The Art of Denying Jesus

deny
Peter weeps

“Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.”

Matthew 26:75, NLT

Three denials are followed by three reaffirmations.

A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”

John 21:17

The apostle Peter was a fervent disciple. He knew who Jesus was before most. He was always included in special times (e.g. the transfiguration, Gethsemane). He was favored by Jesus throughout times of ministry. I also believe that he was Jesus’ friend. Peter is known for:

  • being called on the shores of Galilee, Matt 4:18-19
  • ‘almost’ walking on water, Matt 14:29-30
  • finding the tax money in a fishes mouth, Matt 17:24-27
  • having his feet washed, John 13:6-7
  • in Gethsemane– cutting off an ear, John 18:10-11
  • his remorse at denying Jesus, Matt 26:75
  • at the empty tomb with John, John 20:3-8

Peter’s own denials were of a serious nature effecting who he was, and who he was to become. Jesus astutely intervenes as they ‘breakfasted’on the seashore. There would be three affirmations; one for each denial. Peter needed to meet the resurrected Jesus, and speak with him about what he had done. Peter needed this.

Out of our own confusion, we realize that we deny Jesus. Perhaps frequently. A denial has different intensities and different situations. And none of us have an immunity as of yet. We deny the Lord when we refuse to speak of him to others. We deny the Lord when we fail to do what is right. Sometimes we deny him flagrantly, other times it is a more subtle attitude. At best, we’re still inconsistent, and at worst, apostate.

We’re not punished or abandoned for this behavior. Human logic would suggest that we should be. But instead we are gently restored. Given the opportunity, Peter the fisherman, would eventually become a wise shepherd to the young Church. I would also suggest that Peter’s personal weakness would serve him well as a gentle, and caring pastor.

Peter, near the end of his life, goes ‘full circle’ and uses a very precise Greek word found in only two places in the New Testament. It is the specific form of the word “shepherd.” It is only used in John 21:16-17 in Peter’s restoration, and in 1 Peter 5:2. Peter encourages the Church with the same words Jesus himself spoke to him on the beach so long ago! Peter wrote:

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing.”

1 Peter 5:2, NIV

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

Comprehensive Protection

daniel3

The Book of Daniel contains the acts and welfare of the Jewish people in Babylon. They are captives and so much of the stories shared here are accounts of spirituality under duress. King Nebuchadnezzar, in an attempt to unify his kingdom, proclaims himself to be a god. He commissions a 90 foot statue to be erected; he orders that, on a prearranged moment, that all would fall down and worship.

Thgold statueere are three Jewish men: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who are brought to the king with the charge of ‘failure to worship.’ They refused to bow at the statue at the signal. They were observed standing when everyone else was kneeling. Non-compliance to the king meant the death penalty; but that doesn’t deter the three. Their faith will not allow them to sin in this way.

They are resolute. The first, second and third commandments clearly forbid the worship of all idols. There was no other options. Perhaps they valued their souls more than they valued their lives. In some things there can be no accommodation– no compromise. Standing before the king and threatened with death, they declare their allegiance to the living God. Dan. 3:16-18:

 “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

The king is enraged. Few have ever spoken and defied him like this (and lived). He orders the furnace to be heated up like never before.  Here the king is making a statement. He will not tolerate this kind of ‘rebellion’ in his kingdom. All of his governing leaders will witness what he does to ‘traitors.’ These Hebrews must be made an example.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods” (v.v. 24-25).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are thrown into the fire. The men who escorted them are killed by the heat. Ironically, Nebuchadnezzer can’t protect his own men from death while the three Jews are not touched, not even a little. They are joined by a fourth man and they walk around in the midst of the flames.

Suddenly, Nebuchadnezzer realizes that the God of Israel is not only a real God, but a force to be reckoned with. The men’s faith has saved them. (And his men are dead.)

The complete story is quite compelling. The king orders all that the real God be worshipped. Henceforth, no one shall ever speak against this God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are promoted in the kingdom.

The lessons for today are many,

  1. God’s Word is to be obeyed no matter what it costs,

  2. When confronted, we must never hedge over our beliefs

  3. God is present with us in our furnace, we’re never alone

  4. In the fire, our faith will ultimately triumph.

We may be standing in similar times. Faith will be tested. The Word must be believed and trusted. It is ‘comprehensive protection’ for our lives. Obedience to God will lead us into difficult places, but faith will triumph.

aabryscript

 

 

 

Superglue Your Crown On

crown-vintage

“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.

Rev. 3:1o-11, NLT


The crown you wear is vulnerable.  Sorry.  But the truth is that the crown we wear can be snatched, and taken away from us.  The dark enemy would love to lift it up, and the hoards of evil would rejoice over their victory in a dark demonstration of their power over you.

Jesus has issued a command.  His instruction communicates to us an awareness of what evil is about to do.  He tells us that there is a testing, and that there is the need for endurance.  We can so easily be led into darkness, and the enemy is pressing us with all his might.

