Tag Archives: Peter

How Many Breaths Have You Taken So Far Today?

Tuesday Re-mix –

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.  Matthew 18:21-22

hot-air-balloonThe average person breathes about 28,800 times a day.  Did you know that?  That’s a whole lot of hot air.  I wonder if that’s enough to fill a hot air balloon?  If the average adult breath is about 1 liter of air, and if the average hot air balloon is about 77,000 cubic meters of air…how many of us would it take breathing all day long to fill a hot air balloon? Somebody do the math on that and give us the answer in the comments!

For the Christ-follower, forgiving is a lot like breathing.  I think when Jesus corrected Peter in Matthew 18, saying we are to forgive seventy times seven, what He meant is that we’re not even keeping score like that.  We don’t count at all, because we will be doing it way too much to keep track!  For us, it is like breathing.  We breathe in and we breathe out…we forgive.  We breathe in and we breathe out…we forgive again.  That is the way it is supposed to be in the church.

Forgiveness may be the most misunderstood concept in Christendom.  That’s ironic, because forgiveness, it seems, is supposed to be the hallmark of the …

Two Quick Lessons for Your Church…from Our Older Brother

Tuesday Re-mix –

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.  Matthew 16:16-17

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  Matthew 16:22-23

I was the baby in my family.  That means I got to learn from my older sibling’s mistakes (sorry, Sis)…not that there were THAT MANY mistakes there to learn from…but there were a few.  And I did learn from them.  That, it seems to me, is a huge benefit of being the younger brother.

I think of Peter that way…an older brother from whom we can learn.  For me, Peter’s spiritual pilgrimage has always served as a great illustration of the human frailty of the church.  Just like a local body of believers, there are times when Peter got it so very right, and there are times when he got it so very wrong.  Looking at his pilgrimage in Matthew 16 raises for me a couple of important lessons for the church.

1.  Celebrate when we get it right, but don’t get too cocky…we may just get it wrong tomorrow.  My church happens to be one of the really healthy churches in our community right now.  I like that.  It makes me feel good.  Even though people coming from other, less healthy, churches do not constitute “kingdom growth”, I am not going to lie and act like it doesn’t make me feel good.  My …

Breast-feeding the Church

Tuesday Re-mix –

My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.  What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”…Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.  You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?  For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?  1 Corinthians 1:11-12; 3:1-4

The milk/solid food metaphor was apparently popular in the early church.  Paul used it.  The writer of Hebrews used it.  Peter used it.  Some metaphors just work so well, they “catch on” and make the rounds, I suppose.  It strikes me that this metaphor probably conjured up different images for the early church than it does for us today.  When we think of babies drinking milk today, we may have images of bottles or sippy cups going through our minds.  But in the days of the early church, I suspect the images were more of babies breast-feeding or perhaps of baby animals being fed by their mother.  It was the very natural process of the mother digesting the solid food for the babies and then passing it on to them through her milk.  Bottom line: being on a milk diet was the most helpless, immature form of existence.

Another interesting thing about this metaphor is that, when you or I read it in scripture, …

Sometimes the Only Thing Missing in Ministry is Jesus

Tuesday Re-mix –

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:4-5

O.K., I know virtually nothing about the commercial fishing industry. I’ve never even seen an episode of The Deadliest Catch. And I certainly have very little knowledge of what that industry looked like 2000 years ago. I suspect that Peter and the guys had been through a very long, very hard night of tossing their tangled nets out and dragging them back in empty…I suspect that they were as skilled as anyone at this particular trade but that their very best and most strenuous efforts had been completely fruitless on this particular night…and I suspect they were exhausted and disappointed and frustrated. But that is all speculation on my part, because I don’t really know much about fishing. Nevertheless, I have a theory about what was going on in Peter’s mind when Jesus, the carpenter/teacher/NON-fisherman, wryly suggested that they pick up their nets and head out and try again one more time. I contend that what Peter was thinking in his head at that moment would NOT have made for good scripture.

Very much like Peter and James and John, we have developed some real expertise when it comes to “doing church”. Given hundreds of years to develop our systems and our understandings of scripture, we have a strong sense of what works and what does not work. We study our culture and think we’re pretty knowledgeable about the best ways to teach and to minister and to reach people. And when we set out to implement a ministry …

The Transforming Power of the Resurrection

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.  John 20:8

And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  John 20:22-23

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  John 20:28

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.  John 21:17

My studies are in John’s gospel right now, and none of the gospels demonstrates the practical effects of the resurrection more beautifully than John’s.  He portrays so very well the fragile, confused disciples hiding in the upper room out of fear of the Jewish leaders…the very human Peter, cowardly denying Christ…mere shadows of the men who would eventually have the responsibility of continuing the revolution Christ began.  Take a moment and compare the Peter in John 19 with the Peter in Acts 4.  The transformation is God-sized.

That, it seems to me, is the power of the resurrection.  Without it, we still have atonement for sins, we still have Christ’s teachings and his ministry, and but for all of the unfulfilled prophecies we would have, we still have scripture.  But without the transforming power of the resurrection, we would not have a church today.  Without the evidence that Christ lives, even today, we would not have a testimony of a living Savior.  Without the resurrection, Peter, James and John most likely all return to their obscure lives as fishermen, all of them surely impacted but none of …

Church Government: The Negative Space in God’s Word

Tuesday Re-mix –

In the world of visual art, the use of “negative space” is important.  In any sculpture or painting, the artwork sometimes says as much by areas is doesn’t cover as it does by actually covering.

