An Unexpected Lemon

lemon-benefits1_small1June is the date of the last post on this site. There is a good reason. A trip to the emergency room on June 30 put me in the hospital for more than a week. My gallbladder tried to eject some gall stones. The needed surgery failed. Too much inflammation. Everything the doctors touched caused bleeding.  I woke up to a sour lemon, “We had to abort the surgery.”

They sent me home to wait for a better time. A week later, I was back in the emergency room and admitted to the hospital. An infection was destroying my pancreas. There would be no surgery until my pancreas healed. Four months later, after four admissions to the hospital, five endoscopies and a lot of prayer from family, friends and strangers the surgeon removed the traitorous gallbladder that tried to kill me. The surgery should have taken thirty minutes instead of three hours. The surgeons told me the gallbladder was angry and the operation messy and complicated.

The ordeal wrecked my health. I lost fifty pounds. The only positive thing to happen since I was overweight. My healthy (60 bpm) heart rate is now 90. I have traded sixty minutes of cardio for senior water aerobics and Body Pump with twenty-five pound weights for Senior Chair aerobics.

Spending most of my days in a drug-induced fog from the constant pain made keeping this blog active impossible. I am now doctor and drug free, but still physically weak, so I am off to take an afternoon nap, but I will return to post again.

Posted in Welcome | 3 Comments

Get Behind Me Satan

Peter.1A Sinful Man #7 Get Behind Me Satan

A Study in Jesus’ relationship with the Apostle Peter

Matthew 16:13-28 / Mark 8:27-9:1 / Luke 9:18-27

Jesus and his disciples were traveling in the area of Caesarea Philippi when Jesus sought a place to pray. He sensed the time to prepare his disciples for adversity had come. When his disciples joined him, he said “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man am?” Various names surfaced, John the Baptist, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Next question, “Who do you say I am?”

Jesus called himself the Son of Man but Peter saw him as more than then a man. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” The high priest is the only other person to use the term “living God”[1] in the Gospels. Peter’s declaration affirmed the Jewish idea about the Messiah being a human son of King David anointed by a living God to be Israel’s king.

Jesus could trace his earthly lineage to King David, but he had already refused an offer to be Israel’s king resulting in followers falling by the wayside. Peter’s faith that Jesus would still be the king of Israel prompted Jesus to call Peter “blessed.” Jesus discerned that Peter’s understanding came from the living God in heaven not from “flesh and blood” on earth. If Peter had relied solely on “flesh and blood,” religious leaders would have persuaded him that Jesus did not qualify to be the Messiah.

With the blessing came gifts. Jesus promised to give Peter authority in heaven and the keys to his kingdom.  Whatever Peter bound on earth would be bound in heaven. Whatever he loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven. The corresponding action in heaven was essential. We wrestle with spiritual authorities in heaven not with flesh and blood authorities on earth.[2] Jesus also assured Peter that he was part of a church that death would not prevail against. Conquering death wasn’t on Peter’s radar. He longed for a king to restore Israel’s glory days and believed Jesus was that king.

Much to Peter’s angst Jesus refused to drop the subject of death. He spoke openly that he would suffer at the hands of Jerusalem’s elders, chief priest and scribes and they would kill him. The freshly bestowed power and authority in the kingdom of heaven gave Peter the audacity to summon Jesus for a private conversation. He rebuked Jesus for saying he will suffer and die. After all, Peter had just declared Jesus to be the Messiah, anointed by the living God to be king of Israel. This talk of suffering and dying made Peter look bad.

What Peter did in private Jesus did publically.  He turned his back to Peter and shocked everyone by rebuking Peter. “Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Ouch! If Peter thought he looked bad before it could not compare to the humiliation he felt now.

What did Peter do that deserved a stern public rebuke? He only wanted to protect Jesus from harm! But what about the people who died in faith before Peter was born? Peter’s shortsightedness excluded multitudes. Peter rebuked Jesus because he loved him, but if you love Jesus you must also love his people. If Jesus failed to conquer death, the believers who lived and died in faith without receiving the things God promised will have lived in vain and God proved himself to be a liar.

Jesus turned the confrontation with Peter into a teaching opportunity that challenged Peter to search his soul. God’s desires trump our desires because he is the only one who acts in the best interest of everyone. Fighting to gain the things you want in this life including the “good things” is vain if those things are contrary to God’s eternal plan.

Is it worth losing your soul because you don’t want to do things God’s way?

Peter offended Jesus, but that did not quench Jesus’ love for Peter. Instead of rejecting him, Jesus corrected him. He rebuked Peter because he loved him and wanted him to keep his place in the church and his part in the eternal kingdom of God.

