Only One risen Saviuor

Only One risen Saviuor
There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Jesus

Monday, 29 February 2016

John Day 284 - That's A Wrap

3:14 "...the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than Light, because their deeds were evil."

This is it. 284 days and the journey through John has come to an end. I knew all along that I would wrap the Story up with this passage because contained in it are two of the three major themes and the third is there too even if not overtly.

John wrote about the Light that has come into the world. That Light is the great I Am. He met Moses in the bush that burned but didn't burn up. He met Abraham to announce the soon arrival of Isaac. He met Adam and Eve in the garden to unfold the plan for their rescue. The Seed promised to them was promised to Shem and then to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and finally to Judah.

Judah not because he was perfect or even deserving. Judah was the family line through which Jesus would come because when his little brother's life was on the line he stepped in and took the punishment due Benjamin. That act was a foreshadowing of the Lamb of God who takes our stripes as Isaiah proclaimed would happen in chapter 53 of his book.

Jesus is not the enemy of the Jewish faith but rather the fulfillment of all the promises made from Genesis to Malachi.

John breaks it all down using three major themes:

1, Jesus is the Light that stepped down into our darkness

2, Jesus is the I Am that fulfills every need we have. Search John's gospel and you will find Jesus either saying or someone else saying about Him the following: I AM the Lamb, the Light, the Bread, the Water if Life, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Good Shepherd, the Door/Gate, the Resurrection, the True Vine and before Abraham was, I AM.

3, All we need to do is believe in Him and we pass from death to life. In chapter 6:29 he declares it most succinctly outside of the famous John 3:16. "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."

It's ironic to me that some will say this "just believe" business is too easy, too shallow, almost meaningless. The truth is I meet people all the time who struggle deeply with believing. They carry guilt they can't believe Jesus has or even can forgive. They are infected with addictions and desires they don't believe Jesus can both forgive and heal.

Atheists believe the truth Jesus was teaching to Nicodemus in chapter 3. They openly teach that without God this life is the end of the road. They teach that when our eyes close at the end of this life they never open again. They are right. Without God this life is the end of the road. We are condemned to live however long our life here lasts and then it's all over. Jesus did not come to condemn us to death for not believing. That death was already on it's way. Jesus is the ambulance coming to the dying man offering hope in an otherwise hopeless situation. Jesus isn't offering two choices. He is offering one alternative to our one sure end.

The sad part is when the Light of His character shines into our darkness many of choose to stay the course. A kingdom where love reigns supreme is a fate worse than death for them. To give rather than take, to love rather than hate, to put everyone else ahead of ourselves seems a kind of hell for them. When Judas figured out what His kingdom is like he bailed. A place where women are equal, and borders don't exist between races was too much for him. A God who healed foreigners and ate with outcasts was Light that interfered with his dark designs.

Today leaders are rising up who want to build walls instead of bridges and barriers against "undesirables". The sad part is they are getting votes. Lots of them. Seems many still prefer darkness to Light. Narrow is the way to life but broad is the highway of hate.

Which path will we choose?

I choose to believe that God can brighten every evil corner in the darkest places of my heart and restore me to the man Adam was designed to be.

What will you choose?

Sunday, 28 February 2016

John Day 283 - Evidence vs Proof

21:24 This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.
25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.

John the brother of James, the sons of thunder. John who sat closest to Jesus at the last supper before His death and asked who it was that would betray Him. John who returned to the foot of the cross just before Jesus died and was asked to look after Jesus' mother. John who was the first to enter the empty tomb. John the beloved disciple who wrote all these things about Jesus' life, offering a perspective seen no where else in the other three gospels. His account can't be denied because he was there, closer to Jesus than any of the other eleven.

John ends his gospel with an interesting comment. He says if everything Jesus did was written down one by one the world couldn't contain the books (scrolls). What that comment reminds us of is how little is recorded of Jesus' life. We have some details about His birth in Matthew and Luke. We have an incident in the temple when He was 12 and then nothing until His baptism at age 30. His ministry then begins and we get a few highlights of a 3 and a half year period much of which is actually the 
last week leading up to and including His death and resurrection.

Like the rest of the Bible it is a brief synopsis. The question is why? The answer is simple.

The Story is not written for any other purpose than to provide evidence for us to believe and to trust. It's already plain to see that more evidence never convinced anyone who refused to believe. Some claim they want proof but it never makes a difference. When Lazarus walked out of the tomb after four days the Pharisees ran off to make plans to kill Jesus.

Even today the evidence is more than sufficient. Archaeology continues to unearth more and more proof that the Bible is accurate and true. The sulfur and brimstone and salt still remain where Sodom and Gomorrah was. The town of Bethany where Lazarus died and was resurrected carries his name to this day. Towns and kings and kingdoms which skeptics say never existed keep turning up beneath the excavated sands of time. Ancient Babylon which Isaiah said would never be inhabited again still lies in ruins even after the best attempts of Saddam Hussein to rebuild it and become the new Nebuchadnezzar.

Are there some unanswered questions still? Sure there are. There always will be. God is not calling us to proof. He is calling us to believe. Why? Because He is the Almighty and from eternity past to eternity future His creation will always have to trust Him. Just as a single cell is infinitely more complex than Darwin ever imagined and than we can yet comprehend, so God has always been and ever will be wise and unsearchable beyond our scope of discovery. This is what makes His love for us all the more amazing.

We may not ever fully grasp how He can be what He is or do what He does but the evidence of His love is forever inscribed on the palms of Jesus' hands. Evidence that melted the hearts of many and hardened the hearts of others.

What will you choose? As for me and my house, we will choose the LORD, Creator of heaven and earth.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

John Day 282 - Check Your "Facts"

21:23 Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?”

