From Simon into Peter

Andrew brought Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter or stone).
(John 1:42)

You are Simon…but you shall be called Peter. Simon did not know what this meant or what it would require of him. Jesus, however, saw the man he would be one day. Jesus looked at Simon and saw Peter.

Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter… (Mark 3:16).

Transformed men…transformed names.

God is good at name changes, and when He does that, it always involves a growth process. For Jacob to become Israel, he had to wrestle with God. Jacob limped for the rest of his life because of that experience, but he became Israel (Genesis 32). The Jewish persecutor of Christians named Saul became Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. Before Christ, Saul had his own righteousness and did everything in his power to fight Christ (Philippians 3:9; Acts 26:9). Paul had the righteousness of God and walked with Christ. Abram meant “father,” but Abraham meant “father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17). Abram had great faith, but God grew an even stronger, unwavering faith in Abraham.

God is seeking to transform us, men. God gave us all a new name when we came to Christ…Christian. That means we belong to Christ, we are followers of Christ. With that name change comes wonderful blessings, but we will also be transformed. In order for the Potter to turn the clay into a vessel for honor, He will have to get His hands dirty molding and shaping you. It will be uncomfortable at times, no doubt, but is it worth it?

We are going to spend several weeks, Lord willing, on Mondays, looking into the life of Peter. As men seeking to follow Christ and lead others, I believe we will be greatly benefited by considering his life.

Greater is He who is in you

You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4-6).

It may seem like evil is winning. We may groan, cry and sigh like Lot did over Sodom (2 Peter 2:8). Tears may flow down our eyes as they did for David and Jeremiah because people do not keep God’s law (Psalm 119:136; Jeremiah 9:1). Just as Elijah was tempted to despair, thinking he was all alone, we might begin to feel the same way (1 Kings 19).

Greater is He who is in you

In all of this, however, we must call our minds back to 1 John 4:4. Satan is not winning…Christ is victorious. The wickedness and evil people around you will not overwhelm and conquer you because God is in you. He is greater. God is greater than Satan. Do not despair. Please do not throw your hands up and ask, “What’s the use?”

If Jesus Christ lives within you, then you are overcoming the world. You can overcome the temptations of this world through Christ. With His strength you can withstand the blast of Satan’s blows. “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper…” (Isaiah 54:17). The Devil has thrown everything he has at God’s people and yet we still stand, because Jesus promised it (Matthew 16:18). Christ’s power, not our own, is working.

As I have heard many preachers say over the years about the book of Revelation, “I have read the end of the book and Jesus wins!”

“These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).

The Walks of Ephesians

Today let us meditate upon the walks of Ephesians.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

If you are a Christian, then God has created you in Christ Jesus for good works. We are a new creation! We were dead in sins, saved by the grace of God and cleansed by His blood. Through Christ we were raised up to sit in heavenly places, and now we have a God-given purpose. God wants us to walk a new walk…His walk. But just like we are taught to walk by our parents, we are being taught by God to walk in His works. He planned and designed these works from eternity for us.

The Walks of Ephesians

Read or listen to Ephesians 4-5. Meditate today on the walk of the Christian man.

Walk worthy (Ephesians 4:1-16). When we weigh in our hearts everything that God has done for us in Christ (see Ephesians 1-3), it should stir us up to give every last ounce of energy to this walk. Take note that Paul wrote this letter as a “prisoner of the Lord.” He gave every fiber of his being to Jesus. So should we.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.

Don’t walk like the world anymore (Ephesians 4:17-32). Paul makes a clear contrast in the book of Ephesians between our former life and our new life. There should be a distinct difference.

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind,

Walk in love (Ephesians 5:1-7). As Christ also has loved us. That is our pattern, model and example for love. Follow those footprints.

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

Walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8-14). God spoke to our hearts and said, “Let there be light” (2 Cor. 4:6). Jesus said we are the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:16). Others around us who are still walking in darkness must see this light (Philippians 2:15). When we walk as children of light, we expose the darkness for what it is (Eph. 5:11).

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.

Walk circumspectly (Ephesians 5:15-21). Circumspectly means literally to look all around you. Be careful, watchful and vigilant. We are fighting a war against Satan and the hosts of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). This is not a time to have our heads in the sand, is it?

