Monday, May 25, 2015

Taking a break before the new study

I hope that you will excuse me, and bear with me. I find that I need to take some time to recharge and prepare for our next study. . .

We completed Proverbs a while back, and learned a lot.

Especially from the 31st chapter, right?

If you would like to refresh your memory of those studies, you can find them on the right-hand side bar of the blog.

We learned a lot from studying the gospel of John, too.

I've been moved to start a new study, but I need some time to prepare. It might be a week before we begin -- bear with me, 'cos I think it will be one that you will enjoy, and that we all will benefit from.

Take care, my friends. Please pray for me as I study.

See you next week.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday slowdown

We've talked these past weeks about restoration.

What a blessing to realize afresh and anew, that His love never fails. He will still call us His daughters and His sons, even when we fail. We just need to turn to Him in trust and repentance.

He will be there.

He promised.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

John 21:18-25 Is that our business?

As we conclude this week's study, I am still very thankful for Peter. So grateful!

He was such a great example of the things that we do.

We try oh, so hard.

But we fail. Sometimes we fail hard.

We may boast about things.

                          Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day
                          may bring. Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; 
                          an outsider, and not your own lips. Proverbs 27:1-2)

Here is what we should boast of:

                         For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has
                         accomplished through me ....  (Romans 15:18a)

We might not deny Christ, but we might fail to speak up for Him -- isn't that kinda the same?

Here's what we should do:

                        But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being
                        prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason
                        for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
                       having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those
                       who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.  
                       (I Peter 3:15-16)                     

(What's awesome is that those instructions were written by the same man who denied His Lord....)

We can be overly concerned about what others are doing or not doing, comparing ourselves.

                       For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am
                       I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man,
                       I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

Here is how we should act:

                        Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker
                        who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
                        (II Timothy 2:15)

We can be restored and have a ministry that glorifies our Savior.

                         And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who
                         has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore,
                         confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (I Peter 5:10)

Peter is an awesome example . . . he's an inspiration to me. I hope he is to you, too.
In the final verse of John's gospel, he says:

                         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)

We can agree that is probably true; we can be grateful for our Bible, and for John's gospel that we have studied for the past year or so.
We serve an awesome God!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

John 21:18-25 Is that our business?

Last time we studied this passage, we explored the motivation behind Peter's asking about "what would happen to John?" and we discussed the "misery loves company" mentality that we humans sometimes exhibit.

This time we'll look at yet another human frailty -- we love to compare ourselves with others!

Perhaps Peter was wondering if his experience was unique. Was it like the snowflakes that fall, and it would be totally different from everyone else, including John? Or was it something that John would suffer, also? Yep, Peter may have been thinking that  . . . after all, it is a natural human-type tendency to always compare our experience with someone else.

Here I am driving my 1998 pickup. Jane, the church secretary, drives a really pretty 2005 truck.  Sure is nice. I bet they went into debt big time to get that truck.

Brother Bill and his children sure do seem to get along well. All seven of those kids are respectful and polite. Why can't we get our kids to do that? We all come to church and we make sure they are at all the activities. What are we doing wrong?

Everyone sure is making over Bernice.  They act like she is the best thing since sliced bread, because she was elected Women's Missionary Union president, and they don't seem to care that I sang my heart out in that duet this morning.  I could tell them some things about how she used to be. It'd make their hair curl.

We often compare ourselves with others.
It's human.
But the devil can certainly use it.
Sometimes we do this to make ourselves feel better than others. Remember the poor man, and the self-righteous Pharisee? They both came to the Temple at worship time. The Bible says that when he prayed, he was thankful that he was not sinful like other people . . . nope, he wasn't sinful like other folks -- he had his own unique set of sins!

There are times that we compare ourselves to others, to make sure that they are doing as much as we are doing. My grandmother used to call this feeling "put upon." Here's an example: remember when Jesus went to visit at His friends' home, and Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, soaking up every word? It says in that passage that Martha was busy "with much service." Martha then complained to Jesus that Mary was shirking her responsibility, and leaving all the work on her. Yep, she felt "put upon."

If we aren't careful, the devil can use our comparisons and we can develop a bitter, resentful spirit; when we make comparisons and we think that we are the ones (the only ones) doing it right, or that we are doing more than anyone else! And then we will use those comparisons to justify what we do or don't do, when we should be asking ourselves if that's our business!