Christian culture is full of sayings and ideas that never originated with Jesus, nor are they found in the Bible. Here is a sampling:

"Cleanliness is next to Godliness"

"God helps those that help themselves"

"The lion will lie down with the lamb"

"By beholding we become changed"

"Hate the sin, love the sinner"

"This too shall pass"

"Money is the root of all evil"

There are also common teachings in Christianity that never came from the Bible either. The idea that we have a soul which can exist apart from our body is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Keeping Sunday as a sacred day of worship isn't in there either. Going straight to heaven or hell at death is also not in there because the whole idea that we are immortal and go on living forever in some place in some form no matter what our choices were here in this life is also not in the Bible.

The biggest reason why the disciples and everyone else argued with and disagreed with Jesus on so many issues is because they got their beliefs from religion and culture rather than from God's word. That's why Jesus said back in chapter 8 "You will know the truth and the truth will make you free and you will be free indeed."

The little misunderstanding about John living forever illustrates how easily and quickly we jump to conclusions and then build a whole belief system around our assumptions and false conclusions.

Jesus came as a Light, to illuminate the darkness, replace error with truth, and lies with promises. He loved everyone so much that He refused to leave us in our confusion and misconceptions. Truth matters. Ultimately it matters most because everything we believe says something true or false about the character of God.

I'm asking us to do two things. First we must be willing to expose all our beliefs to the test of God's word. Secondly we need to guard continually against jumping to false conclusions based on half truths mixed with large helpings of speculation.

Imagine someone losing their faith in God because John died when Jesus said he would live forever... Truth matters. Tell the truth always. Check everything you hear to make sure how true or untrue it is and most of all get familiar with what Jesus actually said about life and death and love and hope. He alone has the words of eternal life.

Friday, 26 February 2016

John Day 281 - Yes I'm Angry

21:20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”
22 Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”
23 Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?”

My dad says a person with a chip on their shoulder is a sign of wood higher up. I must have a head full of wood because I have a huge chip on my shoulder. Why? Because after nearly two decades of pastoring and four decades of life I have seen over and over again that too many of us get our best exercise from jumping to conclusions. John reveals that this is not a new phenomenon.

I have to admit I am literally amazed sometimes by how tiny a piece of information people need to come up with the most detailed and elaborate stories. It started for me when I was in grade six. On a Sunday afternoon my friend and I built a zip line from the roof of his 2 storey garage down to the deck on the back of his house. We made several exhilarating trips before disaster struck. I jumped off the roof ready to zip down to the deck when the harness snapped and I went crashing to the ground about 20 feet below. I can still see the cloudy sky above me as I lay on the ground with the wind knocked out of me struggling to breathe.

My parents came and got me and took me to the hospital. They kept me overnight for observation and released me in the morning. Not a scratch to show for my adventure. When I got to school on Monday afternoon the rumor was that I was in a full body cast.

Twelve years ago a tumor was discovered in my bladder. Long story but God healed me in such a way that my surgeon just shook his head and said it was clearly a miracle. Shortly after the diagnosis I heard from a church member that they heard I had a brain tumor and only months to live.

Those rumors were silly and thankfully harmless but many are not. We hear a juicy piece of info or see two people talking or whatever else might be the trigger and we create a scenario and then share it as if it is truth. The next person refines or adds to the story and before long a single piece of information taken out of context or interpreted to be more than it was becomes a runaway snow ball.
The point Jesus was making to Peter had nothing to do with how long John was going to live. The point was that John's life had zero to do with Peter's task which was to follow Jesus.

Gossiping is not limited to a certain class, age group, or gender either. You will note that only grown men in leadership were privy to what Jesus said that day on the beach. The source of the ridiculous rumour that John would never die was them.

The chip on my shoulder is this: If you didn't see Johnny and Susie in the baby maker position why are you telling Tim that they were? If you didn't hear Ben telling Joe that he killed his wife and her body is buried under the barn floor why are you helping spread the rumour? In fact even if you did see or hear anything of the sort why are you telling people who can't do anything about it and never needed to know in the first place? If a significant portion of your sentences begin with "Did you hear...?" you need to get on your knees and pray for a new vocabulary and some divine discernment. If you think you know about a crime speak to law enforcement. If you heard a rumour about Susie and Johnny then speak to them or speak to no one. Better yet tell the person who told you that you don't want to hear things like that.

Say about others only what you would want others to say about you...

1 Timothy 5
13 And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.

Proverbs 16
28 A perverse man sows strife,

And a whisperer separates the best of friends.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

John Day 280 - Looking Around or Looking Up?

21:18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you dressed yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not wish.” 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”
20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, (who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?”) 21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”

We ended yesterday with Peter being presented with his future if he decided to "Feed His sheep" and "Follow Him". The picture Jesus painted was not glamorous. It wasn't even safe but boring. It certainly wasn't a future anyone would plan for themselves and it was definitely not the victorious kingdom ending he had envisioned the first time he agreed to "Follow Me".

We are not told how long the silent pause was before Peter said anything. Typically Peter was quick to speak but I just have this feeling there was a long thoughtful pause this time. When he does speak it's a question: "What about him?"

It kind of reminds me of my children. When we ask one of them to do something they don't want to do they often respond with "What about ________? What is she/he doing?"

Why do we ask those kinds of questions. One possible answer is "misery loves company". However I believe it is even more concise than that. We love company. Before there was ever sin on this planet God declared "It is not good for man to be alone." We were designed for companionship. Our ability to endure hardship is more than doubled when we have someone to walk through it with us.

