Bold and Faithful Peter

Thursday, February 22           

Once Peter was recommitted to Christ, Jesus told him that he would die on a cross. It seems an odd thing to tell Peter right after being questioned about his love for the Lord, but Jesus knew what he was doing.  After that startling revelation Jesus told Peter “Follow me.”  Peter seemed to take all that in stride, but he was concerned about John’s future.  “Self” was still alive and well.  So Jesus had to rebuke him by saying “What is that to you?”  Put in modern lingo, it would be “It’s none of your business.”  John essentially closes the gospel of John at this point, so we don’t know how this seashore encounter ended.  But the results are recorded in Acts.  Peter was bold (as usual), and was faithful to the end.  He preached a bold message on the Day of Pentecost where thousands were won to Christ.  He then healed a cripple, was called in to be interrogated by the Sanhedrin, and told them bluntly that Jesus’ followers had no choice but to obey Christ rather than their Jewish leaders.  Later, he was put in prison to await death, but was miraculously released by an angel.  He was a key figure in evangelizing Judea and Samaria.  He was used of God to raise Dorcas from the dead in Joppa.  Then God used him to open up the gospel to the Gentiles with that miraculous conversion of Cornelius.  That beach party motivated Peter  to follow Christ and feed his sheep.  Here’s something to meditate on: When is the cost of following Jesus more than we want to pay?  That will determine how much we love him.

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A Reassured Peter

Wednesday, February 21              

Once they were well fed (There’s a lesson in that, too) Jesus moved on to deal with some core issues.  He started with Peter, while the other six apparently kept a discreet silence, possible aware of their own short comings.  It’s fascinating how Jesus did it.  He was gentle with Peter.  No rebuke, no mention of his denial of Christ, of guilt or the need to be forgiven.  He knew how to get to Peter’s heart.  He raised the question of how much he loved the Lord.  He knew that Peter loved him, but knew that Peter needed reassurance as to his relationship with the Lord.  The form of the question is interesting.  “Do you love me more that these?   What is meant by “these” is a much debated question—his fishing, the other disciples?  But it really doesn’t matter. Nothing should be held in greater esteem than Jesus.  Jesus knew that Peter loved him, which was not the issue.  He wanted Peter to realize that his love for the Lord is his highest priority.  That measure of love would motivate Peter to “feed my sheep.”  This entire dialogue would assure Peter that his betrayal was not held against him, that he was forgiven,  and his ministry was not nullified.  Imagine what this did for Peter.  It could only magnify his love for the Lord.

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A Fish Story

Tuesday, February 20                    

The beach party of John 21 begins with Peter’s desire to go fishing and getting six others to go with him.  They spent the night fishing and caught nothing.  The next scene is of Jesus on the shore calling out to them to ask if they had caught any fish.  It’s interesting that Jesus called them “friends.”  That was no accident.  You might remember that just the day before his death in that upper room discourse, he said he would no longer call them servants, but friends.  These seven disciples could hardly have missed that. The disciples answered “no,” which Jesus already knew; he had prepared for this encounter by keeping fish away during the night and gathering a large school of large fish to arrive at the proper time.  So Jesus told them to put down their nets on the right side of the boat.  Even non-fishermen know that if you have fish on one side of the boat, there will be fish on the other side, too.  Not so, here.  To their credit, the disciples obeyed and were rewarded with a huge catch.  [This account is loaded with miracles.  You can forget happenstances.]  John was the first to recognize that it was Jesus, but, as usual, it was Peter who first took action.  He put his garment on and jumped into the water, eager to get to Jesus.  The other six brought the boat to shore, dragging the net of fish along because they couldn’t haul it into the boat.  Once ashore, the disciples were invited to breakfast, already prepared for them.  It was bread and fish, already there and ready to eat.  No sign of where it came from.  Recalling the feeding of the 5000, you might make an educated guess.  But Jesus told the disciples to bring some of their catch to the meal, too—I think to emphasize that they were involved in a joint effort.  They needed him, but he needed them.  Peter again was the one to take action.  He climbed into the boat and dragged the fish up onto the shore.  I don’t know why they counted them.  Maybe this was an all time record catch and they wanted to come away with evidence.  Maybe it had to do with how much that net could hold without breaking.  Jesus could have had a hand in that, too—knowing how much the net would hold or miraculously strengthening the net.  Note that he said large fish.  There were no small or medium sized fish, which is another anomaly.  All this detail before Jesus ever got to the issues at hand—Jesus laying a groundwork for some serious teaching.  Restoration was under way, although there is no mention yet of the real issues that had to be dealt with.   I think we can assume that the “business at hand” was put aside while they ate, but I would like to know the “atmosphere” of that early morning breakfast.  Nor do we know if there was any conversation at all.  I suppose they were all happy to see Jesus, but probably wondering what was coming next.  I would have liked to be there to observe the scene.   One thing I’m sure of:  Jesus was in total control.

