Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Like Peter

(John 21:15) So when they had broken their fast, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, [son] of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.  (21:16) He saith to him again a second time, Simon, [son] of John, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Tend my sheep.  (21:17) He saith unto him the third time, Simon, [son] of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.  (21:18) Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.  (21:19) Now this he spake, signifying by what manner of death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.  (21:20) Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; who also leaned back on his breast at the supper, and said, Lord, who is he that betrayeth thee?  (21:21) Peter therefore seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?  (21:22) Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what [is that] to thee? Follow thou me.  (21:23) This saying therefore went forth among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, that he should not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what [is that] to thee? 

Peter was chosen to be the “rock” upon which was built Christ’s Church, not because he was the most perfect of the disciples but possibly because he was the least perfect (not counting Judas Iscariot). Peter was iconic in that he demonstrated a broad range of base human traits that are so common in all of useven today. He becomes a mirror for us. We can look at Peter and see ourselves. In spite of his proclamation of undying loyalty he was a coward who denied Christ three times–he tried to walk on water like Christ but he lost faith and immediately began to sink. He over-estimated his strength, nor could he even keep awake for his Master's sake in Gethsemane. 

In the last chapters of John, Christ asks Peter three times, do you love me? When Peter replies the first time, his tone is sincere and loving, but as Christ asks him again and again, Peter becomes annoyed. All Christ wanted was for him to respond to the command to “feed my sheep” and Peter still doesn’t seem to get it, so Christ must tell him three times in all. How many times does God call to us to do something and we block it because we would rather reside inside the cozy comfort of our spirituality rather than step up to the hard task given to us? It is so much easier to say that we love Christ because that feels so good but like Peter, we don’t want it to require anything of us.

In the last several verses of John 21, we see that Jesus is preparing Peter for his future and eventual death at the hands of non-believers. In a classic response of petulant self-interest, Peter turns around and sees John and asks Jesus, so, what about him? What’s he going to do? What’s going to happen to him?  Like a father responding to a child who wants to know why his brother isn’t getting the same bad deal, Christ tells Peter, “What difference does it make to you what happens to John? YOU follow ME!”  And in an even more classic human misinterpretation, the rumor then gets passed around that Christ said John would not die. John sets this straight in verse 23 but more importantly, in this Scripture, we get a snapshot of Peter’s base humanity and thus our own.

Why would Christ pick such an imperfect disciple to build His church on? Perhaps it was so that, through Peter’s example, we could see how flawed we are also and be encouraged that, just like Peter, God loves and uses us anyway. But even better, Christ also gives us an opportunity, a way to change so that we can be freed from the worst of our failings, those strongholds of the flesh that restrain and thwart our spiritual growth and keep us at arm’s length from the knowledge that passeth all understanding.  Christ offers us this opportunity and even paid the high cost of this way to true sanctification in two words, “Follow Me.”

And though we are most definitely imperfect, what is even worse, we are lazy and often determined to hang onto our old man, even as we seek diligently to be new in Christ. Frankly, we want both. We want to be all new without giving up anything. Certainly that which we know well is easier to cling to than stepping out into the great unknown, letting go of those things that are so ingrained in us. So, we allow Satan to convince us that we can’t really change anyway. We are who we are, we are who we were raised to be. We can’t give up those things that have been so much a part of our makeup. Those things our imperfect human parents instilled in us and those things we have gathered up on our own along the way as we are exposed to other flawed humans who have influenced us. 

Pettiness, jealousy, mean-spiritedness, impatience, grudge-bearing, lack of compassion, lack of forgiveness, self pity, these things and more all spring from the same raw source which is love of SELF. We love and trust ourselves first, our own intellect, we lean on our own understanding and then we think, if we analyze enough, we can figure out God and get into His good grace and reap the rewards of salvation just because we are thinking and wondering about Him. We say the word “God” a lot, we pray and believe we are on the road to wisdom, we learn and use the language of religion, which might, by the way, give us a leg up in the world, imbuing us with “special” skills–like a magician with mystical powers. 

