The Art of Denying Jesus

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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

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Your Love Will Define You

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“You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.”

1 Peter 1:22, NLT

This defines us as believers. We will easily admit to falling short in this matter. I know I’m sharing in God’s love for Steve, a backslidden Christian who I meet on the streets. I’m aware that Jesus loves him so much and it seems to burst out of me. I can hardly contain it. The Father loves Steve, and I get to share in that same love when I talk with him.

Love takes on many different forms. But it always is giving. It simply can’t be thinking of itself; it exists for others and takes no thought of itself. That magnificence that is God’s love gets funneled through us (we can hardly contain it) and we’re compelled to share it. We are simply called to be ‘the transfer point.’

“And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows.”

1 Thess. 3:12

God initiates the love to be shared. Some of us are weaker than others; we are physically or mentally handicapped. But as believers we are to turn to God to saturate our hearts. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter how flawed you are, what matters is the vast ocean of God’s love. Weakness only makes it easier because we’ve quit relying on ourselves to love others. (And it only makes you ‘believable’ and gives God the glory.)

 “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

John 13:35

Our calling is to be ‘naturally supernatural.’ And that will take the dealings of God.

But please remember the joy that is present when you’re communicating His love. The book of Philippians is saturated with Paul’s joy at sharing God’s love. He sees it as his privilege to share it with the Church. And oh how God loves His Church! The Holy Spirit can teach you, how to do this, if you’re teachable.

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Ten Resolutions for Mental Health

Clyde Kilby’s Resolutions for Mental Health and for Staying Alive to God in This World

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Holding the substantial

 

  1. Once a day I will look at the sky and remember that I am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.
  2. I will suppose the universe is guided by an intelligence.
  3. I will not fall into the lie that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding 24 hours, but rather a unique event, filled with wonderful potential.
  4. I will prefer reality to abstractions.
  5. I will not demean my own uniqueness by envying others. I will mostly forget about myself and do my work.
  6. I will open my eyes and ears by at least once a day simply staring at a tree, a flower, a cloud or a person. I will simply be glad that they are what they are.
  7. I will often remember back to when I was a child and think about my dreaming eyes of wonder.
  8. I will frequently turn to things like a good book and good music.
  9. I will enjoy each moment, not always worrying about what the decade before me will demand from me.
  10. I will bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic but rather acknowlege that each day strokes are made on the cosmic canvas that in due course I will understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.

___________

Clyde S. Kilby, 1902-1986
Clyde S. Kilby, 1902-1986

” Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise.”

Proverbs 1:2

 Clyde Kilby, who is now with the Lord in heaven, was my teacher in English Literature at Wheaton. He did as much as any other teacher I have had to open my eyes to the ministry of God in the skies. 

       – Pastor John Piper, DesiringGod.org

 

 

Sunshine and Mercy

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The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.”

Exodus 34:6, NLT

“I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great. Do not let me fall into human hands.”

2 Samuel 24:14

Sitting on the deck, it’s a cold morning, but the sun is bright. It’s a typical winter day here in Alaska, which means the sun is pushing back the winter for all it’s worth. Up here we have a ‘the love affair’ with the sun; it hides herself in the gloominess of winter— only to show herself off big time during our summers.

Soaking up the sun got me thinking about the mercy of God. I find I am of two minds. For the most part I love His mercy. It is probably the attribute I love most about Him. Mercy defined by my dictionary:

  • compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence: Have mercy on the poor sinner.”

Who could not like this in ones deity? Most of us would agree that we are thrilled that God is this compassionate— especially when we’re such rascals ourselves. We will ground ourselves in His mercy, even when our minds give up.

But this is the hard part. I must be as merciful as He is. Mercy comes with the caveat that I become a compassionate person, even to those who are undeserving.

“Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’

Matthew 18:33

If you want mercy, you must be prepared to give it. Perhaps this is how God changes the world?

See what the Alaskan winter sunshine can do?

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“When a Christian shows mercy, he experiences liberation.”   ~Warren Wiersbe

 

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Our Gentle God Loves Kindness

His hands are gentle
His hands are gentle

When I think “gentleness”, what pops into my mind is my wife holding and caressing my infant daughter almost 20 years ago.  Her touch is soothing.  She softly hums a lullaby.  The farthest thing from her thinking at that quiet moment, is anything  harsh or cruel. 

One of my favorite verses telegraphs the wonderous news, “He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle.”  (Isaiah 42:3, NLT).  God’s temperament is gentle and kind.  He is patient far beyond any human logic.  As a matter of fact, his love seems to be borderline ridiculous.   As believers, we need to get used to His strange proclivities of loving all and turning away none.  I really believe that harshness and cruelty are the furthest thing from His mind or heart.

I for one, am glad God is like this.  When I’m depressed or manic, paranoid or confused, I am so glad that God is not a man.  He doesn’t give up on me, others have marked me off as a discipleship failure, and let me go.  But He loves me even more than a mother loves the baby on her lap.