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.

Trading Gold for Bronze

So Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, and took the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s palace. He took everything; he even took the golden shields which Solomon had made. Then King Rehoboam made shields of bronze in their place and committed them to the care of the commanders of the guard who guarded the door of the king’s house. As often as the king entered the house of the LORD, the guards came and carried them and then brought them back into the guards’ room (2 Chronicles 12:9-11).

Gold shields replaced with bronze shields. Gold in the Bible, and throughout history, is known for its great value and preciousness. Bronze is shiny and pretty, too, but it isn’t gold. Because Rehoboam had left God, God gave him over to Egypt, and things that were gold were now bronze. King Rehoboam traded God’s sacred things for lesser things. He gave up the holy things, the precious things, for things of much lesser value.

The Olympics are going on right now, and we can clearly appreciate this principle. Can you imagine Michael Phelps trading his 23 gold medals for 23 bronze medals? Would we be making such a big deal if he won 23 bronze medals? Nope. Interesting fact, he has won more Olympic gold medals in his lifetime than 62 other countries have won in the Olympics!

Fathers, this is a principle we can be teaching our children. Use the Olympics and this passage from 2 Chronicles 12 to show how Rehoboam traded gold for bronze.

Trading Gold for Bronze

This is a sermon I preached last Sunday, and here are the things I found in the Scripture about Rehoboam trading gold for bronze.

  1. He traded God’s ways for his own ways (2 Chronicles 12:1,14).
  2. He traded God’s strength for his own strength (2 Chronicles 12:1).
  3. He traded the wisdom of the elders for the wisdom of his peers (see 2 Chronicles 10:8,13). Those wise men had grey hairs for a reason, and he chose not to listen to them. His peers gave him the advice he really wanted to hear anyway, and he went with it.
  4. He traded the holy things for lesser things (2 Chronicles 12:9-11). He put bronze shields in the place of the gold shields. Think of how we do that in our lives today! Our minds are to be holy, fill them with gold. Our bodies are to be holy, they belong to God, treat them like they’ve been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). Don’t trade down…don’t settle for things of lesser value.
  5. He traded serving God for serving man. God let him experience the “difference” between serving God and serving the masters of men (2 Chronicles 12:8). Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is light. We often do not learn that until we see how cruel the masters of this world are to us.

Don’t trade gold for bronze. Just like Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of stew, we can give up very special things for things that in the end are of no value at all. Go for gold!

Problems with People Pleasing

What is a people pleaser? What are the problems with people pleasing?

You seek to take away any conflict, any negative emotion, or any discomfort of those around you.  Life for you consists of exhausting yourself to make everyone around you happy. Serve any need. Anytime someone asks you to do anything, you say “Yes.” The thought of saying “No” brings such stress and anxiety because you do not want to disappoint people or hurt their feelings. That might translate to people not liking you…perish the thought! They will not accept you or approve of you, and that is the last thing in the world you want. You would rather be bankrupt and bedridden as a result of sacrificing yourself than to entertain the thought of saying “No” to those around you.

If those words define you, then my friend, you are a people pleaser.

For some, this isn’t a problem, but for others it is like a disease or an addiction. It brings great damage to relationships. A people-pleasing husband will seek to avoid conflict and uncomfortable conversations with his wife. He will just keep serving and enabling her hurtful behavior. Any negative emotion she has, he tries to deal with quickly to eliminate it. What results is an illusion of harmony, not intimacy. A people-pleasing father will try to be his kid’s best friend and buddy, because he wants to avoid any negative emotions. He wants his children to like him, but it results in them not respecting him.

The people pleaser will be the person that everyone says is a great guy and has a servant’s heart. Inside, however, he is falling apart. His bitterness and resentment is growing because he feels like others constantly take advantage of him. He smiles on the outside and is the dutiful soldier to give of himself, but is his heart really in it?

I am going to write more about this next Tuesday, men, but for now I want you to meditate on a question:

What is the difference between being a people-pleaser and being a sacrificial servant of Christ?

I do not run aimlessly

I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:23-27).

