John 21: “Restorer of the Repentant.”

 One of the most compelling portraits in John’s gallery has to be the last one on the wall. Just as you’re about to leave the gallery you’re met with an image of forgiveness that just simply blows you away! Jesus didn’t just restore Peter, He gave Peter the opportunity to repent!

After Jesus’ resurrection, there were a lot of stories going around about the tomb being empty. The two Mary’s saw it, and Peter, knowing he had messed up, was really interested to see if it was true. Well, Peter saw the empty tomb but was still upset that Jesus was gone and that he never did get a chance to say he was sorry for denying him three times. In our reading today we find a bunch of disciples together sitting on the beach just hanging out talking about their experience with Jesus. Fed up with reliving the past Peter looked at them says, “I’m going fishing.” The rest of them sitting there were like, “well, were going with you.” If you’re going with me, he says, then you better get going…come on!

In our reading today we find a bunch of disciples together sitting on the beach just hanging out talking about their experience with Jesus. Fed up with reliving the past Peter looked at them says, “I’m going fishing.” The rest of them sitting there were like, “well, were going with you.” If you’re going with me, he says, then you better get going…come on!

I believe Peter was both scared and lost at this moment. He knew that when he denied Christ that he crossed lines he shouldn’t have crossed. In fact, I think when Peter thinks back to the denial, he would say that there was so much going on that he really didn’t deny Christ, he was just tired and under pressure.

Not sure if Jesus was really going to come back, Peter must have been thinking, you know what, just leave me down here on my own, but I’ll wait for it.

At this point, while Peter is trying to get life back to normal and cover up how he feels, his heart is screaming inside saying, please, please, please, come back and sing to me. Sing to me Lord, the song of your life.

All the activity on the boat couldn’t stop Peter from stopping what he was doing and looking out over the water, with tears in his eyes he realizes how bad he wants it. He realizes all that he denied. He wants it now, now, to me, he thinks as he pounds his fist on the railing of the boat. To me…Then it hits him!

Coldplay – In My Place

In fact, it hits him so hard, he falls to his knees. It was in my place, in my place, were lines that I couldn’t change…I was lost, I was lost. So Peter now turns to us and asks: How long must you wait for it? How long must you pay for it?

This is Peter’s song, but not just Peter’s song, it’s our song! It’s the song that we sing when we realize that we too have denied Christ.

John 20:1-20 (NLT)

What an incredible image! What an incredible promise! Peter was given his second chance and there was no way he was going to mess this up. Can you image the way Peter felt before this day? He knew he messed up; he knew he failed his Rabbi, and he wasn’t sure he was going to get an opportunity to make it right.

Jesus restored Peter and he desires to restore you today, but that will only happen of your heart is repentant.

John 13: “Servent Savior”

John 13:1-10 (NLT)

Before we begin to unpack the implications found in the scripture passage, let me set the scene for you.

It was customary that the lowest servant of the house would wash the feet of the guests as they came into the house, especially for formal meals like this. We’re not sure why, but for some reason, there was no one available to wash the disciples feet as they came in.

This would have been a formal meal around a common U-shaped table called a “triclinium.” The disciples would have been reclining on mats at the table. The table was so low to the ground, the disciples wouldn’t have sat on chairs, in fact, if they were sitting in chairs, it wouldn’t have been a big deal if their feet were dirty. But instead, they reclined at the table, which meant that dirty feet would have made the meal pretty awkward and uncomfortable.

As I read this passage one of the questions I have is, “why didn’t the disciples wash each other’s feet?” In fact, why didn’t they take the initiative and wash Jesus’ feet?

Maybe the conversation they had during the meal can educate us on the reason this didn’t happen.

Before we look at that conversation and Jesus’ response, you have to remember in the disciple’s minds; Jesus was still speaking in code about going away and establishing his kingdom.

So Luke 22 reveals the conversation and makes sense why they didn’t serve each other.

Luke 22:24-27 (NLT)

Jesus taught the disciples some radical concepts while he was with them, but this one was as a radical as they get. But the beautiful picture is Jesus didn’t just teach His disciples how to be servants; He showed them how to be servants.

John 13:4-5 (NLT) So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

If Jesus wanted just to display the “image” of a servant, he would have had a servant or even of the disciples do all the prep work. He would have quickly wiped a damp cloth on a couple of dirty feet and consider the job done. That would have given the “image” of servanthood and loving leadership, but Jesus gave himself completely to the work of getting everything setup and prepared to wash the disciples feet.

Jesus washing the disciples feet was a powerful moment and experience for the disciples. In fact, the foot washing was so shocking; Peter initially refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet at all. But again, Jesus wasn’t just teaching them a lesson; He was showing them the lesson. He showed it in a way that illustrated what His life was all about.

