Christianity 201

November 6, 2014

When You Feel Like Quitting

This week regular columnist Clarke Dixon ran a more topical piece, Do Muslims and Christians Worship The Same God? which you’re invited to read.  For C201, we went into his archives from the summer and found a piece that actually deals with the verses immediately prior to the passage from Clarke we ran last week.  Click the title — note the alliteration! — to read this at source.

small__4804167810[1]Five Questions for Frustrated Fishers of Men

Frustrated with being a Christian? John 21 begins with a group of disciples who understand frustration as they have been out on the Sea all night with no fish to show for their efforts. But the darkness and frustration will soon give way to new possibilities when “early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore” (John 21:4 NIV). Has the Christian life become full of frustration for you? There are some questions lurking here which may help bring a new morning to your life and witness. Let’s take a look.

5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish (John 21:5-6 NRSV)

The miracle catch of fish is reminiscent of an earlier miraculous catch, which we can read about in Luke 5:1-11. What is significant about this earlier catch is that it leads directly to Jesus’ call of Simon Peter, James and John to be his disciples. Now remembering that all the disciples had proven that they were better at fleeing than following at the first hint of danger, here is a significant and symbolic moment of affirming the call. Despite everything, they are still called. Are you ready to affirm God’s call on your life, or are you about to call it quits? No matter the mess you may have made of it so far, He is still calling. You have not been uncalled. Its a new morning, hear again His call.

7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.  (John 21:7 NRSV)

We should look at Peter’s reaction to the miracle and the Miracle Worker in light of his previous reaction. The first time there was a miraculous catch Peter “fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man’” (Luke 5:8 NRSV). This time, he was so excited and in such a hurry to be with Jesus he “jumped into the sea” (John 21:7 NRSV). Clearly Peter has grown in his relationship with Jesus. Are you ready to jump ship to get to Jesus, or would rather Jesus walk the plank and leave you alone? Does your worship and prayer life give the answer away? It’s a new morning, a deeper relationship with Jesus awaits you.

9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread (John 21:9 NRSV)

Another charcoal fire has been mentioned recently in John’s Gospel, but it is not one of warm friendship. It was the fire at which Peter was warming himself when questioned if he knew this Jesus who had just been arrested. He said he did not. This fire is different. This fire is Jesus’ invitation to breakfast, but more than that, it is Jesus’ invitation to experience grace. Going forward Peter, along with the other disciples, will serve Jesus as those who experienced deep grace. Is grace the fuel that feeds your service, or is your service a fire that consumes grace? Let’s not serve to earn favour or fame, that only leads to frustration. Let’s serve from our experience of forgiveness. It’s a new morning, you are not just a servant, but a forgiven child of the King.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty- three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn (John 21:10-11 NRSV)

Does the presence of bread and fish, and the miracle of so much being abundantly supplied remind you any other miracles? Yes, Jesus has done this kind of thing before, many times actually and we are reminded of the miracle recorded in John 6:1-15 where Jesus takes what they have: “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish” (John 6:9 NRSV), and makes it more than enough to fill the need. Here in John 21 God is going to take what is available, a band of fisherman, and use them to begin a movement that will change the world. Are you making yourself available to God, or are you making excuses to Him? Don’t worry if you not gifted like that wonderful Christian in the next pew. God will take what you have and make it more than enough. It’s a new morning, God will use what you make available to Him today.

12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast” (John 21:12 NRSV)

While there is so much to be done and so much to get doing, there is time to stop for meal. We sometimes hear loud and clear the call of Jesus to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19 NRSV). But we forget that he also said “Come and have breakfast.” Meals are wonderful things. Time to sit down without a goal to be accomplished, or a task to be done. Time to spend with loved ones. Time for nourishment for our bodies.  Are you taking time for meals? Are you resting? Are you having some downtime with your Christian family? Are you feeding on the Word of God? It’s a new morning. Stop fussing about and sit down for some breakfast!

October 30, 2014

You Are a Sheep-Feeder

So how many sheep could a sheep-keeper keep, if a sheep-keeper could keep sheep?

