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photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)
photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)

Because of its length, I've decided to split this story over three days. You can find Part 1 on yesterday's post, and the conclusion will come tomorrow morning bright and early (if you live on the east coast of the US.)

Enjoy:

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This brought a smile to his face, so I said it again.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

This time I heard some accent from the crowd. Once again, this time even louder I cried out,

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

The more I called out the more the crowd grew. It was curious to me that my captors would help this one they so feared, but they—I—continued to call out the virtues of these men of God.

When we got down to the river, we had quite a crowd. This manPaul, began to try to quiet the crowd. He said they had come down to the river to pray. It was the time of day that those women meet down here every day.

But today, the crowd was large. Rather than pray, Paul tried to teach, but the crowd was restless. He tried to lead in prayer, but that did not work either.

All the while, I stood up at the head of the path that lead down to the river calling out my now familiar declaration.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

Finally Paul sat down and kept silent. After about an hour of silence, he got up and walked back out to the road we came in on. He and his companion, Silas, headed back into the village, and the crowed followed along with them.

I led the way, calling out as we went,

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

I wasn’t sure where they were headed next, but as we got to the edge of town, they headed into the Lydia’s, the fabric shop. Lydia lived above the shop, and there they went for the evening meal.

I stood outside in the street, and continued calling out  the words my seeing spirit gave me every few minutes.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

I finally went home after dark, fearing my master would have harsh words for me. He didn’t disappoint me. But this time there was something new. He hit me. I knew, or thought I knew anyway, that he had beaten my mother from time to time, but until that night, he kept his hands to himself around me.

“Don’t you ever walk out on our shop again while we have a line of customers,” he roared.

I slept well that night. The night was cool. The air was still. The voice was silent.

But with the light of dawn, the voice returned. It compelled me to find Paul again, so I headed back to Lydia’s where I found him speaking to a small group in front of the shop.

Then I started again,

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

All day and everywhere they went, I followed with my incessant call. I could see now my keeper’s plan. This call, though it seemed like a great pat on the back at first was wearing, not only on Paul and Silas, but on those would be followers as well. By the end of the day, their number was down to just a few women. There was no longer a man in town who would walk with the pair.

Again when I returned home, my master beat me.

“I don’t have a choice.” I wept. “The spirits make me go, make me follow. If I don’t go, there no telling what they would do to me.”

He didn’t understand—or carebut he did stop hitting me.

“You’re mother could turn it on and off. She didn’t go trailing after strange men.”

“She didn’t make you the kind of money I make you either, did she?”

As soon as the words left my mouth I was sorry. The blows began again. Finally he left me, sobbing and huddled in the corner. He stormed out, slamming the door. I locked it behind him. I wouldn’t venture out even to eat that night. I cried myself to sleep, hoping tomorrow would be different.

I really didn’t want to taunt these men again, but there was some part of me that hoped for a chance to hear the older one, Paul speak once more. His words cut through the clamor in my head. Each time I tried to listen to his preaching, the voice would repeat my tedious refrain.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

I’m not sure I slept that night. For hours I lay with my eyes closed, trying not to press against one of the bruises the brute left on my body. I rolled over and over, top, bottom, left, right, half asleep. I dozed off just as the birds began to announce the dawn, and there it was again, this irresistible  urge to go find Paul and Silas.

I crept out of my room, trying not to wake my master. Thankfully I could hear him snoring in his room as I tip-toed by it. Off I went to find them.

[To be continued.]

Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of I Am Free

To read more first person encounters check out my new book Encounters With Jesus.It's a collection of forty stories from the life of Jesus through the eyes of those He touched. Available now in paperback or kindle editions.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by,

See you tomorrow,

Ben

1

photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)
photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)

Over the next three days, I will be sharing the first draft a new story that will be part of an upcoming book, Encounters With the Holy Spirit. This story ran a bit longer than my usual posts, so I am breaking it into three installments. You can read it day by day, or come back Wednesday and read all three at once.

Some of the ideas for the life of this young slave girl were inspired by the Praying Medic podcast:
"Alan Champkins – From Witch Doctor to New Creation."

And now, with no further ado:

I Am Free

A Slave Girl

I wasn’t always able to see, but my mother told me it was in my blood. She could see. Every time she put food on my plate, she reminded me it was her sight that paid for the food. It was the sight that gave us a place to sleep.

She told me tales of her life before the master bought her, on the street, begging, starving, in rags and tatters. She loved to tell me of the day her gift caught the master. To hear her tell it, you might think she was the master and he the slave. But that’s not really how it was.

On my sixth birthday my mother first put her hands on me, and asked her spirits—that’s what she called them—to share her sight with me. She told me it was for my own good—that I would thank her some day.

She must have already known she was sick then, but she didn’t tell me until she could no longer serve the master’s customers. That day came two years later. I was almost eight the day my mother couldn't get out of bed to sit with the guests.

I thought he would kill her right then. When she choked out her refusal with blood on her lips, I feared he would kill her for her weakness.

Then she told him about me.

“She has the gift too,” she told him. “She can see your guests.”

His eyes searched me. At first, pride filled me. My mother trusted me. But as he looked me over, I felt like property for the first time. The change hit me. My sight was not just going to put food on our table. Gone were the day when my mother and I would play at seeing. Now I had to see on demand, I had to tell his guests their fortunes. I had to put food on his table.

My gift—this sight—shackled me. It demanded my obedience. It put requirements on my life which I was too young to bear. My sight was my jailer and I felt it’s manacles. Every time I tried to stop seeing—stop knowing—life would turn against me. I can’t explain it. It seemed like everything turned sour. So I kept seeing, and my sight treated me well. And that made my master happy too.

The master seemed unsure that first time, but in a few short weeks, lines of customers down the dusty path to his door—all day—every day, convinced him. The gift was strong in me, stronger than it had been in my mother.

Those weeks were my mother’s last. She grew worse every day. My time with her grew shorter as the lines at the door grew longer. She died in our bed while I told a Grecian man of the woman he would meet. I cried myself to sleep that night. He hired a couple men to bury her in back of the house that was my home—prison—workplace. The men who buried my mother didn’t know her. No one spoke a word on her behalf. I was reading leaves for a hand full of Phoenician women when the soil filled her grave. He cared so little for her—for me. She worked for him for thirty years without complaint. She gave him her days, her nights, her body, her soul, and now, her own daughter—me. And he tossed her into a hole in the ground without so much as a wooden marker.

That’s when I began to hate him. The sight of him turned my stomach. And yet, I had to eat, and I knew of no other way to live.

One day, two men walked past the door of our shop in Philippi. As they walked by, I felt them and looked up. Really it was my internal jailers who sensed them walking by. The business men who had come from Antioch to get advice from my seeing voice started as I ran out of the room and into the street.

