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Archive for the tag “Disciple Peter”

The Meeting

Do you have favorite Scripture that God has used to move you along your journey? One of mine is the passage found in Acts 10. The passage is about the divine connection made between Peter and Cornelius. One morning during my quiet time, I was contemplating this passage. I wondered about the significance of Peter and Cornelius’ meeting. Peter had to be willing to go where he was forbidden by his law to go. In his vision, God spoke to Peter to eat things that Peter considered as “unclean.” God told Peter He had already made those things clean. By God’s hand, He made all things in heaven and on earth. He declared in Genesis 1:31 all that He had made was very good.

Peter had to remove his old thinking and replace it with a new mindset. Peter was contemplating the meaning of his vision when visitors arrived who would take him to Cornelius. Peter took one step out of his comfort zone into a divine encounter. Peter’s vision was about “unclean” food, but God was giving Peter a new understanding that nothing made by God’s hand is unclean – and that includes all human beings. Jews and Gentiles did not meet. It was against their religion to associate with Gentiles. There was a barrier that God created in the beginning in order to separate the wickedness from His chosen people. And the Jews took that to an extreme. God set aside the Jewish people but that didn’t mean that they were any better than their fellow-man. Their thinking needed to be changed.

Cornelius was already on a path that respected God. He was already worshiping God and giving to the poor. He was already doing the things he knew to do, but it was not complete. He needed further information. I have seen this pattern repeated in Scripture such as the encounter found in Acts 18. Apollos was also in need of further information which was supplied by Priscilla and Aquila. When our understanding isn’t complete, God sends someone to tell the rest of the story. There were divine encounters that furthered the Gospel message. Apollos went on to preach the Gospel throughout his world. Paul mentioned Apollos in 1 Corinthians 1:12 as one of the preachers that believers “followed” along with Paul and Peter. Apollos must have been significant in moving the Gospel forward.

Back to Cornelius. Cornelius was a military man from the Italian regiment, which means he probably went back to Rome at some point. As I am contemplating these divine encounters, I wondered if he was the first messenger to Rome. When Paul wrote to the Romans, there was already a church planted. Who was the first one to take the message to the Romans? Was it Cornelius? Was this his divine connection with Peter that set up the wave of Christians to that part of the world? I would have to believe this is what took place. God gives us a small story that forms the larger context of taking the message throughout the world. I immediately thought of the Ethiopian eunuch that was encountered by Philip in Acts 9. Philip was sent by the Holy Spirit to a specific road for the encounter with a man who would take the Gospel to the continent of Africa. It’s the small stories that take on the larger story of getting the message across – God so loved the world that He sent His Son; not to condemn the world but to save it.

We may feel that we have nothing to share, but God can use us for divine encounters for God’s ultimate glory! Peter heard the voice and was obedient to the task. Philip started out as soon as he heard the voice. As I stated previously, God used this same passage to move me to my current city – it’s now been almost sixteen years ago. Why did God call me here? I do believe I needed further information. I didn’t have the complete story. I haven’t had the divine encounter (that I know of) to take the Gospel message to my world, except through this written word. It’s not much, but if I am faithful to what I am called to do, maybe someone along the way will be changed by it. That’s my prayer anyway.

If I had not made the move, I never would have met the people I was supposed to meet to get me where I needed to be. My old thinking had to be changed. Sometimes it takes a move of God to help us see greater things than we could ever imagine. Never discount what God wants to do through our small obedience in these “little” decisions – it could impact a world! Cornelius, Apollos and Philip are good examples of what a little obedience could do for God’s glory!

The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. Acts 10:22-23, 34-35

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Daybreak

I love sunrises, but I don’t see them much. I am not up at the crack of dawn on most mornings. Occasionally I will see the breaking of the day. However, my morning usually begins long after the sun has made its appearing. The breaking of the day is seen as a new beginning, but I was struck recently by a couple of sermons that pointed out that daybreak was the end of the night; not the beginning of something, but the end of something.

