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?!

Be Entirely Clean

John 13:2-15 New Living Translation (NLT)

It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas,[a] son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

“No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”

Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”

Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”

10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet,[b] to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.

As my groom and I sat drinking our morning coffee last weekend, I began reading the above familiar passage out loud. As the Holy Spirit often does, He surprised me when this verse seemed to jump right off the page:

10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.”

Jesus taught Kingdom principles through parables. He told life stories about every day mundane things to those who followed Him and those He called His disciples. Those with ears to hear understood immediately the hidden truth woven through His words. Those with slight hearing loss would understand someday. And those that were deaf would never understand.

As Jesus began washing His disciples feet, He told Peter (who was suffering from slight hearing loss) that he would understand what he was doing…someday. Like Peter, with hearing problems, we understand the Kingdom principle of serving through this parable-like story of Jesus, penned by John. But when we grab the q-tips and clean out our ears, we hear the Holy Spirit whisper the hidden meaning woven through our Teacher’s words:

10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet,[b] to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.”

  • When we belong to Jesus, He bathes us all over (salvation = spirit)
  • When we belong to Jesus, we are washed and made clean (repentance = soul, baptism = body).
  • When our feet get dirty from battle, (armor of God; Ephesians 6:15) we can sit in His presence every day and be made entirely clean (sanctification = soul).
  • When we belong to Jesus, we follow His example and “wash each others feet” (salvation = preach the Good News to others, sanctification = minister to others souls, serve = others needs in the body of Christ)

cropped-cropped-cropped-cropped-img_59963.jpgYou cannot wash someone else’s feet if you don’t belong to Jesus.

Have you been bathed all over?

Are you a clean disciple?

Do your feet need to be washed – again?

Sit down at the table with Jesus. Watch as He takes off His robe for you, wraps a towel around His waist for you, and pours living water into a basin for you. Let Him wash the dirt from your feet. Then get up and go love others the way He has loved you.

Prepare the Way

Matthew 3:1-3 (NLT)
In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.[a]” The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said,
“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!’”[b]
 
11 “I baptize with[a] water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.[b]

John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry. His message was simple: repent. John’s preaching cut through religion and pierced the heart: sin has destroyed your relationship with God. Repent! Be restored to God. John’s ministry tilled the hard soil for the One who would come to sew the seed of salvation.

I am John the Baptist. The ministry God has appointed and anointed me for is to prepare the way for Jesus.

You are John the Baptist. The ministry God has appointed and anointed you for is to prepare the way for Jesus.

The church is John the Baptist. The ministry God has appointed and anointed us for is to prepare the way for Jesus.

John 3:26-30 (NLT)
26 So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.”
27 John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven.28 You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ 29 It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the bridegroom’s friend is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. 30 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

But sometimes sin blocks the way…

In my pride, I can believe that MY ministry is who I am. In a struggle for significance on this earth or a desire to be esteemed by others I can hold on close fisted to the ministry God has appointed and anointed me for. Over a decade ago, I was preparing the way for MY ministry. I had served faithfully in children’s ministry organizing resources, soothing crying toddlers, changing stinky diapers on infants, singing and dancing to kids worship with 6-12 year olds – I did it all. Focusing solely on MY ministry, I neglected my relationship with God, my spouse and our children. My fist was so tightly closed around my role in the church that no one, NO ONE was gonna take it away from me.

But God.

God.

The associate pastor hired a new children’s director who instantly became my superior. She was also one of my best friends. As I struggled to submit to her authority, I simultaneously struggled to hold on closed fisted to MY ministry. Rebellion, chaos and disunity ensued. Eventually I was fired- from my volunteer position.

Angry? Absolutely! And I made sure God and everyone else knew it. I vomited insult after insult about my rights being violated and the evil actions of my fellow ministers in the body of Christ.

But God.

God.

As a loving Father does, when a child finally returns He welcomed me into His everlasting arms and the tension of my closed fists released. He was becoming greater and greater and I was becoming less and less.

DSC_0419During my discipleship journey the Holy Spirit has continually helped me to humbly turn back to God. I’ve learned to be still. I’ve come to know Him. I’ve started obeying His commands. I’ve been washed in His magnificent love for me. I’ve repented. I’ve been forgiven. I’ve forgiven others. I’ve been delivered from evil. I’ve been redeemed from my rebellion. I’ve been restored in my soul. And as I’ve opened my hands to the ministry He’s appointed & anointed me for I have had the privilege of preparing the way for others to meet and know Jesus. He has become greater and greater and I have become less and less!

Dear child of God,

Release the death grip you have on YOUR ministry. Willingly open your closed fists to the Lord. Otherwise, He may need to fire you from your role to save your soul. He loves you. He wants you to know Him. He wants you to worship Him, not your ministry. He wants you to obey His commands so that you may have everlasting and abundant life!

Let go.

Trust God.

He will work all things for your good if you love Him.

Love, Me (& John the Baptist)

Inspired by God

2 Timothy 3:16-17

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

 If you’re faithfully serving every week during a worship service or leading a small group and not studying Scripture, you aren’t prepared. In order to do good works, we must follow God’s “order of operations.”