When I caught up with these men, the spirits in me went berserk. My insides were out of control, and I couldn’t stop them from speaking. Usually I have a measure of control. They show me things, and I use my words to bring their influence to my customers. But this was different. I’m not sure what I was sensing. At first I thought it was joy—a strange elation—at the sight of these two men. But now I see it was darker—perhaps fear—dread.

The spirits that speak to me—show me things—have never been fearful before. Never before has their command been so immediate and so compelling. They drove me out into the street, and I started following these two men. I was not the only one following them. There were at least eight other women and two or three men following after these two as they headed for the river. There’s a place down there were some of the women of the city have been meeting to pray and worship the Hebrew God. That’s exactly where we went.

I pushed through until I was right behind the one they called Paul. When I was sure he could hear me, I started saying,

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

[To be continued.]

Come back tomorrow for part two of I Am Free

To read more first person encounters check out my new book Encounters With Jesus. It's a collection of forty stories from the life of Jesus through the eyes of those He touched. Available now in paperback or kindle editions.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by,

See you tomorrow,

Ben

3

They broke into the room in a furor. Caught in the act! All their suspicions confirmed, and the truth, right there in my arms.

Before I knew what was happening, they grabbed me, one by the hair, and two others took my arms. My feet stumbled to keep up with their pace but soon I was just so much luggage, pulled along behind them. Out the bedroom door, down the stairs, each step down sending pain up through my legs. All my kicking and struggling just added to my agony.

At first I was screaming for help, then I realized who my attackers were. This angry mob that broke into my home and dragged me out into the dusty road, was made up of those who were supposed to protect me, the ones I was supposed to call when I was in trouble. One wore a police uniform, two had the backward collars of the clergy. I recognized store owners and local businessmen. Even the mayor was there. I thought I recognized the pastors from three local churches.

Amid the shuffle, I heard someone ask, “What do we do now? Where to?”

The forward motion stopped and then they let me drop to the ground, face in the dirt. A foot pressed into my upper back holding me to the ground.

Then I heard a voice I knew. “Our law calls for stoning.” It was my rabbi. This man witnessed when my parents named me. He taught me the Torah as I came of age. He officiated at my wedding.

There was general agreement.

But then a voice I didn’t know called out, “Let’s take him to the teacher who just arrived in town. Let’s see what He'll do.”

Everyone seemed to love this idea, so they took up my arms again. Again my feet tried to gain purchase, but someone tripped me so I couldn’t get my balance. The short walk through town seemed to take hours to me. My mind was racing. My emotions skittered from fear to rage to shame and back again.

What would this man do with me?

When they found Him in the dusty square, they dropped me at His feet. As I looked at His dust-covered sandals, the stories of this man—Jesus—came to me. He’d been teaching in the square, and healing the sick. He healed dozens of men and women in the two days he’d been in town. Lame men were walking. The blind woman I see in the market every day could see. But I knew He was a Jew, like me, and they called Him a rabbi.

By now all my accusers had rocks in their hands, and some of them called out hurtful names.

My rabbi now addressed this outsider.

“This filth was caught in the very act, in the arms of a man. Our law says this abomination should be publicly stoned to drive this evil out of our land.”

Then he left me there in the dirt and backed away, stone at the ready. As he backed away he finished with “What do you say, what should we do?”

A cry went up from the angry pack, “Stone him” and then the vile epithets came in a wave, “Homo. Queer. Faggot. Queen.”

At the sound of these words, my tears began to flow into the dust inches from my face. The bile was rising into my mouth as everything I held dear slipped through my fingers. My life was over, and I felt I had hardly lived. Twenty eight short years ended by these hands of hate.

Part of me wanted to agree with this mob, and part of me hated them right back. Somewhere inside me was a voice screaming with the crowd that I deserved this scorn, a voice that called along with them, “Your broken.” How could it all end like this? If I could, I would go back and make it right. I didn’t want to hurt my wife this way. I didn’t want my kids to be fatherless. I didn’t want to die with this sin, this betrayal, this ugliness, the only legacy I left behind.

Then this rabbi they called Jesus, bent down. I turned my head toward Him to see what He was doing. It looked like He was drawing in the dust. I wiped the tears from my eyes so I could see what He was doing. He was writing. With my face so close to the ground, I couldn’t make anything of the words.

He stopped writing, still crouched down near me, and looked up at the army of hate surrounding us. He raised His hand to quiet them and said,

“The one of you who has no sin should throw the first stone.”

All the shouting turned to a murmurs, and soon silence.

I raised myself up enough to see what He was writing.

“You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall not bow down to idols.
You shall not take the name of the Lord lightly.
Keep the sabbath.
Honor your father and mother.”

My heart told me I had broken each of these, and many others too. Now my tears came in torrents. I was sobbing.

The Rabbi didn’t finish. He didn’t have to. Through my tears I was astonished to see we were alone in the street. The mob was gone, and the street was littered with stones. They just let their hate fall in the dust and moved away.

Then Jesus crouched down; He put His hand under my chin, and raised my eyes to meet His. Our eyes met.

He took the sleeve of His well-worn robes, and wiped the tears from my eyes.

“Son, where are your accusers?”

With my voice shaking, I said, “There’s no one left,” then cautiously, “except You.”

“Then, I don’t accuse you either. I want you to go and turn your life around, no more life of sin.”

He helped me up to my feet.

I hurt all over, bruised and battered from head to toe, but something deep inside was fixed, healed. The brokenness I felt minutes ago was gone. The confusion I lived with since the day of my bar mitzvah left with the mob. There was something rising up in me. Free? Forgiven? Clean?

I went home. I asked my wife to forgive me. Tears flowed again, from both of us. I sat with my children and repented before them. My humility before them broke the shame they carried because of me.

I can’t say meeting Jesus has made my life easier, but He gave me a path to walk, and gave me a desire to walk it. For the first time I can remember, I’m free from shame and regret. I’m free from the confusion. I’m free to be the man God created me to be.

I’m free!

===

Does this picture challenge your heart as much as it does mine?

Let me know how your heart reacts.

benheadshot1See you again soon.

Walk like Jesus.

Ben

5

Its flashes are flashes of fire,
The very flame of the LORD.
Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor will rivers overflow it;

Song of Songs 8:6-7 NASB

The edict came from King Ahab that the entire nation must come to Mount Carmel. The messenger who came through our village said even the women and children must come.

So we packed up some food for the journey—thankfully we only live a day’s walk from Carmel in Megiddo. My younger brother had to travel for a full week. He and his wife and four children live across the Jordan in Rabbah. They came and spent the night with us, and then we all made the trek up to the Mountain the day before the assembly.

We arrived early in the afternoon and set up our tent at the base of the mountain. There were already thousands of tents stretching as far as the eye could see. Even though it was inconvenient to close our shop and leave our lives behind, it was great to be with family. On every side of us fires burned and the smell of meaty stews and roasts filled the air.