Of course the word is actually shepherd, and the line the way I originally wrote it a few years ago had to do with sheep-shearing. (Try saying it five times!) At any rate, it’s time for our weekly visit from pastor Clarke Dixon.  To read this at source, click on the title below.

Feed My Sheep! (John 21:15-19)


sheep in green pasture15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep (John 21:15-17 NRSV)

You may read the above passage and think: “I’m not Peter. I’m not a pastor. I’m not even a leader in our church, so why would this passage of scripture be important to me?” Here are three reasons.

1. All Christians need a dreadful reminder.

By the third time Peter is asked by Jesus “Do you love me?” he is frustrated and feeling hurt. The question is asked three times by a charcoal fire, not unlike the one by which Peter denied Jesus three times. It is a question designed to remind Peter that it was not that long ago that he was not acting like he loved Him. It is like Jesus is saying “are you really sure you love me? The way you acted back there would say otherwise.”

Here we do not have the “forgive and forget” that we might expect from Jesus. Instead we have “remind and forgive” which actually is much better. While “forgive and forget” might remove the penalty of our sin, “remind and forgive” removes the penalty of sin and spurs us on to remove the future potential of sin. Peter will go on to take care of the sheep, not just from a place of forgiveness, but also a place of repentance. The reminder of his offense is an invitation to do better. According to what we read in verses 18 and 19, Jesus knows that he will. Though you may not be Peter, or a pastor, or a leader, chances are good that you, like the rest of us, can truly benefit from our Lord’s “remind and forgive” approach.

2. All Christians want to express love for Jesus.

While we can and should express our love for Jesus through worship, prayer, and Bible study, we do well to remember what Jesus is asking of Peter: “If you truly love me Peter, you will take care of my sheep.” If we truly love Jesus, we will make His priorities, our priorities.

And His priority time and time again, and to the glory of God, is people. Jesus prayed in the Garden the night before his crucifixion “yet, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42 NRSV). And that will was to go through with the crucifixion, to bear sin of people. People are a priority for Jesus. We can commit ourselves to all manner of godly activities, but are we really about our Father’s will if people are not a huge part of our lives? You may not be Peter, or a pastor, or even a leader in your church, but if you really love Jesus, people will be a priority in your life.

3. All Christians have pastoral opportunities.

The word pastor comes from Latin where it means shepherd or feeder ( Every Christian can think of people in their lives for whom they can be a shepherd.

There is a lot of emphasis these days within Christian circles on “leadership development.” That is good, yes, but sometimes I wonder if there are times we should use the word leader less often and use the word shepherd instead. Leaders get things done and that is good. But shepherds feed and tend the sheep and that is so important. Perhaps you do not feel like “leadership” material, but do you love and have concern for others? Then you are well on your way to being a shepherd. Whether you are a natural leader, or follower, watch for how the Lord calls and enables you through his Spirit to be shepherd to others. You may not be Peter, a pastor, or even a leader in your church, but are you developing a shepherd heart? Why not think and pray over who needs you to be, or better, for whom God is calling you to be, a shepherd.

“If you really love me, you will feed my sheep.” What a great insight for us all.


September 28, 2014

Apostle Peter Was One-of-a-Kind

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But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'”
 ~Mark 16:7

Tell the disciples and Peter? Why is Peter given separate treatment? Isn’t he a disciple? Did his denial make him an un-disciple?

…In a way, Peter always has special treatment in scripture. Even among The Twelve, he is unique…

…California pastor Greg Laurie contributes regularly to the WND (World Net Daily) website’s Faith section. Click the title below to read this at source, and find links to other columns and Greg’s books. (Yes, that’s the original title!)

How you’re like a Fender Stratocaster

Awhile ago I read about a Fender Stratocaster guitar that sold for nearly $1 million at a New York City auction. I don’t know how much this type of guitar would cost if you were to buy it at a guitar store, but I guarantee that you wouldn’t pay almost seven figures for it. The reason this particular guitar sold for nearly $1 million was because Bob Dylan played it at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island.

You Are UniqueAt the time, the folk music movement was all about acoustic guitar, and originally Dylan had started out playing an acoustic guitar. But at that festival he pulled out an electric Stratocaster and started playing, which was perceived by some as an act of treachery. Dylan’s guitar sold for such a high price because of its historical value.