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,

and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,

because the Lord disciplines those he loves,

and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

Hebrews 12:5-6 NIV


[1] Matthew 26:63

[2] Ephesian 6:12

Posted in A Sinful Man | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Parable?

Peter.1A Sinful Man #6 What Parable?

A Study in Jesus’ relationship with the Apostle Peter

Matthew 15:1-20  /  Mark 7:1-23

Less than a month after Jesus told Peter one of the twelve is a devil Pharisees and scribes visited Jesus headquarters in Capernaum. I doubt they knew Jesus’ popularity had waned among the people when they left Jerusalem. Surely they learned about the “walk-out” when Jesus refused to be their king after they arrived. They might have been trying to help when they pointed out his lapse in teaching the traditions held sacred by the nation. “Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders, for they wash not their hands when they eat bread?”

Jesus cut to the heart of the matter just as quickly as he did with the delegation that wanted to make him their king. He asked why human commands were more important than God’s commands. They were hypocrites acting like they loved God while ignoring his desires.

Calling Israel’s clergy “hypocrites” had the potential to set them free from practices they had accepted that drove their hearts away from God. His rebuke also offered hope when he called them a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy about people who honored God with their mouth but their hearts were far from him. Quoting from Isaiah set the perspective in Jesus’ intent.

The context of Isaiah’s prophecy reveals a promise that God will do a marvelous work. The wisdom of man taught to God’s people will be destroyed. The teachings that created a myriad of burdensome rules making the worship of God vain will be pulled up like weeds. The spiritually deaf who do not hear and understand the word of God will rejoice with those depressed by the burden of man-made religion. The blindness and deafness of their leaders that made them scornful tyrants watching for the least infringement of their law will be healed. The tyrants who erred will understand God’s doctrine granting them the opportunity to repent. (Isaiah 29:20-21)

When Jesus and the Apostles were alone, they told him what he already knew. The Pharisees were offended. The scripture Jesus referred to declared their freedom. Jesus’ reply suggests people who are easily offended are not planted by God and should be avoided. They are the blind leading the blind. But they are also the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. One day, they will fall in a ditch jarring the eyes of their understanding open to the truth. Those who reject the truth will be uprooted by God.

Peter who had watched the drama unfold made a reasonable request. Explain the parable. But Jesus had not spoken in parables. He had spoken plainly and already explained the tragedy when human traditions replace God’s commands. He was a little exasperated that Peter, who knew him intimately did not understand.  What goes into our mouths does not defile us. What comes out of our heart does. Jesus was concerned about the evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, pride, and foolishness that plague humanity. Why waste time quarreling about the cleanliness of human hands before eating?

Peter struggled with the traditions of his nation long after Jesus returned to heaven. But he stayed when others walked away, and he wanted to understand. He did not give up on Jesus and Jesus will not give up on him.

Posted in A Sinful Man | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Testing the Waters

Peter.1A Sinful Man #5

A Study in Jesus’ dealings with Simon, brother of Andrew, who became the Apostle Peter.

Peter’s decision to follow Jesus led to a remarkable healing service in Peter’s home. Beginning with the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. The meeting lasted late into the night with Jesus healing everyone who came to him. The following morning Jesus arose before the sun to find a private place to pray. Meanwhile, people gathered at Peter’s house hoping to continue the healing meeting, but Jesus disciples did not know his whereabouts.

The situation demanded Jesus’ attention so Simon Peter and some disciples searched for him. When they found him they delivered an important message. “All men seek for thee.” That message had no effect on Jesus. He told them to pack. They were taking his healing ministry to other towns.

As Jesus preached in other towns Peter witnessed Jesus touch the untouchable when he cleansed a leper. He watched the desperate tear a roof off a man’s house so they could lower their sick friend into Jesus’ presence. While in Jerusalem for the Passover Jesus healed a man who had been ill for 38 years and restore a man’s withered hand.

The healing created conflict with religious leaders exposing the extent of their corruption. A Pharisee named Nicodemus had already confirmed what Jesus knew. The pastors of Jesus’ day did not have the love of God in them. The church would never let Jesus be a part of their organization. They had become salt that lost its savor, good for nothing but to be discarded.[1] Jesus chose 12 men, named them apostles and founded a new church built on grace. The famous Sermon on the Mount that followed became the guiding principles to govern this new religious movement. Then Jesus went to the city of Nain and did the impossible. He raised a widow’s son from the dead.

