Follow Me – John 21

John 21:19-25; Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”   Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”  Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

“Follow me” Jesus states; simple words but difficult and scary.  How can we follow someone when their eyes pierce into our hearts and we cannot hide who we are? He sees my pain, my weaknesses and all of my insecurities.

Coming to know Jesus we enter into a relationship with many pre-suppositions about how we think God ought to move in our lives.  And in spite of what may or may not be good for us, he blesses us anyway because of His love for us. Peter is restored and put in charge of the church and then Peter responds by saying… “Lord, what about him?”  Jesus was referring to John and Peter again was falling into the trap of comparing himself spiritually with his peers.

Peter is just really starting to get to know Jesus and the awesome hope and responsibility that the Lord is giving him.   Peter is going to go thru many trials over the next few years as the leader of this new movement.   Through each trial Peter grows deeper and closer to his savior.

The words follow me are deeper and become even more profound to Peter as he grows older in his life.  Church legend has it that when Nero was persecuting Christians in Rome in the years A D 67-68, Peter was being chased by Romans soldiers and as he fled Rome, he encounters the risen Lord Jesus on the Via Apia, then Peter astonished asks him in Latin; “Domine, quo vadis? / Lord where goest thou?” And the Lord Jesus replies sadly; “Venio iterum crucfgi,” / “I come to be crucified again.”  Its written that Peter turned around and went back to be crucified, and he was crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy to die like Jesus did. (This comes from Tertullian, church father who called the church of Rome, Beata, because for her the apostles shed their blood).

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“Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:6For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

We get this idyllic view of the Christ Childs birth, a peaceful night with shepherds hanging out, snow coming down and everything is right with the universe.  Now Gods protective angels certainly did make sure that they were protected.  And I am sure that the manager was sterilized and clean. (It was a feeding trough for animals. Early tradition suggests is was a cave used a manger). I am sure that the animals had no diseases that were lingering around.   And the Roman soldiers who were insuring that everyone was accountable to be surveyed for the census were easy to work with.  And King Herod was a very just king and wanted the child to sleep in peace.  (He killed his wife and 3 sons). And they this new family was certainly very mobile and Mary probably had no issues in the birthing of the child.  I am sure that Joseph was not scared at all.   Have you ever been in child birth? Back then a 1/3rd of the babies did not make it.

The infant mortality rate in the first century Roman Empire was about 30%. Nearly a third of all babies died before the age of 1. Compare that to the United States in 2016, where less the infant mortality rate is less than half of a percent (.46%). Being born was risky business.

The gospel stories describe Mary’s pregnancy and delivery as more complicated than most. She was young and unmarried, facing the stress of possible rejection from her family and community. There was the long journey in the final week of her pregnancy, by donkey. I can only imagine how that conversation went, when Joseph told her of the emperor’s decree–well, honey, you’ve always said you wanted to travel… And then no room at the inn, and only a cold, dark barn with the animals for a delivery room.

Central to the theology of the Incarnation is Jesus’ vulnerability. He did great deeds, mighty signs of God’s power, yes. But he was also weak, exposed, and at some points, defenseless.

This is who came to bring salvation to the world.  You have a blessed Christmas as you go out and share Christ’s love.

You are more than conqueror!

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39.

Am I walking in this truth or am I holding myself back from trusting that God has the best for me?    Paul asks this rhetorical question in verse 31 “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us”?  After he asks this question he then moves into one of the most powerful statements of truth in the Bible.  We are more than a conqueror; the word means absolutely and unequivocally victorious. He states that not one thing can keep me from God and His love.

Then question then is when I am in a battle, what is my mindset?  Am I walking in a defeatist attitude or do I have an expectation of God walking me through this trial to bring healing and restoration and revelation of His love and Glory.

Have I let fear and trepidation wear me down?   Am I walking in the joy and the love of God knowing that Jesus Christ has done the work on the cross and he has called to walk through this trial to bring Him honor and glory?

Today, let us look at what is keeping us from walking with Christ in the mindset of what Peter writes “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5.  Let us ask God what is holding us back from the deep knowing that we cannot be separated from the Love of God.  Be blessed as you go out in the confidence of knowing that truth in your heart today. Amen.