Here is how the Lord responded to Peter's question:

                          Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return,
                          what is that to you? You must follow me.”

Ouch. I expect that got Peter's attention.
Peter, don't worry about what is going to happen to John. It's not your business. Your business is to follow me, OK?
And that is the business that the Lord Jesus has for us today. We have to be very careful we don't fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others, or worrying about someone else's business. Sometimes in churches there are peeps who are so busy making sure that other people do what they're supposed to do, that they leave their own responsibilities undone!

And if I did sing in the duet this morning, I don't need to compare myself to Bernice, or be jealous that she is successful in her own ministry.....Let's take a peek at a passage in I Corinthians:

                            There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.
                            There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are
                            different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is
                            the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the
                            Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through
                            the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge
                            by means of the same Spirit,  to another faith by the same Spirit,
                            to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,  to another miraculous
                            powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between
                            spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to
                            still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work
                            of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one,
                            just as he determines. (I Corinthians 12:4-11)

Each of us has a unique gift (or several) and we each have a unique calling, too. If I'm trying to do what the Lord has called you to do, I'm "gumming up the works" as my grandfather said.

If we think that our experience is the norm, and measure everyone else's experience by our own, we're messing things up! Conversely, we should not measure our experience by looking at Bernice or Jane or Brother Bill, either. (Grin)
We also should not try to enforce the diligence of others; it's our job to make sure that we are doing what the Lord has called us to do. Sure, if we are asked to pick up the slack for someone, we need to do it willingly, and graciously, but notice the operative words there . . . "if we are asked."  Volunteering to do something is an awesome thing, too, but we must give our first priority to what the Lord has called us to do, then we are ready to "bear one another's burdens."

Lastly, we need to make sure that we don't compare ourselves to others, because we can deceive ourselves. We can only see what is on the outside of others; it's best to look inside and make sure we are doing what we should.....are we doing our own business?

                           Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride
                           in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone
                           else....(Galatians 6:4)

Let's examine our hearts, determine what God has tasked us with, and make sure that we do that task first. Then let's look around and give others the hand up they might need. That's our business.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Verses that inspire us

I'd like to invite all of our readers to take just a moment to leave a comment on this post in particular. Many times we study our Bible and find gems from God that truly bless and inspire us; we may find "just the right" verse to help us through a difficult situation.
Recently I read this passage in Nehemiah:

                           From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half
                          were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers
                          posted themselves behind all the people of Judah  who were building
                          the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and
                         held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at
                         his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with
                         me. (Nehemiah 4:16-18)

I was struck by the fact that these people thought it no problem to work, with a tool in one hand and a weapon in the other. And when adversity strikes us, we complain about having too much to do, or too much stress, or why hasn't God taken this out of our lives? I think I'd better remember this the next time I'm tempted to complain.....

Won't you share with us, if you have found a verse or passage to be helpful in the past week or two? You never know who might really need that verse or insight that you share . . .

Monday, May 18, 2015

John 21:18-25 Is that our business?

Last week we saw the disciples at the Sea of Galilee. Discouraged and without much purpose in their lives at the moment, they decided to go fishing. Jesus fixed breakfast for them on the shore, and then He restored Simon Peter to fellowship.

Jesus has some more things to say to Peter. Let's listen in:

                              Very truly I tell you, 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!”  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 believers
                              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.(John 21:18-25)

Many, many sermons have been written about Peter, and a lot has been said about him. But you know, I really like him! Don't you? With all of his faults, and all of his "foot-in-mouth" moments, he gives us hope that we, too, may do great things for God in our corner of the world, in spite of our own shortcomings!

Peter would always ask questions, or make statements, that the other disciples might have been thinking about, but didn't dare to ask. Sometimes he would blurt out a question that might on the surface appear foolish. Or he would declare with certainty something that the others were not certain of. But I bet that in most cases, he was just saying what the others wanted to say, or asking what they didn't have the nerve to ask. Well, maybe it was that they had more restraint. I dunno.  Some people have called him impetuous. I prefer spontaneous. Perhaps impulsive. But always eager, even passionate. (I think of those as positives, myself.)