Peter was well acquainted with Jesus’ power over the human body when they entered a boat to sail to the other side of the lake. As they sailed Jesus fell asleep. Suddenly a storm arose.[2] But the winds and wild rocking of the boat filling with water did not wake him. His terrified disciples were perplexed that Jesus would sleep while they were perishing. They awoke him with an accusation of callousness, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”[3]

Jesus answered that question with his actions. He rebuked the winds and commanded the sea to be still. Then he chastised his disciples for their fear and lack of faith. That experience taught the disciples three things about Jesus. First, Jesus’ power extended beyond the human body. He also controlled nature. Second, human fear and lack of faith did not limit his power. Third, Jesus cared. He allowed them to be tossed in a storm, but he would not have let them drown.

Four months later, Peter’s familiarity with Jesus’ power became personal. Jesus divided the Apostles into teams of two and sent them to preach the gospel with more than words. He gave them the same power and authority he possessed to cast out unclean spirits and to heal the sick.[4]

In the Apostles absence,  Jesus learned Herod’s wife had manipulated him to behead John the Baptist.  When the Apostles returned their excitement about the things they had done and taught comforted Jesus in his grief. The Apostles needed to rest and Jesus wanted to be alone with them. They departed for a desert place, but Jesus could not escape the ever present crowds. There would be no rest or time to grieve. He ministered to the crowds and then fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. But the display of his power created a dangerous situation. When the crowds realized what Jesus had done, they formed a committee to force him to be their king.

Concerned for the safety of the Apostles when he refused their demand, he constrained them to sail back to Capernaum while he dispersed the multitudes. After the people left, Jesus went to a mountain to pray. Shortly before dawn he returned to shore and saw the Apostles struggling against the wind as they attempted to row the boat to the other side of the lake.

Jesus cared when he slept in the ship and a storm frightened them. And he cared as he stood on the shore watching them struggle to cross the lake. He was so concerned he walked on water. Everyone on the boat saw him approaching but assumed it was a ghost. Jesus spoke hoping to calm their fears.

They were not convinced the man standing on water was Jesus. Peter wanted to be sure. He already knew Jesus had power over the wind and sea and that Jesus cared. He also knew that Jesus could impart his power to others. He had given Peter the same power he possessed to heal the afflicted. That knowledge made Peter’s test of Jesus’ identity reasonable. “If it’s you…tell me to come to you on the water.”[5]

Jesus said, “Come”

The eleven men on the boat with Peter had experienced the same things Peter did, but Peter was the only one willing to step out of the boat in a storm trusting Jesus would not let him drown. This time Jesus let the storm rage as Peter walked on water until he was within arm’s length of Jesus. Distracted by a strong wind, Peter began to sink and cried “save me.” Immediately, Jesus reached out and caught him, but he still did not calm the storm. Peter’s little faith was enough for Peter and Jesus to walk on water together as they returned to the boat. The winds stopped when they entered the boat. Just as their fear did not limit Jesus’ ability to calm the storm when they awoke him from sleep, Peter’s fear did not hinder Jesus’ ability to save him.

Peter’s request for proof persuaded the astonished disciples that Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus judgment of Peter the first time they met proved accurate. Peter would become a rock because he will test the accuracy of the things he had learned. The truth tested and tried built a solid foundation for Peter’s faith to become a rock. His intimate experience with Jesus also planted the false assumption he loved Jesus more than his fellow disciples.

[1] Matthew 5:13


[3] Mark 4:38, NIV

[4] Matthew 10:1-4

[5] Matthew 14:28, NIV

Posted in A Sinful Man | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Time for Everything


A Sinful Man #3

A Study in Jesus’ dealings with Simon, brother of Andrew, who became the Apostle Peter.

And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11, NIV

John the Baptist had more than his word to prove Jesus was the Messiah. John and everyone present at Jesus’ baptism heard God publicly acknowledge Jesus as his son. Andrew might have been present when the voice[1] said to Jesus, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.[2] If he wasn’t, he surely heard John and others talking about the voice from heaven.

The day after Jesus’ baptism, John saw Jesus walking toward him and declared, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”[3] A mini sermon followed about Jesus being the one John had been talking about from the beginning of his ministry. John also testified about the events at Jesus’ baptism.[4]

After Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  In Jesus absence John had additional fodder for his sermons. The one he said would come had now arrived and then disappeared again. I doubt that stopped John from preaching that the one he prepared the way for had come.

At minimum two months elapsed before Jesus returned to the Jordan River. Andrew was with John when John looked up and saw Jesus walking by and said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”[5] That declaration prompted Andrew to abandoned John and follow the lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

There is a difference between “Son of God” and “Lamb of God.” God’s sons are loved. God’s lambs are sacrificed to save the sons and daughters God loves. Why did Andrew follow a sacrificial lamb who takes away sin? As a disciple of John the Baptist he had already repented and been baptized in water.

