Peter – One Step Back

Searching His Word

Seeking His Heart

In last week’s blog Peter rose to the top of the list with his comment. (See “Peter – Time to Shine”) This week we see that he’s felt emboldened to overstep his authority and will end up taking a step back.

Jesus begins a new emphasis in His ministry—preparing the disciples for His coming suffering and death. It isn’t what they want to hear and they have a time dealing with it much less accepting it. They don’t want to travel down this road.

                   

Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priest, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed (yes, KILLED) and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew 16:21

Peter didn’t want anything to upset the glorious earthly plans he had for Jesus. So Peter, the one who made the great declaration of faith earlier, takes it upon himself to pull Jesus aside and rebuke Him. Yes, Peter rebukes Jesus!

“Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus has infinite patience, but Peter has overstepped his boundaries and this defiance must be quenched. Jesus turns to Peter and says,

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Matthew 16:23

Then Jesus turns to the other disciples and says those hard words.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

What does this mean for us? We want to be mighty men and women in the kingdom work; we want to be bold like Peter, but like Peter we become weak. We overstep or we take a step backward.

                  

I think about those times when I’m in the sauna after water aerobics at the Y. Sometimes there’s a believer among the group who initiates a comment about the Bible or morality or life in general. Often I join right in or sometimes I feel compelled to say something profound, but by the time I have the boldness to say it, the conversation has turned another way. An opportunity lost.

I want to be a brave warrior for you, Lord, but I am weak. Help me to deny myself, my fears, and inabilities and take up the strength that you modeled for us on the cross and follow you.

~ Joyce ~

 

Peter – Time to Shine!

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

I love this fall season—the colors so vibrant in the sunshine. Throughout the summer, trees blend together in shades of green. But this time of year, one by one, trees and bushes shout out, “Look at me!” Some leaves turn bright yellow, others vivid orange.

We have burning bushes in our yard and several yards around us. Right now they are all set aflame with fiery red. It’s their turn to shine!

And so it was with Peter. It was his time to shine.

Jesus and the disciples had traveled far north to Caesarea Philippi, named for Caesar and Herod’s son Philip, a dark place. The people had heard only minimal teachings of Jesus and seen hardly any miracles. Perhaps the disciples had mingled among the people which led Jesus to ask two questions. (Matthew 16:13-20)

“Who do people say the Son of Man is?

One disciple reports,

“Some say, John the Baptist.”

Another reports,

“Others say Elijah.”

A third disciple speaks up,

“And still others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

Perhaps Jesus pokes the campfire where they are warming themselves, lays his stick down, and looks at those on his left intently.

“But what about you?” (Then to those on his right side) Who do you say I am?

Was there a moment of silence? If so, I don’t think it was long before Peter spoke with gentle sincerity.

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

The fire crackles. All eyes turn to Jesus. Everyone holds their breath.

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”

Pure victory for Peter. His time had come. His time to shine!

Jesus goes on to talk about two words for “rock.” In the Greek, “Peter” is petros which means detached stone and “rock” is petra which means bedrock. Jesus says,

“I tell you that you are Peter (detached stone) and on this rock (bedrock) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades (hell) will not overcome it.”

Christ will build the church on this declaration of faith. Peter will come to be a part, a detached piece, of that bedrock of faith. Let us rejoice in his declaration and learn to declare it ourselves, that Jesus is the Christ, the Promised One, the Son of the living God! 

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

 

Peter – Unclean Hands or Unclean Heart?

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Jesus and his disciples stayed so busy going from village to village sharing the gospel, they had little opportunity to observe traditions the Pharisees thought important, like ceremonially washing their hands.

Now we’re not talking about scrubbing hands to keep from getting germs—they didn’t know about germs. No, the religious leaders’ concern was that they must ceremonially wash any Gentile contact off their hands and, by golly gum, Jesus and his disciples should do that as well.

Jesus countered by quoting Isaiah’s words,

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” Mark 7:6-7 

Jesus went on to describe a law the leaders had made that over ruled one of God’s own commandments. Then he gathered a crowd around Him and emphasized that,

“Nothing outside a man can make him “unclean” by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’ ” Mark 7:15

When the disciples were alone with Jesus, Matthew remembered that Peter asked Jesus to further explain his parable. I picture Jesus closing His eyes and breathing deeply to maintain patience as he said,

“Are you so dull? Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, he declared all foods “clean.”) Mark 7:18-19

Don’t let that parenthetical remark slip by you. After the resurrection, Peter will have to have a roof-top vision to truly understand this, but note this beginning point.

Jesus explains a little more about the “heart thing.”