 

“Throw your net on the right side of the boat”

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” John 21:4-6.

We see here Jesus watching his disciple’s fish.  They are not having any “luck” as we say in fishing lingo.  But Jesus knows where the fish are. Throw out on the “right side.”   He knows better than my Hummingbird fish finder model 798.

Well they caught more than they could handle.  Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Notice that John knows the exact number. Fishermen do not forget these things.  We remember.   Personally, I have only torn my net once. (A 48-inch musky on Lake Minnetonka, 6 pm on June 17, 2008). But who is counting.  My point is that we do not forget these moments.

John remembers it all clearly.  And through the Holy Spirit he translates these moments to us through the written Word of God.
Now Peter is commissioned to go…

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”” John 21:15.

Peter is now commissioned, it is an ordination of sorts. Yet he is still confused. (What about John he asks). Lord help him, he is more concerned about John not having the same responsibility and yet Jesus is commissioning and sending him out to lead this new church.

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25. Jesus has shown himself and proved who he said he was to his new leaders and now he will depart.   Now it is up to us to carry out this continuing mission for Christ. Now go.

Born of the Spirit

Born of the Spirit

John 3:1-6 “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no-one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no-one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

When our hearts yearned for more meaning and peace we sought out the Savior and Creator of the world.  We came to our sense and realized we needed to be saved. We invited Him into our hearts and our spirits were renewed and born again, (born from above).  Nicodemus was on this same journey and search.  He wanted to know God more and when he happened upon Christ he sought Him out late at night.  How many of us have sought out the savior late at night in our travails and trials?   

 In those periods of trials, whether it is our first encounter with the Spirit of Christ, or numerous times in each instance Jesus draws us closer to Him. The Born-Again experience is a one-time happening where we become redeemed and made righteous by the Blood of Christ.  But each time we seek Him out He renews our mind over and over.

 In each deep encounter as we seek him His Holy Spirit opens us up to the deeper things of God and His mysteries.

 1st Corinthians 2:12-16; We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.  The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

 The Spirit searches and moves on His own, we need to be submitted to God Holy Spirit. A person must be born of the Spirit to come into the kingdom of God. God sent Jesus to die for you and me and others, and now he has empowered you and I with His Spirit to do this work for His kingdom building.  Now go out today and  “go make disciples”…as He has commanded us to do in His name.  Amen.

The kingdom of God is near you

Luke 10:1-4 “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.”

This spiritual journey is a faith walk, not a “I know everything there is walk and I am certain of my own plans and purposes walk.” The faith walk is a daily walk of being part of Gods business of building up his kingdom. His plan which is not my plan or your plan.

We read here in this passage that Jesus is sending out his disciples and followers to bring forth the good news about His coming kingdom.  He instructs His followers to walk in faith, (take no purse).  He is meaning for them to count on Thy Daily Bread, literally speaking.   How many of us can really do that sort of thing?

We want to walk in faith and trust God, but we also want our security in our life.  Where is that line? Where does faith and surrender begin when the false sense of security that we want end?  Is our security an idol?  Have we made our sense of arriving and not stepping out any longer at thing of the past?  Are you wishing for the Lord to move more deeply in your life?  Try this simple prayer, Lord Jesus how do you want to use me today in your kingdom?  What do you want me to do for you today?  There is a deep joy when walking in faith and in the assurance that God knows what is best for you and I.

Watch what happens when you pray that prayer.  He may just send you out today to use you to touch others with your faith walk.    Luke 10:9 “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’”

Remain in me, and I will remain in you.

John 15:5-7Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”

It all seems so simple at first, we come to Christ. We have this great epiphany moment when everything seems so crystal clear.  But then the distraction of the world comes at us.  Our old ways of doing things do not seem to fall away as fast as we had hoped.  The enemy of our soul attacks us and then we experience confusion and stress.  We try to rely on our own strengths, (or perceived strengths) of doing it on our own power.

The biggest realization in my Christian walk has been to disavow any knowledge or belief that I know how to walk in this world on my own power.

It is our own intellectual pride that keeps us from seeing the basic problem; that we must reprogram our minds to constantly desire to stay close to the Lord Jesus.   Jesus lays it out clearly and simply stating stay close to me; but we complicate it with our own thinking of attempting to manipulate and control circumstances or the events of our daily lives.