Clearly, Andrew knew repentance is not enough to save us from death. Believers from the beginning of time have repented and received God’s forgiveness. Yet repentant believers still pay the penalty for sin, which is death. Repentance is enough for God to forgive us and return us to a right relationship with him, but repentance does not remove the consequence of sin. Someone had to pay the price to redeem us from death. When Andrew learned Jesus was the lamb that would pay that price he wanted to know more.

Jesus, aware two of John’s disciples were following him, turned around to ask the obvious question, “What do you want?”

Andrew acknowledged Jesus as Rabbi, which means teacher. If Andrew had a question, he could have asked and then both continued their separate ways. Andrew wanted more than knowledge. He wanted to know where Jesus lived. I suppose you could say Andrew invited himself to Jesus’ house and Jesus said “Sure come on over” (my interpretation).

Being late in the day, approximately 4 p.m., there would have been two hours of daylight before the sunset. We don’t know what transpired between Jesus and Andrew aside from Andrew and Jesus forming a relationship. We don’t know how long Andrew stayed. Jesus may have fed him and offered him lodging for the night. But one thing is clear. Being in the presence of Jesus persuaded Andrew he had found the Messiah. The first thing Andrew did was find his brother Simon and declare, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).”[6]

Simon had enough interest to accompany Andrew to meet Jesus. If Simon said anything to Jesus, it’s not recorded. We do know what Jesus said to him. “You are Simon Son of John, you will be called Cephas.”[7] Jesus’ words imply he spoke first informing Simon that he already knows who Simon will become. Learning Simon’s identity could easily be gleaned from Andrew. Only God could know Simon would become Cephas – a Rock.

Jesus had a relationship with Andrew but Simon may have been skeptical. After Simon met Jesus, the following day according to John’s gospel, Jesus returned to Galilee. Andrew and Simon returned to their fishing business in Capernaum. One day, Jesus went to Bethsaida, hometown of Andrew and Simon. In Bethsaida, Philip became the first disciple to hear the words “Follow me.” Not Andrew. Not Simon destined to become a rock. Philip.

Jesus is a master fisherman of men. He knows there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.[8] Andrew and Simon’s time had not come yet.


[1] Each of the accounts of Jesus baptism record a voice spoke from heaven, which leads credence to my conclusion that John the Baptist was not “the voice” in Isaiah 40. The “voice” was God’s voice.

[2] Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22

[3] John 1:29

[4] John 1:29-34

[5] John 1:36

[6] John 1:41

[7] John 1:42

[8] Ecclesiastes 3:1

Posted in A Sinful Man | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

God’s Goodness Leads to Repentance


A Sinful Man #4

A Study in Jesus’ dealings with Simon, brother of Andrew, who became the Apostle Peter. 

Simon, destine to become a rock in the kingdom of God, remained on Jesus’ list of things to do for months. His initial meeting with Simon took place prior to March A.D. 25. Shortly thereafter Jesus returned to Galilee. Someone invited Jesus and his disciples, at this point Philip and Nathanael[1], to a wedding where he turned water into wine. This miracle reinforced his disciple’s faith.[2] He made a brief stop in Capernaum and then returned to Judea.

Jesus kicked off his ministry confronting Israel’s racism. Israel’s law permitted buying and selling animals so people who traveled could purchase the things needed to worship God. Areas in the streets around the temple would have been adequate for this activity. But the religious elite profited from this business and did not want to be near the thousands of Gentiles who came to the Passover. They solved the problem by moving the businessmen into the court of the Gentiles. The barnyard smells and squabbling of the money changers made it impossible for the Gentiles to worship God because entering any other area of the temple carried a penalty of death. Instead of encouraging the Gentile’s to worship God they pushed them into the streets.[3] Until Jesus arrived to clean up the court of the Gentiles and rebuke the religious leaders for excluding them.

Jesus boldness and miracles won him many followers. Soon John the Baptist and Jesus’ disciples were both baptizing the repentant. As Jesus’ ministry grew John’s ministry withered and ended when Herod put him in prison. Jesus heard the Pharisees were aware of his success and knew their jealously would cause trouble so he left. On his way back to Galilee, he once again took a hammer to the wall of racism. He spoke to a woman of ill repute when he stopped to rest at Jacob’s well and then spent time with half-breed Samaritans. Good Jews considered both unclean. [4]

Jesus fame preceded him to Galilee. Everyone was talking about the things he did at Jerusalem during the Passover. People came from other cities seeking his help for sick loved ones.[5] In the wake of his success the synagogue Jesus grew up in invited him to preach. He amazed them with his gracious message until his graciousness included the Gentiles. Then they tried to kill him. Jesus responded by moving his ministry headquarters to Capernaum fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy: “The land of Zabulon and the land of Nephthalim by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles….” would see a great light. [6]

A growing ministry needed more staff. The time had come to say “follow me” again. Matthew, Mark and Luke record the call of “Simon called Peter”[7]. Matthew and Mark leave the impression Jesus walked along the seashore, saw Simon, promised to make Simon a fisher of men and Simon walked off the job to follow a man without good reason.