Running aimlessly…that certainly does not apply to Usain Bolt. He just won his third Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter dash. He runs with a purpose and a laser-like focus on winning the prize. That is precisely the kind of mindset that Paul is saying we as Christians need to have.

Aimlessly is translated in other versions as “uncertainty.” Living without certainty is a sad life indeed, but for the Christian it is dangerous. We are not shadow-boxing, we are fighting the Devil. This isn’t tee-ball, this is a spiritual battle against the hosts of darkness.

We need certainty, men. We need to fight and run with a purpose.

Let us run this race with certainty…

Run this race with certainty in the promises of a God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Our hope in His promises is an anchor tied directly to heaven, both sure and steadfast (Hebrews 6:17-20).

Fix your eyes on the One, Jesus Christ, who ran this race before you (Hebrews 6:20; 12:1-2).

Focus on the prize, the eternal reward before you (Hebrews 10:35-39).

As you run, be certain of the truth of God’s word (Luke 1:4; 2 Timothy 3:14).

Remember where you came from, and the Savior who brought you to where you are now (1 Corinthians 15:10; John 9:25).

Run with endurance; do not give up, and do not give in, because it is worth it (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)!

Some were persuaded and some disbelieved

Last night, I went with a few other Christians to hear a preacher present a great lesson on “Can We All Understand the Bible Alike?” One of the passages he referenced in his sermon was Acts 28, which is an account of Paul arriving in Rome. Please take time to read the passage below and notice why some did not receive Paul’s message. You can see that it had nothing to do with God’s word or it being impossible to understand.

“But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.

And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: “‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen” (Acts 28:22-28).

Some were persuaded and some disbelieved

What did Paul do? He expounded, he testified and tried to convince them about what the Scriptures said. The message of Jesus was clearly and reasonably presented to the crowd that day.

Take note that some were convinced, but others disbelieved. They did not agree “among themselves.” There was religious division among them. So, what was the problem? Was Paul’s teaching too hard to understand? No, Paul quoted Isaiah in saying they had “closed” their eyes and that their hearts had grown dull. It had nothing to do with the message. The problem was their eyes, ears and hearts.

Lord, please open our hearts, our ears and our eyes to see Your word just as it is. Please remove any pre-conceived notions, traditions and men’s opinions from our hearts. May we simply listen to Your truth with an honest mind. Amen.

He who guards his mouth

He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles (Proverbs 21:23).

Men, today let’s look at all of the passages in this article and see a consistent pattern. God wants us to restrain our lips, guard our mouths, and bridle our tongues. It is a simple but much needed thought for us to consider. In order to live as lights among this dark world, we must learn to develop restraint in our speech.

Certainly, most folks around us fly off the handle and say whatever comes to their minds, but that must not be true of God’s men.

He who guards his mouth

I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle while the wicked are in my presence (Psalms 39:1).

When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19).

The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin (Proverbs 13:3).

He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent (Proverbs 17:27-28).

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless (James 1:26).

We will finish with a prayer that is good for all of us to pray. Before we go into that meeting today, pray this prayer. Before we begin to gossip about the boss or a fellow co-worker, pray this prayer. When someone wants to argue politics, pray this prayer.

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips
(Psalms 141:3).

He who loves wine and oil

He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not become rich (Proverbs 21:17).

There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up (Proverbs 21:20).

A very good friend of mine says often, “You have time and money to do what you want to do.” Folks don’t like it when he says it, but he is right. Surely we can find exceptions to that principle, but it is generally true, especially here in America. People have money, they simply choose to spend it on a lot of frivolous stuff. Video games, going out to eat, movies, impulse purchases, etc., all can drain a bank account in a hurry.

What happens often is that we spend $5 here and $10 there and we think, “No big deal, its only $5.” But all those small purchases add up, don’t they? Before long, you look back at your account – you spent $100 to $200 on “wine and oil.”

And then…a repair comes up. You might be tempted to say, “I don’t have any money for that,” but you might want to look back at what you have spent for the past two or three months.

Financial restraint

The Proverbs referenced above show ancient wisdom that is still relevant today. If you love pleasure (wine and oil), you will be bankrupt. A wise person saves and shows financial restraint, while a foolish person spends all that he has. There is no end to the things on which we can spend money. Yes, put aside money for fun things, but show self-control. Learning to say “No” is a vital tool when it comes to our finances.