Not only was the foot washing a powerful lesson; it was a powerful parable: Think about the connection between heaven and earth at this moment:

  • Jesus got up from his earthly table, a place of comfort and rest
  • Jesus got up from his throne in heaven, a place of comfort and rest
  • Jesus took off his earthly robe, removing his outer covering
  • Jesus laid aside His glory, taking off his heavenly covering
  • Jesus took an earthly towel and wrapped it around his waist ready to work
  • Jesus took the very form of a servant and stepped down from heaven ready to work
  • Jesus poured water into an earthly basin, ready to clean
  • Jesus poured out his blood to cleans us of our sin
  • Jesus after washing their feet sat down
  • Jesus sat down at the right hand of the father after cleansing us on the cross.

Servant leadership can’t be just something we say, it has to become something we do or even someone we are. We have a model for us in the person of Jesus Christ. I challenge you today to get up, take the towel of the servant, wrap it around your waist, and start washing feet.

Mark 16: “Including Peter”

If you’ve never failed God, this reflection is not for you. But if you’ve ever promised God something, but not done it; if you’ve ever resolved to overcome some persistent sin, only to mess up repeatedly; if you’re plagued with guilt over sins that have defeated you; then, this reflection is for you.

Although Marks reflection of the resurrection is short by comparison, it’s not without a powerful and profound moment. If you’re not careful in your reading, you could run right past the two most hope filled words in the whole chapter, especially for those who have failed God.

Mark 16:5-7 (NLT) When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”

A question to ask is, why did the angel add, “including Peter?” You better believe that the risen Lord made sure to specifically include these words, knowing they would eventually get back to Peter. Peter, who just a few short days earlier had fallen completely on his face and denied Jesus to his face, was now included in the list of disciples. Now that’s grace!

Can you imagine the scene when the women got back to the disciples? The disciples are sitting in a small room; looking at each other wondering, what now? Suddenly the women barge into the room, out of breath, talking about the angel they met who was sitting inside the open tomb. I’m sure Peter was thinking this can’t be, but then he heard them say, “including Peter!”

What did you say? The angel said, “including Peter,” really? Are you sure that’s what the angel said? Tell me, what were his exact words?

As we’ve already discussed in a previous reflection, scholars agree that Mark’s Gospel was written primarily under Peter’s influence. Picture Mark, quill in hand, writing, “Go, tell His disciples.” There’s Peter looking over his shoulder, saying, “‘including Peter!’ Mark, don’t forget to write, ‘including Peter!’” Remember, this is the same Mark who had failed Paul on the first missionary journey. You can be sure that the words are accurate. Those two short words say to us:

The Resurrected King offers hope to all who have failed God

How have you failed God? What have you done to disappoint Jesus? Now think about this, was it as bad as what Peter did right in front of Jesus the night he betrayed him? You may think so, but Peter would probably disagree.

Now think about not only what Jesus did on the cross, but that today he makes it a point to say…”now go and tell his disciples…” including (insert your name here).

Matthew 17: “A Great Place to Be”

There have been many moments in my life when I could say, “This is a great place to be!” It’s typically with my family, and it typically involves weather that’s, you know, perfect. I can remember one such event when my wife and I met my in-laws at Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas. I couldn’t tell you how we found this particular restaurant, but we were on the water, the sun was setting in front of us, the weather was perfect, and it truly was, “a great place to be.” The thing about great places is the fact they’re typically associated with great experiences.

In our reading today we come across one of those such events that would even lead Peter to say, “(v. 4) Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here!” The event was the Transfiguration and according to many scholars it was the event that began the end of Jesus’ life/ministry on earth. As I was reading the details of the transfiguration, I couldn’t help but look at it from the perspective of the three disciples who were there. Although there’s a lot of research regarding the spiritual significance for Jesus, and especially the connection between Jesus’ and Moses’ transfiguration in Exodus 24, lets consider the connection this moment had to Peter, James, and John.

Peter, James, and John

How incredible do you think it would have been to witness the transfiguration of Jesus? To see Jesus’ face shine like the sun, and his clothes become as white as light (v. 2). Peter, James, and John were privy to one of the most incredible moments of human history. If it wasn’t enough that they saw Jesus transfigured, they also saw Moses and Elijah; OH, and they also heard God speak! All in the same moment! But why these three?

Charles Spurgeon is quoted as saying, “These three were very special persons. Some say that Peter was one of them because he loved his Master much; that John was another because his Master loved him much; and that James was the third because he was so soon to die, the first of the apostles who should become a martyr for the faith of Jesus Christ.”