But there is more to the story. Luke gave us the more we need to put Simon’s decision to follow Jesus into perspective.  Jesus often taught outdoors to accommodate the large crowds that could not fit in a synagogue. On the day Jesus called Simon the crowds were “pressing upon him to hear the word of God.”[8] Jesus needed a platform and a way to amplify his voice.

He discerned the solution when he saw Simon the fisherman sitting on the shore washing his nets. Jesus and Simon were already acquainted having met during the height of John the Baptist ministry. When Jesus moved his ministry to Capernaum it’s possible Simon attended some of Jesus services, but he was not following Jesus with the crowds.

There is no way Simon could have missed the large crowd of people moving in his direction or the fact that Jesus emerged from the crowd and stood in his boat. Simon pushed his boat from the shore giving Jesus a barrier between him and the crowds. The water amplified Jesus’ voice making it easier for the crowd to hear.

At the conclusion of Jesus’ message he made an unusual request. “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”[9] Simon, the professional fisherman, had been up all night trying to catch fish gathered along the shore to feed. His labors produced nothing. The fish were now hiding under rocks. His nets were clean. Simon was exhausted and ready to go home.

It is difficult to know Simon’s frame of mind. Did he respect Jesus or did he have his own interest at heart? Jesus is famous with a large group of fans observing them. If he did as Jesus requested, he might look foolish. If he blew Jesus off his disciples might not appreciate it and stop buying from his fishing business. If he did as Jesus requested, Jesus might look foolish when the nets came up empty, but that would be Jesus’ fault not his. Simon shifted the expected negative results to Jesus’ shoulders when he said, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless, at your word I will let down the net.”[10]

Simon summoned Andrew and headed for deep water. His business partners, James and John stood on shore wondering if Simon had lost his mind. Simon cast his net and pulled in a so many fish his boat sank from the weight. There is a hungry crowd onshore, and each fish represented a sale. He beckoned his fishing partners, James and John, for help. Two boats were insufficient to hold the fish they caught. They were astonished.

In the midst of winning the proverbial fishing lottery, Simon said to Jesus “Go away from me, I am a sinful man.”[11] Simon announced what Jesus already knew, and Jesus knew what Simon did not know. “…the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”[12] Jesus trusted a sinful man to assist him as he ministered to the crowds and then paid him infinitely more than his help deserved. That act of kindness brought Simon to repentance.

Jesus ignored Simon’s request to “go away”. Instead, he offered a man who recognized his sinfulness a place in his fishing business. He said to Simon, Andrew, James and John, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”[13]

The fishermen walked away from their business leaving Zebedee, the father of James and John, to fend for himself. But Zebedee did not have to worry. Jesus knew the devastating affect the unexpected loss of four employees could have. The catch of fish sold to the crowd waiting on the shore that day would have made Zebedee enough money to keep the business operating until he could find new partners.

[1] Andrew and Simon may have been disciples but had not been called to “Follow” yet. Whether or not they were in attendance is debatable.

[2] John 2:4; John 2:11

[3] Killing Jesus by Stephen Mansfield, Chapter VIII The Foreigners;

[4] John 4:4-42

[5] John 4:46-54

[6] Matthew 4:13-16; Isaiah 9:1-2

[7] Matthew 4:18

[8] Luke 5:1

[9] Luke 5:4

[10] Luke 5:5-6, NKJV

[11] Luke 5:8

[12] Romans 22:4, NKJ

[13] Matthew 4:19

Posted in A Sinful Man | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Message

Peter.1A Sinful Man #2

A study in Jesus’ dealings with Simon, brother of Andrew, who became the Apostle Peter.

Unlike some who continued to cling to John the Baptist after he identified “the lamb of God,” Andrew left John to follow Jesus as soon as John identified him as the Messiah. Andrew’s understanding of John’s message kept the evil one from snatching away the word sown in his heart and the seed grew into an even greater understanding.[1]

Andrew and Simon had good reasons for believing and embracing the gospel John and Jesus preached. An examination of the passage John the Baptist pointed to when the priest and Levites questioned him revealed John’s true identity.  John was not the Messiah but he was not “the voice” either. The passage in Isaiah 40 that began with the words “the voice of one calling” concluded with the words “For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” The “voice” was God’s voice giving John his calling.

