What Is Your Path?

When we focus on other people, we may lose sight of our own calling

What Is Your Path?As Jesus wraps up his stint on earth, he spends some time with his disciples, the core group he trained for three years. They will need to carry on without him, and he wants to make sure they’re ready.

First, he must deal with Peter, who, a few days earlier, denied he even knew Jesus. Jesus is gentle but sure. To counter Peter’s three denials, Jesus has his wayward disciple give three affirmations of love. After each one, Jesus tells Peter to “Care for those who follow me.”

Then Jesus tells Peter what his future will entail. It ends with execution. But Jesus tells Peter to follow him, regardless.

Likely squirming and wanting to change the subject, Peter notices John and asks Jesus what the future holds for this disciple, “What are your plans for him?”

Jesus won’t play along. He basically says, “It doesn’t matter. You must do what I told you to do: follow me.”

It’s easy to become distracted by other people: People who seem to have more success, at least by the world’s standards; people who radiate God’s love in a way we fear we never will; or people who pray with a faith that eludes us.God says, “It doesn’t matter what others do, you must follow me." Click To Tweet

Frustrated and discouraged, we may ask God, “What are your plans for them?”

To which God says, “It doesn’t matter what others do, you must follow me.”

Look straight ahead and follow Jesus. We shouldn’t concern ourselves with what others are doing.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is John 21, and today’s post is on John 21:15-22.]

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Do You Think Like an Exile? Do You Act Like a Foreigner?

If you are a citizen of the Kingdom of God, then you live here as a foreigner.

Do You Think Like an Exile? Do You Act Like a Foreigner?

Peter writes his first letter to Christians scattered about in pagan cities. He first calls them exiles. Later he refers to them as foreigners. I prefer the label of aliens. It has an otherworldly connotation.

The point is that they don’t fit in where they are. They are outsiders subsisting in a society that doesn’t understand their thinking and their way of life. They live in a culture that is opposed to Jesus.

Peter doesn’t tell them they need to adapt and settle down. Instead he tells them to live careful lives, hold onto their awe of God, and refrain from immorality. They are to persist as foreigners, as if they are just passing through – because they are.If you are a citizen of the kingdom of God, then you live here as a foreigner. Click To Tweet

They are citizens of the Kingdom of God, children of the King of kings. Their allegiance is to God. Their real domicile, their eternal home, is in heaven. Holding onto this perspective, they realize they are here for the short-term. With eyes fixed on Jesus, they maintain their earthly status as foreigners, as exiles, and as aliens – both in an actual physical sense and with a faith-filled, future-focused, spiritual expectation.

I wonder how well I do to live like that.

Do you act like a foreigner in our culture? Do you think of yourself as an alien in our world?

(1 Peter 1:1, 1 Peter 1:17, 1 Peter 2:11)

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The Book of Revelation

The book of Revelation is a curious one; there is none other like it in the Bible. It is perhaps the most scrutinized and misunderstood section. While I will not make any attempt to explain it, I will offer some context as a guide:

  • This book is written by John, but it is not his revelation; it is Jesus’ revelation (Revelation 1:1).
  • John confirms the book is a prophecy, and we are blessed merely by reading it, hearing it, and taking it to heart (Revelation 1:3). But he doesn’t say we need to understand it!
  • This book is a letter to the seven churches in Asia. Just as Paul, Peter, and John write letters to various people and different churches, this is another one of John’s letters (Revelation 1:4).
  • The contents of the letter are supernaturally given to John in a vision when he is communing with God in the spiritual realm (Revelation 1:10).
  • The purpose of the book may be found in Revelation 19:10: to worship God and celebrate Jesus.

We can consider Revelation in three sections:

1) Chapter 1 is the Introduction: In addition to setting the basis for the rest of the book, chapter 1 is awesome in that is hints at what our relationship with God can be like when we connect with him in the spiritual realm. We should not consider this unique to John, and we should embrace it as available to us – if we are willing to pursue it.