As the sun went down, the sounds of joy and laughter fill the air. Families and friends reunited under the stars. We sat around the fire and told all the stories of life since the last time we had seen my brother.

The evening wore on and the fires began to burn down one by one across the encampment. Soon we too let our blaze dwindle and headed into our tents for the night.

A sense of apprehension began to settle as the talking waned. Why did Ahab call the nation together? What did tomorrow hold?

Early the next morning the shofars began blowing calling us up the mount. I gathered the children from my brothers tent. They slept with their cousins—a rare treat. Mazel, my wife, put together some food for later in the day. Then we all headed up hill to the peak where the crowds had begun to gather.

As we arrived and got settled, I saw that there on a raised mound of earth before us, they had erected a large stone altar. In front of us on the left, a large group of lavishly clothed foreigners were assembled. To our right stood one old man dressed in a leather wrap of some sort. It looked like he was covered with hair from top to bottom.

As the crowd swelled, this hairy man came to the center and began to call out to the crowd. As he did I saw that the king himself came up to join this old man. At the same time that woman he married—that outsider—Jezebel—went over and stood with the garishly dressed strangers on the left.

Someone blew a shofar and the hairy man signaled for our attention. The crowd hushed. Then this old man began to speak. His voice boomed,

"How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him."

Complete silence was the only answer he received.

"I alone am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal's prophets are 450 men. Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God."

Now this sounded interesting. I grew up hearing the stories from my papa of the miracles in days gone by. Every now and then you hear a tale from some far away place. And I have to admit, it no longer felt like we were God’s chosen people. Yes, we brought our yearly sacrifices to the altar in Dan, but after three years without rain, we felt more God forsaken that God chosen.

This one old man laid down a direct challenge for the old God of Israel and the strange gods of Jezebel, and the people loved the idea. It started as a mummer, some scattered clapping, but in short order it was a booming cheer.

The old man raised his hands and waited till the crowd settled down again. He then began to speak again, this time directing his words to the mob of Jezebel’s prophets,

"Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it."

By about ten in the morning they were all set. Rather than slaughter their ox, they bound it and laid him on the altar. The first sound we heard was his fearful bellowing. Then they began to worship—at least I think it was worship. It was a strange arrangement, nothing like the worship of the old God of Israel. They were dancing and shouting and some were beginning to take off their ostentatious robes and scarves. At first the crowd watched in wonder and silence. As the worship intensified, the crowd began to lose interest, and began to ignore what was going on above.

This continued for a couple hours, and just as my stomach began to rumble, hoping for a noon meal, the old man stood up again and began to taunt these pagans. They has been calling on Baal now for more than a couple hours, and there had been no answer.

If ever there was a day to call down fire, this was it. After three years with no rain, this place, high above the surrounding land was ripe for fire. Wildfires came and went on a regular basis these days, and keeping fires contained was part of our daily lives.

But there had been no fire today—not here on the mountain top. No fire in answer to the calls of hundreds of prophets. No fire to consume this ox, which had fallen asleep there on the altar. No fire to answer our burning question. No fire to say “Baal is god, worship him.”

So Elijah—my brother overheard someone say that was who this old man was—began making suggestions to the prophets of Baal.

“Call out Louder. Perhaps your god is on a journey. Maybe he’s out to lunch. Could be he is in the bathroom. Where’s the fire?”

At this these prophets of Baal began to strip their chest bare and cut themselves, letting the blood from their own veins flow onto   the altar. Some climbed right up on the altar beside the ox and let their blood flow on the poor animal. He was awake now and struggling against his bonds.

As I watched I became more and more appalled at their actions. There were some things they were doing that made me cover my children’s eyes. It was sad really. How could they think that a god would be pleased by such a strange display?

This went on all afternoon. These prophets of Baal—there were hundreds of them—worked in shifts, fifty at a time, dancing, crying out, cutting themselves, until finally, as the hour of the evening sacrifice approached, Elijah stood once again. There had been no voice, no answer, no god paid attention to any of these prophets of Baal.

Elijah said, “Come to me.

He began assembling an altar to the Lord. With the help of a few strong men, he assembled twelve large stones, one for each of the original tribes of Israel. We were only ten tribes now, ever since Rehoboam and Jeroboam divided our kingdom. Still he used twelve stones.

Then he dug a trench around this altar, and arranged the wood on the top. Next he slaughtered the ox, the same way the priests do it at the temple in Dan. He assembled the body parts of the ox on the wood.

This next bit is where it got strange again. He called for water. He must have brought it along, since water was scarce in these parts, especially in this drought. He sent four men off to bring four pitchers of water, and poured it out all over the altar, the wood, and the ox. Then he sent them back for more.

Now the altar was glistening in the setting sun. You could see it dripping off the ends of the wood, and rolling down the sides of the stones.

“Once more,” called out the old man.

So a third time, the men poured water down over the ox and altar, until then the water filled the trench.

The time of the evening offering had arrived, and Elijah stood to his feet, raised his hands up over his head and said in a voice like a trumpet,

"O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word.

"Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again."

At that moment, while Elijah’s words were still echoing in the distance, a pillar of fire descended from the sky directly upon Elijah’s altar. The roar it made was at once terrifying and wonderful. The heat was intense. I don’t know how Elijah could stand so close and not be consumed, but he stood right there, hands raised, face to the blaze.

As suddenly as it came, it was gone. The fire was gone; The heat was gone; The ox was gone; The wood was gone; The stones were gone; The fire even consumed all the water in the trough. Nothing was left but the old man. Strangely not a hair on his head was even scorched.

He turned to us, and lowered his arms.

Immediately everyone in the crowd fell, face to the ground, and began to cry out, “Yahweh is God. Yahweh is the only God. There is no God but Yahweh.” We cried out for what seemed like an hour, worshipping the Lord Almighty, the God who answers by fire.

Elijah called out to king Ahab then, and told him to gather up all the prophets of Baal and the prophets of Asherah, 850 in all, and bring them down to the brook Kishon. He insisted that not one be allowed to escape.

There, with the nation watching in awe and horror, this prophet who just called down fire, killed every one of these false prophets, and let their blood double the flow of the brook.

Finally, he turned to Ahab, as the crowds began to disperse and said,

"Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a heavy shower."

I gathered my family and we headed back down to our tents. I didn’t sleep at all that night. I could see how my life had strayed from the true worship of Yahweh. Of course I was still doing my sacrifices. But I allowed other things to fill my time, and we almost never spoke of Him outside of the synagog. We did not worship Him in our home. We did not teach our children when we arose and before we retired.

That day, I turned my heart back to the Lord God of Israel. That day I became a priest to my family once again. That day changed everything for me.