A voice said, “Cry out.” And he [John the Baptist] said, “What shall I cry?”[2]

The voice, which is God’s voice told John to “Cry out.”  John the Baptist knew he was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy.  John’s mother, father and maybe Mary told him about prophesies spoken about him before he was born.  John knew Isaiah spoke of one that would announce the arrival of the Messiah and identify him to others. But he did not act upon the word of people of flesh, or even the written scriptures. He waited for a voice he could trust. Gods! That may be why John chose to live in the wilderness. He was waiting for the voice of God, so he could ask a question. “What shall I cry?”

This is where we get to the meat of John’s message to Judah, which encompassed more than pointing them to the Messiah. Isaiah gives us the voice told him to preach.

“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass.  The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”[3]

Isaiah identified the fading flowers scattered by the breath of the Lord as the rulers of Israel and Judah. These rulers had no regard for the deeds of God and had no respect for his word. They had become wise in their own eyes and called evil good and good evil. They were drunkards who acquitted the guilty for a bribe and denied justice to the innocent. Their roots will decay and flowers blow away like dust because they “have rejected the law of the Lord Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.”[4]

Simon a.k.a. the Apostle Peter later quoted Isaiah 40:5-8 as a warning in his first letter to the Jewish Christians who had been driven out of Jerusalem.[5] The God we call upon judges each person’s work impartially. What he did to their ancestors, he will do to them if they allow themselves to become corrupt like their ancestors did. This warning also applies to the Gentile Christians. If anyone thinks they can become corrupt like the rulers of Israel and Judah without withering and being blown away, they are deceived. God’s word is good and stands forever. He will judge those who pervert justice and oppress the weak.

James also referenced Isaiah when he wrote the rich will fade like a wildflower.[6] But he was not talking about everyone who is rich. You can be rich without being corrupt. God is rich. Abraham, the father of our faith, was rich. James was talking about the rich who exploit us, drag us to court and slander the name of Jesus.[7] The rich who hoard wealth instead of helping the less fortunate, refuse to pay their workers, live in self-indulgence and condemn the innocent will wither and blow away.[8]

Andrew and Simon followed Jesus because they understood John’s message and believed Jesus would bring an end to tyrants who abuse their authority and exploit us. Their purpose in following Jesus transcended obtaining something for themselves. They sought a better world for everyone.

The senseless man does not know,

fools do not understand,

that though the wicked spring up like grass

and all evildoers flourish;

they will be forever destroyed.

Psalm 92:6-7


[1] Matthew 13:18-23

[2] Isaiah 40:6, NKJ, John the Baptist is not in original text, added by author.

[3] Isaiah 40:5-8

[4] Isaiah 5:1-24

[5] 1 Peter 1:1 “The Jewish Christians driven out of Jerusalem and scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia Minor, and Bithynia.” The Living Bible; 1 Peter 1:24

[6] James 1:9

[7] James 2:6-7

[8] James 5:1-6

Posted in A Sinful Man | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Prepare the Way

Peter.1A Sinful Man #1 

A study in Jesus’ dealings with Simon who became the Apostle Peter.

Simon’s path to becoming the Apostle Peter began with the ministry of John the Baptist.  John, a descendant of Aaron, was a maverick among Priests. He spent his time in the wilderness instead of the polished halls of the Jerusalem temple. Wilderness living made camel’s hair clothing preferable to the traditional priestly garments. Before his conception in the barren womb of his mother his father, Zebedee, had messed up his once in a lifetime opportunity to burn incense and pray the Messiah would come. He exited a mute unable to fulfill his duty to bless the people and offered a surreal explanation. He had been praying for the Messiah to come when an angel appeared declaring his prayer had been heard. His wife would give birth to a son who would prepare the way for the Messiah. Zachariah did not believe the angel. The angel responded by taking away his ability to spew his unbelief. A disgruntled high priest, without doubt offended by this country bumpkin from the hills of Judea who disrupted the service, permitted Zachariah to complete his duties. Zachariah returned home but the dramatic events of the day and speculation about what really happened to him in the temple continued.

One day, just as the angel had said, Zachariah’s barren wife announced she was pregnant. About six months into Elizabeth’s pregnancy cousin Mary arrived. Elizabeth and Mary were filled with the Holy Ghost and prophesied. Elizabeth assured Mary there would be a performance of the things the Lord told her. The Lord had told Mary she would give birth to the Messiah. Mary responded by praising God for remembering his promise to Abraham.

