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“Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. ‘Never, Lord’, he said. ‘This shall never happen to You!'” Matthew 16:22

“‘Lord if it is You,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.'” Matthew 14:28

“So Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, ‘Ask Him which one He means.'” John 13:24

“Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting of his ear.” John 18:10

“But he began to call down curses and he swore, ‘I don’t know this man you are talking about!'” Mark 14:71

“Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold, I do not have, but what I do have, I give you. In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.'” Acts 3:6

Again, as in Part I, we are taking a look at Peter, one of Jesus’s closest disciples and leader of the group in all his humaneness. Additionally as stated in the last post, this is not about judging Peter by his actions, but seeing ways and learning from aspects of Peter and his actions and how they impact our spiritual journey with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Taking Action With the Best of Intentions – It has been said: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”; according to Google first printed in Handbook of Proverbs published in 1855 by Henry G. Bohn. In Peter’s case, just a few hours earlier; Peter had declared that, even if the rest of the disciples deserted Jesus, he was ready to fight and die for Jesus. Now in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was time to put his words to the test. The mob, led by Judas had come to arrest Jesus. In the melee that ensued in taking Jesus, Peter draws his sword to defend Jesus and strikes the High Priest’s servant and cuts off his ear. Peter was doing exactly what he said he would do. Peter is acting with the best of intentions. Peter is not seeking glory for himself, nor does he have some private grievance with the servant that he is trying to get even about. Peter is defending Jesus, hoping to keep Jesus from being arrested. The only problem was, God’s perfect plan called for Jesus to be arrested. Peter was seeing things from only his perspective. Even though Jesus had stated to them, on several occasions, that He was to be turned over to His enemies and killed. For Peter, no matter what had been said, the arrest of Jesus was wrong and come HELL or high water, Peter was going to stop it. Again there is no judgement of Peter here. In a very real sense, this was very brave. Yet Peter is acting against the Will of God and Jesus lets him know it, in no uncertain terms. What we can learn from this is that we all have our own perspective and judgement as well. We may diligently read the bible, listen to our pastor or maybe even visit a blog ūüėä. What we have to be open to is, even with all our efforts, we may still get it wrong. We may be acting in a way that is contrary to God’s Will. When that happens, again if we’re open to it, God will let us know. First if we are acting in misalignment to God’s Will, our actions will not lead to the outcomes we were expecting or hoping for. Additionally, when our actions are out of alignment with God’s Will, He will tell us through our spirit. Even though we think our actions are justified and righteous, within our spirit there will be no peace from His Spirit. We will feel conflicted and feel led in a different direction. To fulfill God’s plan and scripture; Jesus had to be arrested and all the disciples needed to flee. And that’s exactly what happened. Today, let us be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit as we think, say and do, seeking out the peace that will come from knowing we’re abiding in Christ and in alignment with God.

Failure – We just covered how we can find ourselves doing things for what we believe to be righteous intentions but the acts are indeed wrong. However, sometimes we have no doubt; what we are doing is wrong for the wrong reasons. Peter had claimed that he would die for Jesus Christ. Peter had acted to try and defend Jesus Christ. Then Peter finds himself in a lonely dangerous situation. If Jesus Christ, the Son of God, could be arrested by mere men and hauled off for judgement; what power did Peter have against a same or worse fate. Peter had fled, but whether it was curiosity to see what was going to happen to Jesus or love of Jesus or some of both, Peter couldn’t stay away. He followed the mob to the High Priest’s house, where they were interrogating Jesus to see what would happen. Peter was staying outside in the courtyard, gathered with others around a fire to stay warm. Suddenly, the situation turns. Peter is found out, a servant girl recognizes Peter as having been a close follower of Jesus and points that out to the other bystanders. Peter is caught off guard. Peter wanted to know what was going to happen to Jesus, but he knew if he declared he was a follower of Jesus, he could be in great peril; so Peter denies knowing Jesus. Peter knows it is wrong, knows it is a betrayal to claim not to know Jesus, but he does it anyway. Yet Peter is given the opportunity to make amends. For the servant girl brushes off Peter’s denial and again accuses Peter of being a follower of Jesus. More people are taking notice; Peter still doesn’t want to leave but doesn’t want to put himself in the danger that would come from acknowledging his relationship with Jesus; thus Peter denies Him a second time. But this second denial doesn’t end the torment. Now others are openly suspicious of Peter, one noting that Peter must be a follower of Jesus because Peter is a fellow Galilean and that is why Peter must be there to help a fellow Galilean Jesus. This is too much for Peter, the danger is too high; Peter starts to call down curses upon himself and the group to cause his denial to have more validity. Suddenly a rooster crows and the harsh light of truth and reality hit Peter square on in the cold light of truth. He; Peter, the man who claimed he would die with and for Jesus, had just knowingly and with purpose, three times denied he even knew his master Jesus. Peter now leaves, weeping bitterly. Dear Sisters and Brothers, we are told, we all sin. We all give into temptation and become sinners. Sometimes our sins are born our of fear of the world, sometimes they are born out of desires of the world. But we know what we are doing, and know what we are doing is wrong. Those times should affect us. We are acting against God. We shouldn’t be of a mind, well Christ died for my sins so no big deal. Actually they are a big deal. They should cause us the kind of sorrow and pain as they did Peter that brings us to confess and repent of the sin. Yet there is a bigger deal. Jesus Christ knows of our sins, just as he knew Peter would deny Him three times. Jesus Christ died for our sins, paying the price so we do not have to die for our sins. Sin should matter enough, to try to avoid it at all costs. But when we fail (not if), what should matter more is Grace, Forgiveness, Mercy and Love provided in Jesus Christ that leads to our ultimate restoration and reconciliation with our Heavenly Father.

