Slave AND Apostle

2 Peter 1

This letter is from Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ.

I am writing to you who share the same precious faith we have. This faith was given to you because of the justice and fairness of Jesus Christ, our God and Savior.

IMG_5056Simon’s life was radically changed when he responded to Jesus’ command to follow Him. On that day, by the Sea of Galilee, Simon Peter obeyed the Lord immediately. Along with his brother, Andrew, he left his net and went with Jesus to become fishers of men (Mark 1:16-17).

Peter, like every disciple of Jesus was not without sin. In fact, scripture details many of his failures. (Poor guy!)

  • He sank when walking on the water.
  • He refused to believe, when Jesus said He would be crucified and resurrected on the third day.
  • Jesus rebuked Satan in him.
  • He told Jesus he couldn’t wash his feet (then he begged him to clean his hands and head too!)
  • He cut a man’s ear off.
  • He denied knowing Jesus. Three times.

But, Jesus.

Jesus.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection, He redeemed Peter’s denials by asking if he loved Him. Three times. And He gave Peter- the apostle- his assignment:

Feed My lambs.

Take care of My sheep.

Feed My sheep.

Then the Savior of the world once again commanded Peter to follow Him (John 2:19). After waiting for the gift Jesus promised, Peter was baptized with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and received power to fulfill his mission. Peter obeyed immediately.

Peter was a follower who became a disciple of Jesus. He ate, drank, walked, talked, and asked questions of the Lord. He received instruction, correction, rebuke, & training. Yes. Peter screwed up. Yes. Peter sinned. Yes. Peter returned to Jesus. And, yes. Peter was forgiven.

During his discipleship journey with the Savior, Peter learned to be a slave. Not a slave who is abused, but one who knows and submits to their Master, regardless of the cost. Peter remained a slave as he began his ministry as an apostle.

Follower.

Disciple.

Slave.

Apostle.

Follower? Today’s church gets excited about following Jesus to find out what He can do for us. Who wouldn’t want to be healed, raised from the dead, or free from demons? As a follower, we may see the miracles that glorify the Father in heaven, but what we really want is for them to benefit us here on earth.

Follower?

Sure.

Disciple? Well…that’s gonna require more than just a Sunday morning experience. Do we really want the Holy Spirit to fill us with His power? Sounds a bit scary. We couldn’t be in control. I mean, common’ – we may look like drunk idiots to people around us if we start speaking in unknown tongues or prophesying! Being a disciple means we’d have to drop our nets that may be full of all kinds of “fish” that we worship (spouse, kids, hobbies, that brand new car, social media, our intellect, our beauty). Disciples eat, drink, walk, talk and ask questions of the Lord. Disciples receive instruction, correction, rebuke, & training.

Disciple?

Too hard.

Slave? Um…..seriously? A slave gives up all their rights to the Master. Their flesh is crucified. They choose to obey- regardless of the cost. They submit willingly to the One who bought them at a high price. A slave serves their Master, until death.

Slave?

Impossible.

Apostle? Well…the bible tells us to “go, make disciples.” We’re supposed to DO the work of the ministry, right? God has given us gifts to accomplish it. Jesus said we’d cast out demons and heal the sick – these things and more! The truth is, many may be called to ministry, but few choose to follow Peter’s example of being a slave and apostle. The many will be dumbfounded when they stand before the Judge and hear “depart from me….I never knew you,” instead of hearing “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Follower.

Disciple.

Slave.

and Apostle.

(in that order)

My friend,

Come, follow me, as I follow Jesus. I will show you how to eat, drink, walk, talk and ask questions of the Lord. I will show you how to receive instruction, correction, rebuke, & training. I will pray with you to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. I will walk beside you as a fellow disciple and slave. And we will become fishers of men, together. Ready to drop your net …and go?!

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Pain, Desire & Struggle

Genesis 3:16-19 (NLT)

16 Then he said to the woman,

“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,

and in pain you will give birth.

And you will desire to control your husband,

but he will rule over you.[a]

17 And to the man he said,

“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree

whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,

the ground is cursed because of you.

