Countdown to Liftoff – Day 11

“Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.” John 21:12-13

Always the good host,
Jesus invited His friends to the breakfast table
and then served them.

It seems that Jesus had to urge the men to join Him.
“Come on, I made breakfast.
Come! Yes, all of you!
Sit down. Let’s eat!”

Perhaps they were dealing with feelings of guilt.

Did Peter sit by the fire on the beach and remember how he stood and warmed himself when he denied knowing Jesus? Peter wept bitterly then. Were tears in his eyes now?

Did Thomas feel a bit embarrassed about his demand for proof? He questioned then. Did that seem silly now, with Jesus obviously alive?

All the others ran away in the Garden, when their Rabbi was arrested. Were they ashamed that they checked out for the crucifixion and then didn’t even have the guts to come out of hiding to help bury Him?

The Teacher was concerned about His students. Jesus knew that the way to break through all the messiness was to bid them come and share a meal. He put them at ease, they let down their guard. Healing could begin.

Some issues had to be dealt with,
but first —
a banquet on the beach,
breakfast with the boys,
bread for all the brothers.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 12

“Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.” John 21:10-11

Jesus provided the great nets full of fish,
but still asked the disciples to bring something to the table.
God will generously supply what we need,
not so we can hoard it,
but to use His provision for the good of the body.

153 large fish.
It’s a curious detail.
Who counted them all?

Was it one of the fishermen, James or John, incredulous at the record haul? Or Thomas, needing to know the exact number to believe it? Or Nathanael, who thought, “Can anything this good come from this lake?” Or was it Matthew, one of the “other disciples”, who couldn’t resist counting and categorizing and recording numbers?

Three years earlier, the miraculous catch
began to break the nets and sink the boats.
Not this time.
Jesus was giving His “fishers of men” a glimpse of the future.
The Word would be cast out to the nations
and it would not come back empty.
The harvest would be plentiful, beyond count, from the ends of the earth.
The unsinkable, unbreakable Kingdom had come.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 13

“The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.” John 21:8-9

Jesus cooked up breakfast on the beach for the boys.
In fact, He had the very thing the disciples had spent all night trying to get.
Except these fish were cleaned, gutted, grilled and ready to enjoy.
Plus bread.

PB and I are attempting to do some landscaping work in the front of our house. Every professional landscaper is booked into 2023, it seems, so we are stumbling and bumbling our way through the project. We have been driving around the neighborhood, looking at other front yards. Sometimes we roll down the window and yell out to the homeowner, “What’s the name of that tree?” We wander around garden centers, wishing someone would just tell us what to buy. We’ve spent weeks trying to figure out what zone we are in and why that matters.

We are not good at this.

Let me re-phrase that.

I am not good at this.

PB is doing all the real work,
but I give him lots of encouragement from the front porch.

On the advise of the guy at the local nursery, we bought an Autumn Blaze Pear Tree and it was delivered this week. Luckily for us, the owner of the landscape place was the deliverer. Actually, he was our Deliverer.

He took one look at our blank slate of a front yard and started throwing out the Latin names of species of plants and flora like a Roman orator. PB pulled out his phone and started recording every word. I grabbed a pen and paper and started taking notes.

He took one look at our blank stares and realized we were in over our heads. So, bless his heart, he told us exactly what to buy and where to plant it and how to take care of it. He designed a landscape plan and marked it out with spray paint. He did for us in half an hour what we had been struggling to make sense of for weeks.

Plus, we made a new friend.

PB and I
(and the fish-less fishermen on Lake Galilee)
would do well to stop striving
and connect with the right person.
Like the Creator of the Universe.
He’s already got what we try so hard to come up with on our own.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 14

“He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.” John 21:6-7

Peter must have thought he was having deja vu.

Three years before, Simon Peter had fished all night with no success.
Jesus had told him to go back out and cast in the deep waters.
That day, the haul was so big it began to sink their boats.

Three years before, Simon Peter had told Jesus,
“Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.”

This time Peter jumped in and got to Jesus as fast as he could.
He came splashing and gasping up onto the beach
while the others struggled to bring the boat ashore.

Peter didn’t really care about the fish.
Once you’re a fisher of men,
it’s hard to be satisfied with fish.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 15

“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered.” John 21:4-5

Not one bite, all night long.
Every single time they pulled in the heavy nets,
they were empty.

That must have been frustrating for those professional fishermen.
Maybe returning to their former jobs wasn’t a good idea after all.

Then a voice on shore called out, “Hey boys, catch anything?”
It’s hard for a boat full of men to admit that something isn’t working.
A dejected and annoyed “no” carried across the water.

They didn’t know what was coming next.
Jesus had only appeared to them in Jerusalem.
They thought they were beyond His reach up north.
Their futures were unclear.
Everything was confusing.
But Jesus was about to change all that.

If they had been successful that night,
in their own strength and striving,
they might never have gone back to ministry.

Lack of success doesn’t always mean we’re failing.
Sometimes it just means we’re going the wrong direction.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 16

“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. ‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” John 21:1-3

Years ago, one of our children spent an extended time in Pediatric ICU. Grandpa and Grandma took care of our other three youngsters, bless their hearts, so PB and I could stay by the bedside of our gravely ill daughter. Finally, after a week or two, I was strongly encouraged to go home for a night. The other kids were missing their mama.

