. Jesus evaluates them. The first prayer, uttered by the Pharisee, is self-directed (he prayed to himself), self-righteous (God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector), and self-promoting (I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get). He shows no recognition of or need for God. He’s pretty self-satisfied. The second prayer, uttered by the tax collector, is selfless, self-indicting, and self-emptying. Jesus notes his hesitance (standing some distance away), abjection (even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven), emotion (beating his breast), and honesty (his entire prayer is, “God be merciful to me, the sinner”). Jesus’ analysis? The second man was the one who went home justified, not the first. Jesus’ point is explicit: “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (14). I may know more sophisticated ways to exhibit my pride and self-righteousness, but the response and result will be the same in heaven. Faithful followers humbly recognize their need of God’s favor. 

RECEPTIVITY (15-17). Parents were bringing their children to Jesus at this time so that He could touch them. We aren’t told why the disciples rebuke them for this, though it could be they were wrestled with pride of position or self-importance. Jesus corrects their course, telling them to let the children come to Him. In fact, He says, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all” (17). He tells them that the kingdom of God belongs to those like these little children. How so? They were dependent on others (15). They were apparently willing (16). They were open (17). Certainly, this is a great exhortation to us as parents, to bring our children to Jesus in the impressionable years of life. But beyond that, there is an admonition to each of us to keep child-like faith and recognize our need to come to Jesus in order to have a place in God’s kingdom.

Often, we think that being in the kingdom is about us daring and doing great things for God. But, doesn’t it begin with our having the lowliness of heart to come to Him, persistent, humble, and receptive? These three qualities put the focus on His attractiveness, ability, and power. If we allow ourselves to be tools in His hand and recognize that it’s about Him and because of Him, then we’ll be faithful followers. 

Doing It Our Way Instead Of God’s Way

Doing It Our Way Instead Of God’s Way

Neal Pollard

I have pondered lately about why there is such a growing tendency to overlook the plainly revealed will and mind of God in favor of what either lacks authority or violates His Word. It would be impossible to be exhaustive, lacking the ability to read the mind, judge the motives, and know the heart. However, in a general way, here are a few observations.

  • Feelings have taken priority over reason. Personal preference and one’s inner voice becomes the guiding star for one’s behavior and concepts, and truth gets dethroned. Hearts are hardened against revealed truth and decisions are made based on personal sentiment. In an attempt to avoid hurting feelings, escape ostracism, preserve an image with the world, and have its good will, individuals become their own judges, juries, and pardoners.
  • We have witnessed people of influence “get away with it.” For years, our national heroes and leaders, athletes, politicians, and celebrities, have “gotten away with it” (see both presidential candidates). If society’s elite and influential can do wrong and get away with it, why shouldn’t everyone else?
  • God does not practice instant retribution in the Christian Age. God does not execute immediate punishment upon the wicked or wrongdoer today. “He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness…” (Acts 17:31). The fact that some do not get “caught” in sin in this life does not mean God won’t exact justice upon the impenitent ultimately, but because He does not immediately execute sentence against an evil work we can conclude He will not at all (cf. Ecc. 8:11).
  • Man has developed an insatiable hunger for instant gratification. Pleasure and passion, for many, have become stronger determining influences than eternity and judgment. When the flesh is in control, spiritual things are crowded out of the mind. Jesus says that one can only submit to one master, never two (Mat. 6:24). Flesh and spirit are warring parties (Rom. 8:4-8). Gratifying the flesh can kill concern over the consequence of misdeeds.

We cannot do it alone, without God. The fact is, we must totally surrender to Him. His guidance must be embraced. His will must rule. His strength must be accepted. Truly making Him Lord means making His Word the governing influence of our hearts and lives. Such a humble, honest, and heartfelt submission will help us defeat a mindset set on minding our thoughts and ways over His (see Isa. 55:8-9).

Grandpas' Bibles
My grandpas’ Bibles (Mom’s Dad’s on the left, Dad’s Dad’s on the right).