  1. Believe in Jesus

Romans 10:9

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

  1. Love God
  2. Love others (and yourself!)

Matthew 22:37-39

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

  1. Do good works

Ephesians 2:10

10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

  1. Make disciples

Matthew 28:19

19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

IMG_2963Once we are saved, we can choose to be a follower of Jesus, or become His disciple. We can follow Jesus from a distance and watch what He does in the lives of others, or if we want to truly know Him, we must become a disciple. Becoming a disciple requires discipline. We do this not because religion demands it, but because we want to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ.

When we discipline ourselves to study Scripture we get to know God.

When we get to know God, we begin to know ourselves.

When we get to know ourselves, we begin to realize our rebelliousness against Him.

When we realize our rebelliousness against Him, we become grieved over our sin.

When we are grieved over our sin, we humble ourselves and allow Him to correct what is wrong in our lives- and our relationships, and teach us to do what is right.

Matthew 5:23-24

23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice[a] at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

We cannot, I repeat canNOT go through the “order of operations” out of order. If we skip 1, 2 & 3 and try to start solving our life equation at step 4 or 5 we’ll never discover God’s promise of eternal & abundant life. Furthermore, Jesus warns those with disorderly lives in Matthew 7:21-23 who do work in His name- they must depart from Him, because they don’t know Him.

God is a God of order.

Follow His “order of operations.”

Don’t know the order?

Dust off that old Holy Bible on your bookshelf or download You Version and lets start studying Scripture, together!

It IS about me

Matthew 5:3-10

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,

for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

God blesses those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

God blesses those who are humble,

for they will inherit the whole earth.

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,

for they will be satisfied.

God blesses those who are merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

God blesses those whose hearts are pure,

for they will see God.

God blesses those who work for peace,

for they will be called the children of God.

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,

for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

In an effort to eradicate the selfishness in the heart of mankind, I’ve heard several pastors preach sermons making this statement:

“It’s not about YOU!”

I understand that life isn’t all about me…but the Kingdom IS about me.

Jesus said so.

He promises me (as He did His disciples) that when I realize I am poor in spirit and I need God, the Kingdom of Heaven will be mine.

He promises me that if I express my emotions, He will comfort me.

He promises me that when I humble myself, I will inherit the whole earth.

He promises me that when I hunger for justice, I will be satisfied.

He promises me that when I am merciful to others, He will be merciful to me.

He promises me that a pure heart will enable me to see God.

He promises me that when I work for peace in my relationships I will be called His child.

He promises me that when I’m persecuted for obeying Him, the Kingdom of Heaven is mine.

Telling the body of Christ “it’s not about YOU” breeds division and exclusion and frankly, its just not biblical.

The Kingdom of Heaven IS about me….and its about others.

IMG_7272

Jesus said the greatest thing I can do is Love God. My relationship with the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Spirit is my first priority. After I receive His love, love Him in return through my obedience (becoming a disciple), I am able to love others. And then…I can make more disciples.

This is the Kingdom of Heaven:

God the Father.

God the Son.

God the Holy Spirit.

Me.

We.

Good Things

Ephesians 2:8-10

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

“It’s all gooooood,” is a popular statement used among southerners as a blanket to cover up negative emotions or blatant sin. The truth is, it is not all good. God is all good, but we are not – and every thing we do is not good.

We live in an instant grit world (forgive the analogy: I’ve lived most of my life below the Mason-Dixon line). Unfortunately, the church often reflects the same worldview when it comes to doing good things. We want people to be saved, but we don’t want to take the time to help them become a disciple.

Making disciples is a deliberate, slow process.

IMG_2342.JPGLike making good ‘ol fashioned grits. You’ve gotta get the pan out, boil the water, add the organic stone ground grits, simmer for 20 minutes while stirring occasionally, add the butter, salt and pepper and perhaps a little red-eye gravy (I prefer mine with cheese and shrimp!).

Nope. We prefer to make instant disciples.

Just rip open the pre-packaged made-in-a-factory bag of “grits,” pour them into a plastic bowl with tap water and microwave on high for 1 minute (then we’re shocked when they don’t taste as good as what mama makes!).

Not good.

The disciples spent years….hello!?! years being prepared by Jesus before He sent them out to do good works. Sure, they served others by passing the baskets of fish and loaves to the crowd and collecting the leftovers, but they didn’t go make disciples until the Holy Spirit baptized them with His power- after Jesus died, was buried, raised from the dead and appeared to them (that took longer than a minute, right?!)

When we boast about all the good things we’re doing in advancing His Kingdom it’s a sign that we’re trying to take credit for our (and perhaps others) salvation. But when we truly believe that by grace, God saved us, we will know (not just intellectually, but in our spirit) that we are His masterpiece. And when we realize that we are His masterpiece, we will submit to Him as Creator. And when we submit to Him as Creator, He will teach us what is true, and correct us when we are wrong. And when we realize we are wrong, we’ll want to repent. And when we repent, He’ll teach us to do what is right. And when we know what is right, we will obey His commands. And when we obey His commands, He’ll know that we love Him. And then…. then, we’ll be equipped to do every good work that He planned for us long ago: go make more disciples.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

This process doesn’t happen in an instant, ya’ll. But it will happen, if we are faithful to the One who has called us by name, who laid down His life to save us, and who promises that He will refine us by the fire of His Spirit so that our lives -and our good deeds will reflect His glory.