“What comes out of a man makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’ ” Mark 7:20-23

I’m trying to think of a modern day application to this principle. The “worship wars” of the last few decades have about declined from their peak and most churches have settled into whatever style they are going to have, but I think it’s worth using as a good example of arrogance emanating from the heart. 

The traditional side said, “This is how we’ve always done it. We don’t want all those jazzy instruments in the church. It’s like making our sanctuary a bar. What sense does it make to sing two or three phrases over and over? Our texts are solid and enhance our understanding of the elements of our faith.”

The contemporary side said, “We need to meet people where they are with relevant texts and music. All gifted musicians should be able to use their gifts. No more old songs. We sing songs that engage the singers and bring life.”

Jesus might say, “It matters not your style, what matters is your heart. Are you worshiping the song, the sound, the singer, the tradition, the performer… or your God?”

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

Peter – Walking on Water

            Searching His Word
                       Seeking His Heart

As we come to that familiar passage where Peter walks on the water, we must remember that he has come a long way in his experiences with Jesus.

Peter has watched Jesus heal many—the demon possessed, a leper, the deaf, the blind, a centurion’s servant, even his own mother-in-law. 

When Jesus sent the disciples out two by two to preach, He empowered them to heal. Excitedly, they came back to report in, but their report took a back seat as Jesus dealt all day teaching a large crowd. 

At the end of the day, this crowd of 5,000 was fed by two fish and five loaves of bread. 

After this miraculous feeding, Jesus sent the disciples out in a boat while He dismissed the crowd and stayed on shore to spend quiet time in prayer.

After meditating for a while, Jesus looked up to see a storm brewing. The disciples’ boat rocked back and forth in the wind and waves. In His humanity, Jesus walked to the shore, but the divinity of Jesus took over and He walked on the water toward the boat. 

When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 

At this point, spontaneous Peter sprang into action.

“Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” 

“Come,” Jesus said.

That was all he needed. Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. Yeah, Peter, you did it!

Uh-oh, here comes the “but.”

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Happens to us all, right? When he saw the wind, he took his eyes off Jesus. How often have we done that? We get all hyped up about doing something important, even something spiritual, and walk toward Jesus, but then get distracted. We begin to doubt. We lose faith. The very things Jesus told Peter.

“You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:26-31

Jesus caught sinking Peter and they climbed in the boat. In spite of Peter’s actions, two things happened;

… the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” 

We can feel for Peter and say, “At least he tried.” That’s true, but my take-away from Peter’s experience is remembering how I can get so entangled by distractions, that I take my eyes off the main source of my strength.

When we take His outreached hand, two things happen, the winds of doubt die down, and we worship Him in awe.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Peter – Born Again

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Back to Peter. Last time, we found Peter out in the boat with Jesus. He doesn’t catch fish all night, but at Jesus’ command, the boat overflows with the fish he hauls in.

This personal miracle seems to speak to Peter in a unique way. He is convicted of his sin, for he kneels at Jesus’ feet and cries out,

“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Luke 5:8

Peter will have much to learn, but yielding to Christ is a beginning step of trusting.

The night Nicodemus comes to visit Jesus provides another understanding of who Jesus is. Possibly Peter could have been nearby as Nicodemus comes to ask his questions. Nicodemus says,

“Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” John 3:2

Jesus cuts right to the chaste of what Nicodemus needs to hear.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, He cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

Perhaps Peter thinks the same thing as Nicodemus. How can a man enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time? They soon learn that Jesus is speaking figuratively. We are born of flesh—born physically, but we must also be born of the spirit—born spiritually.

How to do that? Another part of the conversation includes John 3:16…

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have life eternal.”

Believe. Believe and not perish. Have eternal life. Jesus goes on…

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him.”John 3:17

Saved through him.

Little by little, Peter must internalize these words. He has the next three years to do so as he learns to trust what Jesus says and does. Jesus will correct Peter, lead him, empower him, teach him, rebuke him… forgive him.

But the first step for Peter—and for us all—is to be assured of spiritual rebirth.

How do we share the joy of believing and looking forward to life eternal with the Father?

I have a friend at the Y with whom I chit-chat at times when we end up on the recumbent bikes side by side. Last week, she was wringing her hands, so to speak, about all the weather disasters and the mass killings, etc. I said, “Oh I know, it’s awful. It makes us realize how much we need to depend on our faith.” She was getting off her bike, but at least I planted the thought.

We must share our faith, even in simple ways, because there’s a world out there that hasn’t come to spiritual rebirth. Help us, O Lord, to be bold.