All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.

18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you,

though you will eat of its grains.

19 By the sweat of your brow

will you have food to eat

until you return to the ground

from which you were made.

For you were made from dust,

and to dust you will return.”

How well I know the curse of pain as a daughter of Eve. All my pregnancies produced physical and emotional suffering in my body and soul. I delivered one daughter without drugs, but ALL our children caused indescribable pain when I gave birth.

How well I know the desire to control my husband. As a newlywed, I believed I was to share “the pants,” in order to rule and reign together as head of the family. In my rebelliousness and brokenness I used my strong personality to gain control… and when my husband attempted to lead, I viciously attacked him with my words.

Then I met Jesus.

Jesus became the curse for me, a sinful daughter of Eve. He died not only to give me eternal life with my Father in heaven, but He also gives me abundant life in Him on earth! No longer am I enslaved to the curse. I am a daughter of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Yet, sometimes, unfortunately….I still listen to that slithering, sneaky snake.

Jesus said in this world, I will have trouble.

Pain will still occur.

Desire to control will still rise up.

But, Jesus.

Jesus.

When I choose to trust Jesus, instead of the enemy, I receive God’s blessing: abundant life! I am comforted in pain. I know that He is in control. I submit to my husband, as unto the Lord. And even if my husband doesn’t love me as Christ loved the church, I feel how wide, how deep, how high, my Father’s love is for me.

cropped-IMG_2982.jpgFor more than 20 years I’ve watched my husband scratch a living. By the sweat of his brow, he has provided food for our family each day. As a son of Adam, the curse proclaimed over his life is different than mine. It affects his work mentality. Mine affects my relationships with him and our children. Regardless, if either of us chooses to submit to the enemy, the same result occurs: death.

If I am deceived, and my husband listens to me, and we both eat the forbidden fruit, spiritual and emotional death separates us from God- and one another.

Does that mean its all my fault?

No.

I am accountable for my sin- not my husbands, not my children’s. Mine.

My husband is accountable for his.

When a husband listens and obeys God’s commands, he finds his identity in the One who formed him from the dust of the earth. His work is not who he is. He is a son of God.

When a wife listens and obeys God’s commands, she finds her identity in the One who formed her from man for man. Her role of mother and wife are not who she is. She is a daughter of God.

Who are you listening to?

Who are you obeying?

Who are you choosing?

I choose life.

I choose the way.

I choose the truth.

I choose Jesus.

Today’s Trouble

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

IMG_5157This morning, as I walked through our unfinished kitchen to make myself a cup of strong coffee I laughed as I looked out the window and saw large snowflakes cascading down from heaven. “20% chance, huh?” I said to myself. “Well, GREAT- I suppose this means the contractor and cabinet installer won’t be coming to finish the job today!!!”

As the text messages and emails began coming in, confirming my assumptions that everything was cancelled, I continued to try to laugh off the worry creeping into my mind. “Will this renovation ever end? When and how am I going to reschedule all this stuff….I’m already over booked as it is!!!”

Pause.

Retreat to my secret place to read His Word and talk to Him.

Ok. All better.

Really?

No.

I then picked up the book my mom recently loaned me and began reading another chapter of Kay Warren’s “Choose Joy Because Happiness Isn’t Enough.” I even stopped to type, print, and post the following quote on our dry erase board to convince myself to stop worrying:

“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”

Ok. All better.

Really?

No.

I went back to the kitchen (did I mention, its still not finished, after nearly 6 weeks?!?) for a snack and to gaze out the window at the beauty of His creation, covered in a blanket of white. With a full tummy, I returned to my secret place to watch the little birds hopping around the backyard, pecking through the snow for their snack. Then it hit me:

LOOK AT THE BIRDS!!!! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (emphasis mine)

Why do I worry? It’s because I don’t trust God. Instead, I rebel against Him by allowing my fear (fear of losing valuable time, fear of not being able to get everything done, fear of disappointing others, fear of losing control of….everything!!!) to dominate my mind, will and emotions. But yet, even though I continue to sin against My Father, He takes the time out of His VERY busy schedule to show me, through the majesty of His creation, that I am far more valuable to Him than the little birds.