Then I read another article about someone who paid $380,000 at a London auction for another Fender Stratocaster, but this one had been burned. Why would anyone pay $380,000 for a burned-out guitar? Because Jimi Hendrix had reportedly played it at the Monterey International Pop Festival and set fire to it during his performance.

You see, the value of a guitar depends on who plays it. If I played a Fender Stratocaster guitar, it would go down in value. But if Bob Dylan were to play one song on the same guitar, someone would pay a lot for the privilege of hanging it on his or her wall.

The same is true when God gets hold of a human life. When God works through a life, something wonderful happens. There probably was never a person with less potential to do anything for God than me. At the age of 17, I came to him with very little. Anything good that has come from my life has been something God has given and something God has done through me. It has been his blessing on my life.

Think about how different Jesus’ 12 disciples were from each other. There was Simon, a former zealot, who was dedicated to the violent overthrow of Rome. Then there was Matthew the tax collector, who was a Jew that worked for the Roman government and was perceived by his fellow Jews as a traitor. So Simon the zealot wanted to destroy Rome, and Matthew the tax collector was perceived as one who caved in to the power of Rome. They could not have been more opposite ideologically, philosophically and politically.

Then there was Simon Peter. Apart from Jesus himself, no name is mentioned more in the New Testament than Simon Peter. He was a central figure in Jesus’ three years of ministry and in the first three years of the early church. Jesus spent more time with Simon Peter than with anyone else. No other person speaks as often or is spoken to as often as Simon Peter, and no other disciple was as reproved and corrected as often as Simon Peter.

The thing with Simon Peter was that he said what he thought. You probably know people like that. They don’t know the difference between inside thoughts and outside thoughts. They verbalize everything. That was Simon Peter. If he was thinking it, it only would be a few moments until he was saying it. Of course, this got him into trouble on more than one occasion. For instance, when he was concerned about the reward he and his fellow disciples would get because they left all and followed Jesus, he did not hesitate to ask about it. We read of him saying to Christ, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” (Matthew 19:27 NIV) That is a bold thing to say to Jesus: “We’ve given up everything. What’s in it for us?”

Then there was that famous occasion when Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter, James and John were there, and they all fell asleep. When they woke up, there was Jesus, shining like the sun. Two of the greatest prophets of the Bible stood on each side of him. Talk about a holy moment. But Peter decided it would be a good time to say a few words, so he actually spoke up and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Mark 9:5). There was Peter, speaking his mind. And I love how Mark’s Gospel adds this little commentary: “He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say” (verse 6 NLT).

We can laugh at what Peter did and be critical of what Peter said, but no other apostle tried to walk on water. He was a commendable man. He was a courageous man. And church tradition tells us that when it was all said and done, he died a cruel death. Before he was crucified, he is said to have been forced to watch the crucifixion of his wife. Peter stood at the foot of her cross and repeated the words, “Remember the Lord.” After she died, he pleaded to be crucified upside down because he felt that he was unworthy to die in the same way his Lord did. This was a hero of the faith.

And although his given name was Simon, Jesus gave him a new name: Cephas, or Peter, which means “rock.” I wonder if the other disciples chuckled a little at that. A rock speaks of stability and dependability, but Peter was a little on the impulsive side. Yet Jesus gave him a new name because he knew what Peter would become.

When God looks at you, he doesn’t see you for what you are; he sees you for what you will be. You might see a blank canvas, but God sees a finished painting. He sees what you can be.

We all have different personalities, but God can use each of us. He can change each of us and make us into the people he wants us to be. And God can do a lot with a little.

September 22, 2014

Peter’s Sensory Overload at the Transfiguration

(Mark 9, HCSB) 

The Transfiguration

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up on a high mountain by themselves to be alone. He was transformed in front of them, and His clothes became dazzling—extremely white as no launderer on earth could whiten them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.

Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good for us to be here! Let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”— because he did not know what he should say, since they were terrified.

A cloud appeared, overshadowing them, and a voice came from the cloud:

This is My beloved Son;
listen to Him!