2) Chapters 2 and 3 Give Specific Messages to the Seven Churches: The letters to the seven churches are written to them. While we can receive encouragement from their successes and learn from their failures, we need to remember they are the primary audience and we are the secondary one, just like all the other letters in the Bible. We need to remind ourselves of their context and not make them into more than what they are intended to be.

3) Chapters 4 through 22 is a Future Prophecy: From the final nineteen chapters of Revelation, the intend is not for us to decode when these events will happen. After all, Jesus says, no one knows the time and date of when the end will occur. There is no secret plan for us to decode.

Instead I see three key things as I read the words in Revelation: God is awesome and worthy of our worship, Jesus is powerful, and for those whose names are written in the book of life (Revelation 20:15), the ending is a happy one. If you don’t believe me, read the last two chapters (Revelation 21 and 22) and be in awe – even if we can’t comprehend the details.

What do you like or not like about the book of Revelation?

Do We Control Our Smartphone or Does Our Smartphone Control Us?

Do We Control Our Smartphone or Does Our Smartphone Control Us?For a long time I resisted getting a smartphone. It’s not that I’m technologically adverse; I love technology. And it’s not that I didn’t see how beneficial it would be to have Internet access anytime, anywhere. It’s that I worried about how having a smartphone might affect my interactions with others or distract me from fully experiencing what was happening around me.

I’ve seen too many examples of people fixated on their smartphone: texting, surfing, checking Facebook, tweeting, or playing games, all the while ignoring the people and events around them. Smartphones give us the ability to isolate ourselves in a roomful of people. I wanted to avoid that struggle, so I avoided buying a smartphone.

So when I finally succumbed to smartphone inevitability, I wanted to make sure I controlled it, instead of it controlling me, the things I did, and when I did them. Smartphones are adept at alerting, beeping, and shaking to get our attention, usually distracting us from something more important. The person I am with should (usually) take precedence over the person calling, texting, or emailing. The situation I am in should (usually) take precedence over the news or information waiting inside my smartphone. I intend to master my smartphone, not be mastered by it.

I want to be like Paul. He says, “I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Peter puts it a different way: “People are slaves to whatever has mastered them” (2 Peter 2:19). Though these men never struggled with smartphone interruptions, they seem to fully understand its threat.

Let’s live in the moment, and keep our smartphones in our pockets.

Has your smartphone ever gotten in the way of living life? What other things do you need to control better?

[This is from the June 2015 issue of Peter DeHaan‘s newsletter. Sign up to receive the complete newsletter each month via email.]

The Simplicity of Faith: Jesus Says “Follow Me”

In Peter’s darkest moment, he denies that he even knows who Jesus is. I don’t criticize Peter for this, however. Despite a desire to respond differently, I suspect that if facing death, I could easily do the same thing.

Later, after returning to life, Jesus restores Peter to right relationship with him. Three times Jesus asks, “Do you love me?”

Three times – each one corresponding to one of Peter’s three betrayals – Peter confirms that he does indeed love Jesus.

Then, for Peter to show his love for his master, each time Jesus asks Peter to take care of Jesus’ flock, that is the Christian church.

Peter doesn’t realize the importance of repeating this exchange three times, that he must affirm his love for Jesus in equal number to his betrayals. Then, when his pledges of support offset his prior denials, Jesus can complete Peter’s restoration. Jesus concludes with the simple instruction, “Follow me.”

That’s the essential requirement of faith: to love Jesus and follow him. It’s that simple.

[John 21:15-20]

Nine Guys in the Bible Named Simon

In the last post, we talked about the disciple Simon, who Jesus named Peter.

I only know of one person called Peter in the Bible, but there are several guys named Simon:

  1. Simon Peter (the disciple)
  2. Simon the Zealot (another disciple, which may be why Jesus called the other Simon, Peter)
  3. Simon the brother of Jesus (his other brothers were James, Joseph, and Judas)
  4. Simon the leper (the owner of the home where Jesus’ head was anointed with oil)
  5. Simon from Cyrene (who carried Jesus’ cross)
  6. Simon the Pharisee (the owner of the home where Jesus feet were washed with perfume)
  7. Simon Iscariot (father of Judas Iscariot)
  8. Simon the sorcerer (who asked to buy Holy Spirit power)
  9. Simon the tanner (who Peter stayed with in Joppa when Cornelius sent for him)

I would have never guessed there were this many Simons in the Bible.