As the revelation of His truth began melting into my soul, like the snowflakes that will soon disappear when the temperature begins to rise, I realized that tomorrow will bring enough worries of its own. So, today I choose to sit right here in my secret place and stare out the window at the millions of tiny snowflakes lying all over our yard and praise the One who continues to remind me to trust Him…..in everything.

Completely Trustworthy

Psalm 119:137-144

137 O Lord, you are righteous,
 and your regulations are fair.

138 Your laws are perfect
 and completely trustworthy.

139 I am overwhelmed with indignation,
 for my enemies have disregarded your words.

140 Your promises have been thoroughly tested;
    that is why I love them so much.

141 I am insignificant and despised,
 but I don’t forget your commandments.

142 Your justice is eternal,
 and your instructions are perfectly true.

143 As pressure and stress bear down on me,
 I find joy in your commands.

144 Your laws are always right;
 help me to understand them so I may live.

As we approach the 5th week of our kitchen renovation, the pressure and stress of completing the project continues to bear down on me. As a result, I continue to desperately need the Holy Spirit to help me with my anger!

IMG_5124Living in a home with no stove to cook healthy meals for our family of 6 has been inconvenient. Washing dishes in the master bathroom sink has been annoying. Cleaning up construction debris left by others has been a nuisance. Yet, despite all the rearranging of our every day life the thing that has affected me the most are the promises that have been delivered and subsequently broken….over and over and over again.

Construction projects are notorious for running behind schedule. It’s completely understandable that plans don’t always go the way we anticipate on the job site. The Lord has given me bucket loads of grace to make concessions for ideas that didn’t work and a great deal of patience in waiting to get our kitchen- and entire house back in order! Yet, almost daily I’ve had to continually deal with the anger that has risen up in my soul towards the vendors & craftsmen who have proven to be completely untrustworthy.

Anger is an emotion given to us by God. There’s nothing wrong with feeling angry. And there’s nothing sacrilegious about expressing why we feel upset to our Heavenly Father. Where it crosses the line into sin is when we scream, cuss, rant, rave, call others every name in the book, throw things or pitch a huge hissy fit.

Ephesians 4:26

26 Be angry, and yet do not sin…

Sadly, I’ve been guilty of all of the above. I’ve been that “b” word, that OCD control freak, that vengeful woman named Jezebel whose story is told in 1 Kings. But miraculously, none of my former alter egos have shown their ugly face during this remodel project. Praise the Lord! For God has been helping me submit my feelings to Him and express my emotions in a healthy and productive way.

Let’s be honest: men and women are not always trustworthy. I sure haven’t been. Still, that doesn’t mean I abandon every person who has ever disappointed me and go live alone in a cave on some private island for the rest of my life. So, what can I do?

I can:

  • Be still and know that God is always completely trustworthy. He will never break His promises to me.
  • Express my anger to God (without sinning) about others who have been untrustworthy.
  • Seek God’s perspective on whether I am to confront the person (in love) or let it go (meaning = allow God to be my avenger)
  • Seek God’s perspective on whether or not the relationship should continue.
  • Forgive the person who has failed to meet my expectations.

If you were to ask me if I ever want to live through another kitchen renovation I would probably tell you “HECK NO!” But, I don’t want to deny the Lord any opportunity He chooses to help me understand His ways amidst the moments of life when I am overwhelmed by anger. Because, through the power of His Spirit, I am finally beginning to understand that He uses all things together for my good.

Romans 8:28

28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Help Carry the Load

Exodus 18:13-23

13 The next day, Moses took his seat to hear the people’s disputes against each other. They waited before him from morning till evening.

14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, “What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?”

15 Moses replied, “Because the people come to me to get a ruling from God. 16 When a dispute arises, they come to me, and I am the one who settles the case between the quarreling parties. I inform the people of God’s decrees and give them his instructions.”

17 “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. 18 “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. 19 Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. 20 Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. 21 But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. 22 They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. 23 If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.”