Then suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain, He ordered them to tell no one what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept this word to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

11 Then they began to question Him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”

12 “Elijah does come first and restores everything,” He replied. “How then is it written about the Son of Man that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah really has come, and they did whatever they pleased to him, just as it is written about him.”

I’m currently most of the way through Michael Card’s 2012 book on the gospel of Mark titled Mark: The Gospel of Passion (InterVarsity Press). The series of four books on each gospel is called Biblical Imagination, and he certainly brings that gift to this look at the transfiguration of Jesus in Mark chapter 9.


Of all Peter experienced with Jesus, the transfiguration is the only event he refers to in his writings.  He understood that he had witnessed a picture of the coming kingdom:

For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, a voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory:

This is My beloved Son.
I take delight in Him!

And we heard this voice when it came from heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain.  (2 Pet 1:17-18)

It is absolutely vital to understand that the transfiguration took place after Peter’s confession.  It was not proof of Jesus identity.  Petr and the others had begun to grasp the truth the only way it can be grasped:  by faith.

After the four have made their way up the unidentified mountain, we are told with typical Markan abruptness that Jesus was “transfigured” (metamorphoo).  Paul uses the same word twice in his writings to describe the process by which the Holy Spirit works in us to transform and renew our minds (Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 3:18).  Strictly speaking, Jesus is not transformed but transfigured.  A veil is momentarily lifted and the three disciples see who Jesus has been all along.  It is a continuation of the progressive opening of their eyes.

Michael Card - Biblical Imagination Series - IVPPeter’s somewhat homespun description, that Jesus’ clothes appeared whiter than any launderer could wash them, appears only in Mark’s account.  With Jesus in the brilliant light appear Moses and Elijah, the only two prophets who ascended Sinai and met with God (Ex 19:1-3; 1 Kings 19:8-18 – Sinai is referred to as “Horeb” in the 1 Kings passage).  The two patriarchs represent the Law and the Prophets.  They represent all those who have suffered because of their obedience to the Father.  They represent the two categories of citizens of the kingdom of God:  those who die and those who will be taken up before they die.  Moses and Elijah are talking with Jesus.  Only Luke hints at the content of their conversation.  He says they are talking about Jesus’ death (Lk 9:31).

Only Peter speaks.  This account is his remembrance.  In order to best understand this moment, we must remember the context.  Mark says the disciples are terrified.  Panic is behind each of Peter’s confused words.  His statement is better understood as a question:  “Rabbi, is it good for us to be here?”  As far as Peter is concerned, it is not a good thing for him to be there.  If this radiance is the light of God’s glory, he thinks he is about to taste the death Jesus has spoken of in Mark 9:1 (see Ex 33:20).  Perhaps he thinks this is the final coming itself.

Engage with your imagination for a moment.  Here is an observant Jewish man facing Moses and Elijah, bathed in a radiant light that all his life he has been told will kill him.  Perhaps he is dying.  Perhaps the kingdom is breaking in at that very moment!  The parenthetical statement in Mark 9:6, that Peter did not know what to say, is a sure indication that what he does eventually say will be the wrong thing.

Peter asks if they might erect three “tabernacles” (Mk 9:5).  The Greek word, which appears in all three accounts of the transfiguration, is skene.  It simply means “tent” and is sometimes translated as “shelter.”  Might Peter in his moment of terror have been asking to build tents for the three luminous characters in order that he and his companions be “sheltered” from their potentially lethal light?  It does not make perfect sense, but Peter confesses that he might not have been making perfect sense at the moment.  The context is Sinai, terror, impending doom and radiant splendor.

Peter needn’t have worried about shelter.  At that moment God shelters them all with a cloud, and the same voice that echoed at Sinai speaks the words both Peter and Jesus need to hear.  The progressive opening of Peter’s eyes and ears leaps ahead light years as God’s voice identifies Jesus as his “beloved Son.”  Then God, perhaps as frustrated with the disciples as Jesus has been, urges, “Listen to him!” (Mk 9:7).