~ Joyce ~

Intermission

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

I’ve been gone all week to a writer’s conference at Ridgecrest, NC. Brings  back good memories of our family trips every summer to Music Week. My head is full of writing ideas, marketing ideas, and even a thought or two about film making.

So-o-o, we’ll take a little intermission this week from Peter and pick back up next week. I’d really appreciate it if you would pray for me in the next two minutes when you would ordinarily be reading the rest of this blog. 

Please pray for wisdom about what I need to focus on most in marketing for my books and that I would have clarity in my continued writing about Matthew, which includes securing an editor.

Many thanks to all you who read from week to week. Your comments to me are so encouraging!

~ Joyce ~

Peter – Going Fishing

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Peter has spent many hours with Jesus. He heard Him teach and watched Him heal—even his mother-in-law.

Now, Jesus will touch Peter at his most vulnerable point, his profession. Peter has been a fisherman of fish for a long time, but on this day, Jesus will teach him how to become a fisher of men. Notice the seven steps.

  1. Look for opportunities

Jesus is standing by the Sea of Galilee trying to speak to the people, but the crowd is having trouble seeing and hearing Him. So… he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen who were mending their nets.

2. Seize available resources

Jesus gets into one of Peter’s boats and asks him to push away from the shore just a bit, then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

3. Move from reluctance to obedience

When Jesus finishes speaking to the people, he tells Peter, ” Pull out into the deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Peter responds, “We’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 

4. Recognize when God’s power is at work

They catch so many fish the nets begin to break. They signaled their partners to come and help, and they came and filled their boats so full they began to sink.

5. Allow God to stir a deep confession

Even with all the experience Peter has already had with Jesus, nothing touches him like this. Jesus has entered Peter’s domain. He falls to his knees and, like Isaiah, he says, “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man!” 

6. Encourage people to catch others

James and John are also a part of this miracle. They’re sitting there with a boatload of fish as well.  Jesus tells Peter, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.”

7. Surrender completely

Likely, Andrew was also in the boat with Peter. So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him(Story found in Luke 5:1-11)

How do we apply these steps? Allow me to share my pilgrimage with my friends at the “Y”. I work out on 10 machines and do water aerobics for my rheumatoid arthritis. Since this is one of the few places I meet with people outside the church, I rather see it as my mission field. I try to observe #1—”Look for Opportunities.” That means, I try to be friendly and have Christlike attitudes. 

(#2) The “available resource” I have is the book the Lord led me to write about Nicodemus. Some of the men and women I see each week are devoted Christians, many are in Catholic churches where they do little Bible study, if any, some have only nominal backgrounds in Christianity, and one 80 year-old says she has never been to a church.

(#3 at work.) 21 of these wonderful people bought my book over the past two years and say it was a blessing to them.  The 80 year-old asked for my first book as well. (step #4)

I’m still trying to be a fisher of people. What joy it will be to reach #7! How is your fishing coming along?

~ Joyce ~

 

   

 

Peter – Water Jars at the Wedding

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We’re told that Jesus’ mother, Mary, is going to a friend’s wedding in Cana. It must be a very close friend or relative, because Jesus and his present disciples are also invited.

Remember from last week (“Peter – Name Change”) that we know of at least five or six who are following Jesus at this time. I find it a bit amusing to picture Simon Peter, the burly fisherman, with fish-smell washed off his body, dressed in his best and off to a wedding.

Jesus and his crew arrive when the party has been going for a while and the wine is running out. No sweet tea or Coke’s to offer, so Mary is in a tizzy. She greets Jesus and his friends with, “They have no more wine.” And ushers them to the preparation area.

Jesus picks up on the insinuation that she wants him to do something about it, but Jesus says,

Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come. John 2:4

Mary tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them. In other words, she’s still banking on Him to fix the problem. Do I hear Jesus sigh just a bit? Perhaps He decides that He can do this quietly and not bring undue attention to Himself. Six large water jars are standing nearby, and Jesus instructs the servants—

“Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” John 2:7-8

This is one of those many occasions in Scripture when it seems like things happen zip-zip and they’re done, but keep in mind that each of these jars holds 20 to 30 gallons of water! If it’s “to the brim” then that’s likely 6 jars times 30 gallons. I don’t know how big their buckets are, but it looks to me like many trips to the well to bring in 180 gallons of water. 

Eventually, the master of the banquet does a taste test and declares it spectacular! He says,

“Everyone brings out the choice wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” John 2:10

So Jesus first miraculous “sign,” as John likes to say, is given only to the servants and also to the disciples. The result?

