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Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke Him……..But He turned and said to Peter: ‘Get behind me Satan!”  Matthew 16:22, 23

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit said to them……..let it be known to you….that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth….,by Him this man stands before you……” Acts 4:8-10

Ah Peter, the rock, the foundation on which Jesus Christ built His church.  Ah Peter, he had pretty humble beginnings.  It seemed to start out promising.  Jesus calls Peter and he leaves his nets to follow Jesus.  Jesus asks who the disciples think that He is; and Peter answers that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God!  Go Peter!  Yet in the very next few verses, Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes him for saying that He will be killed.  Jesus calls Peter, Satan.  Peter, wanting Jesus to prove who He is as the disciples are in a boat and Jesus is approaching walking on water.  Peter requests that Jesus make it possible for him to walk on water too.  Peter gets out of the boat and actually starts to walk on water; Yeah!  But then the waves and wind scare him and Peter starts to sink.  Jesus has to rescue him rebuking him for his fear and lack of faith.  Peter promises that he will die to protect Jesus.  Then in the garden, Peter flees and worse yet, denies Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times.  Peter is one of the first disciples to enter the tomb and find it empty.  Yet Peter does not understand nor believe at that point, that Jesus has risen.  Even after seeing Jesus; Peter, later goes fishing.

Fast forward a few days perhaps weeks and now Peter is standing in front of the Jewish Leaders, the rulers and elders of Israel.  These are the same leaders who tried Jesus and had Him crucified by Pilot.  Peter has just healed a man.  What’s the problem with that you ask?  Peter healed the man in the name of Jesus Christ.  The leaders are incensed.  They thought they had gotten rid of Jesus once and for all and are not about to see some upstart, non learned man, carry on Jesus’ work.  Given Peter’s previous track record, we might expect him to be evasive.  We might think we’re going to hear passive, kowtowing, or timid speech from Peter. Hardly!  Peter tells it just like it is mincing no words about Jesus being the Son of God and the rulers’ responsibility in the despicable act of His crucifixion.

Before we get to Who made the difference, I would like to take a brief moment to make a point.  There can be a problem as we think about Peter.  Some of us might look at his life with Jesus and want to pass some judgement.  “I” would have kept walking on the water.  “I” would have never pulled Jesus aside to rebuke him.  “I” would have never denied Jesus.  Also, paradoxically, some of us say:  “I” could have never stood before those powerful men and called them killers.  “I” could have never healed a lame man in the name of Jesus. “I” could never be the person to be the leader of the church.  Either in judgement of the pre-Pentecost Peter, or tremendous “I could never” awe of Peter, post-Pentecost; we may find ourselves on shaky ground.

Peter had been with Jesus, almost from the very beginning.  Peter believed Jesus.  Peter loved Jesus.  Yet what allowed Peter to go from one being rebuked to the one righteously rebuking?  What allowed Peter to go from the one denying Jesus to proclaiming Jesus as the Christ?  You guessed it, it says so right in scripture; Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit.

So here’s the thing for you and I today.  At least for me, I have no confidence in myself, that I would have acted any differently than Peter did in his interactions with Jesus during His earthly ministry.  Second, I do wonder about my boldness if I had been facing the Sanhedrin, as Peter was.  But it is not about yours or my confidence or boldness.  It does not start with us; it starts with Jesus.  It starts with believing that Jesus is the One True, Only Begotten Son of God.  It comes with accepting that we don’t possess, on our own, the depth of knowledge nor strength of faith to adequately, completely follow Jesus.  It comes from accepting the Gift that Jesus Christ promised to ask Our Heavenly Father to send; the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit.  It comes from relying on the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the truth of Jesus Christ and bring us into a level of deeper understanding.  It comes from allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us, to speak through us, the Real Truth, the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Being filled with the Holy Spirit, testifying to the truth of Jesus Christ and the Love the Father has for each of us, we can feed the starving world, the One True Food; forever.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so thankful that You have seen fit to provide us with an ever present Counselor, Teacher and Healer; the Holy Spirit.  Forgive us when we disregard His perfect counsel and try to rely on our own reasoning and strength.  Through the Holy Spirit, make us bold to live a life of praise, devotion and worship to You, Everlasting Father.  That through our Spirit filled lives; others will come to seek you out.  We pray this in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

“Consider the ravens for they neither sow nor reap…..” Luke 12:24

“Consider the lilies how they grow they neither toil nor spin…..”  Luke 12:27

“Do not fear little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  Luke 12:32

I would like you to do something for me.  If you are in a place where you can actually look out a window or are outside then that is good (unless you’re in an automobile and need to concentrate on the road).  If not close your eyes and try a visualization for me (again if you’re in a car; keep your eyes open!)  I want you to see a bird.  Look as it hops around or flits from one branch to another.  Next I want you to look for a flower.  Notice the beauty of the different colors and parts that make up the flower.