Three months later, John was born. His parents traveled to the Jerusalem temple to circumcise him and a dispute about the child’s name arose. Zachariah settled the issue when he wrote on a tablet “His name is John.” That act of obedience released his tongue. Zachariah who had not spoken a word for months suddenly prophesied that the oath God swore to Abraham will be fulfilled.

Mary returned home full of information she did not know what to do with and hid everything in her heart. She became pregnant just as the angel told her and gave birth to Jesus, the Messiah. The night of his birth astonished shepherds arrived talking about angels singing praise to God. Their arrival offered more confirmation she had given birth to the Messiah. The shepherds left the presence of Jesus and “spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 2:17-19). According to their laws and customs, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple to be circumcised. In the temple, devout believers spoke more prophesies about their son’s destiny.

Jospeh and Mary remained in Jerusalem for more than a year but no one arrived to crown their son king. They waited until Jesus was a toddler and some wise men from the east arrived looking for the King of the Jews. The wise men had learned from a trouble government and city that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Then a star led them to Jesus’ home.  The Magi worshiped the toddler, gave him expensive gifts and left. The only people to treat Jesus like a king were foreigners.

Mary and Joseph remained in Bethlehem until an angel announced their government wanted to kill Jesus. At the angels instruction they fled to Egypt. After Herod died, the angel told them it was safe to return, but not to Jerusalem to assume King David’s throne. They returned to Nazareth and settled into the normal routines of life wondering when their son would become king. Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zachariah, shepherds, Simon, Anna and everyone they told knew Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, but the government wanted the child dead and the religious leaders are oblivious that the one they worshiped with such zeal had arrived.

Aside from an incident when twelve-year-old Jesus astonished religious leaders with his understanding and then wondered why his parents did not know he must be about his father’s business nothing unusual happened. Jesus grew up to become not a king or even a religious leader but a humble carpenter.

The heavens were silent until Jesus’ cousin John began preaching, “Repent the Kingdom of Heaven is near” stirring up memories of prophecies, dreams and promises that lay dormant in curious hearts for three decades. Most of the people who knew and believed the Messiah had arrived were elderly and may have been dead by the time John started his ministry. Mary’s husband, Joseph, is never mentioned again suggesting he had died. That left Mary and a large number of people who may or may not have believed, but knew what happened at the birth of John and Jesus. At the minimum that group included:

  1. The people who Zechariah was unable to bless when he exited the temple. He was still able to write on a tablet and without doubt relayed the dramatic message that their prayer for the Messiah to come had been heard.
  2. Zechariah and Elizabeth’s family and neighbors. Elizabeth’s pregnancy would have been widely discussed because she had passed the age of childbearing.
  3. Mary and Joseph’s extended family and neighbors. Her pregnancy was a family scandal that shamed Joseph and her family. Mary’s “apparent” delusion that God had impregnated her would have been whispered about for years. Jesus would have been aware of his “apparent” illegitimate status in the family.
  4. An unspecified number of shepherds, who angels visited with the message the Messiah had been born and everyone the shepherds told.
  5. Everyone in the temple who heard Simon praise God for showing him the Messiah.
  6. Anna, the first female evangelist, was well known in the temple. She publically gave thanks to God and spoke about Jesus to the multitudes looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
  7. The Magi, King Herod and all Jerusalem. King Herod believed the Messiah had been born and sought to kill him resulting in the slaughter of every male two years of age and younger in Bethlehem. Everyone who worked in government and everyone in Bethlehem and Jerusalem knew what Herod did and why.

Rome brutally oppressed the people of Judah and their religious leaders had lost touch with the God they worshiped. The hope that the Messiah had finally arrived kept the stories of angelic sightings, the angels’ message and the strange circumstances that surrounded the birth of two boys alive. When John began his ministry priests and Levites were sent from Jerusalem to ask him if he was the Christ. When he replied, “I am not the Christ,” they went down the list. Are you Elijah? Are you the prophet Moses said would come? No and no. The frustrated priest exclaimed, my paraphrase, “Who are you? We need to bring an answer back to the temple.”

John pointed them to the writings of Isaiah.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3, NKJ [1]  

The common knowledge that the Messiah had been born and subsequent investigations by the temple into the ministry of John the Baptist stirred up a man named Andrew, brother of Simon. The Bible does not tell us why Andrew and Simon were in Judea. We only know that Andrew investigated the strange ministry of John the Baptist. At some point, Andrew accepted John’s message, repented and was baptized in water.

