Friday, August 31, 2012

…More than these?

“So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My lambs."” John 21:15

Have you ever puzzled over what to do?  Which decision to make?  Have you ever felt like God wanted you to do something, but you failed in it – or felt that your past somehow disqualified you?  Not knowing what to do next, have you ever reverted back to what you’ve always done before? 

Do you remember the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus?  Peter was “the Rock.” He was the one who would die for Jesus.  But when it came down to it, he became very afraid and panicked. After his denial, and after the crucifixion of Jesus, Peter sort of faded into the background.  He went back to fishing.  Then came the day that the resurrected Jesus paid Simon a call, and during that visit, Jesus asked him “Simon…do you love Me more than these?”  What a curious question!

But what are “these?”
The real crux of the account in John 21:15-19 is the recent denial of Jesus by Peter, and what is Peter going to do now?  Jesus has risen from the dead and has now made another appearance to the disciples.  The text in verse 15 tells us that Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him more than “these,” but casual examination of the text really isn’t clear about what “these” are.  Without going into the original language study details, suffice it to say that Jesus is not asking Peter if he loves Jesus more than he loves the other disciples.  Nor is he asking Peter if he loves Jesus more than the other disciples love Jesus.  

Peter is a fisherman.  After Jesus was crucified, life essentially went back to ‘normal’ for Peter.  Jesus is gone.  Peter goes back to the water.  It’s what he does.  So, apparently it is what he will do.  He’s been fishing all morning…and without catching anything, until Jesus comes along that is.  After telling the disciples to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, an enormous catch being reeled in, and everyone recognizing that it is Jesus, Jesus now has Peter sitting still and he asks him a hard question. “Do you love me more than these?”  “These” would be Peter’s nets, and his boat…His identity and career as a fisherman.  Jesus is confronting Peter with the question of essentially: “Okay Peter, you blew it.  You denied me three times and you are ashamed.  What now?  Do you love me?”  To which Peter replies: “You know I love you!” “Peter, do you love me more than these…this life you have as a fisherman? Do you love me enough to continue what I was doing on this earth?”  This whole context becomes apparent when Jesus says three times for Peter to 1. tend His lambs, 2. Shepherd His sheep, and 3. to tend His sheep.

What do I love?
As Christians, we agree that the Lord has called us to the labors of his Kingdom.  But sometimes we fail, and feel that somehow disqualifies us from the Lord’s care and service.  But I want us to hear the voice of the Lord to Peter as he called him back into service…saying effectively “Just let it go.  You love me more than all of this.  I know you do.  So, feed my sheep.”

Lord Jesus, sin so easily distracts me and tangles me in regret, remorse, and defeat.  Remind me of your mercy.  Restore to me the vision of what you would have me to do, and grant me the grace to be like Peter…to let go of my nets and boat…and serve you.  Amen.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Final Fixing of the Foolish Fugitive

And He said, "A man had two sons. "The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished… 'I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men."' So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  (Luke 15:11-20)

A bit of levity for a summer day…
Rev. W. O. Taylor, 91, was the oldest man attending the Southern Baptist Convention a few years ago. At the annual free breakfast for retirees, Brother Taylor rose and recited his own alliterative version of the parable of the prodigal son, which he entitled

"The Final Fixing of the Foolish Fugitive":
"Feeling footloose, fancy-free, and frisky, this feather-brained fellow finagled his fond father into forking over his fortune. Forthwith, he fled for foreign fields and frittered his farthings feasting fabulously with fair-weather friends.

Finally, facing famine, and fleeced by his fellows in folly, he found himself a feed flinger in a filthy farm lot. He fain would have filled his frame with foraged food from the fodder fragments.

"'Fooey! My father's flunkies fare far fancier,' the frazzled fugitive fumed feverishly, frankly facing fact.

"Frustrated from failure and filled with forebodings, he fled for his family.
"Falling at his father's feet, he floundered forlornly. 'Father, I have flunked and fruitlessly forfeited further family favors. . .'

"But the faithful father, forestalling further flinching, frantically flagged his flunkies to fetch forth the finest fatling and fix a feast.

"But the fugitive's fault-finding frater, faithfully farming his father's fields for free, frowned at this fickle forgiveness of former falderal. His fury flashed, but fussing was futile.

"His foresighted father figured, 'Such filial fidelity is fine, but what forbids fervent festivities? The fugitive is found! Unfurl the flags!

With fanfare flaring, let fun, frolic, and frivolity flow freely, former failures forgotten and folly forsaken. Forgiveness forms a firm foundation for future fortitude.'"