Our crowns can be taken.  They will not be returned, at least not without issues.  Evil will come from this failure to keep watch.  Our spiritual life has been harmed and weakened.  Our crown becomes Satan’s trophy, and he gloats as shows off his collection.  We will become destitute of spirit, and our life starts to reflect the darkness.  Evil repeatedly does this, and we should realize that this. We cannot give in to this intimidation.

Remember, the crown the Holy Spirit gave you is extremely important.  It has a significance.  We look at our crown, and we can draw conclusions.  First He has given us an authority, and a place in his kingdom which is secure. He meets our needs as we work out the kingdom in this world. He works hard to turn us into a ‘marvel’ of grace.  We are royalty; princes and princesses of the High King. We serve Him alone.

My dear brother or sister, you wear a crown that sets you apart.  Wear it, with a spiritual awareness that you are special.  You are of a kingly lineage.  Rub shoulders with all that is good.  Become a companion of all those who are friendly to the truth.  Walk humbly, yet boldly. You must hold on to everything that belongs to you.

aabryscript

 

Flourish-61

Being Lured Back, [Apostasy]

Recently I read a news story about pastors who have been led into atheism.  These are all evangelical men, some with more than 20 years of experience in the pulpit.  They’ve turned to a belief that God does not exist.  It was a disturbing article, and I will not try to share much of it here on this page.

There is among us a prevalent manipulation that is relentlessly reaching out for us in order to destroy our faith.  This force has an ally; and this ally is resident in us.  My flesh becomes the connection that Satan needs to link with–  to make it work.  The Bible calls this residing connection, ‘the old man’.

Some of the ‘brothers’ who now walk in apostasy to the Faith still remain in ministry.  Even though they don’t believe anymore, they continue to preach and counsel their congregations.  Many will only speak out under the condition of anonymity.

One in particular said it was somewhat difficult to continue to work in the ministry. “But I just look at it as a job and do what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “I’ve done it for years.”

This pastor said, that when speaking to parishioners, he tried to stick to the sections of the Bible that he still believed in — the parts about being a good person. Many pastors say that they would like to leave their jobs but they can’t afford to.

Please someone, and correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the Bible speak of shepherds and hired men?  Some who are called by God, and others who do it for money?  Does this disturb anyone but me? 

 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”

John 1o:13

These ‘pastors’ and their issues of faith are all on the heart of God.  He loves these men.  His Son died for them.  They are precious.   But they make an effort to conceal themselves, in order that they will continue to receive the wages/benefits they’ve become accustomed to.

When I was ordained into the ministry, it came with the provision that if I could not remain faithful that I was obligated to ‘step down’.  It was as much a decision to be faithful as it was for empowerment from above.  If I should ever become conflicted, I would voluntarily stop and step down.  It was part of the ‘package’.  It came with that understanding.

So much confusion, but that is characteristic of the times in which we live.  Our shepherds are an increasingly an influential part of our lives in these last days.  They guide and preach the Word to us. 

Perhaps, we have not prayed for them like we should

As a result they’ve become casualties.

There is a desperate need for us to take the darkness seriously.  It has a pulling power to reach us and latch upon us.  It opens its mouth to swallow us into a perpetual night.  Everything that strays end up in its oversight.  The thing that saves us is the presence of Jesus.  His hand on our lives removes us out of Satan’s claim.

Darkness has an incredibly sweet allure.  It has a power that is beyond our comprehension.  It seems to want to enhance us. It causes us to think that we are immune or superior to the things God has commanded.  The sky is the limit, and we press into even more foolishness.  But truth does not come to those who trade salvation for more darkness.

 

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

*

P.S. The story that ‘got me going’ is found here.

http://abcnews.go.com/WN/atheist-ministers-leading-faithful/story?id=12004359

Almost Holy, [Almost]

failure-collapse

“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.”

Romans 7:18-20, NLT

I hesitate to tell you this, but I have not found any secrets to becoming a holy person.

To be sure, I wish I figured this out. I would very much like to come to you with the secret formula. Sometimes I want to just make things up, just to alleviate your trials and strivings. I would easily latch on this idea of a “magic wand.” I think it would be good; and maybe not.

But the authentic Christian life is hardly formulaic. It seems to defy any attempt to explain, and then guide anyone else into that special place of true obedience or holiness. I’m supposing that you are just like me. I truly want to be right. I would love to be holy. But it ain’t happening. I always seem to end up back in the place I started from. Always, defeat and simple failure. Rats!

I’ve always been mystified by the conundrum of Romans 7. I really want 8, but I’ll settle for 6. Romans 7 has been in limbo for a very long time. I don’t really know what to do with it. (I honestly avoid it, after all chapter 8 is so good!) But way deep down, I have a real strong sense I’m missing something very important.

I suppose it might be compared to making a really good ‘discipleship smoothie.’ Of course we must add to our blender Rom. 8. And many would add Rom. 6. However, a lot of us would hesitate to include Rom. 7, we’re not really sure why. Quite a few commentaries also hesitate. Many good teachers and preachers regard chapter 7 as parenthetical. They suggest that Paul is describing his life before coming to Christ, and certainly not in a ‘present-tense’ discipleship.