IMG_4845Having lived in two states and several different cities during my lifetime, I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of a myriad of local churches; some traditional, some contemporary. Despite all their theological differences and expressions of worship during their Sunday morning services, one aspect was always the same. The majority of the people took all their disputes to “Moses” (the preacher, senior pastor, reverend, etc.) Even though these men were extremely capable of dispensing advice and settling the cases between the quarreling parties they met with, Jethro’s warning eventually became a reality: “Moses” wore himself out physically, emotionally and spiritually….and the people became discouraged.

In order to avoid this catastrophe, there are two things the local church must be willing to enforce:

  • The “Moses” of the group must continue to teach God’s decrees to the people and show them how to conduct their lives. He also needs to select capable, honest men, and women who fear God, to lead others.
  • These leaders must always be available to serve others by giving of their time, talent and treasure to help them settle life’s common disputes. When they are faced with major disputes that they are not equipped to handle, they need to refer the people to “Moses.”

If this symbiotic relationship isn’t happening, the church will not effectively be able to “go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).” Fortunately, the solution to this dilemma is simple: repentance. If you’re a “Moses” who is acting as the head of the church, repent for your desire to be in control and surrender your will to the Father. If you’re a man, or woman who has been gifted by the Holy Spirit to help others, but choose instead to stand around watching others serve, repent for your selfishness and surrender your will to His.

Together, all of us MUST follow Jethro’s advice to help carry the load as we seek to “love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love others, as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-38).”

Together, all of us MUST follow Jethro’s advice to help carry the load as we seek to “love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love others, as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-38).”

Have Some Breakfast

John 21:1-17

21 Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened. Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples.

Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”

“We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.

At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?”

“No,” they replied.

Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.

Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.

10 “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.

12 “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. 14 This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead.

15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?[e]

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”

“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”

“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”

I am no stranger to burn out. In fact, almost annually I find myself in the same unending cycle of serving, serving, serving, with no hope of ever finding rest. If the cycle continues for too long, my body eventually refuses to perform at its optimum level by succumbing to infection or exhaustion. My emotions also tend to become unstable, ranging from overwhelming anger to intense sadness. The most damaging symptom of burn out for me however, is a spiritual disconnect. Although my mind knows I should be still before God, my heart struggles to engage with Him. Reading The Word becomes a chore, my prayers sound rote and my worship feels superficial.

My knee jerk reaction to all of these symptoms is to eliminate EVERYTHING on my schedule–immediately! Although this way of quickly controlling the situation does provide me with more free time, it rarely compels me to allow the Holy Spirit the opportunity to reveal the reason why I continue in this destructive cycle of performance.

All of us have a deep desire to be known- and loved. It was birthed in us by our Creator and was designed to be satisfied by Him alone. The unfortunate thing is, we sinners often look to other people to fill us with a sense of purpose, worthiness, acceptance and love. And since all have sinned and fallen short, others can never satisfy the need we have for our soul to be filled up by our Lord. Thus, we are left feeling disappointed, empty, unappreciated and unloved.

“If I am devoted to the cause of humanity only, I will soon be exhausted and come to the place where my love will falter; but if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity though men treat me as a door-mat.”

Oswald Chambers

How then do we love, care for and feed God’s sheep without becoming exhausted?IMG_4033

We must love Jesus Christ personally and passionately BEFORE we serve humanity.

How do we do that?

Every day we must put our tunic on, jump out of the boat and swim to shore. We must allow the Holy Spirit to nourish our soul by sitting and having some breakfast with Our Savior (and it can’t be a bowl of artificial colors and flavors – we can’t live healthy lives on that! We need life giving sustenance to keep us going; eggs, bacon, waffles, fruit and Starbucks coffee!!!).

And…..

At the beginning of every fishing season we must ask God, “what do I need to eliminate from my schedule so that I can have breakfast with you every day? What, or who do I need to say “no” to so that YOU are once again the priority in my life?” Once He answers, we must be willing to drop our nets and trust that He will provide others to pull in the fish while we are away.