~Michael Card; Mark: The Gospel of Passion; pp 115-117; IVP Books

October 11, 2013

Puzzling Over Peter

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This is an original article for Christianity 201, submitted by Kim Rogerson. This is actually her third time here at C201, and for this one, I ‘commissioned’ a New Testament subject!

Matthew 14:28-31

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

I tend to notice what is left out just as much as what is said. So, like the Grinch, I’ve been “puzzling and puzzling” over the story of Peter walking on water with Jesus. Three of the four gospels tell the story of Jesus walking on water, yet only one adds that Peter also walked on water – and, it’s not the most obvious gospel.

The only gospel that relates that Peter got out of the boat is Matthew (14:22-33). Matthew was an apostle of Jesus and provides an eye-witness account of what happened. Luke does not tell the story at all and John (John 6:16-21), like Mark (Mark 6:47-52), only says that Jesus walked on water, no mention of Peter’s involvement. Why is the story of Peter walking on water related in Matthew and not anywhere else? And, especially, not told in Mark where you would think Peter’s influence would have been the best source?

Of all the gospels, Mark, who was an “associate of St. Peter” (The Expositor’s Bible) and “wrote this gospel under the directions of St. Peter” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible) should have had Peter’s own story of what happened that night.

As I’ve puzzled, I consulted several worthy commentaries of the Bible, hoping to have some answers. I did not find out why Mark leaves Peter out of the story, but I did glean some insights from Spurgeon’s Verse Exposition of the Bible. Spurgeon writes, “It looked like great faith when Peter walked the water; but a little wind soon proved it to be’ “little faith.’”

I tend to leave out details that perhaps may show my ‘little faith.’ I would much rather tell you of when I trusted than when I doubted. But the doubts are there, mixed in with the certainty that the Lord will save me.

Spurgeon also writes, “Peter was nearer his Lord when he was sinking than when he was walking.” It is a curious thought that my failures in trusting God can also be what leads me closer to Him. The doubts are what drive me to say, like Peter, “Lord, save me!” I cannot save myself, but I cry out in the midst of my doubts and can only look to Him who can and will save me.

I am reminded of Mark 9:24, “Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” We are strange creatures where one moment we know God can do the impossible and the next doubt He will. The dichotomy exists in us; thankfully, this does not limit God to what we think. His response is to chide us for our ‘little faith’ and to lead us to a greater understanding of who He is, so proving He can be trusted.

Peter may have wanted us to think of him as having great faith and so left out his own experience of walking on water which reveals his doubts and fears. Or maybe he didn’t put much emphasis on that miracle, focusing more on Jesus than on himself. Whatever the reason, the omission caught my attention; I panned for gold and found a few nuggets.

Kim Rogerson enjoys exploring how the Bible is real and relevant for today. Kim’s passions include reading, laughing and not needing a reason, chocolate, her family, backgammon, church, and winning against a worthy opponent!

March 19, 2013

A Good Name

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18-20 Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.

Matthew 16:18 (NLT)

18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.

38 And Peter answered them, Repent (change your views and purpose to accept the will of God in your inner selves instead of rejecting it) and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of and release from your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Sticks and stones will break your bones… but a good name will build you up and strengthen you.  Today’s study on the life of Peter first appeared in January at the blog Backseat Writer.  Here’s the link to read at source.

It started with a name change.  A holy name change.

Well, actually, it started before that, maybe we should start at the beginning, in Matthew 4:18-20.  It says, “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”

Simon called Peter?  Who called Simon, “Peter”?  Why does the gospel writer Matthew, the ex-tax collector, make this distinction about his fellow disciple?

Simon was also known as Peter.  In fact, he was probably only known by his nickname “Peter” or “Petros” to the Jewish audience in which the Gospel of Matthew is directed.  Matthew is saying, “You know Peter?  Well, he wasn’t always called, ‘Peter.’”  But we’ll get to that later…

After Jesus called Simon, Andrew and some other guys to His ragtag gang, He healed a multitude of sick people.  Jesus then preached what became known as the “Sermon on the Mount,” which includes the “Lord’s Prayer” that we say every week in church.  As Jesus spoke and taught and loved and healed, Simon watched.