I remember standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes (we didn’t have a dishwasher) and thinking, “This feels so good.” My hands in the warm water, the smell of soap bubbles, the familiar view from the window. A tedious chore any other day, but on this day, washing dishes was such a comfort, a relief, a sense of normal. For those few minutes I could pretend life was the back to the same old routines.

It seems the men from Galilee needed a break from the crowded city of Jerusalem. They had been holed up together for too long. Peter was itching to do something. So seven of them took the four day walk north, perhaps to check on things at home. It must have been a balm to their souls to smell that sea air and hear the ripple of water on the shore. Considering the strangely wonderful but deeply unnerving events following Jesus’ resurrection, it probably felt good to go somewhere familiar and do something normal.

Back in the boat.
Setting the sails.
Throwing out nets.
Sweating in the sun.
Talking to each other.
“Should we go back to fishing for fish
instead of men?”
Jesus was about to show up again and answer that question.

Once you encounter the Savior,
you can’t really go back.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 17

“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.” John 20:30-31
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25

How many books are there in the world?
I’m glad you asked.

“There are 48.5 million published books on Amazon,
give or take a few ancient papyrus scrolls and stone carved tablets.”*

Every year, Amazon adds one million new ebook titles.
Every five minutes, a new book is entered into Amazon’s library.

How many books have been published in all of modern history? 
“According to Google’s advanced algorithms,
the answer is 129,864,880.”**
But they haven’t updated that figure since 2010.

The Library of Congress is the biggest library in the world.
Of its more than 170 million items,
24,863,177 are cataloged books.***

As you can see, it’s hard to keep track.

Is there room for more books? Of course.
I can always find room for more books on my shelves.

The Apostle John begs to differ. If every single thing Jesus did was written down, the world would be over-run with books, it would drown in books, it wouldn’t have enough shelves to hold all the books.

But eternity future will be different. I expect to find a spectacular library on the New Earth with unending shelves filled with stories and biographies and poetry and scientific wonders and history and….and….and….

That’s where you’ll find me.



Countdown to Liftoff – Day 18

“Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.” Mark 16:14

Mary told the disciples she had seen Jesus. The two on the road to Emmaus brought news to the disciples that they had seen Jesus. Even Simon Peter gave an eye-witness report. Why did they refuse to believe it?

The word for “stubborn refusal” is “sklerokardia”.
“Sklero” means dry, hard, or tough.
“Kardia” means heart.

Trauma and grief can do a number on our hearts.
It can make us shut down our emotions and shut out our hopes.
In an attempt to protect ourselves from more pain,
we stubbornly refuse to believe anything good.

Yes, it was hard to believe Jesus was alive.
But He took the disciples to task for their hard hearts.
Jesus expected better from His friends
and interrupted dinner to express sharp, stern disapproval.

Sometimes we need to be comforted,
and sometimes we need a kick in the pants.

Lord, may we have stubborn belief.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 19

“You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:48-49

He didn’t say how long to wait, exactly,
or where to wait, specifically,
or what they were waiting for, precisely.

God is big on waiting.
He is not limited by time or space.
He doesn’t wear a watch or keep a planner or feel hurried and rushed.
He has all the time in the world.

When we’re told to wait, we have a choice how to go about it. We can wait patiently, with trust and confidence in His timing, yet shivering with anticipation. Or we can wait nervously, agitated and grumbling while biting our nails and clenching our teeth.

We once had a dog that knew how to wait. We would put a treat at one end of the kitchen floor, put her at the other end and tell her to “stay”. She never took her eyes off that treat. As she waited, her body began to quiver and drool started to drizzle down from her mouth. She would whimper slightly, give us a quick glance and then refocus on the treat. When there was a puddle of drool under her chin, we would say “Okay” and she would make a mad scramble across the kitchen for the small morsel.

She never knew how long she was going to have to wait.
She didn’t know why her loving masters were causing this suffering.
But the reward was well worth the wait.
Oh, for the obedience of that dog.

For the disciples, the Father’s promise raised more questions.
Did it matter where they stayed in the city?
What did it mean to be clothed with power?
When was this thing going to take place?
What if they missed it when it came?


Countdown to Liftoff – Day 20

“He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.'”
Luke 24:46-47

Remember Easter?
It was only three weeks ago.
Jesus walked out of the tomb
and started showing up in random places.

We’re only halfway through His time on earth between the resurrection and the ascension. At twenty days in, He’s still alive and still going over the same material with His disciples.

Except Jesus began to clarify one important point:
forgiveness would be offered to all the nations.

Including the Gentiles.
That’s us.

Jesus was going about His Father’s business by blowing open the doors of His Father’s House.
The Chosen people would be made up of people who would choose Him as Savior.
The Day of Atonement would be in effect every day of every year.
The Holy Priesthood would consist of multicultural believers.
The Holy of Holies would move into their hearts.
All nations — one Spirit.

This thing was going global to the world God so loved.

“My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Isaiah 56:7