Humility and where our True Power Comes From – This is a trait of humaneness I wish I would use much more myself and see much more around me. Jesus Christ has forgiven and restored Peter, after Peter’s denial of Him. Peter and the other disciples (except Judas) have been given the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, the following of Jesus Christ is growing by literally thousands daily, thanks in part to Peter’s leadership. People are selling all their possessions and giving them to the disciples to administer. On the other hand, Peter is being threatened, arrested, beaten and worse by the religious leaders because of his preaching of Jesus Christ, risen from the grave. Their ill treatment doesn’t stop Peter one moment. Then Peter comes across a lame beggar. Now, while Peter may not have had any money on him at the time, Peter may very well have had the resources from donations to help this man out. Peter might have told a follower to go back to where they were staying and get some money to support this man with. But Peter doesn’t look to earthly riches to share with the man; Peter has something more valuable, more powerful, Peter has Jesus Christ. Peter tells the man he has no silver of gold to share. However, Peter is not content to leave this man empty handed. Peter has the Power of Jesus Christ within him and he knows it. Peter does not call great attention to himself as some righteous, wonderful miracle worker. No, Peter is very clear, the Power of the gift comes from Jesus Christ and this is the power to heal the man. Peter commands the man to walk and the man does just that. For Peter, it is not about his greatness, but about bringing the Power of the gift of Jesus Christ to all who are in need, that Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father might be praised and worshiped. It’s not just Peter, Jesus Christ declared that all who believe in Him and abide in Him have His Power to do great things. Yet, like Peter we must understand, it is not our greatness that allows us to have this Power. The Power comes as a precious gift, of much greater value than any earthly gift, given freely by and through the Grace of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, looking at Peter’s life is not about trying to copy him or be like him. Jesus Christ was also clear when He met Peter and the other disciples on a beach for breakfast after His resurrection. Christ took Peter aside and was foretelling him what an aspect of his life would be like. Peter feels the need to ask Christ, if these things were going to be happening to Peter, what was John’s life going to be like. To which Christ responds; what does that have to do with you. In essence Christ is letting us all know, we have an individual plan with our Heavenly Father. We were not created to be identical. We are created to be equal but not identical. Thus, it is learning about Peter and aspects of Peter’s life and his interactions with Christ and the outcomes that we can use to reflect on our interactions, on our behaviors and their motivations; to learn from the challenges and triumphs to aid us in our journey. By the Grace of God, I hope to meet Peter some day and hear about the so many amazing aspects of his journey that no chapter or book could adequately capture.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so grateful that, after creating us, You have not abandoned us to try and figure out how to live and how to interact with You on our own. We are so thankful for the Your Word and the people who populate it which give us such wonderfully constructive lessons on how to receive Your Love and Blessings, You so long to give. Forgive us we pray when we are tempted, or worse yet actually act out on our own without considering Your lessons for us. Through Your Spirit, guide us back to You and how to stay abiding in You so that our lives can lessons for others which brings praise to Your Glorious Name. We pray in the Name of our Great Teacher and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