I will never be the same.

~~~

If you want to read the biblical account of Elijah on Mt. Carmel you can find it in 1 Kings 18:19-46. If you enjoy hearing the scripture stories from a new vantage point, check out my book, Encounter With Jesus, available now on Amazon.com.

Thanks for coming by today,

Shine where you’re screwed in.

Ben

3

But Peter said,"I do not possess silver and gold,
but what I do have I give to you: In the name of
Jesus Christ the Nazarene--walk!"
Acts 3:6

Look At Us

A Supplicant

From before I can remember, my papa and I would go down to the temple at the hour of prayer. He wouldn’t close his shop for the day. He put a note on the door and left everything just as it was. Then he stopped at home to get me. Mama and the girls would stay at home getting dinner ready.

“Men are made for prayer,” my papa would tell me, when I asked him why my sister didn’t have to come.

Before the praying started, the rabbi would say a few words, to guide our petitions. Mostly I didn’t know what he was saying, and didn’t much care. But I still remember one talk.

The rabbi read from the scrolls containing the Psalms. The Psalms were always my favorite readings. That day he read from one of Solomon’s psalms.

He will have compassion on the poor and needy, And the lives of the needy he will save. Psalm 72:13

Then he told us that any man who gave to the poor was doing the Almighty’s work. He continued by telling us that when we put alms in the hand of the poor, it is as if we are putting our money directly into the hand of the Lord Himself.

He reminded us of the proverb:

One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed. - Proverbs 19:17

The next day when papa came to get me, I remember asking him for a penny.

“My little Gideon, what will you do with a penny today?”

“Papa, I want to give it to the lame man who sits near the temple gates. He’s there every day, and Rabbi Yosef says if we give to the poor we lend to the Lord.”

“Well then, that’s just fine, Gidi, we’ll both give the Lord a loan today.”

He went back into his room where his coin purse hung on a hook on the wall.

“Here you go Gidi my boy, you can carry them both, one for you and one for me.”

I can still remember how cool the copper felt in my tiny hand. From that day on we never went to the temple without two coppers for the lame man there. Papa told me he had been there as long as he had lived in the city.

I’m twenty now, and my papa and I still close up shop for the hour of prayer every day. I’m married and have a boy of my own, but I still work in my father's shop. It won’t be long before my little Josiah starts working with us too. We still grab a few coins to give the beggar as we head out of the shop.

One day, as we neared the temple there were some men standing over our beggar. We thought of him as our beggar, since we had given him money for more than fifteen years. We rarely stopped as we walked by. We just tossed our coins into the hat that sat before him.

I’m not sure I had ever seen his eyes. His eyes are always on the dust of the path. It may have been shame that kept his eyes from meeting ours, or perhaps he simply found people more generous without the tacit confrontation of his gaze. In any case, we never stopped there, but dropped our coins and kept moving.

These two men were standing right there and talking with him. As we approached I heard the beggar repeat the words I had heard a thousand times.

“Do you have a coin for this cripple.”

The words were so familiar to me. They were a part of me, like our meal time prayers, or my sisters giggles. I think it was those words that kept the memory of Rabbi Yosef’s message about giving to the poor so fresh in my mind.

One of the men gave a sort of shrug as if to say, we have no coin to share, but then the other reached out his hand, not as though he was going to give something, but as if he was going to pull him up out of his cot.

At this point our lame friend didn’t see what was going on, because he was still looking down.

As this stranger reached his hand out, I heard him say:

“Look at us!”

The crippled man raised his head, tentatively at first, but once he got a look at this man’s eyes, he began to look—I don’t know how to say it—with his whole face. The eyes I’d never seen, and the face I knew only by profile, now looked directly at this man—he sounded like a Galilean—with his outstretched hand.

"I do not possess silver and gold,”

At this the lame mans gaze wavered with an edge of disappointment.

“but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene--walk!"

His hand hung there for what seemed like minutes, until finally the lame man grabbed it and they both pulled, the Galilean pulled up and the lame man held on with both hands. Then he was on his feet.

As I stood staring it started to dawn on me how impossible this was. I may have never seen this man’s eyes, but his feet and legs sat out there in the dust and grime of the temple courts every day. They were shriveled and useless. The man had to be forty years old, and he had never used those legs for anything.

And now he was standing just a few steps away from me.

He bent over at the waist and reached down with his hands and felt his legs. I could see that they were no longer the tiny twigs that lay beside him yesterday. These were legs, with flesh and muscle.

He took a cautious step or two—feeling for his balance—testing his new legs, getting a feel for this unfamiliar sensation. Then he was walking, then leaping, then walking and running and leaping, all the while shouting praises to the Almighty, and praises to Jesus that Nazarene who was crucified just a couple months back over on skull hill.

The crowd was growing now, and the beggar—everyone knew him—was leaping and shouting praises—and shaking everyone’s hands.

The one who had lifted the lame man off his bed called for silence, and a hush came over the crowd. We all wanted to hear what this man had to say.

I later learned this was Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples. He began to preach to us about how God the Father had sent Jesus, His servant, and how we had crucified the Lord’s holy and righteous Son. This fisherman began to open our eyes to the words of the prophets and of Moses himself, and show us how in our ignorance we had killed the very Son of God.

As he preached the temple priests saw the ruckus and called the temple guards, who arrested Peter and his companion John, but not before Peter led thousands of us to faith in Jesus.

That was the day the Lord fulfilled His promise to me. For years I had lent Him my pennies, and today, He paid me my interest. He gave me an inheritance far beyond the value of copper, silver or gold. He gave me new life.

~~~

To read the original story, see Acts 3:1-4:4.

Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2015 - all rights reserved.

Encounters With JesusIf you enjoyed this brand new Encounter With the Holy Spirit, you might like my book, Encounters with Jesus. It is a collection of forty stories told in similar fashion, from the conception of Jesus through His resurrection. It's available now in paperback or kindle versions.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by

See you again soon.

Ben

3

Here is a free chapter from my new book, Encounters With Jesus. The book contains forty such encounters, looking at the life of Jesus from conception to resurrection through the eyes of dozens whose lives He touched.

The book is available in paperback and kindle.

Encounters With Jesus makes a great forty day devotional walk through the life of Christ. Each short retelling includes the original references so you can go and read the Gospel account.

 

Christ And The Rich Young Ruler - Heinrich Hofmann

“I’d say it’s easier for a camel to go through
a needle’s eye than for the rich to get into God’s kingdom.”
Mark 10:25

What am I Lacking?

Rich Young Ruler

Growing up with wealth, I never thought much about the things that worry other people. I can’t remember ever being hungry or wondering whether another meal was in the offing. I never wore secondhand clothes.

My father was wealthy, and I’m not talking about money. Sure, there was always money, but money is a by-product of wealth. Many people get that turned around. They think, “If I only had ten thousand denarii, I’d be set.” What they don’t get is that wealth produces money. The lands my father passed into my hands and the herds and flocks I own produce all I could ever need.