It's because of Peter's impulsiveness that we have insights into Jesus' mind that might not have been written down in the gospels if Peter had not been eager to speak his mind! It was Peter who asked how many times we should forgive someone. It was he that wanted to build shelters on the mount of Transfiguration. Peter asked what everyone else was thinking at the last supper -- who will betray you, Lord? It was Peter that wielded the sword and took off the servant's ear at the arrest of Jesus.

And it was Peter who vehemently said even if the others might forsake Jesus, he would stay with Him, even if it cost him his life. Jesus revealed that before the cock would crow, Peter would deny Him three times....and it turned out exactly as Jesus said. Our Lord was taken, His disciples forsook Him and fled, and Peter adamantly denied knowing Him -- once, twice, then the third time -- and the sound of the cock crowing was heard.

Now, in this passage, Jesus seemed to have words specifically for Peter. We've talked about how disappointed Peter must have been, with himself. He may have been wondering what Jesus thought of him. Jesus confronted him with his failure, but it was in order to restore him. And He asked Peter three times, the same number of times that Peter had denied Jesus.

Then after Peter's responses, He told him what the future would hold for him. He was going to die a martyr's death. After Jesus had revealed this to Peter, it seems from the text that He got up and began to walk away from the fire, telling Peter to follow Him.
As he followed the Lord, Peter noticed that John was also following along behind them, and he asked Jesus, "What shall this man do?"
In other words, you told me about what's going to happen to me, but I want to know this -- what's going to happen to him? What's in store for him? Does the future hold a martyr's death for him, too?

This text is so revealing. It shows us that Peter was very like many of us. I mean, seriously, Jesus had just told him how he was going to die -- but the first thing Peter wants to know is what's going to happen to John!

Wonder what his motivation was? I would think it was a pretty sobering thought, to know how he, himself, would die. Maybe he wanted to know that he would not be the only one. My grandmother used to say "misery loves company" (along with many other sayings that I recall).  Somehow, we humans feel a little bit better about our own situations, if we know that we aren't the only ones who are suffering, or going through a trial. We take comfort sometimes in thinking that other people are going through (or have gone through) similar experiences, right? Just being real, here. (Grin)

One thing we must remember, though, is that no matter what other people are doing, no matter what they are not doing, it's up to us to mind our own business. Now, I don't mean that we shouldn't be involved in other people's problems when they ask us -- they may ask our advice; they may ask for us to pray with them; they may ask for tangible help. If we can give help, we absolutely should. But we should not worry so much about whether or not someone else's experience is as good or as bad as our own. God sends us just what we need in our lives. He may, as the old song goes, send sunshine or rain. But the amazing thing is this: He will not send more than we can handle.

                     No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man;
                      but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what
                      you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape,
                      that you may be able to bear it.   (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Stop, stop, you may be saying. That is about temptations, and righteous living. Well, here is one that is about trials, as well:

                      When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through
                      the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the
                      fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
                      (Isaiah 43:2-3)

So when the trials come, and we are tempted to look about us and see "what's happening to her (or him)?" let's just "mind our business" and deal with our trials, relying on our Father. He will protect us and guide us, and when we come through the trial to the other side, we can give all the glory to Him!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

John 21:15-17 Restoration

Yesterday we studied and saw the Jesus asked Simon Peter if he loved Him more than things . . . we will pick up now where we left off.

We touched on this when we mentioned what was around Simon as Jesus asked him; there were fish, and nets, and the other disciples.
Ohhh, the other disciples. "Do you love me more than these?"

Peter once told Him that if all the others ran away that he never world.....Peter, do you really love me more than they do? Do you really love Me more than you love them?

Here's where the rubber meets the road. Let's apply this to ourselves!
Is there anyone in our lives that we love more than Jesus?
Who are we putting ahead of Him in our lives?
Maybe ourselves? Maybe our spouse or our kids? Perhaps our own parents?

But wait! We love them differently than we love Him!
Yes, that is as it should be.
Yet, if there is anyone in our lives that is taking away from our love for Him, then we love them more than we love Him. That's tough, isn't it? In this day when we are so stressed and pulled in all directions?
Let's dig deeper . . .