Simon’s own mother-in-law was healed from a fever, two demon-possessed men’s minds and bodies were freed from their oppression.  When their tiny boat was tossed on an angry sea, Simon wondered, marveled really, at who Jesus was—that even the wind and waves obeyed Him.  I’m sure this particularly interested the Simon the former fisherman, who was used to the wiles of the sea.

The disciples traveled on a boat when another storm happened upon them.  Then they saw Jesus walking on the water!  Instead of staying in the boat, Simon jumped out walked on the water with Jesus.  His faith faltered and he started to drown.  This won’t be the first time we see Simon Peter’s disbelief, and it won’t be the last time we see Jesus’ great mercy in saving Simon.

On dry land, Simon witnessed Jesus raise a girl from the dead and helped hand out a few dry fish and loaves of bread to over 10,000 people.  Not just one, but twice.

He saw his rabbi–his teacher–questioned again and again by the Pharisees.  He saw followers come and go.  Along with the other disciples, Simon heard, saw, tasted, smelled, and experienced much.

So when we come to Matthew, chapter 16, and Jesus asked his disciples in verse 13, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” we know the disciples should have a good answer.

“Some say John the Baptist,” answered one.  (By this time, John the Baptist had been beheaded by Herod Antipas because John made his girlfriend angry.)

“Elijah,” quipped another.

“I heard Jeremiah!” offered a third.

“Actually, any one of the prophets,” mused the fourth.

Here is where I imagine Jesus looked intently at each one of these twelve men.  He asked, “But, you, who do you say that I am?”

Simon said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God!”

I think Jesus smiled as he said this part, verse 18 in The Message translation, “Blessed are you, Simon! And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will [build] my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”

Peter in Greek is “Petros” which means “detached rock” or “single rock,” while “petra” which you may also hear means “bed of rock.” (Petra is also the name of an 80’s/90’s Christian rock band.  I know some of you were thinking that!)

What happens to “The Rock” after this?

In the next section, Peter told Jesus the Messiah to stop teaching about His death and resurrection because it will never happen.  Peter was upset that the Messiah would die, which is not part of Peter’s plan.  He wanted the Messiah to redeem the Jews from Roman oppression, but we know that Jesus had a much bigger plan—to redeem all mankind.

Peter also saw more miracles, more healing, more wonders, and it all came to a climax with Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, which we celebrate as “Palm Sunday.” We know what’s coming.

We know that Jesus washed Peter’s feet and we know that Peter cut off a soldier’s ear while attempting to protect Jesus from being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Much to Peter’s chagrin, Jesus healed the soldier’s ear and still, Jesus is taken away.

There were two mock trials, and then there was Peter’s bitter betrayal—his refusal to be counted as one of Jesus’ followers, even though he spoke like a country boy with his Galilean accent and even though he was seen with Jesus.  “No, I don’t know the man,” he yelled and then the rooster crowed.  Scripture says Jesus looked right at Peter.  I believe Jesus looked right through him.

Some “rock”!  Then again you can’t exactly be the rock of the New Testament church with a dead messiah…that is, unless Jesus’ teaching about dying and coming back in three days was true.

We all know what happens, don’t we?  Jesus’ resurrection and Peter’s later restoration.

Then in Acts 2, we see a new man—an emboldened Peter talked in front of thousands on the day of Pentecost, after Jesus’ ascension into Heaven.  The Holy Spirit had just come upon the disciples and they preached in various language.

Peter calmed the crowd and then delivered this stunning testimony, in verses 22-24, “Fellow Israelites, listen carefully to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man thoroughly accredited by God to you—the miracles and wonders and signs that God did through him are common knowledge—this Jesus, following the deliberate and well-thought-out plan of God, was betrayed by men who took the law into their own hands, and was handed over to you. And you pinned him to a cross and killed him. But God untied the death ropes and raised him up. Death was no match for him.”

In verse 41 we learn the results of Peter’s bold teaching, “Those who accepted his [Peter’s] message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”

Simon.  Petros.  The Rock.

The name says it all.  Jesus saw Simon’s potential, his calling and with ONE WORD—Petros—Jesus told Simon Peter who he could be, what he would become—the rock on which New Testament church was founded.  A single rock testifying about Jesus, the Solid Rock.