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A Beach Party

Monday, February 19                         

I’ve often wondered why Jesus and his disciples didn’t get together a lot more between the resurrection and the ascension.  It would seem that Jesus was the one who chose when and where they would meet—and it didn’t appear to happen very often.  I don’t know where Jesus was in the meantime, or what he was doing.  Several encounters with Jesus in the first week—with Mary Magdalene, two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and ten disciples (Thomas absent), all on  Sunday, resurrection day, would verify Jesus’ resurrection and his obtaining an incorruptible body.  One might think that any strained relationships between Jesus and his disciples would have been resolved, too, but this beach party on the shore of Galilee (John 21:1-23) would indicate otherwise.  Unity and fellowship needed a little reinforcement.  Everything that took place was designed to restore fellowship and strengthen the disciples’ in their soon to come trials.  The dialogue in this account is most fascinating and also raises some interesting questions.  All the disciples failed to support Jesus in some ways during his arrest, “trials,”  and crucifixion. They feared for their own lives, made themselves scarce, and hid behind locked doors.  They were anything but bold witnesses.  Subsequently, they must have felt chagrined and discouraged.  And they might have been overawed at seeing Jesus in his resurrected body.  It would appear that they went their various ways, going back to earlier pursuits—such as fishing.  They were like lost and scattered sheep.  They seemed to have had a more distant relationship with Jesus than they had before the crucifixion. So Jesus arranged a little beach party.

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Understanding God

Sunday, February 18                  

Maximizing my understanding of God will minimize my pride.  My worth should never be compared to God’s worth.  The two are in total contrast.  I’m at one end of the stick and God is at the other—and infinity lies between.  Any attempt I make to narrow that gap will be in vain and will be a direct affront to God—a sin which God can’t tolerate.  This is clearly revealed in the Bible, illustrated by the fall, of Lucifer as well as the fall of Adam and Eve.  The essence of that sin is claiming self worth, that we deserve a higher position.  It’s the heart of all sin.  [Bear with me as I go down a little side trail. People use the word “pride” in connection with Satan’s fall and Adam’s fall.   I think there’s a difference between pride and conceit.  These two words are often used interchangeably, but there are nuances.  One can take pride in a job well done.  That’s acceptable unless a person seeks the praise of others for his accomplishment.  Conceit is unwarranted pride.  This is illustrated in Gal. 6:3.  “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing he deceives himself.”  That is conceit.]  So both pride and conceit could apply to both Satan’s fall and Adam’s fall.]  So inflated self-worth is to be avoided, but there’s a flip side to this.  We are so valued by God that he died in our place to change us from rebels to saints.  He sees us as sinless and has made us a part of his family.  We must not take pride in that, either.  It’s all by God’s grace.  But I still haven’t said anything about how to maximize my understanding of God.  There are two ways and there are no substitutes—studying God’s word and prayer.  It’s not reasonable to neglect the study of  God’s word.  The entire Bible is to reveal God.  It’s what we need and all we need in terms of knowledge.  As to prayer, I’ve found that personal communion with God gets beyond generalities to specifics in my life—acknowledging failures, the need for forgiveness, and the importance of  thankfulness.  God also reminds me of Scriptures that apply to my needs.  And he reveals truths from Scriptures that I previously didn’t understand.  In short, he makes the Bible come alive.  The Christian life is not a bed of roses, but it satisfies the soul.  It will be like springs of water in the desert.

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Obsessive Goals

Saturday, February 17                     

I sometimes have goals that so pervade my thinking that I forget about other things that need my attention.  I keep thinking “if I can only get this project finished, I can go on to other things.” When I think more logically, I realize that my pet project doesn’t have to be finished by a certain date, and in the meantime things that need attention are neglected.  That is especially pertinent when my wife can’t do something and is depending on me for help.  Just for the record, you should know that I’m working on this.  And I need to do it in a way that doesn’t appear that I’m making a great sacrifice or doing a big favor.  My wife should see that it’s a joy to do something for her.  And it should be real; she’s very good at spotting duplicity.  So it’s good to have goals so long as they are not obsessions.  There are positive side effects with a more balanced pattern.   1) I’m on better terms with people around me, 2) I relax and enjoy life, 3) My project doesn’t suffer.  4) And I might live longer—which means I will be able to do a few more projects.

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Moldy Cheese

Friday, February 16                         

“Good doesn’t make bad good; but bad does make good bad.”  This from a young man in our adult Sunday School class.  It is a beautiful truth derived from Haggai 2:11-13.  You might want to read it.  This is easily illustrated.  Put a piece of good cheese alongside a piece of moldy cheese.  Does the moldy cheese become fresh?  No, the fresh cheese becomes moldy, and it doesn’t take very long.  The same principle is revealed in Psalm 1:1.  It pictures a person who hangs out with ungodly people.  It starts with a casual relationship—walking, gets more involved—standing, and eventually results in joining the crown—sitting.  What a concise and graphic picture of how the bad influences the good.  It should be no surprise that Proverbs is loaded with warnings about the dangers of running with the wrong crowd.  What a powerful thing it would be if all our young people came to grips with this truth.  It would spare them from a lot of heart ache down the road.

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