In Jesus' question, He used "agape" . . .  Peter, do you really, really love Me? Is it a totally committed love, that is willing to sacrifice for Me? Putting it in simple terms, do you love Me with all your heart?
Peter's response makes me cringe, cos I know I have done this, too. He uses "phileo" instead -- yes, Lord, you know that I'm really fond of you.
Jesus didn't ask if Peter liked Him. He asked if he really, really loved Him, enough to forsake everything and everyone and follow Him.

It's a difference of intensity, isn't it? Like when your kiddos pipe up from the back seat and say, "Is there a rest stop soon?" Compared to when you hear "I really, really must go to the bathroom! When are we stopping???"

But before we are too hard on Peter, maybe he can't commit to that kind of love right now. Perhaps he is afraid of saying that he really, really loves Him, and then failing Him again.
I kinda think he learned his lesson; he's not going to brag about loving Jesus and then fail to live up to that. Not again.

Here is Jesus' response to Simon Peter -- "Feed my lambs."
Reading between the lines, perhaps He is telling Simon Peter, "I can understand your reluctance. You feel you can't totally commit to Me right at this moment. But you can still have a ministry. You can have a purpose. Go and feed my baby lambs -- because you love Me."

Perhaps we are not spiritual giants like Paul. Maybe we can't go out and preach, or serve on the mission field. But Jesus still has a ministry for us. We can work in Vacation Bible School; we can sing in the choir or sign for the service; we can visit the home-bound. We can get busy for Him!

Now Jesus asks Peter the second time -- but this time He leaves off the "more than these." He just wants him to consider, "Do you love Me?" Peter's reply is the same......Yes, Lord, you know that I like you a lot; I'm very fond of you; I think a lot of you." Wow, Peter's bragging days sure are over! He isn't about to commit himself to anything he thinks he can't live up to.
Then Jesus says to him, "Feed my sheep." Not just the baby sheep, the lambs. But also the older Christians. Jesus has confidence in Peter -- more than Peter has in himself! And He doesn't condemn his lack of commitment, his apprehension.
He sees Peter's heart, and He knows that Peter's work will grow along with his love for Jesus. It may take time, but it will come.

The final time, Jesus uses Peter's word for love: phileo. "Peter, do you really think very highly of Me?" Jesus comes down to Peter's level now. He started at the highest definition of "love" and now has come down to Simon Peter's level of "love."
Jesus is meeting Peter right "where he is at." He realizes that Simon's love for Him will grow, but right now He is working to restore him . . . he denied Jesus three times, now he needs to tell Jesus three times that he loves Him.
This time, though, Peter is grieved. Why?
Well, I kinda think it is not because Jesus asked him three times -- it's because Jesus had to come down to Peter's level of love. Kinda hurts to look deep within ourselves. Kinda hurts to realize with awe that Jesus will meet us right "where we're at."
But if we will admit without reservation that we love Him, no matter what level we are, Jesus is able to restore us to fellowship, and give us opportunities to serve Him.

Jesus is asking each of us: "Do you love Me?"
He is not asking if we go to church, or if we read our Bible, or if we pray, or even if we believe the Bible.
But "Do you really love Me?"
Everything else is secondary. Everything. Teaching Sunday School. Tithing. Church attendance.
Sometimes this question will grieve our hearts. It's meant to search us. To encourage us to search our own hearts. To get below the exterior, past the pretense.
Sometimes it can be a bitter taste of medicine. But oh, how we may need it.
We don't need for Him to "pull His punches." We need to honestly look within, and answer.
This might just transform us.
It might change our world.
It will definitely restore us to a vibrant fellowship with Him. And it will embolden us to tell others.

Let the changes begin!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

John 21:15-17 Restoration

In this passage, we've read that Jesus met His disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. They'd fished all night and caught nothing, and then what a haul! They followed His instructions and brought in all the fish they could handle.
Jesus was on the shore when they pulled in, and He had breakfast ready for them.

After they eat, He confronts Peter publicly; He speaks to him openly in front of the rest of the disciples.

                       When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon,
                       son of John, do you love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he
                       said, "you know that I love you."
                       Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
                       Again Jesus said, "Simon, son of John, do you 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."
                       (John 21:15-17)

I expect that you may have heard the reason why Jesus asked Peter the same question three times, right?
When Peter was confronted with the opportunity to demonstrate his love for Jesus, he denied knowing Jesus three times.

It was at a fireside in a courtyard that Peter denied the Lord three times and lost his ministry.
It's at a fireside by the sea that Jesus will restore Peter to the ministry.