But this is the dangerous, dead end path of fools (and apostate religion) because Christ is quite specific and simply says, “Follow Me.”  It’s not a command; it’s an invitation to a narrow path that leads away from worldliness and self. Many who hear and initially accept this call, have no idea at first what this really means. It sounds like a good idea and initially has the ring of relief from the world’s troubles in it. But to pick up one’s cross and follow Christ requires a conviction of sin. We have to see our own flaws, just as we quickly see Peter’s. Thus we cannot really follow Christ until we feel the sting of conviction and humiliation for the reprobates we have allowed ourselves to be. 

Scripture tells us we can’t put new wine into an old bottle. Similarly, you can’t ask the Holy Spirit to come into your temple until you have done some house cleaning first. Where would you put Him? Could He stand over in the corner behind old resentments? Maybe He could find a small spot next to vengeful thoughts or vain imaginings (translated as being offended at things fabricated in your own mind). Is it absurd to suppose The Holy Spirit wouldn’t object to sharing space with remnants of ingratitude, pridefulness, haughtiness, lust, greed, avarice, anger, vanity, self-will, self-love, and love of worldliness?

But when (or if) you do finally hit the ground upon being faced with your true wretched self and accept that indeed you cannot change yourself, but that Christ can, you then are prepared to reach that level of humility that is required to ask for the forgiveness He offers. This is the moment when the old man dies and the new man, in Christ, is born. It is death and rebirth at the same time. Oswald Chambers refers to this as “attending the white funeral.”  There is no way out of attending your white funeral if you want to follow Christ.  But when you do, that’s when an interesting thing happens. Christ attends this funeral and comforts you.  

(John 14:13) And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  (14:14) If ye shall ask anything in my name, that will I do.  (14:15) If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments.  (14:16) And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever,  (14:17) [even] the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth him not, neither knoweth him: ye know him; for he abideth with you, and shall be in you.  (14:18) I will not leave you desolate: I come unto you.

And thus we are born again to be raised up and educated by a new flawless parent – Who fills our freshly cleansed space with His glory and then guides us with His perfect wisdom. We become truly new in all ways, with new vision, new priorities, new behavior, because… (Galatians 2:20) I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that [life] which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, [the faith] which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.

Finally as we grow up in Christ we realize we live, no longer for ourselves, but for Him. And as we live for Him, instead of for self, we find that as blessings flow to us, we offer them back to Him by paying them forward so that His perfect will is done, not just for us, but through us. 

For Christ,

Friday, August 17, 2012


(Revelation 18:4) Then I heard another voice from heaven say: "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues;

Sometimes I think I read too much. Of late I have learned more about this modern reprobated culture than I want to know. This increased awareness is almost overwhelming and leaves me feeling defeated; I see no way out, no hope for another revival. But, on the other hand, I do now have a revised understanding of the word “remnant.” It’s not merely, “the few remaining faithful”, it’s the precious few. It’s those who cannot be bought or persuaded to let go of the last faint thread of truth that has been nearly obliterated in a tangled mess of lies and deceit. 

The Remnant are those who stand in spite of being outnumbered and in the face of the surety of tribulation. 

One of the most useful tools of the enemy is muddying up conviction by creating doubt. If you find yourself clinging to a principle that is rapidly being dismissed as archaic, old-fashioned, out of date, irrelevant, then you become an outcast, open for criticism. You might even pause to wonder if something is wrong with your perspective and consider a compromise. Humans are hard-wired to hate being criticized. We are social animals. We want to be accepted and included. We want to be part of the group. We want to be insiders, not outsiders. Satan successfully uses this inherent weakness against us. Historically speaking, those few remaining faithful to God in the end of an age are always decidedly outnumbered by those who prefer to operate without God and who believe, in fact, that they can actually do a better job than God.