You and I would call it the “blank space” on the canvass, i.e., the area where the artist chose not to paint.  That space becomes an integral part of the art itself.  In fact, some might claim that the negative space the artist creates in a particular work is what makes the work perfect.

I have come to believe that part of the perfection of scripture, i.e., the Word of God, is the “negative space” it creates within its pages…parts of the story intentionally not told or clarified, left out for reasons only God knows.

For example, wouldn’t you like more details from Jonah about exactly what happened inside that fish for three days?  If you were telling that story, wouldn’t you include that?  Or what about Paul’s fight with Barnabas, or his confrontation of Peter?  Don’t you think the details of those conflicts would be worth knowing?  Or what about a single instance of Matthew 18:15 (Jesus’ model for how to conduct church discipline) actually modeled for us somewhere?  Wouldn’t that be helpful?

For reasons only God understands, these and countless other “details” were omitted from the telling of His story.  But rest assured, He does have his reasons.  This “negative space” in scripture is a part of its perfection, it is critical in creating exactly the Word which God has preserved so perfectly throughout the centuries.  In any of these instances, a little more detail might seem harmless enough at first blush, but would ultimately take away from the Word God intended.

A perfect example is the New Testament’s lack …

“Hug First, Ask Questions Later”

Tuesday Re-mix –

When it comes to church, how careful are you about whom you are seen with?  More importantly, when it comes to church, how careful do you think you should be about with whom you are seen?

I’ve been asking myself that question as I meditated recently on Galatians 2:11-21, the story about Paul confronting Peter because Peter seemed too concerned with what his Jewish brothers from Jerusalem might think about his hanging around with Gentiles in Antioch.  Here is how Paul puts it in Galatians 2:12: Before certain men came from James, [Peter] used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.

At first blush I didn’t see this as a major problem worth addressing in my church, nor in any other reasonably healthy church.  But the more I think about it, the more I tend to believe that we in the American church really do struggle with this (actually I suspect that the church globally struggles with it, but I don’t want to point fingers at my international friends without much more experience than what I have).  I believe too many of us come to church as if it were some kind of country club, there for our convenience and happiness.  In fact, if it doesn’t make us happy, we might just go to some other church to find happiness.  Because that is what we think church is there for…our comfort and happiness.

And let’s be honest, there are a lot of people out there who, by their very presence, make some of us feel unhappy and uncomfortable.  They are different or dirty or smell funny or talk funny or they think …

Conflict Resolution 101: Starting with What We Know

Tuesday Re-mix –

On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. Galatians 2:7-8

Most of us approach a jigsaw puzzle (or any other problem) the same way, whether we know it or not.  We start with what we absolutely know to be true.  When chaos and confusion abound and there is so much we do NOT know, we all have an intuitive notion to go back to what we know and then slowly work forward from there.  In the case of the traditional jigsaw puzzle, it is the corner pieces.  They are what we know, they define the parameters of the puzzle.  Whatever else comes along, we know that the answer lies within the four corners of the puzzle.

Finding solutions to conflict within the church, even interpersonal conflict, works the same way.  We always start with what we know: what we know about God, what we know about God’s Word, and what we know about what God is doing.

I don’t think the conflict in the early church was any small thing.  I think the prejudices and potential doctrinal conflict between Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles and Peter’s ministry to the Jews was every bit as dangerous and troubling as our conflicts today.  It had a cultural (racial) element, a doctrinal element (e.g., circumcision) and even a leadership style element (Peter was not the only leader with whom Paul’s temperament clashed).  Reading Acts 15 and Galatians 2 and other similar accounts, you see that the potential for devastating conflict …

Nobody Likes “Accountability”

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

With all the recent news from the Sports world about Tiger Woods and the Chris Henry tragedy, and with church and political leaders continuing to behave badly in very public ways,  “accountability” seems to be on the forefront of people’s minds.  It seems we all believe that accountability, as a concept, is a good thing.  All of us are for it, even would insist on it…as long as it applies to someone else.  But let somebody suggest that perhaps we ourselves (i.e., you or I) might benefit from a little more accountability in our lives and suddenly it’s a nasty idea, ill-conceived, feels judgmental, and who are they to make such a suggestion anyway?  I suppose it is just a matter of perspective.

In my line of work as a church mediator, I talk and teach quite a bit about Christian accountability.  It may well be the most common subject I address.  Scripture is replete with references to it.  As Christians, we really are to be involved in one another’s lives.  Think about Nathan/David, Paul/Peter, Paul/Timothy, Peter/Ananias/Saphira, and the list goes on and on.  Think about Matthew 18, Galatians 6:1, Philippians 4, I Corinthians 5, James 5, and the list goes on and on and on.

But, interestingly, even though the Bible talks a great deal about the concept of accountability, I haven’t found an English translation yet that actually uses the word “accountability”.  In that way, it is much like the word “evangelism”…lots of scriptural support for it, but the word isn’t actually used in scripture.

And so, this leads to my quagmire.  Maybe you can help.

What better word can we use to describe the process by which I …