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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Worshiping With a Knife

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In the doctrine of biblical hermeneutics there exists the ‘Law of First Mention.” Essentially it means that the first time a word or a teaching is mentioned should determine the way it needs to be understood throughout scripture. It is a guiding principle and a good one at that. The Book of Genesis, being the first book, is a repository for many of these ‘first mentions.’

In Genesis 22, we have the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah. Abraham has tied up his son on an altar to offer him as a sacrifice in obedience to God’s direction (v. 2). This is faith being tested to the extreme.

“Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”

Genesis 22:4-5

This is the first mention of the word “worship” in the Bible. It sets the tone for all the scriptures on this subject. I guess what is interesting is there was no musical instruments involved. Just these things:

  • stones,
  • wood,
  • rope,
  • fire,
  • a knife,
  • and Isaac, the ‘would be’ lamb.

When the Hebrew word for ‘worship’ has been used for the first time; it is interlaced with the idea of an incredible sacrifice. Abraham is the first ‘worship leader’ and he has no guitar. No piano, or drums either. No musical instruments whatsoever. No overhead lyrics to speak of. Just a handmade altar, and a knife.

In the end, as Abraham raises his knife, he is stopped. His faith has withstood the test, and he has truly ‘worshipped.’

But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

Gen. 22:11-12

There really can’t be worship without a sacrifice.

Recovering this truth concerning worship would be beneficial. It seems we delegate ‘worship’ to a select few who are talented and gifted. We probably don’t do this deliberately, but sometimes we feel it makes a better ‘presentation.’ To do this would be a tragic mistake.

The first worshipper didn’t use a guitar, but a knife. This difference keeps the idea of sacrifice in its definition. There can be no worship without sacrifice.

“The Scriptures include or allude to just about every approach to worship there is: organized, spontaneous, public, private, simple, complex, ornate or plain. Yet there is no comment anywhere about any one way being preferred over another. Rather, it is the spiritual condition of the worshiper that determines whether or not God is at work.”  

Harold Best

Ultimately we must realize our sacrifice is the Lamb of God. It’s his blood on God’s altar. As believers, our faith firmly rests in this fact. We of all people have reason to worship.

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Plunging the Depths of Grace

“One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

Luke 7:36-39, ESV

A woman of the city, that explains so much.  She comes with a lot of baggage; she has seen all the world at its worst.  Her life has been hard, she has made poor decisions. Enough to pull her into the presence of Jesus.

She may be a stripper, an addict, a porn star. It doesn’t matter, she is a sinner, and scripture does not elaborate beyond this.  All we know is she is ‘a woman of the city,” and that she is referred to as “a sinner.” The sin has made her a desperate person. She steps forward, and does not care about what the crowds are saying about her. She has heard it all before. She comes with her flawed and inadequate heart, to anoint him with an ointment that is somewhat susceptible because of her past.

She pushes forward, pressing past the inner ring of disciples who are ‘protecting’ Jesus.  She takes what she has, and pours it on Jesus’ feet.  It is a concentrate of a perfume that is intense, and very much a declaration of what her heart is wants to do. The scent of this ointment undoubtedly very strong, and lingers, being a concentrate. It probably comforted Jesus while he was being nailed to the cross. He would remember what she had done to him. Her love would comfort him as he was dying.

Jesus acknowledges her decision to bless him in this unique way.  She pushes to him with a single mindedness that we can only marvel at.  She falls at his feet, and Jesus allows himself to be touched by a women that has such a difficult and dark past.  I truly believe He takes everyone whoever comes to him. He passes no judgement on her, and people who are like her— like me.

He has no issues, and accepts all who the Father brings to him.

This sinful woman has shown the way for sinners like us to connect.  Her action establishes for us a precedent— a sure way to advance into his presence.  We start by admitting that we are in a very desperate state.  Her example focuses everyone to all  what is truly important, and we dare not slip past her example. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” We know that this is true.

We must come, as she has come, in faith that only He can forgive us.  We should come with a radically intense intention to be with him.  There must be a real decision (on our part) to follow after him.  When we actually fall at his feet, we will find ourselves to be completely forgiven.

“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Luke 7:47-48

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Fire or Blackberries?

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

In some odd way, our lives seem to be always getting interrupted by God. And it can happen a lot. We need to see the invisible. When we can, it can be quite amazing. Our night sky here in Alaska is wonderful. (And I’m a “sky guy”, it means I’m always looking up.) But the most phenomenal night skies were in Mexico, while camping on the beach. As I laid there I looked and the Milky Way was on full display. It really was as good as it could be. It seemed there was 10x more stars than ever before.

Once as I gazed up, a weird sort of fear gripped me, it was almost a panic. I started to tremble and shake. I got up and ran to our tent. I just couldn’t handle the incredible universe with no buffer. I was completely undone, and reduced a quivering speck of dust. I tried to tell my wife Lynn what had just happened to me, but I couldn’t. I was too scrambled. I couldn’t speak.

Reflecting on this, I realize now what I had experienced was “awe.” It was something much more common a few generations ago. There is a kind of existential crisis which we side-step in these more modern times. We rarely contemplate the night sky. We seldom, if ever, have seen fire in a bush.MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

It seems we have traded our awareness of an Almighty God, and in turn we get to pick all blackberries we can haul. We reason it out, and we feel that we have made a better bargain. But when we extricate this from our souls, don’t be surprised if we suddenly find that we have become spiritual paupers.