I have often wondered what it was like for Lot and his family to have to live in Sodom. Imagine raising a family in an environment where any and every type of sin was not only acceptable, it was the celebrated norm. I can imagine that if Sodom were a bustling 21st century metropolis, sex and drugs, both legalized and illegal, would be idolized and infused into all forms of media, printed, filmed and broadcast to the general public of all ages. If Sodom were a modern city, respected citizens would be able to gather in private clubs, without fear of arrest, seeking “fresh meat” to commit vicious acts of sexual violence. Children would routinely be vulnerable to assault and molestation by those who are able to easily find employment in jobs that serve children. In fact, organizations promoting child molestation would be permitted and credentialed. If Sodom were a modern culture, anything would be acceptable, anything, that is, except someone proclaiming that some things are not acceptable. 

Wait a minute...this sounds vaguely familiar.

Apparently Lot, and by default his family, was a remnant, living in the midst of unfettered base human depravity. We are only given a glimpse of this behavior as Lot defends and tries to protect his guests from being raped by a gang of men pounding on his door. But it isn’t a leap to assume that other sins were prevalent there as well. Once a civilization has adopted any perversion or deviant activity as not only acceptable but laudable, the door is flung wide open for all others to flood in. Murder, addictions, abuse, violence, love of lies, obfuscation of basic decency and covetous theft. Once society lowers the bar for moral standards, the bar rapidly free falls and hits bottom where there is absolutely no standards; anything is allowable. Without moral constraints within a society, the result is a society sickened unto death. This is not hyperbole or anomaly; it is the repeating pattern and formula for failed civilizations. 

Whether a society adopts standards based on God’s commandments or simply their own idealized definition of “good”, one truth is irrefutable: Utopia, the land of rainbows and butterflies, can never arise or be constructed from degeneracy and debauchery. Depravity always spirals downward to grief, destruction and death.There is good reason for God’s commandments and standards. The Creator knew exactly what was healthy for His creations and what produces good fruit in humans. But humans are easily persuaded away from what is healthy and in their own best interest because they are inherently egocentric. Was this not the lesson in the children’s story of Pinocchio? The evil men lured the boys away to their enslavement? Do we see this kind of moral story in children stories nowadays? This kind of morality is old-fashioned in this era.

Regardless the era, children want what they want, whether it is good for them or bad. If it “feels good” or “tastes good” or “excites” it appeals to the self-centered immature child that is human nature. If parents did not set standards, children would eat candy and nothing else, all day. As simplistic as it is, this analogy describes exactly how ego pandering, petting and indulging drives grown humans to make short-sided, ill-fated choices. To its detriment, SELF always falls for the short term thrill over the long-term benefit.  

If self is the engine that drives us into destruction, self-justification is the fuel. Selfish behavior and decision making is self-perpetuating because it is easily justified. And all of this is directly attributable to Satan prowling and seeking whom he might destroy. He zeroes in on our most immature spot, our ego, and then easily has his way with us until we become sick and die. And those who are locked into self-destruct mode are blinded and will justify their choices right up until their end. 

I also have wondered about Lot’s wife and her fate. The angels told Lot they were to leave and “not look back”. I believe what happened to Lot’s wife is a warning for the Remnant today. We now live in a modern recreation of Sodom and Gomorrah. The moral standards that once kept the majority of society in check have now been lowered or so distorted so that those who continue to be directed by a moral compass are profoundly outnumbered just as it was in the time of Lot. 

In spite of the warning, Lot’s wife did look back. What do you supposed she was thinking? Was she sad because she was being kicked out of her home, those things she  was comfortable with, in spite of the scary place she lived in? Maybe she was distressed that others in her family chose to stay. Whatever it was she gave one last look at something that she regretted leaving. Her end was instant. In the modern recounting I can imagine the headlines reporting this event, the naysayers and justifiers railing against God as being “cruel” and “unjust” to Lot’s wife. After all, she was in a “traumatic” situation. She still had family left behind, she wasn’t accountable, she was suffering from stress. Justification is indeed a handy tool and so compelling to those who value and elevate the worth of SELF over the righteousness of God.