Scripture to Claim:
A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thoughts on Friendship

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you" (John 15:13-15)

As our children return to school an important and vital discussion to have with them concerns the friendships they will make.  The friends we have certainly influence us and it is even more so in the lives of children.

"What is true friendship according to the Bible?"
Answer: Jesus gave us the definition of a true friend in our key passage for today.  Of course, Jesus is the pure example of a true friend, for He laid down His life for His "friends." What is more, anyone may become His friend by trusting in Him as his personal savior, being born again and receiving new life in Him.  But this is not the only passage that gives us direction and insight on friends.

There is an example of true friendship between David and Jonathan, who, in spite of Jonathan’s father Saul's pursuit of David and attempts to kill him, stood by his friend.  You will find that story in 1 Samuel 18-20. This friendship went far beyond being “buddies” as some would see it.  The very soul of David was intertwined with the soul of his dear friend, Jonathan.  The difficult circumstances surrounding their relationship actually drove them closer as they stood in defense of each other.  This is a truly inspirational friendship which gives strength to Proverbs 17:17A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."

Teaching our children to use wisdom in the selection of their friends is one of the most important acts we will do as parents.  Proverbs 27:17 warns us that "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.When our children get involved with the wrong kind of friends, their lives can be devastated.  As they return to a school or start in a new school in the weeks to come, a priority of parenting and grand parenting is to monitor who they are gravitating toward and what kind of relationships they are seeking.  It is not wrong to ask questions about who they are spending their time with and the values of their new acquaintances.

Many young people believe that being popular is most important so they seek to develop relationships with numbers of others teens while compromising their personal values and convictions.  "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24)  Someone has said that if you can count your true friends on the fingers of one hand, you are blessed. A friend is one whom you can be yourself with and never fear that he or she will judge you. A friend is someone that you can confide in with complete trust. A friend is someone you respect and that respects you, not based upon worthiness but based upon a likeness of mind.  Children need to learn the value of nurturing one good relationship that can last a lifetime.

Our Scripture to Claim is one we need to remember and remind our children of for Christ clearly showed us friendship.
"For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:7-8). Now, that is true friendship!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Christ in You

...that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:26-27

It is this dynamic, Christ in you, which secures our salvation. If Christianity were nothing more than a man deciding to worship Jesus and doing his best to imitate Him, there indeed would be little hope.  But if Christianity is Jesus coming into an available human body and acting like Himself, then there is abundant hope. 

In the one, all is based on human strength.  In the other, all is based on the dynamic of the indwelling Christ.  If my salvation depended on my ability to be like Christ, I could be lost again and again.  But if my salvation depends on Jesus, then I cannot be lost.  Thus my salvation is secured not by my imitation of Christ but by my participation in Christ.  He, Himself, living in me, is the security of my salvation. I need no other.

Not only is our salvation secured, but our service is certified.  It bears the mark of God on it. I greatly fear that when the final accounting is done, much of the work that we have sought to do for God will not stand. It has been done in the flesh, with fleshly motives, and toward fleshly goals.  The Judgment Seat of Christ will reveal exactly this.

Jesus said, "The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works" (John 14:10).  If Jesus depended on the Father in Him to do the works, how much more should we depend upon Him in us to do the works here?  If Jesus freely admitted, "The Son can do nothing of Himself," should we feel hesitant in making the same admission?

Man working for God is one thing. God working in man is quite another.  What we have in our world is a system of religion that, in the main, encourages folks to work for God.  This kind of work is bothersome, fruitless, and frustrating.  I have known many people who were bored to death of church work. But when we face the glorious fact that "it is God who worketh in you," a new day dawns!

We are not in the world to bear witness to Christ through our own strength.  Christ is in us in the world to bear witness of Himself.  The Christian life is not the doing of things to please God, but the yielding of our bodies to God so that He can through the indwelling Christ do things for Himself.  No work, done in the flesh, bears the mark of divine certification.  If Christ in us does the work, that work will stand when the stars have fallen.

The dynamic of this fact of Christ indwelling is found not only in salvation secured, service certified, but in conquest complete. In this great key, (Christ in me) there is victory.  For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. (1 John 5:4)  Victory is not something I win, but Someone I receive into my life. CHRIST IN ME. The Hope of Glory  Nobody can be like Jesus like Jesus can.  He is in me.  All of Him is in me.  All of Him in me is available to me and through me to a lost world.  That makes Christianity exciting.  This makes it Christ-in-you-ity and Christ-in-me-ity

Scripture to Claim:
Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:5) 

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