A.W. Tozer writing on Psalm 18:35: “Your gentleness has made me great.”

“God is easy to live with. Satan’s first attack upon the human race was his sly effort to destroy Eve’s confidence in the kindness of God. Unfortunately for her and for us he succeeded too well. From that day, men have had a false conception of God, and it is exactly this that has cut out from under them the ground of righteousness and driven them to reckless and destructive living.

Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God. Certain sects, such as the Pharisees, while they held that God was stern and austere, yet managed to maintain a fairly high level of external morality; but their righteousness was only outward.

Instinctively we try to be like our God, and if He is conceived to be stern and exacting, so will we ourselves be. The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service one of unspeakable pleasure.

The fellowship of God is delightful beyond all telling. He communes with His redeemed ones in an easy, uninhibited fellowship that is restful and healing to the soul.

He remembers our frame and knows that we are dust. He may sometimes chasten us, it is true, but even this He does with a smile, the proud, tender smile of a Father who is bursting with pleasure over an imperfect but promising son who is coming every day to look more and more like the One whose child he is.”

………………………………

– A.W. Tozer in The Root of the Righteous, pp. 13-16. As quoted in the Banner of Truth Magazine (issue 531; Dec. 2007).

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The Sterile Curse of Social Isolation

“While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.”

Luke 24:15

Quite a few studies now out, revealing the reality of social isolation.  It seems more and more people are veering away from social contact. A Duke University study found that Americans are choosing to become more solitary than ever. Many are eschewing all relations all together.  This is a problem.

I’ve seen some of the statistics– fully 25% of people have no relationships at all, and something like 50% have no relationships outside of their spouse and children.  This disturbing trend is building momentum.  In 1985 the figure was just 15%.

I think that a lot of pressure may be coming from the internet, although Facebook and Twitter have reconfigured social connections. Longer work hours, the iPod and Blackberry, chat rooms and cable TV contribute to the move away from human contact.

The commute time is also a factor.  For every 10 minutes stuck in traffic there is roughly a 10% drop in social relationships.  So if you have a bad commute on I-80 you are more likely not to want to have a friend over.

Hundred years ago our society was far more geared for personal contact.  People would regularly visit each other.  Neighbors knew each other.  There were parlor games and dinners.  Music recitations and skits.  Card parties. Television and radio had not yet grabbed the countries psyche.  Sociologists and anthropologists confirm that our history was deep in contact with each other.  We were not built for solitary living.

With community life disappearing people are turning to online relationships. Our churches are trying to adapt, as even Christians are not connecting like they should.  I have been out in the Alaskan bush villages, and the older generation is frustrated because the younger generation seems to be in trouble.  “They don’t pick berries, or hunt; all they do is sit in front of the TV playing Nintendo, or their laptops.”

We need fellowship with others, and God as well. There are very few solitary believers.

I guess the biggest issue of all is mental illness.  Social isolation is a direct antagonist of depression and other disorders.  In order to get better, people must reach out and connect.  There is no substitute, no other option.

I see the shift in my own life.  I have dropped back about 80% of my Dish Network.  I am seeking to back off of being online 6-8 hours a day.  I am trying to be around flesh & blood as often as possible.  I am personally trying to consciously maximize that time.  It keeps me healthier.

To be healthier, we think its physical.  We have our gym memberships and we run on the treadmill.  That is good.  But I’m thinking we are losing out if we don’t workout socially (and spiritually) as well. Christians are  a special species; we need fellowship with others, and God as well. There are no solitary believers.

“This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.”

1 John 3:11, NLT

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The Hidden Smile of God, [Discovery]

 

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Imagine for just a moment, you can actually see the face of God. Is He…?

  • angry, seething with a vindictive hostility
  • rolling His eyes, amused, maybe a bit perplexed
  • disturbed, frustrated, ready to give up on you
  • not looking at all, bored, detached, not caring
  • smiling at you, like a proud Father?

Three simple verses for the God’s ‘face-seeking’ person.

13 “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord.”

Jeremiah 29:13-14

3 “Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”

Jeremiah 31:3

32 “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Luke 12:32

There are many, many more like these three. (But I didn’t want to scare you.)

God’s love is not logical, or mechanical. and you can’t see His face based on your performance. You simply just can’t do enough. So we all must come to Him the same way— on our knees. God’s love is outrageously understood, it is completely undeserved and perhaps just a bit scandalous. So settle this now, you’ll never, ever be good enough, (but you can be bad enough).

I believe the face of God is smiling on us, and He ‘lights up’ when we come into His presence. He is incredibly gracious. You can thank Jesus— it was His cross and resurrection that made access to God possible. (O.K., just one more verse.)

19 “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”

Ephesians 2:19

There is a freedom that comes when you quit struggling and simply believe in ‘the smiles of God,’ and when you know deep-down that you belong. Everyone who comes to Him comes by the goodness (and sacrifice) of Someone else. And that is remarkably good news.

Hallelujah,

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