I am always well dressed, and when I’m out and about, I usually have a few of my closest and dearest servants with me. I have always been able to afford entertainment. I can lay down enough coin to buy some happiness, but there has always been an empty place deep within me.

Recently, one of my attendants, a Jew like me, experienced something that changed him. Don’t misunderstand—there was nothing wrong with him before. He was always on time and faithful to me. He was trustworthy, and I could allow him to handle my money and manage my holdings.

But one day when he came into my presence, he . . . I don’t know. He just lit up. When I asked him about it, he told me he’d been passing through town and stumbled upon a crowd. His curiosity drew him in, and the words he heard held him there.

He said, “Now I am a disciple of Jesus.” He asked me if I would allow him to spend time listening to Jesus’s teachings while He was in town.

I have to tell you, he was so different.  For the first time, I felt he had something I didn’t. He kept talking about eternal life and living water. Though he was an indentured servant and subject to my command, he seemed to stand in greater freedom than I.

Since he said this man, this Jesus, was going to be in town for a few more days, I told him we could go together to hear Him talk.

When we arrived, He was having a conversation with the Jewish leaders, and it seemed like they were laying a trap for Him. They were pressing Him with leading questions. It was an obvious attempt to discredit Him in front of His rather large following.

I couldn’t hear the whole conversation, but the leaders from the synagogue walked away perturbed. As they left, the crowd began to press Him. Women sent their children in to touch this Jesus. I could tell His entourage was getting upset with the way people were crowding Him. But He put His hands on each of the children as they came to Him and spoke a blessing over each one. No two of the blessings were alike. He was speaking into their future and creating a path for them to follow. I was so impressed with every word He uttered. He never wavered, but spoke with a profound authority. My parents never spoke into my life like that. Yet here is this man from Nazareth picking up the children of total strangers and giving them a destiny. It was wonderful to behold!

I wanted Him to speak into my life. I wanted the eternal life my servant spoke of. I wanted Jesus to speak words of hope over me. The child inside me cried out for His touch.

Before I thought better of it, I dashed right into the middle of everything, fell to my knees before Him, and revealed what was in my heart.

“Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?”

There I was, on my knees before Him, feeling quite foolish and just a little hopeful.

He looked at me—honestly, it felt more like a probe than a look—and He said:

“Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God.”

I got the impression He was asking me if I thought He was God. I grew up in a good Jewish home. I know the Lord God is One. But He kept speaking.

“If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you. You know the commandments . . .”

The commandments. Excellent! I grew up in the home of a Jewish businessman. From a young age, the commandments were pounded into my brain. Business is built on trust, and wealth flows from righteousness. We read the proverbs over and over, and the commandments hung on the kitchen wall.

“Which ones?” I asked Him.

He started to list them:

“Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.”

As He was listing, I was counting to myself and trying to figure out which ones He missed. But when He finished, I told Him I had always kept the commandments. I was beginning to feel like this whole conversation was kind of strange. I thought He was going to speak a blessing over me. I thought He was going to receive me with open arms. I thought He would be eager to have such an important and outstanding follower. Why were we talking about me keeping the commandments? You know how things race through your mind.

“Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!” I said. “What am I lacking?”

He got quiet for a minute, and then a new look crossed His face. What was it? Love? Compassion? Pity? Sorrow?

“There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.”

Now I got quiet. Was this a joke? A trick? A test? Sell it all and then just give the money away? And to the poor, no less. I am okay with giving alms. In fact, a portion of my earnings is set aside every year for the poor. But to give the indigent great sums of money can create an entitlement mentality. It undermines their ambition. It’s not a good idea. Why doesn’t Jesus know this?

Besides, how would I live? These guys look like nomads. They travel constantly from place to place. They have no visible means of support, and I’m not sure I trust the one holding their money. You learn to get the measure of a man in my line of work.

What is He asking? Is He really demanding I just walk away from a fortune accumulated over the course of generations? What if I have children someday? What would I leave them? Didn’t wise Solomon tell us to leave an inheritance to our children’s children?

I’m not sure if He knew what I was thinking, but His gaze never faltered.

My eyes must have been asking what my heart was calculating, because He nodded.

“Everything.”

My servant came over and helped me back to my feet. I turned away from this frustrating man. This was not how I expected the scenario to play out. I wanted what my servant had—that joy, peace, and freedom. But instead, my emptiness was deeper than ever.

To this day, I can’t figure out if I rejected Him or He rejected me, but in the end, I know we both walked away saddened.

Occasionally I wonder if I could do it, if I could forsake all and follow Him. But I realize it would be like putting the very core of my being to death. He was asking me to turn away from my identity, from who I am.