"Two draft horses pulling together cannot pull twice as much as one. They can actually pull three times as much. Two draft horses that can each pull 8,000 pounds alone can pull 24,000 pounds working together. The horses are teaching us a very clear lesson in teamwork..." (Horse Sense - Jim Stovall)

God Himself has modeled 2 by 2 all through Scripture. Moses with Aaron followed by Moses with Joshua and Aaron with Hur. When Jesus sent the disciples out it was always in pairs. Later He sent 70 out to do ministry and again it was in pairs. In the book of Acts as we shall soon see they traveled in teams of at least 2.

Considering two heads are better than one and that the Bible says a cord of three strands is not easily broken it is surprising how Jesus responds to Peter's question.

"That's none of your business even if he lives forever. You must follow Me."

It seems almost rude but we know it can't be. Jesus is love. Everything He says or does is rooted in love.

Just yesterday someone was upset and basically wanted to know if other people would be made to suffer as they were suffering. It's almost instinctive. However there is a danger in this thinking. When we look at others and what they are doing or not doing/experiencing or not experiencing guess where we are not looking?

I used to work at summer camp. Without fail as the weeks passed and fatigue set in invariably the kitchen staff and the counselors would all become convinced that they each worked harder and longer than the others. It wasn't fair that the kitchen staff had to start so early. It wasn't fair that when the counselors were working all day the kitchen staff had time to hang out on the beach. The irony of it all was no matter which side of the argument any of us were on we applied for and signed up for the job we had. The jobs were different and the hours were different but it was our choice.

Jesus was not addressing companionship or teamwork. He was making it clear to Peter that the calling was to follow Him, not anyone else. In doing so the path may differ a little or a lot from the path others were on. None of that mattered. The call was to follow Jesus.

If you read Hebrews 11 you quickly saw that no two paths are the same. Some paths were quite "successful". Others were called to suffer and die. Each path was critical and each person contributed to the success of God's plan to save as many of us as possible.

Remember what Jesus said: "In this world you will have trouble but be of good cheer because I have overcome the world." If we stick to following Him we will end up with Him in victory no matter how this life goes.

"What is that to you? You follow Me." - Jesus

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

John Day 279 - What does "Follow Me" mean?

21:18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you dressed yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not wish.” 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

Follow Me...

What does it mean to follow Jesus? It's a simple yet complex question. What makes it the most complex is actually what is happening in our own head. For Peter following Jesus was about far more than anything Jesus said or promised. Jesus represented centuries of finely crafted and fine-tuned expectations passed on from generation to generation. Jesus was not just a man, He was the Messiah. For the Jews and that included Peter, He was the best of all the Jewish kings of the past combined and then some. There is no historical figure in any era to compare Jesus to that would begin to illustrate the expectations the Jewish people had. Gone would be the power and control of the Romans. Gone would be their subjection to anyone. They would become the greatest nation on earth. All other nations would be subject to them. Wealth would flow like the water in the Jordan River. Whatever we think of as heaven, they expected here on earth.

Now imagine Peter. He's one of the twelve. No he's one of the top three among the twelve. Talk about an inside track to greatness. Top three below the greatest man on earth. When Peter resisted every hint that Jesus would die you can begin to understand why.

See following Jesus is often far more about our expectations than it is about actually following Him.
That morning on that beach Jesus begins to paint a very different picture of what following Him will look like. Gone on the ticker tape parades. Gone are the palaces and servants. Gone is the wealth and fame. Gone is even the free, simple, peaceful life of a fisherman.

The picture Jesus paints is bleak and ends in death, not the ordinary death of old age that awaits us all but a forced death by the hands of enemies long before his time. He ends with the same two words He used to call Peter on perhaps the exact same beach over three years earlier - "Follow Me."

What does it mean to follow Jesus? It means being a foreigner on the same soil that used to be home. It means being a stranger to many who used to be friends. It can mean being an enemy target among those who used to be on your side. It can mean broken relationships, shattered expectations, and having our eyes and hearts opened to a whole new reality we never saw or even considered before.

What else does following Jesus mean? It means being loved on a level never conceived of. It means understanding our identity and purpose far beyond any scope this world offers. It means understanding history on a scale that stretches from eternity past to eternity future rather than from birth to the grave. It means understanding life is not about what you get from this world but what you give to it, about what you see in others that is praiseworthy and redeemable rather than what's wrong with them. It's about spreading hope instead of fear, love instead of hate, and grace instead of revenge.

It's all that and so much more. Read Hebrews 11 again to see what a life given to Jesus might look like. You'll find there is no cookie cutter answer. His mission for you will unfold with greater understanding as you take each step. Don't worry so much about the final destination. Just take whatever step He puts in front you.

"Follow Me"

The first time Peter thought he was following a man to greatness. Now he's invited to follow the same Man to a cross, his own cross. Will he go?

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

John Day 278 - Free To Quit...

21:18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you dressed yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not wish.” 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”
20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”
22 Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”

Before we can really dig into this we need to clarify some language. The terminology of 'getting dressed' in this passage has a direct correlation to work or occupation that we don't pick up in the translation. If you remember when Elijah trained and anointed Elisha to take his place the last thing he did was give him his mantle or outer garment. It was a simple gesture but carried great meaning. Today in our culture we are more apt to "pass the torch". In both cases the one who was in a certain position of responsibility is shifting that responsibility to someone else.

What Jesus is saying to Peter is that in the past and in the present he has been free to choose his mantle or torch. However the day is coming when that freedom will be taken from him and a mantle of death will be placed on his shoulders and he will, like Jesus, die with outstretched arms. The Bible never tells us how Peter died but history does. All historical sources agree he died by crucifixion in Rome. Origen adds that Peter refused to die as Jesus did, feeling himself unworthy, and was granted to be crucified upside down.

Now that we have that background information I want you to join me in picturing the scene. They are on the beach. Jesus has re-enacted key moments in their times together. A miraculous catch of fish, the meal of fish and bread, the charcoal fire and the three questions. Three times Jesus has invited Peter back into ministry with the call "Feed My sheep". I try and put myself in Peter's sandals but I struggle. The moment is intense and I get a sense of reeling and conflicting emotions.