Ever thought about how Peter must have felt during the weeks after he denied Jesus?
The night before Jesus was crucified, Peter told Jesus "Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will." (Matthew 26:33)
And on that very same night, Peter said to Him, "I am ready to die for You." (John 13:37)

If we had asked Peter, he'd have told us that he loved Jesus. He had no intention of letting Jesus down.
Look back at the three years of discipleship . . .
He's the one that walked on water to get to Jesus.
He's the one who said "Lo, we have left all, and have followed You."
He's the one who cut off the ear of the High Priest's servant, to defend Jesus.
He's the one who followed Jesus into the courtyard -- the Bible doesn't say the others were there.
He's the one who now dives into the water to meet Jesus on the shore.

Yes, Peter loved Jesus. Peter had also failed Jesus. That's all that is on his mind now, we can bet.
"What must Jesus think of me?"
"Will He ever forgive me?"
"I really, really blew it this time."
"What a failure."
Have we ever felt this way?
Have we ever failed Jesus? Um. In a word, yes.
Peter had made some bold statements about how much he loved Jesus, just as we may have. But when it came right down to it, he bombed out, as they say. So Jesus needs to restore Peter so he can be in fellowship with Him again.

And praise the Lord, that is what He wants to do for us, too.
In spite of all of our failures, the times that we have bombed out, the times that we have broken His heart, Jesus wants to restore us to fellowship with Him.

Let's look at how He does this for Peter . . . He doesn't call him "Peter" yet, for he needs to become strong again before he can be restored, and find again his purpose in life.
He calls him "Simon". . .
"Do you love me more than these?"
These what?
Well, if we look at this very simply, what is around Simon Peter at that moment?
Do you love me more than fishing? More than these guys you work with?

Jesus is very serious about sacrificing ourselves for Him. He told us, and Luke wrote it down:

                           I assure you, that everyone who has given up house or wife or
                           brothers or parents or children for the sake of the Kingdom of
                           God, will be repaid many times over in this life...(Luke 18:29-30)

And again, in Luke 14:

                          Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them He
                          said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother,
                          wife and children, brothers and sisters -- yes, even their own life --
                          such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry
                          their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-27)

I used to wonder about that . . . hate? Well, as far as I can tell, He was using "hate" as a term of comparison. Comparing our love for Christ to our love for the things of this world.

Look at it this way.
If we say a Cessna airplane with one engine (propeller) is fast, we are correct. It's faster than we are, right? But it's NOT fast in comparison with a supersonic Concord jet!
When we compare our love for Jesus with our love for the things of this world, the latter needs to look like we don't like them at all, in comparison to our overwhelming devotion and love for Him.

Jesus is asking Peter, Do you love me more than you love "things"? In order to be restored to fellowship, Peter must first affirm His love for the Lord.
What about us?
Do we love Him more than we love things?
Are there any things that we love more than we love Him?
Are there things in our lives that we put ahead of Jesus?
Our jobs? Our money? Pleasure? Time? Toys?

Lord, help me to love you more than things; help me to love you more each day.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Prayer requests

This Tuesday is our day for prayer requests.

I hope that we don't take this lightly. It is a real privilege, and also a blessing to pray for and with other Christians.

                            First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions,
                            and thanksgivings be made for all people, (I Timothy 2:1)

                            Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
                           To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication
                           for all the saints, (Ephesians 6:8)

                           Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one
                           another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person
                           has great power as it is working. (James 5:16)

                           And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed
                          for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had
                          before. (Job 42:10)

                          Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know
                         what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us
                         with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows
                         what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the
                         saints according to the will of God.  (Romans 8:26-27)

Notice that we are to pray for one another; we are to offer prayers both of thanksgiving and of supplications (requests). We are even told that Job was rewarded for his prayers, and that we'll be rewarded by the Spirit interceding for us.

Surely it is an honor when others ask for our prayers. It is a blessing, as well, when we hear of answered prayers and changed lives.

What can we help you pray about, today?

Monday, May 11, 2015

John 21:15-17

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 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."

Perhaps the best way to open the study of this passage is to make a point about our relationships with Jesus Christ.
We say that we love Him.
Let's put this on a level that we call can relate to very well . . .