From simple fisherman to bold preacher, it started with one word—a name given to Simon from the mouth of God.

Amy Sondova

October 27, 2011

How Could You Ignore A Heavenly Vision?

I often use various search techniques to comb the internet looking for a mix of new voices, older voices, and the writings of people no longer with us. (See the section at the bottom of today’s post for the fruit of today’s research!)  That’s how I ended up on the blog of Carole McDonnell.   She is a fiction writer, and I think some of this blog post is an attempt to help critics of one of her books understand the behavior of a particular character in one of her stories.  The rest of her blog is diverse, sometimes edgy, but always interesting.  She titled this post, Being Faithful to the Heavenly Vision.

So there is Peter on top of the roof when he gets this vision which God translates to mean, “Gentiles are okay now. God has cleansed them. Therefore you can now bring the gospel to them and not worry about connecting and communing with them.” (Book of Acts, chapters ten and eleven.)

He repeats this testimony about three times. (And we also hear Paul’s testimony about his own vision three times.)

Not to mention Peter’s vision on the mountain when he saw Elias and Moses.

But back to the vision on the roof.

One would think that seeing this vision and seeing the impact on the disciples and the Gentiles, Peter would’ve stuck to being Peter. But he goes back to being his old Simon self and when certain disciples came from James, Peter — uh, Simon– goes back to avoiding the Gentiles. Paul had to call him out on this. (Galatians 2:12)

How can one have seen such a great vision and yet forget it? How can one not be obedient to such a heavenly vision?

Even stranger, Jesus had told Peter he would be sifted. Jesus had told Simon not to be such a “simon” (reed, blown about my the wind) but to be a “Peter” (a rock.) And Jesus had even spoken the word of blessing by calling Simon by the new name of Peter. Obviously, we have to work with God. God can’t make us into something if we don’t work with it.

I wonder about heavenly visions as well. Getting a vision often incurs all kinds of temptations. Joseph and the patriarchs hear from God that they are to be great in some way and what do they do? It makes Abraham and Isaac assume God doesn’t speak to the Gentiles (Pharoah and Abimelech). It makes Jacob covet his brother’s birthright because obviously his mom told him it would be his anyway. It makes Joseph walk around snitching on his brothers.

How can we then be faithful to the vision without being jerks? And how can we not be faithful to the heavenly vision when God has clearly ordered it? Which reminds me… so many Christians were mad at me because they said Loic (in Wind Follower) shouldn’t have gone against the vision God had given him. They don’t know human nature, do they?

~Carole McDonnell

Interested in exploring the blogosphere to find classic Christian authors or deeper life readings?  Here are a few recommended ones from my own explorations!

February 27, 2011

Discipleship Equals Sacrificial Living

Enzo Cortes is active in student ministry and writes at Zoy Sauce Etc. — love the blog name — where this appeared earlier today under the title Peter and Paul: Reflections on the Cost of Discipleship.

For a while, I’ve been reflecting on the life of Peter. Jesus called him when he was doing fine in the seafood industry. Peter left his livelihood to follow Jesus. Matthew 4:18-20 (see parallel in Mark 1:16-18) says:

18While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

But at the end of his life, as tradition says, he was crucified upside down, because he did not feel worthy to die as Jesus did. (This is fulfillment of the prediction of John 21:18-19). He was called by Jesus, only to be martyred in the end.

So I’m tempted to ask him, “Was it worth it to be a disciple of Jesus?”

I also reflected on the life of the apostle Paul. He was “was advancing in Judaism beyond many of [his] own age among [his] people, so extremely zealous was [he] for the traditions of [his] fathers” (Galatians 1:14). But on his way to Damascus to persecute the believers, God was pleased to reveal his Son to him (v.15). But in the end, Paul was beheaded, as tradition again says.

I ask him as well, “Was it worth it?”

Jesus answers my questions for them. Matthew 10:37-39 says:

37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Emphasis added)

Mark 10:29-30 says:

29Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Emphasis added)

If this is the case, then the rewards of discipleship far outweighs the costs.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”1 Indeed, the cost of discipleship is great, but the rewards are infinitely greater. Conversely, the cost of non-discipleship is greater, and the loss is infinitely devastating.