Peter had taken off the mantle of ministry with Jesus and gone back to the simple life of a fisherman. Anyone who has faced seemingly insurmountable challenges in their work has either quit or thought long and hard about it. Quitting has its benefits. The pressure is gone. The load is unhitched. The torch belongs to someone else. If you have gone downhill skiing you know the liberating feeling of removing those clunky uncomfortable boots after a long day.

However it's not always that simple is it? Some journeys you can't quit, some tasks can't be laid down, and some torches can't be passed. An illness is certainly a burden heavy to carry that can't be laid down. Like many things in life some things are relatively simple to walk away from, others are impossible and there is away whole spectrum of grey in between.

Peter was invited to follow Jesus. He was not forced or coerced. He chose to take up the mantle "follower of Jesus" and then he chose to lay it down and go back fishing. I wonder how that felt. Was it a relief? Was it expected to be a relief but instead was an aching emptiness? Was it one followed by the other?

Remember Peter leapt off the boat to get to the beach faster. It seems obvious whatever benefit Peter expected to receive from going back fishing never materialized.

Can we relate? Have we ever tried to quit or escape or go back to the familiar and comfortable only to find it wasn't comfortable anymore?

Maybe we're wrestling with quitting right now. Maybe we want to quit our job or flee the responsibility of parenting or the stresses of marriage. Maybe God has asked us to do something we think we can't face or don't want to face or feel unworthy to face.

Peter was free to quit and free to return. When he did return Jesus opened the future before him and we'll talk about that tomorrow...

Monday, 22 February 2016

John Day 277 - Intense Truth

21:17 Jesus said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep."

It amazes me how many times I think I am ready to move on to the next part of the Story and God says "Not so fast..."

I have just finished reading through Genesis with someone I am studying the Bible with. The last section of Genesis is the part of the Story when Joseph who is now Pharaoh's right hand man reveals himself to his brothers. Then he tells them to return home and bring back the entire family. The family moves to Egypt and the book ends with Joseph dying of old age and just prior makes his family promise that when they leave Egypt they will carry his bones with them.

The day Joseph reveals his true identity to his brothers they are gripped with fear. The source of the fear is guilt. The source of the guilt is their act of selling their little brother Joseph to slave traders and telling their father Jacob he was dead. Now they think Joseph will get his revenge. He assures them all is forgiven and he won't. Fast forward several years and the family has all been living in Egypt. Their father Jacob dies. Again the brothers are overcome by fear and guilt and worry that now Joseph will take his revenge. Again he reassures them all is forgiven.

Do you see a pattern?

Peter has denied his Messiah, the One who had him healing the sick and walking on water. The guilt is overwhelming him. Jesus is trying to help him move past the mountain of guilt and experience forgiveness. Peter is not there yet. Finally for the third time Jesus asks "Simon do you even love Me as a brother?"

The text tells us that the question itself grieved Peter. The word translated "grieved" is the strongest possible word choice in the Greek language signifying deep, intense, severe emotional pain.

Can I just say right here that walking with Jesus is not all sunshine and daisies. There have been times when I just closed the Book because it hurt too much to continue. There have been times when I was afraid to open the book because I was afraid of what He might say to me next. Why does Jesus do that? Why does He expose the most painful corners of our soul? Wouldn't it have been easier if Jesus had just hugged Peter and said "It's ok man. I forgive you. Just forget about it. It's all in the past."

Easier yes. More effective? No.

When my day was teaching me to sand on cars he showed me that you have to keep sanding until the spot is clean. A tiny rock chip when sanded down could be as large as a twonie or more beneath the remaining paint. Moisture travels from the tiny chip below the surface of the paint and rust is occurring that isn't exposed until you start sanding. It would be easier and faster not to expose all that hidden corrosion but what is hidden will always come out sooner or later unless it is dealt with.

Guilt is like rust and cancer. It works away at us from the inside out. Unless the source of the guilt is exposed and dealt with it continues to do it's destructive work. Jesus loved Peter too much to leave him in the condition he was in. Peter was stunted. He was regressing back to the man he was before he met Jesus. Guilt was literally killing him.

Peter needed radical intervention. The bleeding had to be stopped. The only way to stop the bleeding was to expose the wound. The wound was tricky. Peter himself was unclear where the source of the bleeding was. See Peter believed his worth was tied to his love for Jesus. He believed that his ability to love and be loyal to Jesus was where his value as a disciple was. That is why his failure to man up and support Jesus was so devastating. It wasn't just a mistake. It exposed him as having no value.

Jesus countered this false premise. He agreed with Peter that his love was weaker than he had thought. He agreed with Peter that his love for Him was at best flawed but He didn't stop there. He kept repeating "Feed My sheep."

Do you see it? Jesus is saying "Your love for Me might be flawed but My love for you is unchanged. I still love you and want you and have work for you to do. My love for you and your value to Me is not based on the quality or quantity or purity of your love for Me. It is unaffected by your failures or your resulting guilt and shame. You have nothing to fear from Me Simon Peter. There may still be some Simon in you. There may even be lots of Simon in you but My love isn't rooted in that."

At the end of the day I think this truth is the hardest one of all to believe and yet the most vital. We want so badly to find within ourselves some compelling reason for our worth. We want to earn the love of God and the acceptance of others but love isn't about that.

For so loved us that He gave His only Son. Whoever believes in His boundless unchangeable love that is rooted in His character and not ours will find in that love the capacity to truly live and that life will last forever untouched by the killer ravages of guilt and shame over what we are not.