The first passage was taught from John 21:1-13. It was the end of the time when Jesus walked the earth, but before the Holy Spirit descended. This is the passage where Peter decided to go fishing and some of the other disciples followed him. After Jesus rose again but had yet to ascend back to heaven, Peter went back to what he knew to do. Jesus was not with the disciples on a constant basis anymore. There was uncertainty of the future now. I assume Peter had no clue what he should do next. So he went back to what he knew to do. Peter was unsuccessful in that night’s fishing expedition though. They caught nothing. Now what?

Scripture says it was early in the morning when Jesus showed up on the shore (verse 4). The disciples were not in the place where they were supposed to be. Jesus found them doing what they knew to do at that time. Jesus directed them to fish the other side of the boat. All night long they had been fishing their favorite spots and caught nothing. The blessing happened at the end of the night after they struggled with those nets all night long. One word from Jesus redirected their efforts, and they were surprised by the abundance; so surprised that they counted the number of fish and recorded it!

The second passage was taught from Genesis 32:22-31. This passage finds Jacob about to encounter his brother whom he had deceived. He sent all his possessions and family across the stream so that he could be alone. That night, a man from God wrestled with Jacob; all night long they struggled against one another. Day was breaking and the man wanted to be released, but Jacob would not let the man go until he received a blessing. Jacob was touched by the man and received an injury that caused him to limp. But in that interaction, Jacob received a new name. No longer was he going to be called Jacob which means “deceiver” but Israel which means “he struggles with God.” The man blessed Jacob there, at the end of the night or daybreak. It was the end of the old and the beginning of the new.

The thing that has been suggested through these passages is that God has His own timetable. He is never late; He is never early, but He is always there at the time we need Him. He always is there when we are at the end of ourselves. When we finally come to the end of ourselves, God will meet us there. Sometimes we find ourselves like Peter wondering “now what?” Jesus came to him to redirect Peter’s path. The next section in John talks about that redirection. Peter was no longer going to fish at the lake, but fish for men. Peter was going to catch them, and Jesus was going to clean them.

I think that’s what we’re all called to do. We have to get rid of all our baggage; the things that keep us from experiencing a greater presence of His Spirit. When the Holy Spirit came to Peter, the fire of the Spirit changed the landscape of the face of discipleship. The Holy Spirit changed everything. We have to quit wrestling with God over keeping our lives separate from Him. That’s not who we are supposed to be. We are to be set apart, but it’s with the Holy Spirit’s help that we do these things. Personally, I am tired of fighting. I am ready for daybreak, aren’t you?

And he (Jesus) said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Luke 9:23-24 (ESV)

Going Fishing

This past Christmas, I received an Earthing mat. If you haven’t heard of this before, it’s a product that helps us connect with the earth. We have gotten away from experiencing the energetic fields of the earth. Our ancestors roamed the earth, slept on the earth and were connected in ways that we no longer experience – which I admit I am glad for! However, we still have the need to get connected – hence the mat that is grounded. It’s a way to help with healing by the earth’s energy. Okay, I don’t know if it really works or not. But what I have experienced has been pretty amazing.

Normally, I sleep about seven hours with very little interruptions. Since I have had the mat and sleep with it under my feet or legs, I still sleep about the same amount. The one thing that has changed though is that I am dreaming like crazy. Every night I dream about friends that I haven’t seen in years. I have dreamed of my Mom which hasn’t happened in quite a while. Every time I wake up with someone on my mind, I pray for them (except for my Mom – she’s already where she needs to be!). I don’t know why my old friends have come up in my dream cycle, but there must be a reason for it, so I pray for them.

One morning, I woke up with an analogy on my mind. My friends were friends I had when I was far from God. I believe I had the blood of Jesus covering me during those years, but I didn’t have a fellowship with Him. During those years, I wasn’t a positive influence on these friends. The analogy was fishing. Peter was called to fish for men. This is our calling as well. I see a lake of fire that many are in. I also see people who don’t realize the water is getting warmer. It’s like frogs that are put in lukewarm water; the water gradually is warmed to the point of boiling. They get used to gradual increase, and they don’t realized they are being cooked to death. We are called to fish the people out of the lake of fire. This illustration stayed with me as I moved through my morning routine.

The ones I am dreaming about could very well be in that lake of fire. I didn’t have the influence for Jesus that I should have had when we were friends. I let them down. When I finally understood I was far from Him, I turned around and started the journey back. I wish I could say that I brought my friends with me, but I didn’t. I missed the chance while they were in my circle of influence. I would tell them today Jesus changes everything. He changed me. I know the lake is getting warmer, and they just don’t realize it. I know it isn’t up to me to save anyone. Jesus is the only one who can minister to their needs. If He wants to use me to help them out of the lake, I’m available!

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:8-11

The Sheet

I was reading Acts 11 on this particular morning. God used this passage in my life to move me from High Point, NC to Raleigh, NC. When I was reading it on this morning, I was brought right back to the reason I am here in this city. About fifteen years ago, I was all settled in my new little house enjoying my life. One of my friends had recently moved to Durham, NC. She knew I was getting to a point in my job that I wanted to start searching for another one. She called me with a new job offer for Raleigh. I was not about to move. I was getting everything in order in my new house, and I liked my life there (just not my job). However, I told her thanks for the information and went about the day. I had my quiet time in the evenings before bedtime back in those days. And read the passage about Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 (Acts 11 recounts the story). Peter and Cornelius both had visions from God. I thought that was pretty interesting. I was still relatively new to Bible reading so this story was pretty new to me.

God opened Peter’s eyes to a new perspective. He opened the door to new opportunities to preach the Word to the Gentiles. Peter pondered the revelation. Then Peter recognized the opportunity, and he had the courage to go where he was once forbidden to go. I love this passage. God used this passage to get me to my current city. I didn’t know it at the time, but He was going to open my eyes to a new perspective as well. And He was going to give me courage to step into something new. God used this passage to direct my path. I wasn’t planning to move. I had just started to put out “feelers” for a new job. But God wanted me here for a purpose that has yet to be revealed. I think He’s in the process of revealing bits and pieces but the picture isn’t as clear as the sheet was for Peter.

In my past, I have heard a direct word from God on occasion. This is one of those cases where I knew what I was hearing was from Him. In my prayer time after reading the passage, I halfheartedly prayed about the job opportunity in Raleigh. I tucked myself in bed and went to sleep. During the night, I had a dream. I don’t remember much except the word from the Lord. The word for me was “Denise, I have a job for you to do in Raleigh.” That’s all I remember. When I woke up the next morning, I said I guess I need to call about this job. I did. I got the job. I sold my house and got resettled in about a six weeks time frame. It was pretty quick. But when God says go, look out, it will happen quickly!

Just like Peter, I had the confidence to go to somewhere new to do something else new. I am still waiting for the rest of the story. I don’t know exactly why Raleigh. But in the meantime, I am learning all I can learn. I am faithful with what God has given me. And I will be confident when God has the job ready, I’ll be ready!

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:13-14

Wavering

Doubt. Belief. Confidence. Fear. Trust. Unbelief. Have you ever had all those feelings wrestling in your spirit? I had them all in mere moments of one another just the other day. My spirit had been convicted of my lack of faith. Got up from my quiet time, confident my heart was set right before Jesus. But in just moments as I was taking my daily walk, the wrestling began. I am in a spiritual battle concerning my trust in God. Trust in what He has promised through His word. Trust that He is who He says He is. Trust that all things are possible even when it looks impossible. I am stuck with Egypt behind me and the Red Sea before me. Is there a way that I just can’t see right now? Faith says to be sure of the things I am hoping for and to be certain in the things that are not seen (Hebrews 11:1). As I was concluding my walk, the word that was given in my spirit was the word to Gideon from the angel of the Lord: “go in the strength you have” (Judges 6:14).

I am wrestling also about what I am supposed to do, and what God is supposed to do. What are my responsibilities? I read the passage about Peter collecting the tax money from a fish. The money was found after Peter went to fish. Jesus told Peter go do what he was trained to do – go fish – and the provisional tax money would be provided in an improbable place – in the fish’s mouth (Matthew 17:24-27). Jesus asked Peter to go back to what he knew for just a short time until the tax money was found. Is this something Jesus is asking me to do? The strength that I have had in my past was financial work. If I go back, is it like I am giving up on what the Lord has called me to do? Or is this just for a short time until the provision is met? Or maybe it’s to get back on track with writing my story. One of the questions circling in my mind: if I knew I could not fail, what would I do?

Lots of questions with very few answers, right now. As I discern the real meaning behind the word given, I have to believe without seeing. I have to trust God and His Word. I should have the confidence in my heart that He’s enough for me even when I see the Red Sea before me. He has a way out that I am not seeing right now. And if I need to fish for a little while, then I have to trust God to move me into the right position for the right time for what I am called to do. I have to quit looking at the waves and just fix my eyes upon Jesus. I have His peace filling every pore of my being. He is the only one who has all the answers! Thank you Jesus!

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord is Peace. Judges 6:12,14,24

Pondering the Experience

I was on my mission trip to Honduras last week (the reason I didn’t post anything last week). I am still contemplating all that I experienced on the trip. I don’t know exactly how to describe what I am feeling about it all. Mostly, I felt uncomfortable. I was totally outside of my comfort zone. I think God likes for us to be outside our comfort zone. We are just too comfortable in our everyday lives that it’s hard for God to work there. When we are comfortable, we don’t need God.

I love the passage from Acts 10 concerning Peter’s vision. Peter needed a new perspective in order for God to work through him to grow the church in a new direction. Peter needed to go to a Gentile’s house in order to tell him about Jesus which was a definite no-no for a Jewish man. The vision showed Peter that God had prepared a new thing that will be outside of Peter’s comfort zone. This passage was previously used in my life to move me to my current city. I believe God is going to show me something new through my experience in Honduras. I don’t have the revelation yet. Like Peter, I am pondering what the vision (experience) means.

Our mission team put a roof on a church and mixed concrete for the floor. The church was in a small village. The people of the village walked to another village every week to worship. The people wanted a church building of their own so that the old and the young could worship together in their own village. I feel happy that I was able to help meet that need. It was hard work. Concrete is mixed by pure muscle strength – sand, concrete mix and water – stirred shovel full after shovel full. We put much effort into building, but God will bless that effort with filling it with His presence year after year as the people come to worship and praise Him. What an honor it was to be a part of that process!

This was a total village project. The children were so excited to see our van pull into their village every day. Able bodied men came out to help with the work. The women prepared the lunch feast. It was a pretty simple meal compared to US standards but for them, they served us their best. I had to get out of my comfort zone in order to be a part of God’s work. I met people I would have never met unless I traveled to see them. I asked one of the local missionaries what the locals thought of us coming on these mission trips. He said, “They couldn’t believe we would leave paradise to come help them.” Do I think of my country as paradise? Nope but in their world, we live in such abundance – even the poor in this country have so much more than they do.

I am still wondering why God has blessed me as He has. Why am I so fortunate to live in paradise when others suffer so much? What is the new thing God is going to show me next? I will ponder until the revelation comes. What a wonderful God I serve!

And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?”  Acts 10:19-21 (ESV)

Everything Changes

I love the Gospel of John. The reason the disciple John wrote this gospel was to bear witness of Jesus so that we who would read (or hear) these stories would believe Jesus is the Messiah. He mentioned at the end of the gospel that there were too many stories to write down (John 21:25), but chose these things that by believing what was written we would have life in His name (John 20:31). John is testifying what he saw and heard so that we might believe.

There is one passage in John that is becoming one of my favorites. Sometime during the initial days after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter decides to go fishing. I imagine after all the stress of the crucifixion, resurrection and the uncertainties of the future Peter goes back to what he has done in the past. The others decide to join him. Maybe they wanted a bit of normalcy in such confusing times. Then Jesus shows up. Peter jumps out of the boat. I always assumed Peter ran toward Jesus on the shore. But I noticed upon reading the passage this time around, Peter was still close to the boat. Jesus asked them to bring some of the fish they just caught. Peter climbed aboard to bring in the net with the fish.

I also recognized this was the second miraculous catch involving Peter. The first time Jesus showed the group how to fish was in Luke 5. In that passage, Peter told Jesus that he couldn’t be in Jesus’ presence because of his sinful condition. Peter recognized Jesus’ holiness and his sinfulness. After being with Jesus for about three years, Peter still knew of his sinful condition. For some reason in this second fishing trip, Peter jumped out of the boat. Was he anxious to run toward him, but because of his recent betrayal of Jesus, it kept him from going to Him? What would I have done in the circumstances?

As the story continues, Jesus goes to Peter and reinstated Peter to his place in God’s plan. Peter was called to minister to Jesus’ people. The sheep would be without a shepherd to lead them to the living water when Jesus went back to heaven. The sheep would need to be fed. They would need guidance. This conversation changed everything for Peter. Whenever we encounter Jesus, it changes everything.

Sometimes I wonder if I have truly encountered Jesus. Like Peter in the beginning, he knew about Jesus. He had heard all about him. But by this time, Peter was truly changed. I have known about Jesus all my life. I have surrendered my life to him. I have left everything (so to speak) to follow Him. I decided a few months ago to go on my first mission trip. Everyone is telling me it will be life changing. For over two years I have been sitting at the feet of Jesus in constant study and prayer. What will come of it? The story will continue I’m sure of that. And just as it was for Peter, the encounter will change everything for me!

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:10b-11

Expectation

Have you ever encountered God’s word with a “duh – I knew that” moment? I get that all the time. It happened again when I was reading the passage about the church praying while Peter was in jail. The angel of the Lord appeared in the cell with Peter. Peter was sound asleep, even though he was probably slated for execution in the next day or two. Ah, to have that kind of peace! Meanwhile, the church is in a house praying – not sure what they were praying but they were praying nonetheless. Were they praying for Peter’s release? Were they praying for protection for him? Just what were they praying? Scripture is silent about the prayer. After the angel supernaturally freed Peter, Peter shows up on the doorstep of the house where the church was praying. The one who went to the door was overjoyed to hear Peter’s voice on the other side of the closed-door. She was so excited she forgot to open the door for him. Was she seeing the answered prayer right in front of her?

How many times have I prayed specifically for things to occur, and I totally miss the answer? Or how many times have a prayed not really expecting God to answer my prayers? Why then do I even pray? If I am not expecting God to answer, why even go through the motions? Do I believe God hears me? Do I have such small faith that I just don’t think He’ll come through for me? These are the questions I have been pondering since I’ve read about Peter’s release (found in Acts 12:1-18). I was reading this passage the day after I heard a sermon on Expectations. Jesus couldn’t do any miracles in His hometown of Nazareth because of their lack of faith. I realized I have been praying for specific things with little faith. I don’t really expect Jesus to come through for me. I don’t know why. He has been faithful in the past, but I am not expecting much in the future.

Oh, I believe Jesus can do all things. I believe nothing is impossible for God. But obviously I don’t think the prayers I have been praying will amount to anything. I am not anticipating the great things God is capable of or else I would be excited about the future. I would be watching with anticipation, like a child anticipating Christmas. The countdown is on for the fulfillment of the promise; just like the month before Christmas and the child is counting the days. I guess it’s because the future is “out there” with no end in sight. The faith comes in when there is no sight of the end. How long will I have to wait until the promise?

Regardless, my prayers need the expectant attitude. The anticipation of what is to come. God is good all the time. He knows where we are and what we are waiting on. He is also looking in our hearts to see the smallest of seeds of hope and faith. Are they growing or are thy withering? How long will they grow or how long will it take for them to start to die? For those who endure, the promises of blessings will come. If there are no blessings, then it’s not the end. Pray unceasing and with expectation until the blessing comes. God is faithful to fulfill all He has promised! Praise God now for what He is going to do!

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:22-23

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