Maybe we should learn to see through things; each of us have the opportunity now to see the spiritual world that swirls around us. Why wait for heaven? Ask our Father to reveal His glory now in this present moment. Learn to see that which can’t be seen, but by faith.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies announce what his hands have made.”

Psalms 19:1, NCV

Bridges to Burn

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As a rambunctious kid I’d be told by my mom, “This is going on your permanent record!” At the time I didn’t know what that was, but it sounded really scary. I remember debating myself of whether or not such a record existed– and if it did, well, I was in deep trouble.

There is the adult version of this permanent record. It is called the conscience. And it can be a ‘hell on wheels.’ Each of us have:

  • murky attitudes
  • lousy circumstances
  • edgy emotions
  • broken reactions
  • screwy perceptions
  • subtle influences
  • sneaky prejudices

They don’t all have to be negative. As a matter of fact we have positive implications as well.

But like it or not, things get etched and colors become fast. Everything we are is a collection of past experiences. Some are godly, while others– not so much. Every decision you make determines your tomorrow. For some, this is a good thing, but a real terror for others.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.”

Isaiah 1:18

The consequences and implications are staggering. Few can live with this kind of truth. But many do come to God for forgiveness.

There is provision for our permanent record. The Word of God (the Bible) has a built-in filtering system that pulls out all the nasty stuff. Sin can build up, even in the blazing light of the Holy Spirit.

Another issue is having the guilt removed from your record by a sovereign act of God. The death of Jesus Christ wasn’t a noble act of a ‘religious teacher.’ Rather it was an atonement for our sin. At this point ‘amnesty’ is given to everyone who believes in Him.

Our permanent record has been expunged— erased, if you will. In a meaningful way, our record has been changed by God.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

Psalm 32:1-2

To have a clear record is a life-changing thing. To have the slate wiped clean is such a joy. God now shares His life with us, and enables us to redeem our yesterdays. Our past gets fixed by the only one who can fix it for us. Sin was never supposed to be permanent.

(Study scriptures: Ps. 32:5; 130:3-4; Acts 10:43; Eph. 2:8-9)

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“The Serenity Prayer” (the Full Version)

GOD, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change

Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.

——————————-Complete addition——————————

Living ONE DAY AT A TIME; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.

Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.

Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

Amen.

By Reinhold Neibuhr

Many of us have come across this prayer before, but this is the full unedited version. The poem, read in its full version is truly an inspiration. I find my heart echoing each line, and hoping it would be true for myself. Read it:

  • slowly,
  • carefully,
  • intensely,
  • and purposefully.

It is good to read the full prayer vs. the one that our culture seems to have adapted and adopted as their own, I suspect this this full version has a little more panache and a whole lot more authority to it. I welome it and the light to bring to us.

More info on this particular prayer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_Prayer

 

The God of Coincidences

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“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”

1 Corinthians 15:25

In the spring of 1995, I was taking my family across the border into Mexico to live. All we owned was what we could pack in the trunk of my old Chevy. We were flat broke and unsure of where we would spend the night. But we heard from the Lord; we knew he was leading us into a situation where we must walk by faith, and not by sight.”

We were caravaning with missionaries who were to be stationed about 40 miles south of our ultimate destination. But we had separated two days before in Arizona. We knew we would see them a bit later. The evening before our crossing, we managed to scrape enough money to spend one last night in San Diego.

I’m ashamed to say that I was not the man of faith and power that I should of been. I cried out a desperate and short prayer, “Help me God, show me that this is really you. I need to know that your hand is in this.” I was taking my wife, and two small children into Mexico, and we didn’t even know where we were going to spend the night.

I was pretty stressed the morning of our crossing, and hearing nothing from the Lord. We merged into the heavy traffic for our inspection when we heard a horn behind us. I just thought it was part of the process, and ignored it. But it kept honking. I looked in the mirror to see what the problem was.

Directly behind us was the couple we had been with in Arizona! Suddenly I knew this was God speaking directly to me. I was staggered as I extrapolated the odds of this happening, it was unbelievable. We had left them behind two days ago and now we meet up at the very precise time, in the same lane of traffic.  The odds of us converging at the same time had to be astronomical!

The Lord spoke to me right then and there, “I am in control.” All my anxiety, all my fear just lifted– I knew deep down He was leading us. I could trust Him, even though life seemed so very precarious. We were in His hands! This would be a faith booster in some hard times to come.

You may have had an experience like mine. When God touches a heart and makes it peaceful– it is a beautiful thing. But it can be something different. The Apostle Paul on the Damascus Road was stunned when Jesus spoke to him. Paul’s companions heard a voice but saw nothing (Acts 9:7).

We must become people who insist that every believer have their own experiences with God.

It is the spiritual privilege of every child of God. When “it” happens, it will be something to be treasured. Looking back I see that moments like this enable one to go through a great deal. Someone once said, “Coincidence is when God wants to remain anonymous.”

When we hear his voice or see his handiwork, it is truly then we become his disciples.

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