Why did Jesus ask Peter if he loved Him, three times?

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Today’s reading is from John 21. Why did Jesus ask Peter if he loved Him, three times? If you’re anything like me, you love success stories. I love success stories. I think they are motivating, I think they are inspiring. But I’m going to be honest with you, every once in a while, give me a good old-fashion failure story. I need to know that I’m not alone, I need to know that I’m not the only one who wrestles with doubt, that I’m not the only one who wrestles with sins that try to entangle my life. I need to know that, and that’s what I love about Peter. Peter is this guy who, when you’re feeling bad about yourself, it is encouraging to me that here’s this guy, a disciple, used powerfully by God, but who made so many mistakes along the way.

Jesus had prophesied that Peter would betray Him, but of course Peter said boldly, “Lord I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” As it turned out Peter denied Jesus three times!  He let Jesus down when Jesus needed him the most. I wonder if part of the reason Peter decided to go fishing was partly because he was thinking that his career as one of the apostles of Jesus was over. “There is no way God could ever use me again. I give up I am going back to fishing.” There is nothing wrong with fishing, but there is everything wrong with ‘giving up!’

Let me ask you a question, “Have you ever failed God? Have you ever sinned against the One who has brought you salvation and forgiveness?” We ALL have been there, haven’t we? Scripture tells us that ALL have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory and perfection. We failed God before we became true Christians and we failed God even after we became true Christians. What many people fail to understand is that when we become Christians, it does NOT mean that we will never sin again… we will sin and fail God many times! In fact on a daily basis we will disappoint God, and the enemy is going to use that sin in our lives… he is going to use that failure in our walk with Christ against us!

There is a natural inclination when we fail God, to think, “Let’s just go back to what we were doing. God can’t use me.” I think this is one of the reasons many people stop coming to church on Sunday. They mess up during the week and feel like they can’t come to church. Yet, that is the exact reason why you need to be coming to church! If you are perfect and never do anything wrong, then you don’t need to be here, the rest of us do!

But here in John 21:15: Jesus asks Peter three times if he loved Him. Why three times? I think it was to help counter Peter’s three denials. I don’t think it is any coincidence that Jesus asked Peter this question three times. Jesus was helping Peter get out of his cage of guilt. I don’t know what mistakes you’ve made. I don’t know what sinful memories are etched into your memory. I have no ideas what failures form that cage of guilt in your life, but I do know this, God hasn’t given up on you. He can’t, it is not in His nature. This is what grace really is. It is saying, “You are far more valuable to me than that thing you did wrong.” It will change a person’s life. It changed Peter’s life. One of God’s core values is to love people when they least expect it and least deserve it. You gotta love that!!!

Do You Have ‘Hurry Sickness?’

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Today’s reading is from John 17:4. On the night before Jesus died, He made an astonishing claim. “I have FINISHED the work which You gave Me to do.” How could He use this word “finished?” His three years of ministry seemed all too short. There was so much more to do. Yet on the last night, with many useful tasks undone and urgent human needs unmet, the Lord had peace. He knew He had finished God’s work. I have done some extensive research about this and I have discovered that in Jesus’ day, the days were thirty six hours long and the weeks were nine day weeks. Just kidding! Ever wish for thirty six hour day? Be honest. Surely this would relieve the pressure under which we live. Would a thirty six hour day really solve the problem? Wouldn’t we soon be just as frustrated as we are now with our twenty-four allotment? Wouldn’t we find ourselves just working more and enjoying it less? Why is it that at all of our homes there are so many unfinished projects; the half built play set in the backyard, the partially rebuilt car, the half made blouse, the half painted room, the half fixed chair, and so on. Our lives leave a trail of unfinished tasks. Unanswered letters, unvisited friends, unwritten articles, and unread books haunt our quiet moments when we stop to evaluate.

Most Americans suffer from “hurry sickness.” Hurry sickness is “trying to do more and more in less and less time.”  One of the supreme challenges of a man’s life is to secure a margin. What is a margin? Margin is the space between your load and your limits. It is the reserves between what you are currently doing and your breaking point. It is the buffer zone. It is the amount that is above what is actually needed. It is easily defined by its opposite. The opposite of margin is overload. So if you are overloaded you are marginless. If you spent 80% of all you earned, your margin would be 20%. But if you spent 120% of what your earned you would be marginless. You would be running on deficit. The trouble today is that people are spending 120% of everything, not just money, but time and energy as well. People in America are marginless in epidemic numbers. Many things contribute to this: stress, change, complexity, dysfunctional families, lack of understanding, debt, etc.

A good life should have a good margin. The most winsome people in the world are the people who make you feel that they are never in a hurry. That is how people felt around Jesus! He was in constant demand. Everybody wanted a piece of Jesus, but He never seemed to be in a hurry! In Mark 10, as Jesus was walking out of Jericho a blind man called out to Him, but the disciples rebuked him. They had places to go and things to do. But Mark 10:49 says, “Jesus stopped.” Those two words speak volumes about Jesus. He didn’t suffer from ‘hurry sickness.’ He had margin in His life. The reason He had margin in His life was because He didn’t do anything unless He received the mandate from His Father in Heaven. He walked in DAILY fellowship with His Father. His relationship with God the Father was not just a one day a week thing. He walked with His Father throughout each day. Jesus’ life was never feverish. He had time for people. He could spend hours talking to one person, such as the Samaritan woman at the well. How many times do we miss those opportunities? Timing is everything with God. Let’s slow down and build some margin in our lives. How are you dealing hurry sickness?

 

Is there really only one way to heaven?

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Today’s reading is from John chapter 14:6. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” A while back I was with a fishing buddy, who is not a born again Christian. He goes to a Christian church but he has not had a life changing encounter with Jesus Christ. As we were eating dinner he turned to me and asked, “Dave, do you really believe there is ONLY one way to heaven?” I was chewing a nice piece of steak and almost choked on it, but as I finished chewing it, I said a quick prayer, “Oh Lord help me say the right words!”

Here is my response, “Well, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. That means that I believe in Him and I believe in what He said. Jesus said many times and in many different ways that He was the ONLY way to heaven. Now whether I like that or don’t like that does not matter. The only thing that matters is whether I believe in Him and what He said or whether I don’t. I have chosen to believe in Him and I believe He made it very clear, there is ONLY one way to heaven and that is through Him.” My friend shook his head and we began a lengthy conversation about how that is considered a close-minded statement and is somewhat arrogant to state that there is ONLY  one way to heaven and all the other religions of the world are wrong. Many people who profess to be Christian struggle with this concept. They want to believe that good Muslims and good Jews and good Hindus will all get to heaven somehow. But according to Jesus unless they go through Him, no one is going to be allowed into heaven. Where do you stand on this issue?