Following Jesus is worth it!

1Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (London: SCM Press, 1964), 79.

August 16, 2010

Satan’s Sifting

Ever felt sifted by Satan?   My oldest son wrote today to ask for some clarification on Luke 22:31.  I decided to see what other bloggers have written on this.    Here are two answers.

The first is from Pastor Paul Taylor:

Satan wanted to find some fault in Peter to separate him from Jesus; to disqualify him from service. Jesus said that he has prayed for Peter, not to stop the sifting, but that Peter’s faith won’t fail in the middle of the sifting! Peter is the wheat and his self-confidence is the chaff.

Didn’t Jesus pray that Peter’s faith wouldn’t fail? But it looks like Peter’s faith DID FAIL in the middle of the testing. So what failed? Peter’s promise to Jesus that he would never fall away under extreme pressure, Peter’s faith in himself and his ability to do the good he intended to do, to prove his worth or value to Jesus by his words and actions; that FAILED! That is what Satan’s sifting exposed; Peter was trusting in his good intentions, to prove his love for Jesus.

So it will fail in us as well. Satan wanted to show Peter was worthless and unfaithful. Jesus wanted to redirect Peter’s faith onto God so it would not fail in crisis.

Where have you been putting your faith? Is your faith unconsciously in yourself, in your ability to do everything right as a Christian? Are you discouraged or depressed when your best intentions fail? Have you made promises to God that not only did you fail to keep, but you sinned and failed miserably? Have you allowed this to bring shame and guilt into your relationship with Jesus so you pulled away from him? Some become so discouraged by their failure that they fall headlong into sin-they give up and quit trying to live as a Christian. Tune in to today’s sermon and find the same courage and strength to follow Jesus once again.

The second one was just posted a few days ago by Jen Slattery:

Our church, and a few of my fb friends, are reading through the New Testament in six months, and today’s reading was the passage covering the crucifixion.  I think we tend to glaze over this story. We’ve heard it so many times, it no longer affects us. And yet, if we were to stop and ponder what Jesus Christ’s death was like, for Him and those who loved Him dearly, it’d break our hearts. And maybe that’s why we don’t always grasp it as often as perhaps we should–the understanding of that kind of love, and our total unworthiness of it, breaks us. One of my favorite songs is From the Inside Out by Hillsong. The opening verse is my life story set to music:

“A thousand times I’ve failed, yet Your mercy remains. Should I stumble again, still I’m caught in Your grace. Everylasting. Your light shines when all else fades. Never-ending. Your glory goes beyond all praise.”

I’ve failed God more times than I can count. I’ve thrown fits, I’ve rebelled, I’ve been so consumed with self my prayers sounded like a toddler wish-list, and yet through it all, God has remained. And the minute I turn around, I find myself surrounded in His arms. He is only a repentance away.

In the passage we read today, Peter, one of Jesus’ close disciples and dear friends, denies Him. Not once, but three times. Peter, the same man who only a few paragraphs earlier tells Jesus that he is ready and willing to die for Him. And yet, when the time comes and Jesus is facing His death, everyone scatters. They are faithless, and yet, Jesus remains faithful. Peter’s denial does not dissuade God’s love. (Luke 22:54-22:62) Nor was Jesus surprised by Peter’s unfaithfulness.

In Luke 22:31 Jesus tells Peter what he is about to do and lets him know that He wants to use him anyway.

Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon (his name was Simon Peter), Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers….I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know Me.”

Jesus prayed that Simon Peter’s faith would not fail. That he would not allow his sin to remain a permanent barrier between them. That Simon Peter would turn back, repent, with a focus on the future. I’ve heard it said that Godly repentance draws you closer to God, guilt draws you farther from Him. Christianity isn’t about beating yourself up for all your failures. And it isn’t about following a bunch of rules in an effort to be good enough. It’s about opening your heart up to the one who loves you more than the human mind can comprehend and allowing Him to remove all the baggage that gets in they way of you experiencing His love.

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