Jesus loves us so much He is willing to go to the messiest, ugliest, most painful corners of our souls and do a work only He can do. He shines the Light of His love into our darkness so we can shine again.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

John Day 276 - Failure?

21:15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep."

Feed My lambs. Feed My sheep. What is Jesus talking about? Does He want Peter to take over Jesus' farm after He leaves? Clearly not since Jesus never owned anything. What then? Feed the other disciples? They are self-sufficient grown men. Feed who? Feed them what?

On Friday evening we had some people over to celebrate the Sabbath and share a meal. One of them was a new guest visiting from out of town. He hadn't been here long when he said to my wife Tracey "You know about my wheat allergy right?" She didn't. However being the graceful hostess she is she evaluated what she had made that he could eat and then scanned our fridge and pantry for what she could substitute in for the things he couldn't eat. Guess what? Her only options were the food items we had on hand. She could not offer what we did not have.

Without beating around the bush I am going to go straight to the point. Humanity is the sheep. We are His lambs. The Scriptures repeat this theme of Jesus being the Great Shepherd and we His sheep over and over. The food we the sheep eat is actually Him - "I Am the bread that comes down from heaven" said Jesus.

Nothing earth shattering here. What's the big deal?

Peter was being asked to get back in the saddle after his complete and utter denial of Jesus. What sense does that make? Why would you reinstate a complete failure and ask him to do what he will only fail at as soon as the heat gets turned up? I mean if we can only offer to others what we ourselves have what in the world is Peter going to feed anyone? Failure? Treason? Self-preservation? Quitting? Breaking down under pressure?

What does Jesus see in snub nosed Simon that I'm missing?

Once upon a time I failed in a way I never thought I would fail. I did something I never thought I would do. The thought of it still brings me pain. Although forgiven the scar remains. It caused me to question myself on the deepest levels. In a single word it humbled me.

Humility is defined as, "A quality by which a person considering his own defects has a humble opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others for God's sake." St. Bernard defines it as, "A virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself."

The irony is that before the cross Peter appeared successful and useful but after the denials at the cross appears a weak, shameful, traitorous shell of a man who can in no way serve God in any significant way. The truth is the complete opposite. Prior to the cross Peter was a full and complete man but full of himself. Pride was his food and self was his master but he couldn't see it. He couldn't see past the end of his own snub nose.

Now that he has come face to face with his true self and has seen how strong and reliable he actually is (isn't) he is in a new place. A humble place. A place of self-distrust.

"Lord You know all things..."

The arrogance is gone. The boasting is gone. The grand promises are gone. The arguing is gone. When Peter opens his fridge and cupboards now he finds nothing of himself to feed a hungry guest. Instead he finds shelves lined with "Lord You know all things..."

Remember the woman from the wrong side of the tracks who had had five husbands and was living with a sixth and Jesus came to her in her pain and shame and offered her living water and eternal life? Remember what she fed the villagers when she returned to town? "Come and see a Man who knows everything I have ever done (and loves me anyway). She "fed Jesus" to the "sheep" in her town.

Peter is finally in a place where though he appears finished is actually in a place where he can feed people what they so desperately need - Jesus

Jesus has a way of turning our disasters into the beginning of something infinitely better...

Saturday, 20 February 2016

John Day 275 - What's in a Name?

21:15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep."

If you have never studied the use of names in the Bible you are missing out. Many of the prominent characters went through a name change. Their parents gave them one name and God gave them a new one. In our culture we mostly name our children based on how a name sounds to us. However in many cultures still today and through much of the various Biblical eras names were chosen for their meaning.

For example Elijah means "Yahweh is my God." His successor was Elisha which means "God is my salvation".

Jacob was born clinging to the heel of his twin brother and his parents named him "usurper" which is what Jacob means. Later God changed his name to Israel which means "God wrestled" and in the context God told Jacob "I am changing your name to Israel because you have wrestled with Me and overcome."

What did Jacob overcome? His flawed character as an underhanded usurper and the mountain of guilt that had piled up as a result.

In the simplest of terms 'name' is a reference to character and when God transforms our character He changes our name to reflect it. In fact the book of Revelation says we're all getting a new name.

Now back to Simon Peter. When they met Peter's name was Simon. Simon is a fascinating name. In Hebrew it means "to hear or he has heard" and in Greek it means "snub nosed". Peter means "rock or stone"

As in the conversation between Peter and Jesus we are reading today both names are used often and almost interchangeably with him unless you are really paying attention. You see Simon is the man Jesus met. Simon is the character of the man before Jesus entered his life. Peter is the man Jesus intended for Simon to become. Before meeting Jesus Simon was quick to hear and quick to react. We have an expression in English "can't see past the end of his own nose." Simon (snub or short nose) yet still couldn't see past it. If anyone was going to argue with Jesus it was Simon Peter. He heard everything Jesus said but could only see his own perspective on it. This made him volatile and unstable, always acting first and thinking later. Jesus changed his name to Peter: rock - stable - steady - firm.

Changing a name is quick and relatively simple. Changing a character is not.

When Simon heard Jesus say "you will betray Me" he couldn't see past his snub nose. All he saw in the mirror was strength and loyalty and rugged determination. In his own mind he was a rock yet when Jesus needed him to be a rock he rolled away. See who we think we are and who we really are, they often don't match.

Jesus turned to him and said "Simon (always hearing but never seeing the truth) do you love me more than these?"

Did you catch that? Jesus didn't just question the quality of his love but questioned it in contrast to the other disciples. Why? Because Simon Peter had claimed his was superior.

Jesus is painfully tearing off the blinders. Simon can hear but he can't see past his own nose and worse than that what he thinks he sees is entirely inaccurate. Essentially Simon is somewhere in between blind and delusional. Simon thinks he is a rock but Jesus knows He needs The Rock.