“But the father said to his servants, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. ¬†And bring out the fatted calf here and kill it…..” ¬†Luke 15:22,23

There are a lot of questions out there concerning enough these days.  Will you have enough for retirement?  Will you have enough to send your child to college?  Do you have enough to go on that vacation?  Do we have enough __________ (fill in the blank with water, oil, food etc).  The overarching theme is that there is always a limit.  There is always a point to which something is used up.  There is only so much to go around and when that so much is reached; it is gone.  There can be an earthly wisdom to that type of thinking when it comes to wisely using resources.  Yet when that type of thinking spills over to our thoughts about Our Heavenly Father then we start to put foolish limits on Him.

Man, could Jesus tell a story or what? ¬†In one story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus packs so much amazing wisdom about ourselves and Our Heavenly Father. ¬†Much is rightly said and preached about, seeking after earthly things, forgiveness, loyalty, repentance and such. ¬†There’s another dynamic truth out there that I think opens a window on the Loving, Giving, Merciful Nature of Our Heavenly Father that should fill us with great joy.

And it has to do with limits and how the world deals with limits versus how Our Heavenly Father deals with limits.  First limit, the inheritance.  The younger son, wanted what was going to be his.  Note something here; while he was with the father, that limit potentially would increase exponentially.  Yet because the younger son wanted it to leave the father, there had to be a totaling and as such the limit was finite and probably a lessor amount.  Was that enough?  No, we see that the son uses it all up in a rather short period of time in prodigal, that is wasteful, extravagant living.

The next set of limits are not just financial, they are also existential limits; or how much can I take, limits. ¬†With his money used up the son has to be able to eat. ¬†It just so happens that a famine comes so no one is being generous with charity for him. ¬†He is hungry, maybe even starving. ¬†We don’t know if it is a limit of pride in not returning home or a limit of money not being able to get passage home, but the son takes a job feeding swine, pigs. ¬†In might be good to remember at this point how pigs were looked upon as unclean, horrible animals by the Israelites. ¬†It would seem that it was more a limit of pride because the job still does not pay enough for the son to sustain himself because he wants to eat what he is giving to the pigs. ¬†In the story, Jesus says the son came to his senses and decided to go home.

Here’s where the limits get real interesting to me. ¬†The son has the thoughts of the world; both then and now. ¬†For here is the son’s calculation: ¬†I took my money, I spent my money, there is rightly no more money for me to have as a son, I must live within the meager limit of a servant, probably the lowliest of servants. ¬†We, in an earthly sense would say: “that’s right, you got it, you made your bed so now you’ve got to sleep in it (which in this case is probably made of straw outside). His father (and what Jesus is trying to get across that Our Heavenly Father) sees something completely different.

For you see the son did not return prideful, arrogant, making excuses for what happened, blaming others for his misfortune, saying he was entitled to more. ¬†No, he came to himself; that is the son took an objective, truthful look at where he was, what he had done to get there and knew it was no one else’s fault than his own. ¬†He was not only sorrowful but he was repentant. ¬†He came home broken. ¬†And where the human approach, a human father, would feel justified in giving a stern lecture and treating him with disdain. ¬†In fact the world would say if you didn’t do that, you would be coddling the son too much, spoiling them. ¬†You would be a poor parent.

What does the Father say?  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for yours is the kingdom of God.  That is what the father in the story sees.  He sees a son who is broken, a son who has learned a lesson, a son who the world has tried to kill but has returned so that he may live again.  And so that father gives, gives without limit, best robes, gold rings, fine sandals, best meal.  The son whom I have always loved, no matter where he was, has returned to me.

Dear precious brothers and sisters, this story should fill us all with loving joy knowing how precious we are to Our Heavenly Father. ¬†We don’t like to admit it but we are going to fail, we are going to run away at times, we will probably be prodigal at some point. ¬†Satan would have us believe our Heavenly Father doesn’t want us back. ¬†Satan would have us believe we’ve used up all our love, all our blessings.

Our Heavenly Father does not want us to leave in the first place.  But be assured of this, when we come to ourselves and see our brokenness.  When we truly repent to our Heavenly Father, He stands ready to forgive and shower upon us more than enough blessings.  There is no limit.  How can I be so sure?  Jesus Christ.   Our Heavenly Father willingly sacrificed His Only Begotten Son, that we might live in a loving eternal relationship with Him.