What if all of our husbands or brothers or dads were all in the same room. Picture that? OK.
Now let's pretend that we hear them saying . . .

Oh, sure, I love my wife. I love _________ (insert the name there).
There's times that I don't want to talk to her.....but I love her.
I might go for days without talking to her.....but I love her.
When I do talk to her, it's usually because I want to ask her for something, but I love her.
And when I do talk to her, I find my mind wandering, and I think about other things, but I love her.
She's not part of my everyday life -- I think about her more on Sunday mornings than any other day.
I meet with other husbands, and we sing songs about how much we love our wives.
Sometimes I will even talk publicly to the rest of them for a few minutes about how much I love her.
She writes me love letters. She's written enough to make a whole book! I don't read them very often, though.
I make sure that I give her a little pocket change every week. I just don't give her enough that it cuts too deeply into how much I want to spend on myself. But I love her.
I just don't care to make her a part of my life.
But I love her. Yep, I really do.

Now, if we heard our husbands saying those things, would we say that they really loved us? That they loved their wives?

Well, let's apply that to our relationship with our Lord Jesus . . .

We are all called the "bride of Christ," right? All believers.

And we say that we love Jesus. Oh, it's easy to say, isn't it?

But do we treat Him like the illustration above?

We'll talk more about this next time.

(A big thank you to Pastor Ray Scott for the illustration!)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Friday slowdown

This has been a good week of study, and I found a reverent song that summed up my desires; I hope that you are blessed by this, and have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Frustrations, and how to deal with them

Yesterday we saw that if we have frustrations and are bone-weary and discouraged, we should pay attention to statements of Jesus in our passage (and a couple of verses further on!). The disciples, and especially Simon Peter, were so frustrated and tired. . . .

He asked them if they had any meat -- because He wanted them to admit and to share their needs with Him.

Then He asked if Simon loved Him, more "than these."

Jesus' third statement is a reminder to serve the Lord with all our heart. When we tell Him our needs, and we love Him more than anything else, then the next step to solving frustrations is to serve Him wholeheartedly, without reservation, with enthusiasm.

Jesus told Peter that if he truly loved Him he would feed His sheep.

We need to examine our hearts honestly and see if our love for the Lord is moving us to become servants to the Lord.
All of us can give of ourselves and our resources to serve Him. He loves to see us give Him our time, our talents, and our gifts.
He expects us to be faithful -- in fact He sets an example for us:

                          Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God 
                          who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him
                          and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.
                          (Deuteronomy 7:9)

                          God is faithful, by whom you were called into the  fellowship
                          of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (I Corinthians 1:9)

So, too, we can be faithful in pleasant times and in frustrations:

                          Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various
                          kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces stead-
                          fastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be
                          perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

If we will give all that we have to the Lord, He will reward us for all of our efforts. We show our love to Christ by serving others. Simon Peter was called here by Jesus to care for His flock. It's the work of a pastor, sure, but it's also the work of every Christian -- for by serving others, we serve Christ.

                           Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to
                           serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various
                           forms. (I Peter 4:10)

So, if we have a need, a frustration, the Lord has an answer. He will meet us wherever we are, and provide an answer, sometimes a miracle, if we will call upon Him. If there is anything in our lives that we place before the Lord, we need to take it off the throne of our hearts and put the Lord there. And lastly, we need to let our love for the Lord move us to be a servant for Him, utilizing our time, our talents, and our gifts to serve Him with all our hearts.

God will bless us as we serve Him, and He will cause us to be a blessing to others.

We don't often turn to Malachi, but check out this verse for today's study:

                        They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when
                        I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a
                        man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall
                        see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between
                        one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
                        (Malachi 3:17-18)

And these:

                       Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according
                       to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart,
                      as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the
                      servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good
                      will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that
                      whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive
                      of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. (Ephesians 6:6-8)

                     If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the
                     afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom
                     be as the noonday. (Isaiah 58:10)

                      How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those
                      who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take
                      refuge in you. (Psalm 31:19)

Wonderful promises from His Word, that heal our frustrated, weary minds and hearts!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Frustrations, and how to deal with them

Last week we studied John 21:1-14, and we want to linger there just a little longer. There is more to be learned from these verses . . .