For this next part it, I want you to use your imagination and it may require you to close your eyes.  I want you to visualize that bird now with a cell phone in one of it’s feet; maybe with a cigarette in it’s beak or a large cup of coffee grasped in its other talon (I know now the image is getting a little weird).   The expression on the bird’s face is concerned with a frown and it is pacing back and forth (if a foot is clear).  Visualize the flower or plant.  Imagine that it is trying to look at all aspects of itself.  It is wondering if its stem looks fat or not.  It wants to make sure that only one side is visible because that is its best side.

I know the portraits painted by the second paragraph are pretty ridiculous for a bird and a flower/plant.  Then we look in the mirror.  For our behavior, the second paragraph is not as much a visualization as it is a memory.  This is how the world says we should act; that should be our perspective.  Like the example of the bird, the world tells us we need to be connected at all times.  We need to be thinking about, more likely worrying about, planning our next steps.  We have to combine as many things at one time as possible.  Let me eat while I surf the web, send a message while I walk outside missing the beauty of the day.  Don’t experience the wonder of flight or the view from the airplane, keep your head buried in your laptop or portable electronic device, stressing over your lack of connectivity.  Like the flower in the second paragraph; what image am I sending out.  Could someone see some characteristic of me that they might think flawed?  How do I hide my perceived imperfections from any prying eyes?

Jesus is never haphazard in His use of language.  He could have said: “Take a look at those ravens or see those lilies over there.”; but He didn’t.  Jesus said consider; and that is exactly what he wants us to do. For Jesus wants us to not only physically observe but to also mentally and spiritually contemplate that which we are observing.  Those ravens, birds, they are going about their business. At some point they are using what God gave them in that wondrous ability to fly.  At other times they are hopping around searching for food.  Ponder that they didn’t do anything in preparation for finding the food.  They did not sew any seed and carefully watch over it as it sprouted.  There was no farmer bird weeding the crop or seeing to its water.  Finally, no flock of birds was hired to go and harvest the grain for its consumption.  Yet God does not punish them for their lack of activity; throwing judgments at them like slacker, stupid or worthless.  No, Jesus reminds us; God feeds them.  Also, consider the lilies or any other flower.  How incredibly beautiful they grow.  Realizing that the beauty is not just singular in nature but a complex mixture of different colors, shapes and textures.  Yet no flower planned its outcome in advance.  No plant spent hours formulating procedures to insure that it would achieve a certain height or position in the field.  No, Jesus reminds us; God decided all aspects of the when, how, what and where and yet it outshines the most exquisite man-made beauty in existence.

Here’s the thing, as much as the gift of sustenance for the birds and the beauty for the plants are gifts from God; of how much more value to Him are we?  Jesus makes it crystal clear.  God knows we also need sustenance.  God knows we also adorn ourselves with clothes and have a desire concerning how they look.  Jesus tells us: “and Your Father knows that you need those things”.  How wonderful would it be only if He supplied those gifts to us freely (which of course He does).  But Jesus tells us, we are of much greater value.  To no bird nor any plant did God give the kingdom.  Yet Jesus Christ tells us directly; the God is pleased; not begrudging, not reluctant, no He is pleased to give us the kingdom.  When Jesus states O you of little faith, it sounds like an admonishment and to a certain extent it is.  Though I also think it is a little of a plea.  A plea to lighten up.  A plea to not be so stressed out.  A plea to not miss the wonders and blessings that God has placed before us because we are too busy trying to achieve the lessor things of the world.

Dear brothers and sisters, may we visualize the reality of Our Heavenly Father’s love for us.  A love that is first and foremost a gift. A gift so unfathomably miraculous that included the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ to bring us into relationship with Him.  May it be that we will consider all these things, then enter peaceably into His Rest.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we thank and praise You for the promises that You have made to and for us.  Forgive most Merciful Father, when we neglect the reality of those promises to pursue the fantasy of our self reliance.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us that we would resist the stress of the world and come to embrace the faithful rest that we will find in You.  That in that rest and confidence in You we would live lives that praise Your Most Holy Name.  In the Most Holy Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

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