Fathers, this is a valuable lesson from Proverbs not only to live for ourselves, but to teach to our children.

My “Perfect” Life

Happy Anniversary – My “Perfect” Life

All you married couples, have you ever felt the pressure? You know what pressure I mean, the pressure for a “perfect” relationship. And “perfect” is defined in many different ways by many different sources. It starts when we are very young, watching all the Disney movies where the characters find their “one true love” and live “happily ever after”. Every young girl grows up looking for her knight in shining armor to sweep her off her feet. The pressure continues to be applied by romance novels, romantic comedies, TV sitcoms, reality TV like the Bachelor, and every other form of media you can think of.

By the time we are young adults we’ve been convinced that there is one true “soulmate” out there for us and like Jerry Maguire we want the one person that “completes us”. Once we meet that special someone our attention turns to the “perfect” proposal (captured on video and spread over all forms of social media), the “perfect” wedding with the “perfect” dress, etc., etc., etc. As newlyweds we expect every day to be filled with romance and excitement and adventure and passion. As we live our lives and experience the reality of hardships and struggles, the “perfect” relationship continues to be thrown in our face by all our friends on Facebook who have better houses, better vacations, better kids, better cars, better, better, better.

We live our lives buying into this illusion of the “perfect” relationship, wondering what is wrong with us or with our spouse. We might even start playing the game ourselves, presenting our own relationship as some fairy tale story where every day is better than the last. Unfortunately reality will eventually overwhelm the illusion and that is when many people quit, get divorced, and start looking for someone else…their new true soulmate that actually completes them…this time…not like last time…it will be different…you’ll see.

19 years ago, on August 2, 1997, Kristine and I were married in Livonia, MI. Over the last 19 years I’ve learned a great deal about the “perfect” relationship and I’d like to share my insights. Let me start with a little transparency, at the risk of TMI, and shed some light on Kristine’s knight in shining armor.

  • I’m pretty disgusting. For example, I can go for a long run in 90 degree heat with 65% humidity and be perfectly content not showering for the rest of the day. I know some of you gagged when you read that.
  • I’m pretty sure I’ve got ADHD. At any given moment I’ll have 5 or 6 projects going that I’m “really, really excited about” and I’ll usually complete at least two of them. Kristine is constantly putting up with my “passion of the week”. I’m like a squirrel on crack.
  • I sure can be a big moody baby. I’ll be going along all happy go lucky and one thing won’t go my way and I can turn into a little spoiled brat.
  • I’m a bit of a control freak. And when I say “a bit” I mean I really, really, really like to be in control. You can all imagine how much fun that is to live with.

Now I could go on and on, but you get the picture. I could also list just as many of Kristine’s more “charming” characteristics that are such a joy to live with (sarcasm intended), but I’ve already told you I’ve been married 19 years so I’m not stupid enough to do that. In addition to listing some difficult personality traits, I could tell of fights and arguments and struggles and sin and selfishness and bitterness and all the other experiences that make up a marriage with any mileage behind it. But with all that being said, we still have the “perfect” relationship and let me define that for you.

Our relationship is perfect because no matter how bad the fight or how big the disagreement, I know that even if we have to walk away for a bit that we will come back together and work through it. It is perfect, not because every day is warm and fuzzy but because every day is filled with the little sacrifices that demonstrate love.

I see perfection when Kristine takes a deep sigh and cleans my crumbs off the counter even though she’s asked me a thousand times to clean up after myself. I notice perfection when she’s had a rough and chaotic day and I stop what I’m doing to do the dishes and sweep the floor because I know that those two things will bring a sense of order back to her life. The perfect relationship is when we laugh during the mundane routines of life and we turn a trip to the grocery store with no kids into a “romantic” date night.

Our relationship is perfect because we are learning to let go of ridiculous expectations and show each other grace. Our relationship is perfect because when I look back over 19 years I see failure and sorrow and disappointment and frustration, but most of all I see growth. Our relationship is perfect because Kristine loves God more than she loves me. Our relationship is perfect because I love God more than I love her. Our relationship is perfect because we are committed to Christ and to each other no matter what comes our way.