There is no indication in the Bible that his brother Simon responded to John the Baptist message. Ultimately, Andrew’s decision to follow John the Baptist in pursuit of the Messiah prepared the way for a sinful man to accept Christ as the Son of God and become the Apostle Peter.

[1] All Scripture in this series NIV unless otherwise noted.

Posted in A Sinful Man | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Did the Disciple Obey?

For most of my Christian life, which encompasses all of my life except the first fifteen years, I have obsessed over the things I didn’t do. There are times I didn’t obey God, at least by my standards. I would have saved myself some wasted days devoted to depression if I had measured myself by Jesus’ standard.

Three words leaped off the page in Jesus’ prayer before he died. Not the prayer at Gethsemane when he asked God if there was another way to save humanity. The one he prayed after he told his disciples they would abandon him. Those three life changing words were “they have obeyed your word” (John 17:6).

What gave Jesus the audacity to tell his father that his disciples obeyed! His disciples quarreled with one another and forbid children from approaching the savior of humanity. They tried to silence blind Bartimaeus lest he disturb the healer. They failed to heal the son of a desperate father. James and John jockeyed for the number two spot in God’s kingdom causing the rest of the disciples to be indignant. They gloried in the power to command spirits instead of glorying in God’s love for them. They wanted to destroy an entire city by calling fire down from heaven. None of them had a clue Jesus would die a tragic death even though he told them how he would die more than once.

These are the same disciples Jesus knew would abandon him when he suffered. Jesus knew Peter would deny him. He also knew they would forsake their calling and return to their fishing boats. Yet, Jesus said, “they have obeyed your word.”

Jesus told us in his prayer what gave him the audacity to say his disciples obeyed.

I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.  (John 17:8, NLT) 

They accepted the things Jesus taught and believed God sent him. Using Jesus’ standard of what it means to obey I have obeyed as well. Have you?

Posted in Testimonies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Subtle Suggestion

We were visiting a church in another city when my son announced that he wanted to return that evening for the youth meeting. He is a young adult more than youth but the topic, music, interested him. We returned thinking there would be a discussion. Instead, the youth minister played a DVD. My son immediately wanted to leave. I vetoed his request. We should have left.

The entertaining minister on the DVD told an interesting story. He started his message with King David, the man after God’s own heart. David’s music drove away evil spirits from the wayward King Saul. Since music could drive evil spirits out Craig reasoned music could drive them in.

Skepticism immediately surfaced. A person can invite an evil spirit into his life. Disobedience may open the door for an evil spirit to come in. But I had my doubts God left us so helpless that listening to music would deposit evil spirits into our lives without our consent.

Craig’s story became dramatic. A well-known musician and friend of Craig’s decided to leave the music industry. The musician’s devils, 42 of them, were not willing to release him. The musician’s wife made a 911 phone call to Craig’s house pleading for help. He reluctantly drove to his friend’s house to cast the devils out.

Craig successfully cast out 41 devils in the name of Jesus. The last devil proved stubborn. Apparently, Jesus’ name was not enough to conquer this devil. Craig asked the Holy Spirit what to do. Allegedly, the Holy Spirit told Craig that this devil was played in and would have to be played out. Craig, also a musician, ordered someone to play music. The wife played a song Craig had written and recorded. You guessed it. The song he wrote had more power than the name of Jesus.

This powerful story of deliverance awed some people in the church. I wasn’t among them. I didn’t understand why the name of Jesus failed to cast out devil #42 when God gave Jesus “the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth . . . (Philippians 2:9-11, NIV)

I seriously doubt Craig meant to suggest that his music contained more power than Jesus’ name, but that is exactly what he did. These kinds of messages undermine our confidence in a loving God and instill fear. Wouldn’t it be better to fill us with the knowledge of God?

I’ve seen more than one minister with a crusade regarding a specific subject fall by the wayside. One minister built his ministry around saving marriages. For twenty years, his conferences proved helpful at salvaging many a shipwrecked relationship. Apparently, he didn’t follow his own advice. Divorce ended his marriage and ministry.

Another minister focused his ministry on preserving the messages and biographies of famous preachers. He believed clergy could learn how to have a successful ministry studying the success and failures of these men and women. He was wrong. His homosexual affair ended his ministry.

“Pray one hour a day” reverberated throughout Christendom in the 1980s. The man who lead this crusade had proof. He prayed one hour a day and became the pastor of a large church that sprang up practically overnight. Was his church a beautiful flower in God’s garden or a weed uprooted when his church fell apart practically overnight?

Okay. Enough examples! I’ll leave you with a question.

When will Christians learn that it’s not what goes in us that defiles us but what comes out of our mouths?

Posted in Testimonies | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment