100 Times

I love Peter. He’s not afraid to say what everyone else is thinking, and he wears his heart on his sleeve, for better or for worse. I think we’ll be good friends in heaven. (Until we call each other out and get into a fist fight…)

Anyway, I read an interaction between Peter and Jesus last night in Mark. Jesus was telling the disciples it’s basically impossible for man to get into heaven on his own merit. (Mark 10:23)

And Peter didn’t care for that.

Peter was pretty sure people ought to be able to earn their way into eternal life, and, as Jesus repeated himself, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!”, Peter blew up. (Mark 10:24)

Peter yelled incredulously, “We have left everything to follow you!” (Mark 10:28)

To be fair, I am reading intonation into the text, which probably says more about me than about Peter, but I can hear Peter’s tone inflect in a manner bordering on the line of being disrespectful to the Messiah. (Okay, running clear over the line at breakneck speed…)

Peter was hacked. He had left his family, his livelihood, and the comfort of home to follow Jesus, and now he felt like Jesus was telling him that wasn’t enough to get into heaven… “We have left everything to follow you!” I think Peter was totally exasperated.

I’m not sure if Jesus responded calmly or heightened his emotion to match Peter’s frenzied speech because that’s all Peter would understand in the moment… either way, Jesus responded, “Truly, I tell you…no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–along with persecutions–and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

Jesus spoke to Peter’s concern: those who give things up for the gospel will have eternal life, for it’s by that very gospel that man is saved.

But that’s not what garnered my attention in this passage.

I found it peculiar that Jesus promised one hundred times as much of what we give up in this present age. In other words, He will provide now above and beyond what we lost or gave up when we became followers of Christ. God will meet those needs this side of heaven, perhaps in different ways than when we were unbelievers, but He will meet those needs nonetheless and in a much more abundant fashion.

My pastor postulated last night that God meets those relational and felt needs through the body of Christ. I think that’s true.

The relationships are most intriguing to me. When we accept Christ, sometimes the people around us don’t understand it. So they distance themselves from us. Or sometimes we distance ourselves from them because we no longer feel like we have anything in common with them. Or sometimes God calls us away physically to be a witness for Him in another town or state or country. We lose relationships for the gospel.

But Jesus doesn’t leave us hanging. He created us; He knows we are relational. He knows we need emotional intimacy to thrive. He promises to supplement those lost relationships 100 fold in this lifetime.

That’s a little bit exciting.

We don’t lose relationships and spend the rest of our lives alone when we become Christians. We get to have a whole bunch of new relationships – relationships that are truer than the ones we had before because both parties are their fullest selves – most actualized, to borrow a term from the world of psychology – when they are Christians.

Paul and Timothy are examples of this. Without taking too much time to elaborate, they both literally left their homes and families and day jobs to take the gospel all over Eurasia (there’s a word I want to start using more often…). No doubt they felt lonely at times… but the Lord blessed them with each other. On more than one occasion Paul refers to Timothy as his son or son in the faith, and Paul even tells the Philippians he has no one else like Timothy. They had a special relationship they wouldn’t have had if they hadn’t given up other relationships for the gospel.

I’m thankful I have a handful of brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and children in the faith. They get me better than any of the people I had to leave behind when I became a Christian. I’m nowhere near 100 yet, but if I’m willing to open my heart to a few more people and invest some time in a few more relationships, maybe I’ll get there.

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What to do When People Hurt You

Sometimes people hurt us.

Insightful, no?

Accidents happen. Feelings get hurt. Egos get bruised. People get overlooked. And, every once in awhile, people may purposefully take a stab at our hearts out of anger or bitterness.

Most of the time this kind of thing happens in isolated incidents. Especially the hurting that is inadvertent. We swallow it, and move on. Or we talk about it, resolve it, and move on.

But what do we do with the relationships in which we know the other person is going to hurt us before they actually do so? Sometimes people aren’t safe or mature or good at loving other people, and, if we had to guess, they are going to hurt us sooner than later.

There are a lot of clues we may be dealing with this sort of person…

Maybe they have a track record of hurting us, and we’ve just come to expect that from them. Maybe we’ve observed them hurting others before, and we figure it’s only a matter of time before they hurt us too.

Or maybe the person isn’t intrinsically hurtful, it’s just that we’ve been around the block enough times to realize that loving others is risky. The more emotionally vulnerable we are with someone, the more deeply they can hurt us.

So what do we do?

The natural tendency is to allow very few people into the depths of our hearts. Keep them on the surface so if they do something insensitive or flat out stupid, it won’t hurt very badly. And if the handful of people we let in ever do hurt us, we quickly learn to construct a wall to keep them out for good so they can’t ever hurt us again.

In other words, we protect ourselves.

Except the only problem is that’s not how Jesus did relationships. 

Jesus had a friend named Peter who swore his faithfulness to Jesus up and down (Luke 22:33). As good as Pete’s intentions were, Jesus knew better, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me,” (Luke 22:34).

Jesus knew Peter was going to hurt Him. They had been great friends, doing life together daily for the better part of three years. I can imagine the pain in Jesus’ heart – the heaviness – at the thought that Peter was going to deny even knowing Him. How hurtful…

Sure enough, after Jesus was arrested, Peter was questioned about his relationship to Jesus, and Peter denied knowing Him (Luke 22:56-60). “Just as [Peter] was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter,” (Luke 22:60-61).

I don’t think Jesus was shooting Peter an “I told you so” look. That’s not in our Lord’s character. Rather, I can imagine the look was mainly one of great sorrow and hurt. Jesus had known it was coming, but it didn’t hurt any less.

All that to say, when Jesus was in a relationship with someone He knew was going to hurt Him, He didn’t back away. He didn’t build a wall. He didn’t self-protect.

He let the hurt happen. 

And then He continued to love Peter well and do what was in Peter’s best interest by serving him and sacrificing for him – even unto death.

It was not fun. It was not easy. Peter hurt Jesus deeply. But Jesus chose to respond in love.

And we are called to do no less.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God,” (Ephesians 5:1-2). 

What to Do When You’re Sinking

We all know the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water, but some things about it struck me differently today.

First, Jesus made the disciples get into that boat and sail on ahead of Him INTO A STORM while he wrapped up a long day of teaching with some solitary prayer time (Matthew 14:22-23). In other words, while He was safely on land…

That doesn’t sound like the western Christian life at all… Lovey-dovey Jesus makes us go into uncomfortable, frightening, even dangerous situations?

Then, in the middle of the night, Jesus decides to walk across the lake toward the boat. And do you know how the disciples reacted? The Bible says, “They were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear,” (Matthew 14:26).

So for those keeping score at home, Jesus sent the disciples into a terrifying situation, and then He Himself terrifies them!

“But Jesus immediately said to them, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid,'” (Matthew 14:27).

If the disciples were anything like me, Jesus’ words did very little to actually quell the fear inside them.

Peter, evidently, was like me, because he needed more proof that this ghost-like creature really was Jesus.

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

And that right there is where the similarities between Peter and I end. I would’ve been more prone to say something like, “Lord, if it’s you, come get in the boat with me, and maybe bring some ice cream?”

Jesus’ response to Peter is even more startling than Peter’s offer to get out of the boat. Jesus says, “Come,” (Matthew 14:29).

“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus,” (Matthew 14:29).

Peter RISKED HIS LIFE to COME TOWARD JESUS.

Peter accepted Christ’s invitation to come!

Peter walked in obedience to the Lord in terrifying, dangerous, nonsensical circumstances…

But.

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'” (Matthew 14:30).

The wind didn’t all of a sudden kick up after Peter had gotten out of the boat and was walking in obedience. The wind had been there all along. Peter had been aware that it was gusty before he made the choice to come toward Jesus.

But while he was in the boat, the wind was not nearly as terrifying as it was when he was attempting to walk on water.

The dangers of the wind became more readily apparent without the safety of the boat. So, too, Peter became more afraid of the wind.

Fear paralyzed Peter, and he began to sink

But when he began to sink, Peter did the perfect thing: he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Peter didn’t call to the other disciples to throw him a life preserver, nor did Peter start trying to swim back to the boat.

He knew those things wouldn’t work in the midst of a storm in the middle of a huge lake.

Peter knew the only One who could save him was Jesus. 

And I love – LOVE – what happens next.

“Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him,” (Matthew 14:31).

IMMEDIATELY!

Jesus didn’t let Peter bob below the surface a few times just to teach him a lesson.

Jesus didn’t give Peter a talking to about trust before He offered to help.

Jesus immediately saved Peter.

And how Jesus saved Peter is just as beautiful – with His own hand. By His own touch, with His own strength.

Jesus could’ve told the wind and the waves to stop to save Peter. But He didn’t. Or He could’ve instructed the other disciples to throw Peter a line. But He didn’t. Or He could’ve coached Peter to swim to Him, but He didn’t.

He didn’t do any of those things.

When Peter, gripped with fear and short on faith, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out His hand and saved Peter

What makes us think He won’t do the same for us?!

As we take steps toward Jesus, obeying Him to come, there will be fear and doubt and we will begin to sink. But He is too good and loves us too much to not respond immediately to our plea, “Lord, save us!” 

All we have to do is cry out.

Go Without

As a daddy leads a fearful, hesitant child toward a new situation, the Lord has been gently encouraging me –  never forcing me – down a new path.

He’s been quietly, compassionately, and consistently reassuring me, “Come this way. You’ll be okay. I am with you. I know you’re scared, but come, you can trust Me. I know it’s uncomfortable, but come, I will supply all your needs.”

A loving smile has graced His lips as He’s held my hand and patiently waited for me to take baby steps in the way He is showing me.

The fear is subsiding. I’m trusting Him more. Focusing on Him more. Realizing more He is really all I need. Really.

I read in Luke last night that this was Jesus’ plan for the original disciples, and it is no less true for His disciples today.

In chapter 22, Jesus is telling Peter that he will deny knowing Jesus once He is arrested. Peter, in naive, yet sweet, fashion, is swearing up and down that he certainly will not deny his association with Jesus. Come hell or high water, prison or death, Peter is adamant he will go with Jesus wherever He goes (Luke 22:33).

Jesus shakes His head, no. “No, Peter. You will deny 3 times that you know Me,” Jesus says. (Luke 22:34).

Jesus then encourages his disciples to get ready for the ensuing arrest. To illustrate contrast, Jesus recalls for them the time He sent them out to heal people and share the news of Jesus’ arrival (Luke 10). He had instructed the disciples at that time not to take anything with them but to rely on the Father to provide for their physical needs via hospitable people. Jesus brings that imperative back to mind for the disciples in Luke 22 by asking them, “‘When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?'” (Luke 22:35).

“‘Nothing,’ they answered,” (Luke 22:35).

Can you imagine?

A modern example might be the Lord telling you to walk out of your house with nothing but the clothes on your back, walk into the nearest city, start sharing the Gospel with whomever you see, and depend upon their hospitality to offer you a place to sleep, food to eat, and an occasional shower.

Would you trust the Father to provide?

Let’s get more personal.

Change the scripture to future tense for a minute, and insert your own I-Can’t-Live-Withouts in the blanks.

Imagine the Father asking YOU, “When I send you without _____, _____ or _____, will you lack anything?”

Things I put in the blanks:

  • family
  • friendships
  • my church
  • money
  • phone
  • music
  • books
  • computer
  • good food
  • a comfortable bed
  • coffee

Our tendency is to answer God’s questions with, “YES! If You send me without my best friend, my child, and acceptable coffee, I will lack things! I will be cranky and unhappy and unfulfilled and sleepy and probably have quite the headache.”

I’ve been telling God this for far too long. For years.

But what I am saying is a lie. Because scripture says otherwise. When God sends us with nothing but Himself, we lack nothing. TRUTH! Right there. In the Gospel of Luke. Twice.

The Lord is good. He is trustworthy. He cannot break His promises.

Whatever He is telling us to go without, no matter what it is, we will not lack anything.

Telling God No

Peter.  God love him.

He is the disciple that I relate to most.  From the excessive pride, swearing he’ll never deny Christ, to letting his emotions dictate his actions, cutting off that guy’s ear who came to arrest Jesus, Peter is a relatable dude.

After Christ’s resurrection, Peter maintains his uncanny ability to fail in his faith.

In Acts 10 Peter has a vision from the Lord.  He was praying one afternoon, and “He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners.  It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air.  Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter.  Kill and eat,'” (Acts 10:11-13).

Peter realizes something supernatural is happening right now.  The text says he is in a trance.  He knows he isn’t asleep, and he is aware that it is the Lord speaking to him.  I think he is caught off guard by this experience. He probably wasn’t planning on encountering the Lord quite like this when he started praying.

And Peter’s gut-reaction to the Lord’s command to eat is telling of where Peter’s heart was.

“‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean,'” (Acts 10:14).

image via en.over-blog.com

PETER TELLS GOD NO!

This is preposterous, is it not?!

And, yet, you and I do the same thing all the time.

The Lord is telling Peter to do something outside of his comfort zone, outside of his religious practices, outside of his preconceived notions of what it means to be His follower.

When Peter was faced with making an on-the-spot decision – obey the Lord or obey the Law – Peter’s true heart shows his loyalty is to religion.

To be fair, Peter was caught off guard.  Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.  Let’s give him grace!  Surely, if he had taken the time to really think things through before responding to the Lord, he would have chosen to obey God.  Surely, his refusal to eat was merely his flesh talking, not a true representation of this disciple’s heart….

Except the Lord gives Peter two more chances.  TWO.  MORE.  In addition to the first chance.  And Peter still doesn’t obey.

“The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’  This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven,” (Acts 10:15-16).

Peter doesn’t eat.  Not the first time, not the second time, not the third time.  He tells God no.

I wonder what would have happened if Peter had eaten?  What blessing – what experience – did he miss out on by refusing the Lord?

What are we missing out on by telling God no in our own lives?  If you’re tired of wondering, find out.  Walk forth in obedience, even if what He’s asking you to do sounds crazy – is crazy – and defies all your preconceived ideas of the Christian life.

Let’s find out what we’ve been missing.