Jesus Gives a New Name to Simon

One of Jesus’ disciples was Simon, who Jesus renamed Peter.

According to the Amplified Bible, Peter means “stone” or “a large piece of rock.”

Sometimes the Bible refers to him as Simon (47 times) and other times Simon Peter (33 times) but mostly just Peter (139 times).

Peter was the first leader of Jesus’ followers, so calling him “rock” fits. Perhaps Jesus gave Peter a new name to preview his future as a leader.

Even more interesting is a play on words Jesus uses in Matthew 16:16-18. The implication isn’t apparent in most versions of the Bible, but the Amplified Bible captures it nicely (even throwing in some Greek to make sure we don’t miss it).

Peter (Petros, “a large piece of rock,” essentially a rock) gives a proclamation (Petra, “a huge rock like Gibraltar,” essentially the rock) saying Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus affirms Peter’s words, declaring them to be the foundation on which he will build his church.

Peter is not the foundation, but his testimony is.

What if God Told You to do Something Crazy?

A guy named Peter knew how to fish. That was his trade, his livelihood. When it came to catching fish, he was the expert.

Peter’s buddy Jesus was a carpenter by trade. He knew how to make things with his hands, things constructed of wood. He was an expert at woodworking.

So when the professional fisherman didn’t catch a thing, it seems strange for the professional carpenter to offer him fishing advice.

But that’s exactly what Jesus did to Peter, the novice told the expert what to do.

It would have been entirely reasonable for Peter to dismiss Jesus, after all, Peter had been fishing his entire life; Jesus had not.

Yet Peter set aside his pride and disregarded his experience, agreeing to do what Jesus said, just “because you say so.”

Sometimes what God tells us to do seems foolish, sometimes we know better and want to ignore his advice. But if we are truly wise we will do it anyway, just because he says so.

[Luke 5:1-11]

Peter Speaks to the Gentiles

The fourth sermon in the book of Acts: Acts 10:23-48 (specifically Acts 10:34-43)

Setting: Caesarea

Speaker: Peter

Audience: Cornelius, his family, and close friends – all Gentiles (that is, non-Jews)

Preceding Events: Through a dream, God tells Peter to go to Cornelius’s house.

Overall Theme: God makes no distinction between people; traditional barriers have been broken, everyone can come to Jesus.

Scripture Quoted: none (as a non-Jewish audience, citing the Bible would not likely have been helpful to those listening)

Central Teaching: God shows no favoritism.

Subsequent Events: When Paul says “everyone who believes in him…,” his message is interrupted by the Holy Spirit, who comes upon the Gentiles who have just believed.

Key Lesson: Don’t allow our past or perceptions to dictate who we interact with; Jesus is for everyone.

Peter had to set aside his traditions and the law of Moses to do what God told him.

Would you being willing to do the same?

This post is from the series “Sermons in the book of Acts.” Read about sermon #3 or sermon #5.

Peter Heals a Lame Man

The second sermon in the book of Acts: Acts 3:1-4:4 (specifically, Acts 3:12-26).

Setting: Jerusalem, in the temple

Speaker: Peter

Audience: Jews

Preceding Events: Peter, through the power of Jesus, heals a man who was crippled from birth.

Overall Theme: Jesus, God’s servant, was foretold in the Old Testament. His execution at the hands of ignorant people was part of God’s plan, as was his rising from the dead.

Scripture Quoted: Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, 19, Genesis 22:18; 26:4

Central Teaching: Jesus’ name has the power to heal.

Subsequent Events: Peter is interrupted by the temple guards and he and John are thrown in prison, yet thousands more believe in Jesus.

Key Lesson: A miraculous healing provides an opportunity for truth about Jesus to be shared, which results in mass conversions.

If, at church, you saw a wheelchair-bound man get up and walk, what would you think?

This post is from the series “Sermons in the book of Acts.” Read about sermon #1 or sermon #3.