Monday, February 21, 2011

Life of Christ Devotional - John 21:15-25

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 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. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. ” (John 21:15–25, NIV)
I find it interesting that God inspires John to end his gospel with this interaction between Jesus and Peter. Interesting, and I believe, purposeful.
These are the last words that Jesus intends to have resonating in the heart of Peter for a very long time. And as we read them, they should resonate in our heart as well. For which one of us cannot relate to the pain that Peter feels? He walked with Christ. He confessed Him as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. He witnessed His miracles and then in a moment of panic and despair, he denied that he ever knew Him.
We do the same when we see our problems as too big for God to handle. When we know the right thing and choose to do the wrong thing. When we, like Peter, fail the Lord and flee from His presence. And it won’t happen just once - for we are prone to wander.
But listen carefully to the words of Jesus. He speaks not with criticism, but with acceptance. Not with humiliation, but with love. He asks us to consider our response to Him in view of His great love for us. He doesn’t tell us to “try harder”, He calls us to find our identity in Him. Not our perfection, but His.
This message of worth and value should resonate for a lifetime. God loves us not because of what we do (or don’t do) for Him. Our value is based on who we are in Him: Covered in grace, completely forgiven and deeply loved. Nothing we do, as a child of God, can diminish His sincere affection for us and it will not alter His promise of redemption and our glorious inheritance as God’s own possession.
These are Jesus’ parting words that He intended for Peter to hold onto for a lifetime. As we read them, He intends the same in our life as well. You are not holding on to Him…He is holding on to you.
To the praise of His glory!!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Life of Christ Devotional - John 21:1-14

“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. (John 21:1–14, NIV)
The last few days for the disciples have been a whirlwind. They walked into Jerusalem with Jesus in a triumphal entry. People lined the street and palm branches were laid at their feet as the jubilant crowd called out for Jesus to be their king. This was a glorious day and one the disciples had long anticipated. The Messiah has come and He will reign forevermore.
But as soon as they crested the hill of rejoicing and entered the city of Jerusalem, they began a descent into a pit of despair. It began with treachery of Judas - a trusted friend and fellow disciple. His seed of deceit would being in a harvest of betrayal as the crowd who called out to have him crowned as a king now turned and demanded his crucifixion as a criminal.
The disciples were lost in despair, Peter denied his association with Jesus and they all wondered what just happened as the One they believed to be their Savior now hung on a cross. His life had impacted so many but His death was not helpful to anyone…or was it.
Three days after having kneeled at the cross, they now stood at an empty tomb. This was even more confusing to the disciples than the crucifixion. But then the resurrected Jesus appeared to them in the upper room and even Thomas was able to verify that Jesus would have the last word. He had risen from the grave trampling over death by death.
But what now? There was silence in Jerusalem and the religious leaders walked proudly I the streets with a haughty smile. Peter couldn’t take it anymore and so he went to do what he knew best in hopes that he could get back to life as he once knew it. Something simple and predictable again. Fishing.
He launched his boat onto the Sea of Galilee. He had not done this in the past 3 years but it all came back very naturally to him. Peter cast his nets, one after another, and pulled them into the boat. But like the emotion in his heart, they all came up empty.
And then a voice called out from the shore with instructions for the fishermen in the boat. They did as the strange man suggested and the nets where filled with fish and their hearts overflowed with joy. The man on the shore was not a stranger…it was their Savior.
He had not forgotten them after all. This was not the end of the story. In fact, as they sat and listened the risen Messiah, they would learn that it was only the beginning.
We too reach those moments of despair, where life seems confusing and our expectations of our Savior don’t match our experience. We may even find solace in the routine – something simple and seemingly meaningless. And yet, that is where we find Him. Our nets are empty but He can make them full. Our life is aimless, but He gives us direction. Our circumstances seem desperate but His life gives us hope.
Don’t just stand there! Jump out of the boat and go sit with your Savior. He is waiting for your fellowship and He is willing to feed your soul.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Life of Christ Devotional - John 20:19-31

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. ” (John 20:19–31, NIV)
One thing to be sure, God knows the limitations of man. He understands our weaknesses and struggles. He recognizes our barriers to belief. And He has gone to great lengths, short of removing the necessity of faith, to give us every reason to believe. He appeared to the disciples, He gave Thomas hard physical evidence and He inspired the words of scripture for you and me.
What you have in front of you was given to you with the stated purpose of writing these words so that “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name”.
Now there is another reality not stated in this passage. As much as God would desire for you to believe, you also have an enemy whose goal is to prevent your understanding and experiencing this truth. “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1Pet 5:8) This adversary comes to “steal and kill and destroy”. (Jn 10:10) “He does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jn 8:44)
This is the cosmic battle for your soul. God has given us truth and yet our adversary seeks to hide this truth with lies. But you need to know that no matter how hard he works, it is not possible for the devil to hide the glory of God. “For the heavens declare the glory of God and the sky displays his handiwork. Day after day speaks out, night after night reveals His greatness.” (Ps 19:1-2) “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.” (Rom 1:20)
So here is what this should tell us: The truth of God cannot be hidden! Even when our circumstances seem hopeless, the sunrise shouts the glory of God and demonstrates His faithfulness to all mankind. Even when everyone does what is right in his own eyes and selfishly determines that life can be lived without God, He still sends His Son to show us what we are missing. Satan is never allowed to get the upper hand. “Greater is He who is in you than He who is in the world.” (1Jn 4:4)
You are being pursued with a great affection. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” ( Jn 15:13) . He understands our weaknesses and struggles. He recognizes our barriers to belief. And He has gone to great lengths, short of removing the necessity of faith, to give us every reason to believe.
So look hard. Even in the deceit of Satan lies a kernel of truth. “Know the truth and the truth with set you free.” (Jn 8:32)