Jesus keeps addressing Simon and Peter keeps answering. Is that confusing? It kind of is but you will notice that the answers indicate Simon Peter is not just hearing what Jesus is saying but is starting to see past the end of his own nose. Prior to the ordeal at the cross Simon Peter would have insisted in the most forceful terms that his love for Jesus was agape love - the deepest truest most loyal love. Now he acknowledges that is not the case. Now he is seeing past his own nose and relying on the superior wisdom and knowledge of The Rock. "Lord You know all things..."

Simon is who he was when he met Jesus. Peter is who he is becoming, a man that knows Who the real Rock is.

For now he is Simon Peter - a man in transition, a man undergoing transformation - a work in progress.

The best part? The Rock has remained unmoved through the entire turbulent ordeal. He is the Potter and we are the clay and our Rock is a Potter that never quits.

Friday, 19 February 2016

John Day 274 - You Don't Love Me

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
21:17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep."

Where do we begin? From yesterday you'll notice Jesus repeats His question 3 times. Peter had denied knowing Him 3 times at the cross. That's an obvious parallel. However there is much more going on here. There is the name Jesus uses to address Him - Simon. We'll talk about that tomorrow. Today we'll specifically look at the conversation between them. Unfortunately much got lost in the translation. The Greeks have several words for love/affection. The highest most complete love is agape. The next is phileo. This is brotherly affection. It's a strong love but not agape love. Then there is eros which is sexual love. We might call it lust but it's more wholesome and genuine than lust.

Phileo is half of Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love is a compound word. Adelphos is brother.

Jesus says to Simon (Peter) "Do you agape Me?"
Peter answers "Yes Lord, You know I phileo You".
Jesus repeats the exact same question. Peter gives the exact same answer.
The third time Jesus says "Simon do you phileo me?"

This time Peter is grieved. The question literally pains him. Jesus has downgraded His question. He is now questioning if Peter even loves Him as a brother.

Peter's answer is interesting. "Lord You know everything. You know that I phileo you."

It had not been that long ago that Peter swore he would stand by Jesus no meter what. He would die for Him even if all the other disciples fled. He professed the deepest most loyal love possible. Within 24 hours he watched Jesus die while denying he even knew who He was.

As if Jesus mere presence wasn't a painful enough reminder, Jesus lit a charcoal fire. The same fire Peter had stood by while the cursing and denials fell from his traitorous lips. As if that wasn't painful enough Jesus re-enacted the morning Peter had first chosen to leave his fishing life behind and follow Jesus. And if those three tangible reminders weren't enough now Jesus asks him three times about his love for Him.

The fascinating part is Peter's response. Gone is the bravado. Gone are the big claims of super heroism. Without being pushed he acknowledges that his love is less than he had claimed or believed. When Jesus pushes him by repeating the question Peter stands by his answer. The third time Jesus challenges Peter's downgraded answer. "Are you sure you even love Me as a brother?"

The question hurts. It hurts because when he said he would stand by Jesus no matter what and even die for Him if need be he meant it. He believed it was true. Then he found out very painfully that none of it was true. Peter's opinion of himself was wrong. He couldn't trust his own self-evaluation. 

Think about that...

The entire ordeal and what he took away from it humbled him. When Jesus asked him about his love for Jesus he knew it was less than he had originally claimed. Jesus repeats the question and again Peter confesses his love is less than... but the third time Jesus questions even the downgraded answer Peter had given. In essence Jesus is asking "Are you sure you even love Me that much?"

The question cut like a knife.

"Lord You know all things..."

What a contrast from Jesus declaring:

"You will all be offended because of Me and will scatter" to which Peter bravely and defiantly responds "No way Jesus, not Me. I will stand with You no matter what. I will die for you."

Peter's false, even delusional opinion of himself has been shattered. His opinion of what Jesus knows to be the truth has been seriously upgraded. Put plainly Peter has far less trust in himself and far more trust in Jesus and that is a fantastic thing.

"Lord You know all things..."

If God says my own heart is "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked" I have two choices. I can deny it and profess my great loyalty, love, and bravado, or I can trust His evaluation of me.

Sooner or later the truth will come out no matter which option I choose. Tomorrow will go deeper and the news will get much better. 

Thursday, 18 February 2016

John Day 273 - Why So Many 3's?

21:13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. 14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.

Three strikes and you're out. Third time is a charm. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Everything happens in threes.

That's just a quick sampling of some of the common sayings we have around the number three. It turns out the number 3 pops up a lot in the Bible as well. Actually a lot is an understatement - it's hundreds of times.

Jesus was tempted 3 times. He predicted His death and resurrection 3 different times. He prayed in the garden three times. He was questioned by the authorities three times (The High Priest, Pilate and Herod). He was put on the cross at the 3rd hour, darkness came over the land for 3 hours and He was "in the heart of the earth" for three days and three nights just as Jonah had been in the fish for 3 days and 3 nights.

Now He is risen and this morning meal on the beach is the third time He has visited the disciples and John specifically points it out. Why?

Like yesterday I have a theory. You can do what you wish with it. I am certainly not saying "this is definitely the answer".

Abraham built three altars that we are told about spread over decades of time. Each time he had an encounter with God but it was at the third altar and after the third encounter that God said "Now I know that you trust Me."

Moses met God at a burning bush that wasn't actually being burned and God asked him to return to Egypt to lead His people out of bondage. Three times Moses resisted with excuses. Three miraculous signs were given Moses to show him God would be with him. It was after the third sign that Moses consented to go.

It was after the third temptation that Satan left Jesus alone.