We find in the gospels many accounts that point to the importance of these three apostles. It was Peter, James, and John that Jesus took in the room to heal Jairus’ daughter, and it was these three who Jesus invited deeper into Gethsemane. We just read yesterday that six days before this event, Jesus looked at Peter and declared that the church would be built on his back! Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

We would tend to think that Peter, James, and John were just lucky, but it wasn’t about luck, it was about openness.

Be Open to His Glory

Peter, James, and John weren’t lucky, they were open. Open to follow Jesus no matter where he went or what he did. There’s a difference between those who are open than those who aren’t. If you’re open to all that God has for you, then you’ll be more likely to see Him move in glory and power. If you tend to stay farther away from the Lord, how do you expect to behold him in his glory?  I don’t know about you, but I want to be as close to Him as John was at the Last Supper. Scripture tells us that John was so close to Jesus that he literally laid his head on Jesus’ chest. If I can challenge you, stop hanging back and get close to him today!

I started today by challenging you to think about how incredible it would have been to witness Jesus’ transfiguration, but the real challenge is to stay close enough to Jesus not to miss those incredible moments. Are you walking close enough to Jesus today that he would invite you to join him on the mountain?

Matthew 16: “Upon This Rock”

 

I want to introduce you to Simon, actually his full name is Simon Bar-Jonah, meaning, Simon, son of Jonah, but you may know him as Peter. Sometimes we see him listed in the scripture as Simon, other times he’s listed as Peter, and even sometimes we see him listed as Simon Peter. But the most important thing is to know that Peter’s name means everything.

Something interesting: Whenever you see Jesus refer to Peter as Simon, it is often a signal that Peter has done something that needs correction. It’s like when you’re mom uses your middle name.

Something else interesting: “Peter” was sort of a nickname. It’s literally translated “Rock.” Petros is the Greek word for “a piece of rock or stone.” The Aramaic equivalent was Cephas.

Peter tended to make promises he couldn’t follow through with. He was the type of person that would plunge head first into something but bail out before finishing. He was the usually the first one in, and too often, the first one out. But Jesus wasn’t worried about who Peter was in his past, he gave him this important nick name because he wanted Peter to always be reminded of who he should be, and most importantly the way Jesus saw him.

Caesarea Philippi

Jesus took his disciples 30 miles out of their way in order to illustrate a lesson for them. He took them to a place called Caesarea Philippi, which during this time was the epicenter of evil in all of Judea and Herod’s Cities.

This area was filled with worship to some of the Greek gods. There was a huge hole that during the time of Christ was the location of a huge natural spring. The water that came up from this area was so large that educators believed it had no bottom. It literally was the place for them considered to be the entrance to the underworld or the Gates of Hades as the Greeks called it.

Matthew 16:13-15 (NLT) 13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

14 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

15 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

It’s an interesting question to ask while He’s standing in the heart of worship to foreign god’s, don’t you think? While the other disciples were thinking and fearful of answering the question wrong, who speaks out? Peter of course.

Matthew 16:16 (NLT) 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Peter was able to see that what the world was saying was okay or normal, was neither okay nor normal. And Peter wasn’t afraid to call it what it was. This passionate revelation from Peter was soon to become the heartbeat of the early church and early Christians who were going out into a world that literally recognized that there was at least a dozen god’s in the world.

Matthew 16:17-18 (NLT) 17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church… 

Wait, What? He’s going to do what? He’s going to build His church on top of this rock? Really? Because this rock represents everything disgusting, broken, and wrong with the world we live in.

Challenge

Think about what Jesus was saying to them, He’s saying, I want you to take the message and the love of God, and bring it to this crooked and depraved generation. He was telling them, I will build my kingdom here! He was telling them to build His kingdom there!

Ultimately he was saying, upon you Peter I will build by church. (v. 19) and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.  

 

 

Acts 14: “Seeing Isn’t Believing”

TEDx Talk

As many of you may know, I’m a bit of an information nerd. I’m always looking for way to learn and apply that knowledge to pastoral ministry. Well the other day I found myself watching a TEDx Talk | Victoria, from an Optometrist named Cameron McCrodan. McCrodan is not your ordinary optometrist who checks for acuity and overall physical health of your eye, instead, McCrodan is a Vision Therapist who is more concerned with eye development.

Did you know that seeing clearly (acuity) is only 1 of 17 different skills that’s needed for an efficient and accurate visual system? These 17 skills are developed over time and based on our environmental experiences. This means; what you do at home with your children even as infants, actually shapes the function of their eyes. Our visual system accounts for 70% of incoming sensory information into our brain. I learned just this past Thursday that the optic nerve is the largest nerve in our entire body! All of this is to say that our eyes are really, really, important; and they even play a vital role even in our brain development.

