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February 2022

Teaching By The Lake: Peter's Story

Peter was there when Jesus started speaking to the crowd. He spoke to the people standing by the lake. His words did not make sense to him. This Rabbi Jesus came and got into his boat.  He continued teaching from the boat. Everything he said did not make sense. Then, he turned around and asked Peter to go fishing with him. Peter went reluctantly. He knew that, at this time of the day, any fishing expedition would end up a failure. But he still went. And when the miracle happened and the boats were filled with fish, lots of them, Peter understood. This Rabbi was no ordinary teacher. Peter responded in worship and said: “Depart from me, Jesus. I am a sinner.” He finally understood the teaching by the lake, after he witnessed a demonstration of that same teaching. The manna from heaven is now the Bread of Life for all people. Just as God feeds the sparrows of the field, this Rabbi is showing his love by providing fish for the poor fisherfolk. And so, when he gave him the invitation, Peter did not hesitate. Jesus said: “Don't be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” At that point, Peter knew that his life will no longer be controlled by fear.  He will follow this Rabbi and trust in him always. He now understands the teaching that this Jesus is the Light of the world, the Light who gives life to all who believe. And so, Peter obeys and he wants others to understand Jesus’ teaching by the lake.  

Our Gospel reading for this Sunday (02/06/2022) is from Luke 5:1-11, where we see the story of Jesus calling his first disciples, including Peter. One question we could ask ourself here is: What are some teachings that only make sense after they are demonstrated to us in real life?

Comfort Zone in Australia

“Darwin is my comfort zone. This city is so familiar to me. I have no ambition of moving to another place or even traveling to other states here in Australia.” Emma expresses this sentiment to me. We are on a virtual meeting. I am here representing FMWM-Asia, providing some form of encouragement to our Asian missionaries like Emma, who are out there doing God’s work. 

Emma Betonio Agarao, or Pastora Emma to most of her Filipino friends, is a Free Methodist  cross cultural worker in Australia. She came in 2000 and started a fellowship in the city of Darwin. Although she came with a bachelor’s degree in theology, she started off as a bi-vocational church worker, pastoring this group during the weekend and working office hours during weekdays. The group is called the Light and Life in Jesus Christ Church Ministry (Free Methodist Incorporated) and was registered in April 2001. This fellowship grew into a church of 50 or so members who come from the Aboriginal communities and many other ethnic groups.

During our online meeting, Emma testifies of God revealing His plan for Australia through a dream. After the affirmation of various church members and the confirmation of the “voice of the Spirit of God,” she is starting a new work, a church plant in the metropolis of Sydney. She will be moving there this March, to live close to her son and daughter’s families. She shares with me that “God had already laid [out] His plan and I must obey Him because He is my Master, and the Holy Spirit is my strength, and His presence is my comfort and [He] assures [me] that I am not alone doing the work of God.”

I praise the Lord for cross cultural workers like Emma, who take a step of faith obeying God and going to different places to start new fellowships.

Emma, together with her husband, Rodolfo, are Filipino missionaries assigned to Australia. They have two adult children, Rodeo and Christen Joy. Please pray for the new work in Sydney, Australia.

Love For Outsiders

Our Lectionary Readings from the Gospels is found in Luke 4:21-30, where Jesus mentions two foreigners, Zarephath and Naaman. These two are outsiders, outside of the promise for the Chosen People, and yet they received God’s blessings, God’s provision and healing. As a result, “all in the synagogue were filled with wrath” (verse 28).   

When was the last time you saw an outsider receive God’s goodness and, as a result, your heart was troubled?

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

Do you feel like an outsider or one of the Chosen People?

“In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame! In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me!” (Psalm 71:1-2).

“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.” (1 Corinthians 13:4. MSG)

Are You Moving With God?

When we see a ship, we think of the ocean. When we view a paddle and a canoe, we cannot help but think of the many adventures we will be facing. We look forward to traversing rivers and going to new places. Adventures galore!

In the same breath, when we see God in his holy temple, we also think of the oceans of people scattered in the world. We cannot help but think of global cultures, of people who need to hear the gospel. We long to share God’s love and holiness to everyone out there. This is why when we hear our Lord ask the question: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” then, we respond with Isaiah by saying “Here am I!” (Isaiah 6:8). We move because God is out there, just as much as he is here with us.

Are you moving with God, just as a ship is moving with the wind and the ocean? Is your faith stuck, not moving with the river? (Ezekiel 47:9) Do you long to move with God?

You might have noticed that I did not use the word “going.” Going is for those who will cross cultures and jump from one area to another. Moving is for everyone who is willing to hear God’s challenge and respond in obedience. When Jesus said to his disciples: “Don't be afraid; from now on you will be catching people,” he is also saying this to everyone who wants to follow him (Luke 5:10. GNB). Movement is an integral part of our Christian faith. When we walk with Jesus in a life of obedience, this means we take a journey with him, similar to sailing the vast uncharted parts of the ocean. One thing for sure is that our Lord is sailing with us.

Seeing our God move in the world means coming to a state of readiness to move with him. So, the next time you open your Bible and read of God’s movement, pray this short prayer: “Help me Lord to move with you.” And then take a step of faith and be with the people who needs to receive the river of life, who needs to experience the ocean of God’s love.