DEEP AND WIDE: DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR KNOWING GOD’S INCLUSIVE LOVE is a collection of 366 daily devotions that follows a chronological study of the Bible. It is written from the premise that the consistent message from God, as clarified through Jesus is that we are called to love, accept, embrace, and include all people. Loving our neighbors is not optional.
This book can be used as a year-long devotional book or can be used as a collection of 366 essays that move the reader through the Bible chronologically.
The Old Testament was all about rules and fear. The New Testament is all about following Christ’s example and being “Jesus” to all people. If we take the Bible as a whole, a single theme emerges: Exist not in fear and rules; rather, live in love. Accept, embrace, and include.
The following is from pages 380-381
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”
As Jesus selected and called his disciples to join him in ministry, few sentences are as important as this one. As they fished for a living, they knew all about it. They must have been good at it or else they would have been forced to seek other work for survival. As he called them he said, “Come and join me in my work and I will teach you all about fishing for people.”
When you go fishing, you cannot be sure of what kind of fish you will catch. When I was a child my family went fishing off the coast of Scotland. It just so happened we passed through a school of cod. There were so many that we didn’t even need bait. Just the lines with hooks on them was enough to catch many fish that day. We were pleased because cod was a favorite of my family. After we starting bringing in the cod, we were actively fishing for more cod. However, that was not all that we caught that day. Other fish were brought in too.
There are more similarities in fishing and serving God in ministry. When you go fishing you never know what you will catch. When you are serving God in ministry you never know whom your ministry will attract or serve.
When we go fishing we do not hang a sign on the boat that says, “We are only interested in catching cod today. All others need to find another boat.” In ministry we should not hang a sign on the church door that equates by saying, “We are only interested in serving White, English speaking, born in this country, middle or upper class, heterosexual people.” When we are in ministry, it is similar to fishing. You do not select the fish you will catch that day. We do not select the people we will meet in ministry. One difference that should be clear is that we cannot discard or throw some people back like we do when fishing.
God’s love is inclusive. Jesus modeled and taught us that we must overcome any prejudices and discriminatory thinking and behaviors. God’s love is for everyone without exception. Churches that exclude some people should not ever teach about Christ or claim to be Christian.
I recently was visiting another church for several weeks due to a family situation out of town. Someone that knew me very well said, “These people here would love you if you let them.” That made me feel good.
What came next erased the sense of welcome. They then said, “They don’t have to know. You do not have to tell them.” So they would love me if I let them but only if I have to hide some of my truth. If I cannot really be the me that God created, then that is not love and that is not acceptance.
Jesus called his disciples and now us to go out fishing for people. All people. If we are fishing for cod we cannot throw the sea bass back. If we are sharing the love of God we cannot tell some people that we are not here to minister to them. We also do not gather up the sea bass and try to turn them into cod.
Erase my limitations and remove my boundaries in service and ministry. I sometimes think that I have arrived when it comes to being an inclusive Christian and then something happens and I discover that I have some more work to do. Continue to teach me and change my heart oh God.
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