When I look at the Gospels, I see, across the board that those– the healed, forgiven, cleansed and made whole were always the desperate. They have nothing, they bring nothing– they meet no requirement, but pure poverty. They are the “zeroes.” (Maybe– even the negative numbers?)

I don’t believe, at this point anyway, that there is a singular principle of sanctification. Perhaps we can truly do nothing in precise alignment. There is no such thing as a “microwavable discipleship,” and no real instant breakfasts. We truly come with a desperate faith– and we will end up with just a desperate faith. This should be incredibly humbling to us all. It takes a long time to learn humility it seems.

“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am!”

Romans 7:21-24, NLT

Please (someone?– anyone?!) challenge me on this. I tell you, chapter 7 chafes, and then “disrupts” me. Will I always be so misaligned and “out-of-step?” Or am I just a lousy excuse for a Christian disciple? If I’m out of line and screwed up; please let me know. But whatever dear one, don’t give up– “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” (John 6:68.)

_______

“The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws. The Church is not made up of whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for us.”

–Mike Yaconelli

%

kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy.)

cropped-cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg
 
 
 

Meeting Samson

samson-and-delilah

The story of Samson (Judges 13-16) is painful. It ranks as one of the saddest tales in Biblical history, and reading it through again only frustrates me. Have you ever seen a piece of fraying cloth. Threads have worked loose and the edges no longer hold together. The mid section maybe fine, but hem is coming apart. The issue is one of integrity.

That is what I think the judge Samson was like. Incredibly gifted, but irrevocably flawed, he was ordained to be a deliverer. Think of him as a “freedom fighter,” called and equipped to set his people free. He was a man of intense contrasts:

  1. uncommonly gifted, yet strangely unconsecrated,
  2. incredibly strong, yet spiritually weak,
  3. called to deliver, but yet died as a captive

You might say he could never conquer himself. Forbidden things became permissible. He never could really say the most important word– No! Lust drove him as often as the Spirit of God did. Samson became a tragic figure in the history of Israel, known more for his failures than his victories.

“Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him” (Judges 16:20, NIV).

This is perhaps the most tragic verse in Scripture. Samson had compromised to the point of being released from his gift. His attitude was that it would always be there for him, but that wasn’t the case anymore. They would gouge out his eyes, and chain him to a millstone to grind out grain.

Interestingly, in Hebrews 11:32 Samson is mentioned as an example of faith. But how much pain was afflicted on him, and how more brightly would’ve been if he would’ve learned to resist his appetites.

I have a tendency to fray at the edges myself, leaving me with an unsettled feeling. The hems don’t always hold. They come apart. The story of Samson reminds me of my need to watch myself closely. The lesson is loud and clear. Perhaps there is a Samson in everyone of us.

aabryscript

cropped-christiangraffiti1-2

Animated Dust

face

18 “I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

Luke 15:18-19, NLT

“In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’”

Luke 17:10

 flourish14

I admit it. I am flawed. I am a contradiction inside of an enigma– at times more a devil than an angel. And today I fancy no pretenses to righteousness. But I can tell you all about sin, I’m thinking that maybe I’ll sell tickets. I’m the spiritual version of “the elephant man.” But yet, I still know that I’m completely loved and secure through faith.

I’m convinced that God’s ability to hold me outweighs all of my sin. His mercy is continually refreshed and continues to exceed my iniquity by a massive margin. I can try to blame my erratic behavior on my mental illness, as I’m reasonably certain that it has something to do with things.

“At best we are but clay, animated dust; but viewed as sinners, we are monsters indeed. Let it be published in heaven as a miracle that the Lord Jesus should set His heart’s love upon people like us.”

Alistair Begg

I will never have it together. At best I can only keep coming back to this Grace that has decided “to never let me go.” I only stand, only because He makes it so.  I’ve given up trying to be worthy enough. I seem to chase a ‘laser pointer’ like a over-caffeinated cat, and it is starting to get a little old. (But maybe this time I’ll finally catch it.) Writer Anne Lamott wryly explained her own issues:

“I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.” 

Anne Lamott

The Holy Scriptures never put human beings on a pedestal. We are never seen as noble or excellent specimens of righteousness. We sin in deed and in thought continually. The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax-collector tells us that a consciousness of sin and a holy God is the only way to be declared just. Both men were rascals, but only one admitted it.

We sin sins of commission and also of omission daily. In fact, I have determined that I have sinned more as a believer than I ever did as a non-believer. This shouldn’t be a surprise, but it is. I’ve been pretty busy the last 32 years. I have been ‘ungodly,’ on more than one occasion.

I want to encourage you today in Him. Life can be such a grind, and your hope anemic. But consider Him who has come for you. Let Jesus take your heaviness, ask Him for His peace. A fair exchange, don”t you think?

Pastor Bryan Lowe
Pastor Bryan Lowe

aabryscript