Have you ever heard the expression, "If you pray for patience, God will send you things to help you grow your patience"? In other words, the way to get more of that virtue is to be tested in that area. To have more things that try your patience!
This life can be frustrating, no? Whether it's friends, family, or financial situation, or physical health or other issues, we need to learn to deal successfully with frustrations.

Let's dive in again!

These verses tell us that seven of the disciples were together at this time: Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John, and two others who were not named here. Peter decides to go fishing on the Sea of Galilee, and the others agree to go with him.

When I was very young, my grandfather took me to go fishing with him several times. Being little, I had a shorter attention span than he did, and so it didn't take long before I decided that something just wasn't right. The bobber wasn't moving, and I wanted some action! So I pulled in my hook and put a different worm on it. Next I tried what my grandmother said would work -- a piece of her biscuit, hardened overnight in her pantry. No results. I tried several different places on the bank, all within sight of my very patient grandfather. (Grin)

I had not learned one of the important traits of good fishermen: patience.
I was frustrated.
Jesus' disciples were frustrated when they heard His voice. They were tired, hungry, and discouraged. They had fished all night and caught nothing. Jesus asked them "have you any meat?"

Many of us experience what they were feeling. We feel discouraged. We feel depressed. We feel exhausted.
Jesus was asking them a life-changing question.
He already knew the answer, but He wanted them to share their need. The scriptures say that the Lord know our need even before we ask Him.

                        ... for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
                        (Matthew 6:8)

He knows how things are in our lives, but He desires us to tell Him about them.  He works miracles when we share with Him our needs.
When we admit that we are lost, He will save us.
                        As for me, I call to God, and the LORD saves me.(Psalm 55:16)

                       ... just as you have given him authority over all humanity, so that
                       he may give eternal life to everyone you have given him. (John 17:2)

When we admit that we are empty, He will fill us with His power.

                      He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
                      (Isaiah 40:29)

What are our needs today? Do we need strength? Deliverance? Encouragement? Joy?
The Lord is the One Who can meet our needs.

                     And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches
                     of His glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

If we have needs, God has answers. When we come to Him in faith, when we take our needs to Him, He already knows them, and will answer our prayers.
The key to His answers is found in His question to Simon Peter. Let's skip down to verse 15:

                     Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? (John 21:15)

Jesus was asking Peter if he loved Him more than the things around him. More than the sea? More than your boat? More than fishing? More than your friends?
Jesus wants to have first place in our lives. He wants us to love Him more than our possessions, our jobs, our wealth . . . He wants us to love Him more than we do anything else.

And He also wants us to place His work and His will above our own desires. When we are in step with Him, our own desires fade away, and we really want to accomplish His will and His desires, for we know that He wants only the best for us.
We'll talk more about this tomorrow . . . .

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What are you listening to?

Have you ever wondered, "Where did that thought come from?"

Sometimes we have thoughts pop into our head that we really don't like. Something that is sad, or depressing, or perhaps it's a negative thought about someone else.

Many of us have found that this happens less frequently when we have filled our minds with precious verses and promises from the Bible, and also when we are "making melody in our hearts to the Lord." Often those "heart melodies" spill out onto our lips and we find ourselves humming or singing during our day -- and the words of those songs and hymns are good things to think on!

Recently I've had a wonderful old hymn in my mind:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long;
this is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
angels descending bring from above
echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
watching and waiting, looking above,
filled with his goodness, lost in his love.

This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long;
this is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long.

What are you listening to, today?

Monday, May 4, 2015

John 21:1-14 conclusion

We've learned so much already from this passage!
The next lesson here is this: Sometimes the answer is closer than you think!

The disciples needed to put the nets in where the fish were . . . the fish were not on the other side of the lake; they were just on the other side of the boat. Sometimes the answer is as close as our willingness to obey Jesus and to do what He is asking.

Do you remember the story in the Old Testament about a Syrian general, named Naaman? He awoke one day to see that leprosy was beginning to spread across his body. In those days, it was almost an immediate death sentence for this to happen; lepers were outcasts and were confined to certain areas, living out their remaining days in despair and pain.

His wife was served by a slave girl who had been taken captive in a battle against Israel. She said to Naaman's wife:

                        She said to her mistress, "If only my master would see the prophet
                        who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy. (II Kings 5:3)

So Naaman went to Elisha, the prophet, who did not even come of his house. He had his servant go out and tell this important general to bathe in the Jordan river -- to dip himself seven times. Naaman was furious! He felt doubly insulted -- not only the insult of the prophet not coming out to tell him, but also that he had to bathe in a river of Israel.