… He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. John 2:11

Perhaps you made a decision to invite Jesus in your life at an early age or perhaps when you were older. Was there a time later that you sensed something more than at that initial time? A time when Christ revealed Himself in a special way to you? A time when you were tested and “put your faith in Him?”

I’m sure the disciples (Peter in particular) had much to say in these sessions with Jesus as they got to know Him and gradually discovered more of His message and power and mission, but we still do not hear Simon Peter’s voice. 

However, next week Jesus enters Peter’s personal world—they go fishing.

~ Joyce ~

 

Peter – Name Change

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week (in Peter, Part One), Andrew went to his brother, Simon, and declared to him that he had found the Messiah. We are given no comment from Simon. Not “You’ve gotta be kidding!” or “What makes you think that?” or “Praise the Lord!” Nothing.

We are told that Andrew brought Simon to Jesus, so I guess he was at least willing to come and see Him.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon, son of John, you will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter.) John 1:42

Thus the beginning of name changes for a few of the disciples. “Peter” meant stone or rock. He was anything but a solid rock early on with his impulsive, unstable personality, but in Acts he became the pillar of the early church. Jesus named him not for what he was but for what, by God’s grace, he would become.

How refreshing to know that God sees beyond the meager person I am to what He knows I can become when I submit to His power in me. After all, God created you and me with the gifts, personality, and interests we have. He sees our potential. Nothing can bind us if we stay connected to the vine. He can produce abundant fruit in us.

Well, back to our story. The next day, Jesus decided to leave from the area where John the Baptist had been preaching and go to Galilee, more specifically Bethsaida, Peter and Andrew’s hometown. Jesus seeks out another hometown boy, Philip. Maybe Andrew had also talked to Philip; we don’t know.

Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” John 1:43

Philip evidently had enthusiasm and faith because he, in turn, went to find his friend Nathaniel. He told him,

“We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and whom the prophet also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” John 1:45

Nathaniel gives us his famous line,

“Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46 (NAS)

Philip persuades him to come and see. Thus we hear the conversation between Jesus and Nathaniel (later called “Bartholomew.”)

“Here is a true Israelite in whom nothing is false.”

“How do you know me?”

“I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that. I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending of the Son of Man.” John 1:47-51

John, Andrew and Peter, Philip and Nathaniel. Now there are five. No matter how untrained or unrestrained we are, God sees where we can be more than where we are. He can use us whether our personality is quiet and calm or boisterous and loud. He has a plan for each of us, beyond where we are today. He simply says, “Follow me.”

Next week, we’ll go to a wedding!

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Peter, Part One

 

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

It’s been a while since we have explored a Bible character while “Searching His Word and Seeking His Heart,” so let’s have a look at Peter.

Only one Peter is found in the Scriptures. Others could likely have been named Peter, but we only have info on this one and quite a character he is. What do you know about him? Perhaps you would say, “Peter was a disciple of Jesus, a fisherman, and the brother of Andrew from Bethsaida.” Yes, and so much more.

We have more stories and incidents where “Peter did… or Peter said…” than any other disciple. Perhaps that’s because Peter had a personality that was larger than life—always the bold one, the first with an opinion, out-spoken, impetuous, headlong, spontaneous, but unbridled. We never have to wonder what Peter was thinking. Perhaps that’s why his name pops up more than any of the other disciples of Jesus.

Peter’s birth name, Simon, means “he has heard” or “obedient.” He demonstrated aspects of hearing Jesus’ words, but often had to  be tested with fire to truly understand  Jesus’ heart. He proved obedient but bore many trials to get there.When we place ourselves in God’s hands, miracles can happen, but Jesus had his work cut out for him with this live firecracker.

We know that he had a brother, Andrew, who was most likely overshadowed by his domineering brother. Scripture only gives us two quotes from Andrew, but it is Andrew who first introduced Simon Peter to Jesus.

The back story is that, in the beginning, Andrew and John were early followers of John the Baptist. One day they heard John the Baptist say,

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘a man who comes after me has surpassed me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” John 1:29-31

John the Baptist then told what happened when he baptized Jesus earlier—the appearance of the dove, the voice from heaven and all. 

The next day, Jesus came walking by again. And again John the Baptist pointed him out and said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

This time, Andrew and John walked away and started following Jesus. Jesus noticed them and turned around to ask,

“What do you want?” John 1:38

They asked where he was staying. (In other words, “We want to talk to you.”) Jesus invited them to spend the rest of the day with him. They were convinced. Andrew went straight to his brother and said,

“We have found the Messiah.” John 1:41

And that’s where we shall begin our journey with Simon Peter.

~ Joyce ~