I can’t. I just can’t.

~~~

To read the original story, see Matthew 19:16-31, Mark 10:17-31,
and Luke 18:18-30.

Copyright - 2015 -  Benjamin Nelson

If you would like to buy these books in quantities, or get a supply for your church's bookstore contact me via email - Ben@AnotherRedLetterDay.com.

Don't forget to shine!

Ben

4

It's here - it's finally here!

I'm so excited to announce the release of my new book:

Encounters With Jesus.

Encounters With Jesus - Available Now
Encounters With Jesus - Available Now

This book was birthed right here at Another Red Letter Day. My interaction with this wonderful community of faith has encouraged me to write, and keep writing. So I want to say a huge thank you to all of you.

It is available in both Kindle and paperback editions.

I'm hoping that you'll share it with your friends.

If you have not been following my blog, let me bring you up to speed.

Encounters is a collection of forty stories from the life of Jesus. What is striking about these stories is the way they look through the eyes of the people He touched.

What would it have been like to be on the boat when Jesus calmed the sea?
How would it feel to see your son raised from the dead?
How would you react if Jesus asked you to sell all that you have?
Can you imagine standing at the foot of the cross?

I walk through the life of Jesus from before His conception to His resurrection speaking in dozens of voices.

To those of you who have shared life with me the last few years as a blogger, I hope you will join me in praying that this simple approach to the life of Jesus will draw men and women to Him. Will you pray with me for the impact of this book?

If you’re on the fence, here are some reviews and such:

A Must Read! by Debby Maciorowski

Encounters with Jesus by Felecia Clarke

Encounters With Jesus  by Kristyn Mogler

Encounters With Jesus | Book Review by Steve Bremner

An Interview with Benjamin Nelson by Felecia Clarke

Ben NelsonThanks so much.

Remember: Shine where you're plugged in.

Ben

7

See page for author [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“You don’t have to wait for the End.
I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. “
John 11:25

Today We Live

Thomas

I thought we came here to die.

A few days ago, we heard Lazarus was sick. At first I was sure we would head down to Judea. We had been up in Gennesaret when Andrew first heard the news from a friend of Martha’s.

She had sent word north hoping the Master would come back down and visit him in Bethany. Lazarus and his whole family had been so good to us. Every time we passed through Bethany they hosted us, and we often stayed at their home when we were in Jerusalem for the festivals.

When we were together, there was a special dynamic between Jesus and Lazarus. The Master always made time to get away alone with him. Jesus made a huge impact on everyone in that family.

When I think of the change in Mary, his sister, I’m still amazed. I didn’t know her before, but she had a reputation around Jerusalem. I had heard stories about her. Everyone just assumed she needed to get married and submit to a husband’s leadership. No one suspected seven demons lived within her. It was sad.

To see her now, you would never know. The Lord broke down that stronghold in her life and began to pour in love. He treated her with honor. He cared about her. She changed inside and out. The once loud and bawdy woman now loved nothing more than sitting at the Master’s feet as He taught us.

Now they were calling us to come and help. There was a note of desperation in Martha’s message. She was afraid for her brother’s life.

The night we got the message, Jesus said, “This won’t end in death. It will end with Father and Son receiving glory.”

When He said that, I looked over at Peter. He was usually willing to ask the hard questions, but he put his finger to his lips and slowly shook his head.

Two days later, Jesus suggested we head back down to Judea. Last time we were in Jerusalem, they tried to kill all of us. Walking the streets of Judea with us was not for the faint of heart. I’m certain we were all thinking it, but it was James who came right out and asked, “Isn’t that suicide? Last time they almost stoned You when You healed that blind man.”

Then He said:

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up.”

At that, Judas chuckled and said:

“Master, if he’s gone to sleep, he’ll get a good rest and wake up feeling fine.” 

“Lazarus died.”

Jesus said it, making plain the point we were all missing:

“And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.”

Everyone started talking at once. Peter didn’t want to go at all, and John was talking with James. From where I stood, I couldn’t tell what they were saying. I shrugged and said:

“Come along. We might as well die with him.”

Have you ever had one of those moments when you raise your voice above the din so the crowd can hear, and, at the same time, everyone suddenly stops talking? That’s what happened as I said it. Everyone just stared at me.

So I said it again, quietly this time.

“We might as well die with him..”

We left the next morning.

When we arrived, you could see that the mourning had been going on for days. Martha must have gotten word we were on our way, because she met us at the edge of town. When she reached Jesus, she fought to keep her tears at bay.

“Master, if You’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever You ask God He will give You.”

He said to Martha:

“Your brother will be raised up.”

You could tell she had been crying, and His words set her off again. When she regained her composure, she mumbled:

“I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.”

She said it as though reciting the day’s lesson to her rabbi, but all conviction was held at bay.

Jesus took her right hand in His, and with His other hand He drew her eyes up. I never know what to say when I am faced with such grief, but the Master was not shaken by her weeping.

As she looked in His eyes, she calmed. He said to her:

“I am, right now, Resurrection and Life.”

Then He continued, His words addressed to all of us:

“The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all.”

Then He looked back into Martha’s eyes.

“Do you believe this?”

She said to him:

“Yes, Master. All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world.”

We kept moving on toward the house. Martha ran ahead of us. As we approached, I began to get nervous.  Some of the Jewish leaders who had been trying to kill Jesus were there, as well as plenty of others.

We were not yet in the yard, when Mary came to us. She fell at Jesus’s feet and burst into tears. Her grief impacted Him; He was visibly moved by her sorrow.

Through her sobbing she managed to say:

“Master, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

It wasn’t an accusation, exactly. We’ve all walked with Him for years now and seen Him heal hundreds of men and women. It wasn’t like it was hard for Him or took any special energy. It was just what He did. So why not Lazarus? Why not this one He loved?

By now we were close enough to hear the wailing and crying of the others at the tomb. Again, He was noticeably moved by the sorrowful scene.

He lifted Mary to her feet and asked, “Where have you laid him?”

Martha rejoined us and took Him and Mary by the hand. “Come and see,” the women said.

The grave site was a few hundred yards from where they lived, and many had come to mourn with them. When He saw the closed tomb, Jesus wept.

The Jews who had come out of Jerusalem to pay their respects saw His great love for Lazarus. They had not come to weep. They were there because it was expected of them —a matter of duty—not an act of love.

One of them turned it against Him, though. “This man opens strangers’ eyes, but could not come and help His own friend. What kind of love is that?”

Jesus, still deeply moved, walked right up to the tomb.

“Go ahead, take away the stone.”

Martha was standing beside Him. She leaned in and said, “Master, he’s been in there four days. By now the odor would be unbearable.”

He looked at her, and then turned so all could hear.

“Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

Martha went over and asked a few of her neighbors to move the stone.

With His back to the tomb, Jesus turned His eyes to the heavens and began to pray.

“Father, I’m grateful that you have listened to me. I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd standing here I’ve spoken so that they might believe that you sent me.”

Then He turned and faced the tomb, and in a voice like a trumpet, He called out:

“Lazarus, come out!”

At first, the silence brought time to a screeching halt.

No one moved. I couldn’t breathe.

Four days! What was He thinking?

Then there was a sound, a shuffling, and it was coming from the tomb. Next thing we knew, there stood Lazarus, wrapped head to toe in grave clothes.

Jesus looked at me and said, “Thomas, don’t just stand there; you and Andrew unwrap him.”

At that, the hillside erupted in shouts and cheers and laughter and singing and more shouts. Lazarus ran to Jesus and threw his arms around Him, and then Mary and Martha joined the embrace.

We all closed in on them, until the Master called out from the center, with laughter in His voice, to give them some air.

We all headed back to the house, where we feasted and talked, singing the praises of God and recounting the day.

In the middle of all the rejoicing, I stepped back and looked at Jesus. I have never known anyone who felt so deeply. He’d known just what He had planned from the beginning, and yet He mourned with those who mourned. Now He rejoiced at this life He had restored. No one knew as much joy as this man, nor as much sorrow.

I thought we came here to die, but today we live. And what a life we live when we walk with Jesus!

~~~

To read the original story, see John 11.

Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2015

Encounters With Jesus - Available Now
Encounters With Jesus - Available Now

The story above is a chapter from my book Encounters With Jesus, which is a compilation of forty such stories. It takes the reader from Christ's conception to His resurrection through the eyes of dozens who were touched by His ministry.

You can get your copy today in paperback or kindle on Amazon, or for your Nook at BN.com If you want both you can get the Kindle version for only 99c when you buy the paperback on Amazon.

3

James Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
James Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary,
his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him.
Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts:
gold, frankincense, myrrh.
Matthew 2:11

A Star Speaks

Magi

Last night I had a dream—at least I think it was a dream. An angel stood before me and told me not to trust Herod, but to leave without passing back through Jerusalem.

