Lent 2009 – 33 Steps to the Cross

PeterSteps

In those days Peter stood up among the believers ( a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus – he was one our number and shared in this ministry. (Acts 1:15-17)

We are all hurt by the betrayal of another person at some point in our lives. Young or old, male or female, at some point we are going to feel the sting of someone in whom we trusted is going to let us down and our Christianity provides no bulwark against it. Our reaction, on the other hand, is a measure of the depth of our faith.

We may take as long as Peter did to see God’s hand in the ebb and flow of life. Though the Cross was an unspeakably wicked act on behalf of those who committed it, it fulfilled the plan of God for our redemption. Judas was a part of that plan as Peter would come to understand. Is there a betrayal in your life that you can reflect on today that serves a greater purpose with the benefit of hindsight? Maturity as we see in Peter only comes with this kind of meditation. Devote today to this helpful examination.

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Lent 2009 – 38 Steps To The Cross

PeterSteps

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)

Any journey gets immeasurably easier when the destination comes into sight. In our lives, our objective is to submit to the transformative work of the Holy Spirit as he leads us to finally become Christlike, but many times, I know that I have trouble seeing how my current state will ever be like the glorious Lord. Sometimes we find our confidence growing as we look toward intermediate markers along the road, things that can be reached in a shorter period. Watching Peter stumble along trying to follow Jesus but stubbing his toes over and over along the way we find a fellow follower more in our image.

Peter brings us hope as we step toward the cross because even though he is flawed like us, he get’s it after learning things the hard way. We get angry, we blurt out inappropriate things, we fail to see what is right before us, and we even fail to see the bigger picture but Peter gives us hope because his messy transformation is our halting, sputtering, tumbling transformation. Not perfect by any stretch, but humbly following close behind our savior.

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Lent 2009 – 39 Steps To The Cross

PeterSteps

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:4-11)

In Luke’s gospel we see a much more vivid picture of the man Peter and his introduction to Jesus. The Lord is watching the disappointed fisherman clean their nets after laboring hard all night without any reward and his first test is to ask them to put their boats back out into the lake so that he might teach the crowds. Andrew and Simeon comply, sitting back against the gunwales to listen to the young Rabbi. When Jesus finished, he turned to the fisherman and invited him to put his freshly cleaned and bundled nets back in the water. Do we see the immediately obedient Peter? No, we see the tired and cranky Peter who attempts to dissuade the Lord from fulfilling His mission. Does he not know any better? Do we view our own hesitance as stumbling blocks?

When Peter does obey on the word of the Teacher, he is shocked at the immediate results of doing so as he watches his nets bulge to the breaking point. So Peter’s obedience has resulted in abundant reward, like an ancient prosperity gospel but the greater reward is still to be realized. As Peter becomes aware of the one who has rewarded him, he begs him to go away since he knows that he is in no condition to be in the presence of holiness. (Does this sound familiar to us?) Jesus is not deterred, however, from assembling his team and he calls on Peter to follow him.

Peter, looking at all of the new found riches flopping about in his nets, does so without hesitation.

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Lent 2009 – 40 Steps To The Cross

PeterSteps

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fisherman. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.(Mt 4:18-20)

Simon Peter takes his first step toward the cross in this account in Matthew’s gospel. As we read in devotions and heard from our pastors, Peter is instantly obedient to Christ. We are encouraged to model our own behavior on this sacrificial submission, leaving everything behind and following Him. Though it may be unspoken, there is a subtle underlying message that weighs on our souls: the glory of the passing Lord and His invitation to follow Him should be sufficient for a complete break with our previous life.

Reality is rarely this simple.

We desperately want to follow the Lord, shouldering our cross and never turning back, but our self-love often overpowers our Christ love. Struggle with our worldly selves and desires often marks our steps more than piety when we follow the Lord. The temptation in our weaker moments is to set down the cross for a less strenuous form of Christianity. As we follow Peter toward the cross at Calvary, we will discover that despite this initial bright moment, he struggles in many of same ways we do. Faith in the Spirit carries us both forward.

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Lent 2009 and Walking with Peter

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The forty days of Lent for this year begin next week on Ash Wednesday, February 25th. Though Lent as a church observation has fallen from favor in many evangelical churches, I like to follow the Church calendar. It delineates the seasons of the year and helps us to focus on seasons in our lives. Traditionally, Lent is a period of sacrifice leading up to Easter in which we do without and practice penance as a reminder once again to die to self. It is a named period in which we recommit ourselves to holiness…though, this should be our daily vocation.

This year, the Spirit has brought the life and ministry of Simon Peter to my heart as my guide through the Lenten season. I suspect that many of us find a kindred spirit in Peter. He is a bit gruff and rough around the edges. Jesus does not pluck him out of the ivory towers of religiously trained nor was he an important thinker of his time. Just a guy with a boat who spent his cold, dark nights out of the water trying to make his livelihood by netting fish and selling them.

Saint Peter’s mouth is known to have run before his brain and his impetuous behaviors make us initially wonder what Jesus saw in him to validate his selection as an Apostle. As one of His closest disciples, we learn of a man of commitment who shares the same fears and failures that we do. To be with Peter as he abandons his Lord at a crucial moment is to be with us as we question our own commitment when it seems that God’s love should preclude some of the struggles and strife that visit our own lives. Who among us has not stepped from the boat onto the water proclaiming “I believe, I believe” only to falter a few steps in and find ourselves with the waterline quickly approaching our necks?

Lent is a time for us to once again to renew ourselves to the words that Peter left us in his first epistle:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  1 Peter 3:15

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