There is something about the third time that breaks down resistance, or establishes resistance, or effects a change. Why that is I am not sure but it is a definite pattern in Scripture and we have adopted it into our culture. "I'll give you three tries." "You have three guesses." "I'm going to give him the 3rd degree"

Here is my practical take away from all this. When facing a challenge or dealing with another person over a difficult matter or trying to establish truth in a situation I will use the pattern of three. Three tries, three visits, three attempts to verify the truth.

One thing I have learned is that I don't need to fully understand something in order to use it. If God says the third time is often the clincher then so be it. After three strikes it seems we're either all in or all out. Tomorrow we'll see what effect Jesus' third visit had and discover another set of threes along the way.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

John Day 272 - Who Are You?

21:12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.
14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.

Weird right? No one dared to ask "Who are You?" Because they already knew it was Him. Why would there be a desire to ask or that tidbit even mentioned if they clearly knew who He was? And how did they know Who He was if they couldn't tell by looking?

You will recall that when Mary met Him near the tomb she did not recognize Him until He spoke her name. When He came into the locked room to see the disciples for the first time they didn't recognize Him until He revealed His scars. The same was repeated for Thomas the 2nd time He came to visit the disciples. Now at this third encounter there still seems to be some question/uncertainty about His identity. When you factor in the other gospels it becomes obvious that Jesus does not look the same after His resurrection. In Luke He walks miles to Emmaus with two men who were followers of His, describing to them from the Scriptures all the references to the Messiah and His mission. However it wasn't until they invited Him into their home as a stranger and He sat down to eat with them that they recognized it was Jesus. In fact it was when he broke bread that they clued in to who He was. Did they see His scars when He raised His hands to tear the loaf? Had they eaten with Him enough previously that they saw in His mannerisms Who He was?

From all of this one thing is for sure. Jesus was different in physical appearance after He rose. This begs the question why? It is a question we either have no answer for or have not yet found the answer. I do have a theory though.

There is a theme through the Bible of the superficial versus the inner man. The prophet Samuel wrote thousands of years ago we look at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. It was said in the context of a new king being selected from among the sons of Jesse to replace Saul. Saul had been chosen with enthusiasm because he was tall and handsome. He turned out to be a failure because the inner man didn't match the external packaging.

Samuel is called by God to select a new king from among the many sons of Jesse. Samuel goes from the oldest to the youngest and judging by appearances feels they are all suitable yet God said no to each of them. Finally Samuel asks if Jesse has any more sons. He confesses he has one more. He is young and not particularly tall nor handsome. By all appearances he has no attributes of a king. His name was David. He became the greatest human king Israel ever had. Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks on the heart.

Studies show tall men are more successful than short men. Slim fit looking people are more successful than those who are heavier. Just look at those chosen as models to advertise everything from clothing to facial creams and you can see how obsessed we are with externals.

Isaiah 53 tells us that Jesus the man born of Mary grew up to be nothing but ordinary or less. There was nothing about His appearance that drew people. He was not tall, dark, and handsome. Jesus was strong, tall, and handsome on the inside. People who took the time to listen to Him and spend time with Him recognized in Him a man like they had never "seen".

The resurrected Jesus looked different. Perhaps now He was tall, dark, and handsome. We'll find out for sure when He comes for us to take us Home.

This week I was asked (again) about jewelry. The Adventist Church has had a history of shunning or at least strongly discouraging the wearing of jewelry. Peter says we should be focused on inward beauty and not outward adornment. However Jesus said the Father put a ring on the finger of His prodigal son and that there will be crowns in heaven. Clearly jewelry isn't evil. Like with so many things we grasped onto a rule but forgot the principle.

Allow me to say this. The time for external beauty will come. God created beauty and there is nothing wrong with it. However I have two distinct sets of clothing. One for rough labour (gardening, mechanic work, woodworking etc...) and presentable clothes for when appearance trumps function. Right now we live in a war zone and until we are Home the beauty of our inner person is infinitely more important than the beauty of the car we drive, the house we live in, or the clothes/jewelry we wear.

When God has rescued us from sin and death and made us new creatures in Him people may take a second look but it won't be because we have on designer shoes or are driving a cool car. They will know we are His because we love as He loved. Then when this war called life on this earth is over Jesus will make our outside match the beauty He has already formed on the inside.

It's just a theory. What do you think?

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

John Day 271 - Bizarre Details

21:11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken.

As a pastor I have often been asked questions about the Bible for which there are no answers. Most of the time they are details about characters in the Bible. Questions like "Did any of the disciples have children?" or "Does the Bible say anything about cremation?" The truth is the Bible is short on details and the stories are for the most part very brief. After all covering thousands of years of history in a single book affords little room for detail.

This being the case it always intrigues me when bizarre, seemingly unnecessary, and apparently meaningless details are included. Did John really need to tell us they caught 153 large fish or that the net didn't break? I spent some time this morning chasing the number 153 but I'm not into numerology nor do I believe God's Book was ever meant to be complicated. For that reason I took a step back and looked at it again. The number of fish is linked directly to the net and the fact it didn't tear. This fact is pointed out meaning they fully expected it to break but it didn't. They fully expected it to break because of the 153 large fish. The net wasn't designed for such a large haul. Logically the stress and pressure of the ordeal should have torn it.

Are you seeing where this is going?

Peter and the others have just been through an experience with Jesus that would have ended most relationships. The stress and pressure of ordeal was enough to tear them apart forever. Most civilizations treat treason as on offense punishable by death. The offense was so bad that Peter and the others didn't need Jesus to tell them they were done as His disciples. They just quietly went back to their old life on their own.

For me that is the lesson of the 153 large fish and the net that never broke. "The kingdom of heaven is like a net..." No matter how much we resist, flipping and flopping, and struggling to have our own way and trust in our own ways and ideas God continues to gather us in. His relentless, some would even say reckless love, is unperturbed by us. Not a strand of the net is even frayed. No matter how heavy the weight of the sins that so easily entangle us the net can handle it.