In days past, my nation, Babylon, took captive many people from many places. Most of the people we conquered were content to be alive and, over time, assimilated to our culture. I don’t suppose anyone liked slavery or living in foreign lands. But our king in those days, Nebuchadnezzar, would have our captives evaluated. He believed it was a waste to put great minds in the fields or strong bodies in the counting house. People were not as likely to revolt if they were capable in their occupations.

You’re probably wondering who I am and what I’m doing here in Bethlehem.  Some call my sect stargazers; some think we’re magicians. In reality, we’re students—students of the wisdom we’ve gleaned from the cultures we have conquered.

When I finished my apprenticeship about five years back, I took on the writings from a peculiar people, the Hebrews.

The strange thing about these Jews is that they would never assimilate. They never became Babylonians—not even Babylonian captives. They were Jews and only Jews. They kept their customs and their ways. They dressed alike and stayed together. There were some, of course, who intermarried and some who left the worship of their God. Some even mixed their religions with others in our massive melting pot of culture. But most Hebrews held tight to their traditions and to their God.

One notable Hebrew captive was a young man named Belteshazzar. His Hebrew name was Daniel. I call him “the dreamer.” He and a few of his fellow Jews rose to places of great influence in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. He was a seer. He could read dreams and was able to see into the future. He often spoke of a coming messiah revealed in the Hebrew writings. This deliverer would come to release captive Israel. He spoke of a king for the Jews who would come when the time was right.

One night about two years ago, a new star appeared in the heavens. We called it a star, but it was unlike any we’d studied before. Most of the other stars circled the night sky, but this star was always right overhead. We observed it for a few weeks, and there it stood every clear night, shining bright and strong.

We began calculations to determine what it might be and what it might mean, and everything pointed to Israel.

We brought this information to our nation’s leadership. They wanted nothing to do with a king born in the land now occupied by the Romans. Our day had past, and Rome was a force far beyond our grasp.

My fellow astronomers and I began to look to others to support a journey to see what this star meant. As we told of the ancient stories of a king born in Jerusalem and sent from the Hebrew God, many listened. There were many who still held to the religion of the Hebrews.

They donated supplies for our journey and gifts for this king—most notably gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It took a few months more to gather enough support to make the nine-hundred-mile journey. By the time we were ready to travel, we had not only accumulated much to offer this new king, but we’d gathered quite a following.

We decided to take the route used by Israel when they made the trek back to their land. 450 years ago, Ezra led many Hebrews back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and their temple. Rather than heading straight across the desert toward the star, we traveled northeast along the Euphrates and then south along the Jordan River.

We arrived in Jerusalem three days ago and met with Herod and his counselors. They directed us to Bethlehem. He offered us a handsome reward if we returned and guided him to this young king. I see now that he was plotting to destroy the child and this threat to his own reign.

Yesterday, after almost two years of planning and travel, we met with this child king. I was beginning to fear that the whole thing was a huge mistake, but nothing could have been further from the truth.

It was late afternoon by the time we reached Bethlehem. We asked around, yet no one knew of a boy king. We stopped and considered the star once more as evening approached. It seemed to be guiding us. I can’t explain how we knew, but we followed this guide right to the house where Jesus was staying.

We knocked on the door. The man who greeted us seemed unsure what to make of our foreign garb and the entourage that followed after us. I was not sure what to say either. My heart raced.

“Is this the home of the King?” I asked, unable to contain my excitement.

When I said it, I saw the tension leave his face.

“You must mean the child, Jesus. Wait here,” he replied.

I could see that the home was far too small to welcome our company, so we waited without while the man of the house left us. Moments later, he returned with a couple and their young child.

“This is Joseph of Nazareth and his wife, Mary, and her child, Jesus.”

Mary’s eyes grew when she saw our troupe, and she drew Jesus behind Joseph.

“What business do you have with us?” Joseph said.

I then fell to one knee as I looked upon the child. He looked like any other Hebrew boy, but there was something different in the air. I sensed a calm flowing out of the house. The curious boy peeked around Joseph’s legs and stared at us, his little head cocked. I’m sure we looked strange to these Jews, with our camels and colorful robes.

“We have come to pay homage to the One born King of the Jews. Is this the child? Is this the One the prophets foretold, the One called Emanuel?” I said.

“Yes,” Mary said. “His name is Jesus, and His miraculous birth was foretold by our prophets for hundreds of years.”

“We have come to worship this Messiah of the Jews with gifts from our nation.”

Then we presented our many gifts. The gold we carried made a fitting offering for a king and the frankincense a worthy homage to a holy man. The myrrh was a curiosity to me, because it was so melancholy. Yes, it was a precious and costly gift, but it spoke of death, which did not seem a fitting gift for child or king.

Our gifts accepted, the young couple took us into town to find a place for our party to stay the night. The inn was full but offered to let us rest in their stable. Before they left us for the night, Mary told me this was the place of the child’s birth.

How could it be that One so important, foreseen for centuries, could be born in such lowly surroundings and to such common people? Their house was tiny, and there were no attendants or servants to care for Him. This child of peace and grace should be in Jerusalem, in the great palace there.

It was as I slept in the hay that I had the dream. A man—an angel perhaps—stood before me and warned me not to return to Herod, but to go home another way. We returned to the house the next morning and told the couple of my dream. Some wanted to stay in Bethlehem and serve the young king, but his parents insisted we go, for our safety and theirs.

There is something within me that does not want to leave. This place has a hold on me. The child has captured my imagination. I don’t want to leave, but how can I stay?