Dear brothers and sisters; please don’t put a limit on what you think Our Heavenly Father is capable of. ¬†Don’t be resentful, as the other brother was, when God shows His extravagant mercy to a lost soul who returns. ¬†If you are in a place of separation, return to Him knowing He desperately wants to show you that He will give you more than enough out of His Love.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, You are Creator God to which there can be no limits.  We confess that we stray from you in thought, word and/or deed at times to live after worldly ways.  We are truly sorrowful for those times.  Yet Heavenly Father in Your Mercy, we testify that You want us back and will come running with open arms when we return to You.  Thank You Heavenly Father for You Loving Mercy and Kindness to us that knows no bounds, even to the death of Your Son Jesus Christ for our sins.  We praise You Dear Father now and forever more.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

All we like sheep have gone astray, We have turned, everyone, to his own way and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  Isaiah 53:6

Who, Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sin, might live by righteousness    1 Peter 2:24

What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not!  Romans 6:1

Think¬†of a time you were either falsely accused, actually went through some aspect of a trial (legal or informal) and at the end of the process, you were vindicated.¬† What you said or did was deemed to be appropriate and you were cleared of any offense.¬† Think of how that felt?¬† In those cases what was the impact on your future behavior?¬† Because you were deemed innocent did you find that you repeated that behavior over again?¬† And why wouldn’t you.¬† You were found innocent.

Contrast that with a time that you did something that indeed was wrong.  Especially a time when you knew what you were doing was wrong and did it anyway.  The wrong that you had done, was uncovered and your deeds were exposed to others.  Then think about what it felt like (or might feel like if you have not been lucky enough to experience this) when the person (or people) who were impacted by the wrong, completely forgave you for the wrong.  What was the difference between that feeling and the feeling of being vindicated?  Did it impact the way that you would behave next time?

This is one of the areas where theology versus psychology versus sociology come into conflict.¬† For I (we) as a Christian, know that all our sins are forgiven; whether a sin I have committed, am committing right now, or commit in the future.¬† All sins are forgiven, through the Grace of Jesus Christ.¬† So knowing that all my sins are forgiven, what incentive do I have to change my behavior?¬† Don’t I have a free pass?

I guess we have to understand the concept of forgiven.¬† First, I have to understand that to be forgiven, there must be sin.¬† And sin is intentional.¬† So I knowingly, to use a legal phrase I really don’t have the right to throw around but I am any way, with malice of forethought, I behave in a way contrary to God’s commandments.¬† It is vitally important to understand, Jesus Christ did not abolish the law, in His own words, He came to fulfill the law.¬† Second, having understood that I sinned I have to intentionally repent of that sin.¬† We see the impact of lack of intention when John the Baptist warns the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to him to be baptized, “Brood of vipers!¬† Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come.¬† Therefore bare fruits worthy of repentance”¬† Matthew 3:7¬† The fruits are not just the thoughts of remorse about the act but also the changing of behavior from repeating the act.¬† Also, we have to be clear that sin still has consequences.¬† The Heavenly Father will forgive me for my sin of stealing, but that does not mean I’ll escape the jail time or financial burden of making restitution.¬† Finally, I need to be filled with praise for the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the Grace of the plan from our Heavenly Father.

Yet since the bible tells me that I am fallen in nature and will sin, doesn’t that mean that I can have no joy in life?¬† The enemy would have you believe that.¬† Satan would have us convinced that our sinful nature is a permanent barrier between ourselves and God which nothing can breach, not even the cross.¬† In this world there is a sense that if there is nothing we can do about something, we should treat it as if it doesn’t exist and go about our lives no thinking about it.¬† I am going to sin, oh well.¬† Yet Jesus Christ teaches something completely different.¬† He does not tell us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.¬† Cowboy up and be stronger.¬† It’s all up to us.¬† Conversely, Jesus teaches us to abide in Him.¬† Apart from Him we can do nothing.¬† With Him and through Him all things are possible.¬† We can behave better.¬† We can change.¬† We need to change and there are immediate and eternal rewards for that change.

So if I am innocent I have no need to change.  If I am forgiven then I know I need to change and should want to change.  Therein lies the basic difference.

May it be that I (we), first confess our sins, then look to improve our behavior through Jesus Christ.

Amen

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