 “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”  For this to be our reality we need to stay close and let His words into our hearts on the most basic level.   This is the discipline of discipleship that transforms us into the ability to know Him and his wishes for our lives that enable us to walk and ask in confidence; 1 John 3:21, 22 “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.”

Stay close to Jesus today, (abide) and watch what He will do in your life as He uses you for his kingdom building.  Amen

The Prodigal Son

It is amazing, is it not?

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.”

Verse 20 “So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.”  Luke 15:11-13…20-22.

God’s grace and love is amazing, is it not?  It is astounding to me the levels of despair, depravity and darkness a person can go to.   God loves me and you so much that He freely gives us our own will and ability to make choices.  He loves us so much that he lets us run to the end of our own devices so that we can see for ourselves what life is like without Him.   How fortunate you are to know His grace and how sad it is for those who have not experienced that same grace.

 So he got up and went to his father” Verse 20.  And yet when a person comes to their senses our heavenly Father welcomes him or her back.  We read here in Luke Jesus is explaining to the people the level of the depth of God’s love to us sinners who are saved by His grace and redeemed by the cross. Folks keep on keeping on and don’t look back for God has His hand on you and He will never leave you or forsake you, Hebrews 13:5.

 

Now go out and make disciples…

Isaiah 58:6-7: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loosen the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?   Verse 12: “You will be called Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

It is Tuesday after our Memorial Day celebration remembering those who gave up their lives for our freedom in this great country the United States of America.  As I reflect on this I am reminded of the scriptures in Galatians – “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1,

 OUR freedom came at a cost in this country.  Men and women still die protecting our rights and freedom today.  2000 years ago Jesus died for yours and my freedom from sin and death once and for all.  When Jesus said on the cross “it is finished”, (John 19:30), He did it for us permanently.  He took on all of our pain and frustrations as well as all of our sin.

 When the prophet writes, “is it not to loosen the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke and set the oppressed free?” he is challenging the church to bring this message out to others now.  It is a question that is asked in the present tense.  Jesus states this even more clearly in Matthew 28:19-20 when he says, “go make disciples of all nations.”

 How are we handling our freedom here in our country and in our faith walk?  Are we being responsible and handing it out to others sharing Christ with them?  God has promises for us when we join in with the acts of our local churches dedicated to bringing this delivering message to our communities. 

 “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. “…not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 58:12-14.

God has a plan for you and wants to use you to reach out to others for His plans and purposes.  It may be as simple as offering a word of kindness to someone in need or assisting your neighbor who is burdened.  Now go out and have a blessed day today as you share Christ.

Follow Me!

John 21:16-19 “Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!””

Follow Me!

The Lord had just called Peter to a new level of leadership that very few people will ever receive in their life. Essentially Peter is commissioned to go forth and lead this new church with the message of God’s love and forgiveness through Christ crucified with the promise of eternal life, and yet Peter does not realize what he has just been given.

Follow me the Lord says; three times Peter had rejected Jesus when Jesus was on trial.  Three times Jesus asked Peter “do you love me?”  In each question, Peter’s words are being challenged and Jesus is saying to Him, if you love me do as I command.  Jesus knows that deep down Peter wants to serve and please the Lord but he still must sort out his insecurities to get to that place of total abandon to Jesus from his own agenda.

Peter, do you love me?  Has Jesus asked you that question?  Have you responded with hurt and offense as Peter did when He asks you to do that very hard thing that we are being called to achieve (note that Peter is worried about what will happen to John)?  At times in our own sense of justice we think that things ought to go easier and we ask the Lord, what about him Lord?  Why do they have it easier than what you have given me to do?

Peter received his commission on that beach. Then he was restored from his sin of claiming to not know Jesus, and then he is told to lead this new church. Yet Peter’s insecurities are still surfacing at this critical juncture in the early church.

The process of sanctification is slow and tedious. Our calling into Christian ministry is not based on being perfect but on being obedient and willing. God will grind off the edges of our personalities and sin if we keep our hearts resolved to serve and stay tender to listen and learn from Him in this journey of living out this Christian witness. Remember His words: Follow Me is an invitation to walk close and serve  Him with reckless abandon.