What will become of this young king?

~~~

To read the original story, see Matthew 2:1-12.

Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2015

Encounters With Jesus - Available Now
Encounters With Jesus - Available Now

The story above is a chapter from my book Encounters With Jesus, which is a compilation of forty such stories. It takes the reader from Christ's conception to His resurrection through the eyes of dozens who were touched by His ministry.

You can get your copy today in paperback or kindle on Amazon, or for your Nook at BN.com If you want both you can get the Kindle version for only 99c when you buy the paperback on Amazon.

2

640px-Miracle_Fishes
"Miracle Fishes" by Alexander Bida - WCG. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

 

It’s been a couple weeks since we found the empty tomb and things are just not getting back to ‘normal.’ After that first night, when Jesus just appeared in our midst, James and John started talking about heading back to Jerusalem. They wanted to put Jesus on a warhorse instead of a donkey this time, and march into the city. What could stop Jesus from taking His rightful place in the temple, or in the palace for that matter?

But then a few days passed. Thomas returned and we couldn’t even convince him that Jesus had risen from the dead. We hadn’t seen Jesus in days. We got together every day in the same room where He appeared to us that first night. At first we had met there to avoid capture by the Jewish leadership. After watching the way they got rid of Jesus, we were afraid for our lives.

Since that first appearance we met there everyday, always expecting that Jesus would show up again. I wasn’t sure everyone would be back after the Sabbath, but we all know what we saw. We hoped He would join us again.

Finally, after eight long days Jesus appeared again, and this time Thomas was with us. Jesus offered his hands and His side to Thomas. But again, no word about what was next.

Of course Jesus never gave us much warning about what was next. It always seemed like He knew just what to do and when. But we never had the week’s itinerary before hand. We’d get up in the morning and Jesus would say we have to go to Samaria, or let’s head over to Cana, or sometime it was “head across the lake, I will catch up with you in Capernaum.”

In the last three years, I can’t remember any stretch of eight days when we weren’t off doing something.

But now, silence.

Yesterday morning I was pretty frustrated as we sat and waited. It was past midday and I had to do something. I said, "I’m going fishing” and about half of the guys followed me out the door. We left the rest of them there waiting, but I could not stand another day of doing nothing.

Fishing has always been what I do when I don’t know what to do. It’s been like home to me since I was a boy. I used to go out with James and John on their father’s boat. There is so much there that’s familiar. It lets my mind work out problems. It’s where I screwed up enough courage to ask for my wife’s hand in marriage. It’s where I learned to pray. It’s where I met Him, on the shores of the lake.

The others who came along, did so not because they loved the idea. It was more likely they, like me, just didn’t know what else to do.

It was a long night, and it was not helping. Usually out here in the calm of the night, under the patchwork of stars and clouds, my mind and heart opened up. But this night it was shut up tight. Something was weighing on me. I’m not even sure what it was, but there was a pressure building on my inside.

Besides all that – not one fish – every net – every cast – empty. Even Andrew, who loves to drop a line off the back of the boat while we work the nets, was coming up with nothing.

It reminded me of the first time I met Him. We had been out all night – just like tonight, and like tonight caught nothing. As we sat cleaning our nets, He just walked up with a huge crowd of folks pressing in on Him. He walked right up to me and asked if I would take Him just off shore so everyone could hear and see him.

Well, the crowd spread out on the hillside, and we put out a couple dozen cubits. Then He taught them. At first I kept busy with the cleaning of our nets, so they would be ready for the next day, but as He spoke, His words drew me. They had a force, a pull, that I couldn’t resist. I noticed James and John sat on the shore, nets in their laps, listening too.

I have no idea how long He spoke, but after a bit He turned to me and said:

“Let’s go get some fish. Take us out a ways, will you?”

I remember thinking, “This young zealot may know everything about God, but He doesn’t know much about fishing. If there were going to be fish, they would have been there last night. Now it’s the heat of the day, and we won’t be seeing any fish till evening.”

Still, I was so impressed with His speaking, it would be a chance to spend another hour with Him, even if nothing came of it.

So I cast off and headed out. I can remember John making some mocking remark as we headed back out to fish, and Jesus and I just laughed. There was such joy in Him. He could be so serious at times, but the joy was always there, like bedrock at the core of His being.

Then I let out my net, and this part I remember like it was yesterday. First I heard a patter against the side of the boat. When I looked over the gunwale, it was as if the water was alive, more fish than water. And as we started to draw the net back, I thought our little boat was going to capsize. Then the nets started to tear.

I signaled back to James and John who were just loading their nets back into their Father’s boat, and they headed out to help us. I think we got more fish in that one afternoon outing, than we had taken in the last month. That was the moment I fully grasped that He was indeed Messiah. That was also the day He told us He was going to teach us to catch men.

As I thought back, some of that tension I was feeling lifted, but then I saw that the horizon was beginning to brighten. It was morning. We were out doing what we did best, and had nothing at all to show for it. My funk, which had lifted slightly, slammed down with such force I thought I felt the boat shake.

It was then that I heard Him. From the shore I heard Him calling, at least I thought it was Jesus. I couldn’t tell for sure, but there He stood on the shore, beside a roaring fire, signaling for us to come in. I looked at Andrew, Thomas looked at John, and all at once we said “It’s Him! Is it you?” we all called.

“Drop your nets on the other side.” He called from the shore. As we did, there it was again. That patter on the side of the boat. The fish were jumping into our nets before we even got them into the water. It was like the only reason they were alive was to find their way into our nets.

As soon as I saw what was happening I hit the waves. As I swam toward shore, I can remember thinking “I should have asked Him to let me walk again.” I got a mouth full of water as I laughed at that.

When I got to shore, I figured it out. As soon we embraced, I realized what was dragging me down, what kept haunting my days and leaving my bed empty at night.

I had denied this One whom I loved more than I had ever loved anyone. This man who had given me three years of His life, stood alone before the Roman Empire and the Jewish power system, and I couldn’t – wouldn’t – even admit that I knew Him.

We ate fish for breakfast. Some of the fish we caught, and some that He already had on the fire. It seemed everyone around the fire that morning was exploding with joy, but I was quiet.

Jesus caught my eye and said,

“Simon”

He had given me another name, “Peter,” but in tender moments He would still call me my given name.

“Simon, let’s walk.”

As we left the group He put His hand on my shoulder and asked,

“Do you love me more than these?”

What was He asking? Did He want to know if I loved Him more than my fishing companions? Was He offended that we left the upper room and headed to the boats?

“Yes Lord, You know I love you,” I said, with a defensive tone.

He said, “Tend My lambs.”

We walked along the beach in silence for a few minutes.

“Simon, son of John, Do you love Me?”

“Yes Lord, You know I love you.”

This time He said “Shepherd My sheep.”

We walked along and came to a large driftwood log, and He sat down and gestured that I should join Him.

This time He almost whispered the question.

“Simon, son of John, do you Love Me?”

“Yes Lord, You know everything. You know I love you.”

“Tend My sheep.”

It was then that I realized the last time we talked one on one was when He told me I would deny Him three times. Now He gave me three chances to acknowledge Him, three times to declare myself for Him.

Three failures redeemed. Three wounds healed. Three chains holding my heart, broken off and thrown into Galilee. Jesus would never speak of these three failures again. The evil one could never use these three denials to accuse me. These three sins were GONE, and I was free.

As we walked back to the others, we talked of other things, but just before we reached them, He said, “Follow me.”

My heart cried out, as it did the first time He said those words to me, “I will follow You.”

A few minutes earlier I would have been afraid to make any promises, after my last failure, after my last promise ended in such disaster. But everything in me knew I would be following Him till my last day. And this time, if need be, I would die with Him.

I will gladly take up my cross and follow Jesus.

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Copyright - 2014 -  Benjamin Nelson

If this retelling of Peter's story ministers to you, would you please share it with a friend.

If you would like to read more stories from the gospels retold in this way check out:

What Am I Lacking? - A rich young man's encounter with Jesus.

What I Found at the Well. - A Samaritan woman's meeting with Jesus.

Blood in the Sheets. - A moving account of the woman who touched the hem of His robes.

 

Fictionalized John 20 and 21 and Luke 5