Be warned, dear hearts, justification is an ego trap. Lot’s wife is an example pertinent to this moment, thousands of years later. You cannot be a member of the precious few and still cling to those things of the world. Come ye out is a warning, not a suggestion. 

One last sober thought: Lot was considered righteous enough to be warned to leave, but Lot and his family did not represent a big enough remnant to save Sodom and Gomorrah from complete destruction.  

(2 Corinthians 6:17) Wherefore Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing; And I will receive you

For Christ,

Thursday, August 9, 2012


(John 5:24) Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life. 

Lately, there seems to be an uptick in interest in Heaven. Numerous books have been published as first hand accounts of those having been taken up to Heaven during a near death experience and then returned to life to tell the story. YouTube videos and websites are starting to blossom across the Net ostensibly as evidence for those who sit on the fence or don’t know what to believe. I concede some folks might need more prodding, but personally, I have always believed, on faith and without question, that Heaven does exist and that it is a place beyond the limited imagination of humans. I don’t need much more description than that. What I have also always believed is that, considering the alternative, whatever Heaven is like, I know for sure I want to go there. I can take the leap that it’s good and I’ll really, really like it. 

Recently I’ve watched several YouTube accounts from a clearly sincere individual who believes her multiple trips to Heaven as a place of indescribable beauty and joy, filled with mansions that make the finest mansions on earth seem like shacks. Further these mansions are filled with treasure rooms loaded with gold, silver and jewels. There are amusement parks with roller coasters. Keeping it real here, I cannot say whether I believe this or not. Sometimes you simply have to take things on advisement and set it aside for further discernment. Fortunately, my salvation does not depend on me believing or disbelieving these accounts. I’m all in when it comes to believing in Hell and Heaven being real and eternal places. 

But having had the concept of Heaven brought to my attention, I have given some thought to what I’d like to think Heaven is. Having dug in I am somewhat surprised at what I came up with. For one thing, I am mature enough, both in the spirit and the flesh, that I don’t really care all that much for “treasure” as is defined by material wealth, i.e., huge residences, gold, silver and jewels. I’m not all that attracted to the idea of Heaven being a place of constant fun either, which is sort of a red flag for me. Humans tend to be persuaded on the side of the human definition of “happiness” and what triggers that emotion and usually this defaults to the idea of recreational things as opposed to labor. Maybe this is mostly my aging flesh taking the lead here and once released from its physical limits, my spirit might feel differently. That’s just another one of those things that is best set aside until time reveals the truth of it. I’m good to wait for that answer, at least for a little while. 

However, in my current state of being I find comfort and joy in simpler things; a gentle refreshing breeze kicking up as a summer storm rumbles on the horizon, a burst of perfect coral colored blooms on my hibiscus, a magnificent sunset, a whole day without strife, belly laughs from my grandchildren. 

Anyway, I tried to imagine what would make me “happy” in Heaven and this is the list I came up with. Perhaps in reality, Heaven is allowed to be as individual as we are beautifully, individually made, so, if we get to pick, this is my first draft requisition: 

1. Uninterrupted peace. A peace that transcends any fleeting moment of peace I have ever felt on earth. 

2. The complete absence of evil, contention, selfishness, mean-spiritedness and hate. 

3. Everyone I love is there. (Unabashed bias)

4. Hosts of angels singing praises to God - me knowing the words and joining in with a better voice than I have ever had. 

5. If we get to pick where we reside, I’d like something just big enough. Low maintenance would be appreciated. 

6. Endless time and materials for me to make and create things. 

7. And if our Heavenly lives are bigger and better extensions of our earthly lives and the things we love to do and covet now simply continue on, I’d like to have wonderful books to read and permission to keep writing. Better than I ever have. 

Life is better than death. Comfort is better than pain. Joy is better than grief. Eternal life, comfort and joy, what more could anyone ask?

For Christ,