I expect that he wanted something more substantial. Something stupendous. Something miraculous.
Maybe he expected the prophet to come out and call on the name of the Lord God, perhaps wave his hand over the lesions, and then he would be cured.
So he stormed off in a rage and refused to do it. No obedience here. No submission.

One of his servants tried to reason with the general. He said, "If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, "Wash and be cleansed!"
                      So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as
                      the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became
                      clean like that of a young boy. (II Kings 5:14)

The answer was much closer than he realized. It was humbling, and it did not make sense at the time, but it was the thing that he needed to do. Perhaps he thought that he had better water where he lived in Syria, but the answer was much closer than that.
If the disciples were going to get fish, they needed to put their nets where the fish were.
If we are going to receive the answer that God has for us, we are going to have to do what He says, and do it when and where He says!

Many of us pray for an answer to our problems, but when the answer comes, we don't like it. We already have it in our heads how God should solve our problem. We don't want to humble ourselves, and we don't want to look foolish. We may not accept what God is asking us to do because we want God to do it all -- we want Him to wave His hand and make a supernatural, exciting answer to our problem. If He asked us to do a great thing, sure, we'd do it. But not the small, humble thing.

But God is not asking us to do a great thing that will get lots of attention, He is only asking us to do the simple thing of obeying what he says, and do it consistently.  

I'm indebted to the vast resources of the internet for this illustration from Wade Hughes, Sr. He tells the story of a weak and sickly man.

                          His condition grew worse, but he could not afford a doctor.
                          He lived in the deep back woods in an old log cabin, and out in
                          front of his cabin was a huge boulder. One night he had a vision. God
                          told him to go out and push the massive rock in front of his home all
                          day long, day after day, until he told him to stop. The man got up early
                          in the morning, and with great excitement, he pushed on the rock as long
                          as he could. After a rest he pushed some more. The night vision was so
                          real that it inspired the man as he pushed against the rock. It gave him
                          meaning. Each day he pushed a little harder and a little longer. Day after
                          day he pushed. Days rolled into weeks, and weeks into months, as he
                          faithfully pushed against the rock. After 8 months of pushing the rock, the
                          man was getting tired of pushing the rock so much, and in his tiredness
                          he started to doubt his dream. He measured from his porch to the rock,
                          and after pushing the rock, he would measure to see how much he had
                          moved the rock. After two weeks of pushing and measuring, he realized
                          he had not moved the boulder a fraction of an inch. As a matter of fact,
                          the boulder was in the same place as when he started. The man was so
                          disappointed, because he saw his work had accomplished nothing. He was
                          tired and his dream seemed dashed upon the rock.He sat on his porch and
                          cried, because he had invested so much time for nothing. But as the sun
                          was setting in the west, Jesus came and sat down next to the man as he
                          was sitting on his porch.
                          He said, “Son, why are you so sad?” The man replied,
                         “Lord, You know how sick and weak I am, and then the vision you gave me
                          built up a false hope. I have pushed with all that was within me for many
                          months, and that old rock is right where it was when I started.” Jesus said
                          to him, “I never told you to move the rock, I told you to push against the
                          rock.” Jesus told the man to step in front of the mirror and look at himself.
                          As an act of obedience the man stepped in front of a mirror. He was
                          How could he have missed this? He had been so sickly and weak, and what
                          he saw in the mirror was a strong muscular man. He also realized that he
                          had not been coughing all night. It dawned on him that he had been feeling
                          better for months, and it was all because he had been pushing — not
                          moving — the rock. Then the man realized, that the plan of God was not
                          to change the position of the rock, but to change him. God’s plan was
                          not for the rock, but for him.

We need to understand God's plan. We must trust what He is saying to us.
Listen to God. Do what he says. Do the work of obedience. It is not nearly so important that the rocks in our lives be moved as it is for us to push against the rocks.

It is when we push against the rock that we become strong — whether the rock moves or not. It is when we obey and cast our net on the other side that the net is filled, and a way is opened up for deeper fellowship with Jesus. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Friday slowdown

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Deut. 33:27a)