The current sweeping through Acts 14 is one filled with travel, teaching, healing, and persecution, but as usual, I want to look at what’s under the surface of the current. I began to read Acts 14 with a different set of “eyes;” looking for anything that the Holy Spirit could use to spark a bigger idea. What the Holy Spirit taught me through the reading was very simple: “Seeing Isn’t Believing.” Continue reading Acts 14: “Seeing Isn’t Believing”

Acts 10: “Two Men, One Plan”

Leaving off in Acts 9, the church at this point is experiencing a time of peace. Found in the first nine chapters of Acts, a cycle of “quality” and “quantity” begins to emerge in the church’s growth pattern. To put it simply, God doesn’t supply times of quantity, numeric growth, without first supplying times of quality, spiritual growth. This is a very consistent pattern found in the early church. What we’ve seen in Chapter 9 was a time of quality, but now in Chapter 10 we’re about to see another thrust of quantity.

Expansion Plan Given Through Prayer

It’s important to note that God, not man at this point, is the one directing the expansion of the church, and with the conversion of Cornelius, a Roman (Gentile) officer, God is about to reveal His next plan of expansion. I’m very interested in a lot of things here in Chapter 10, but the one that sticks out the most is how God communicated the plan for expansion, through prayer. Look at the examples, we’ll start first with Cornelius: Continue reading Acts 10: “Two Men, One Plan”

Acts 7: “Cut to the Heart”

One of the greatest sermons ever preached is found in Acts 7, and it’s preached by a guy who’s only been an “official” apostle for a short amount of time. Starting with Abraham, Stephen powerfully retells all the spiritual history that has led up to this point in time. In fact, the Jewish religious leaders would have agreed with Stephen and supported his retelling of the history… right up until verse 51: “You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you!” I even wrote next to this verse in the margin of my bible, “uh-oh.”

As I read this, I pictured the council listening intently up until the point of Stephen calling them murderer’s of the Messiah. It’s no wonder the leaders killed Stephen, but there’s something in the language of verse 54 that began to stick out to me.


Acts 7:54 (NLT) 54 The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage.

Continue reading Acts 7: “Cut to the Heart”

Acts 5: “It’s Not About the Money!”

Meet my Friend, “Consequence”

I have to confess, one of my greatest character defects growing up was lying. I would lie about everything, even if telling the truth wouldn’t have gotten me in trouble. I don’t know why I lied but it became so prevalent I started to believe some lies as truth! That’s when you know you’re in trouble.

In fifth grade it was common when you failed a test to have it signed by your parents. I was never fully on board with this idea because I didn’t think it was fair for my parents to endorse something they didn’t earn. I earned the “F” fair and square, so I should be the one to sign it… See? You’re looking into the my fifth grade mind. I never thought the whole purpose was accountability for me to my parents. All I knew was, I bring home an “F,” I get a consequence. Around my house my dad’s 42″ leather belt was nicknamed “Consequence.”

On one particular occasion I failed yet another test. Mortified to have another personal encounter with “Consequence,” I signed my mom’s signature on my test. By fifth grade I had mastered my mom’s signature, while still-to-this-day, I could never copy my Dad’s. There was only one problem: The Holy Spirit had convicted me of this sin, which lead me to erase the signature and turn it in. There was only one more problem: The teacher saw that my “mom” had signed the test, but then erased her signature, so what does any good teacher who loves for their students to meet Consequence do? They call the parent.

My mom and I had a come to Jesus meeting that afternoon and she was so confused why she signed it (the signature was that good), yet I erased it. I never told her the truth. That day, I met Consequence’s friends: Reminder, Reprimand, and Admonish.

Better for me to meet those friends verses the friend Ananias and Sapphira meet… DEATH! Continue reading Acts 5: “It’s Not About the Money!”

Acts 4: “Filled with the Holy Spirit”

I want you to think about this question, maybe even right down your answer: What are all the things you know about the Holy Spirit, or what the Holy Spirit does? Here’s a followup question: How much of your answer have you learned specifically from the first four chapters of Acts?

The reason I ask these questions is to reveal that we know much more about the Holy Spirit than the early Christians. Yes, the disciples heard from Jesus what the Holy Spirit will do among them, but for many new believers, they had to learn along the way.

So lets step into the first days, maybe even weeks of the early church, and look at what they are learning about the Holy Spirit up to this point. For them it was days and weeks, but for us it’s the first four chapters of Acts.

Observation #1: Speaking in Other Languages

In the midst of Pentecost, the apostles find themselves being overwhelmed by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Continue reading Acts 4: “Filled with the Holy Spirit”