Jesus through the coal fire of purifying forgiveness and the bread and fish which represents His ability to bring something from nothing and now with the unbreakable net is surrounding all their senses with one clarion message. "I still love you. I still want you. I still have plans for you. Our relationship is not broken. You are still mine."

A final thought is this: A net can be seen as an instrument of deceit and force. Fish are caught unwillingly and taken where they don't want to go. However Jesus doesn't fish for men like that. He called the 12. They didn't have to come. He suggested they cast their net on the other side. They didn't have to listen or obey. They came to shore of their own free will.

God is not a God of force. He just wants us to know that the net of His love and grace is indestructible.

Monday, 15 February 2016

John Day 270 - I Have Nothing To Offer...

21:9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”
11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.”

Bread and fish. Turns out the charcoal fire was not the only trip down memory lane that Jesus wanted to take them on. These men were spent. They had promised Jesus everything and delivered nothing. Twice He had visited them already offering grace and forgiveness but still the cloud of doubt, guilt, shame, and fear followed them like a London fog.

The bread and fish: Where did He get them? Of course this was not new. Jesus was always getting something from nothing. Twice at least He had fed thousands with a few loaves and fishes. In fact the more they gave Him the less people He fed. Flip the math and the less we give Him the more He can do. Both times His disciples had thought the task impossible. How could they feed so many with so little? What they had seen as the problem was precisely the point. It was impossible. Review the Bible Story. Abraham having a son with Sarah? Impossible. Jacob recovering from his shameful lying and under handedness? Impossible. Joseph rising to a position where his entire family would bow to him? Impossible. The Israelites escaping the bondage of Egypt? Impossible. Crossing the Red Sea? Impossible. The list is endless and the point always the same. If you trust Me I can and will do the impossible in you and for you.

We live in a world where we are only valued for what we can produce. Because of this the most vulnerable are cast aside. The challenge facing Jesus at that moment on that beach was a challenge He faces with humanity over and over again. "How can I convince them of their value to Me when they see no value in themselves?"

It's not a simple task. If He leaves us in the prevailing delusion that we can do anything and the power is within us we will ultimately discover the well is dry and crash. That is exactly what happened to Peter at that charcoal fire. All his grandiose bravado went up in smoke and he was left with his nothingness. Now Jesus has to take the shell of a man he now sees himself to be and make him realize that it's not the end of the Story. Peter and the others need to grasp that their lack does not negate or limit the power of God to turn that nothingness into a feast for thousands.

"Bring Me some of your fish. Bring Me what I supplied to you when you could produce nothing yourself. I want you to see and understand that I still plan to invest in you and make your nothingness into a ever flowing supply of food for the starving world around you."

See it's not really about bread and fish at all. It's about pouring Himself into the willing so that they I turn can pour themselves into the empty creating a chain of limitless supply to meet every need. The people of God could be the mist powerful force on earth. Only two things prevent it. Either we attempt to give from an empty well of promises and bravado backed by nothing of substance or we receive the true "goods" from God but hoard them to ourselves leaving us stagnant and repugnant and ultimately producing death.

We live in a world that believes two fundamental lies. One is that we only have value based on what we can produce. This leads to false bravado followed by the inevitable crash.

The second lie is that success is defined by what we get when the truth is that love and meaning and happiness are in what we give. Jesus gave Peter the fish and then asked for them back so He could in turn give them back to Peter. Giving produces life. Hoarding produces death. Loving the person makes them blossom into more than they ever imagined possible. Loving only what they can produce reduces them to nothing.

These men have come face to face with their own lack. Now Jesus is infusing them with new life, His love. He is investing where they wouldn't even invest themselves and the results will be amazing. Watch as the Story continues to unfold...

Sunday, 14 February 2016

John Day 269 - Coals of Fire

21:7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

A fire of coals. When Peter saw it, it must have caused him to hesitate. There was no grand reunion. There was no throwing himself at Jesus' feet as he had done 3 years earlier. In fact even though Peter arrives first at the fire made with coals his arrival is not mentioned at all.
Do you remember the fire made with coals? The last time Peter was at a coal fire he was standing with the enemies of Christ while He hung on a cross swearing to them that he never knew the man.
Seems almost poetically cruel. Surely Jesus could have used wood for the fire but He did not. Why? I believe the answer has three parts.
1, To truly heal and grow we must begin at the root of the problem. Denial is easy at first but the thing denied is like a cloud overhead or the proverbial elephant in the room. To truly move on from a place of pain the source of that pain must be dealt with completely. The source of Peter's guilt and shame was the events that transpired around a coal fire. He had to face that and Jesus knew it. He loves us enough to walk us through our pain rather than slap a band-aid over it and pretend it doesn't exist.
2, There is another significant place where there is a coal fire. The altar in the temple is fueled by a coal fire. It is the epicenter of forgiveness. It the place where every guilty man comes to confess and seek the release from his guilt and shame.
3, The 3rd coal fire which I believe applies in this case is in Isaiah 54:16 where God declares that the blacksmith uses a coal fire to make whatever instrument he chooses.
It is true Peter has done wrong. He must face it. It is also true God has a solution. It is also true God has a purpose for Peter still. The fire of his pain, shame, guilt and fear coupled with the skill of the Blacksmith will fashion him into a weapon for the Kingdom.
There is one final common reference to coals of fire in the Bible. They are used symbolically to purify. Jesus is surgically operating on Peter one step at a time, reenacting his original call, his subsequent fall, and about to make another call.
Peter is not alone in his journey. I'm thankful for the love of a relentless God who deals with every dark and shameful corner of my life and never allows my lack to limit His plans for me.
That's why He calls it Good News.