, ,

This last month I was one of the millions of people who sat and watched as Prince Harry wed Meghan Markle.  I love weddings in general, and this one certainly didn’t disappoint with all the pomp and ceremony and glamour, not to mention the incredible promises of covenant to one another.

I’ve been intrigued by the social media frenzy stirred up by Bishop Michael Curry’s passionate preaching.  Voices of admiration rang out almost as loudly as some in the christian camp booing him for not giving a full enough rendition of sin and its penalty.  Whilst I can understand where some are coming from, I’ve got to say I thought his message was timely, beautiful and profound.  As I understand from scripture, God is love – and so I’m not convinced that we can ever overemphasise the incredible world-transforming nature of it.

Listening to him preach and reading over some of what’s been commented has led me to scripture again to look at love.  I’ve been musing over Paul’s words in Ephesians 3 and am more convinced than ever that God’s heart for the world and for His people is to be totally and utterly overwhelmed and immersed in His love.

Here’s Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3 –

14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (NKJV)

A few thoughts on these verses –

  1. Let love be your foundation

Our roots are in love – that’s where everything starts in our journey with Jesus.  Sometimes I think we’ve tried to rewrite the Gospel so that God’s motivation toward us becomes more sin and judgement focussed, but the best known verse in the world remains true in direct opposition to this sort of thinking – it was because God so LOVED the world that He gave His son.  Let’s not muddy the waters by trying to get theologically clever.  Let’s be clear – the gospel story is rooted in one emotion and Paul’s prayer springboards from that place of rooting and grounding:  Love.  It’s not a flimsy fickle sort of love.  It’s not a here today, gone tomorrow kind of love.  It’s a world-transforming, cross-bearing, death defying sort of love.  And it’s on offer to you and me.

  1. Let love be your comprehension

Starting in love, Paul prays that we would be able to comprehend it.  That our minds will be stretched to understanding the incredible proportions of it.  That our thinking would be inundated with this emotion from the heart of the Father.  The gospel has you rooted in love, now let’s journey in understanding it, in filling our minds with the truth of it, in trying to grasp the extent of love that our Papa has for us.  It’s a study that is so vast that it blows our minds (and boxes of thinking) wide open.

  1. Let love be your experience

Paul’s words are provoking because though he prays that we comprehend the love of God in verse 18, he’s clear in verse 19 that it goes beyond comprehension.  No matter how much we study and learn of the love of God it will never be enough because it is so much greater than our minds can fathom.  Comprehending His love is a worthy and important pursuit, but it’s an insufficient one.  God wants to journey us so that the love that we start in and work to understand is a love that we enter into an experience of.  He wants to take us from being merely students to the wonderful privilege of being sons – the first focusses on learning, the second on relational experience.

Where are you in your journey with Jesus?  You may be someone who is trying to grapple with the idea of whether God really cares about you, or you may be just starting out on getting to know Jesus and are getting your feet planted firmly into His awesome love.  Wherever you are, let me encourage you today – His love is so beautiful to read about and think about, but was never intended to be just a theological concept.  He is inviting us to experience Him and His heart, to meet His affection which is beyond any box we’ll ever be able to hold in our minds, so vast that it is breath-taking in wonder and depth.  Let’s step in a little deeper today and invite Him to come and do what He has always intended – to show off with His love so that we come face to face with His affection and are undone in His presence once again.

0
Share
,

I think it’s Bill Johnson who said ‘The reality you’re most aware of, is the reality you will reflect’.  It’s a statement that has stuck with me.  It’s the statement that inspired me some years ago to spend a whole lot of time on youtube watching videos of Kathryn Kuhlman and David Hogan and other men and women of God who see God move in incredible signs and wonders, many of whom are completely eccentric, but who carry something incredible in terms of friendship with Holy Spirit (a lesson in not letting packaging offend us, but in looking further to see the gold in people).

I want Kingdom reality to be the one I reflect more than worldly reality.  I want signs and wonders to be a norm in my life.  I want the supernatural to be instinctive for me.  And so my aim and desire is to immerse myself in the world of the Kingdom – whether by praying or reading or singing or watching videos of people who are ‘doing the stuff’ so that my time is spent plunging my head and heart and senses into a more wonderful world than I can ever imagine.

Recently I was reading through the book of Acts and was inspired in this journey of Kingdom experience again when I read these words –

‘… for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard…’ (Acts 4:20).  What I see and hear, is integral to what then comes out of me.  In other words, the reality I’m most aware of, is the reality I will reflect.  And so I’m provoked again to spend time seeing and hearing afresh.  How can I expect to speak and live fresh bread if I’m not seeing and hearing it?  I can’t pick at dry leftover breadcrumbs and expect to birth anything fresh.  This isn’t just challenging for me as a preacher (although it certainly is provoking!), but this is about me as a woman, me as a mum, me as a friend and wife and daughter.  If I want my words and life to carry life, I better spend time with the One who gives it.

So here’s my challenge to us all today.  What are you spending your time seeing and hearing?  Because whether or not you want to, you will be speaking it.  So let us make sure what we see and hear is worthy for us to speak it.  Let us immerse ourselves in the reality of another world.  The world we were made for.  The world we are joined to.  And the world we have been given authority to reflect.

14
Share
,

Have you ever had one of those moments where someone points something out from scripture and you think to yourself ‘How have I not seen this before?!’?  On Sunday evening I was listening to an outstanding message from George Gourlay – ‘The King who is Victorious’ (i’d really recommend you have a listen – it’ll be up on the Harvest Church podcast soon) and he mentioned something about Jesus’ posture in victory that rocked me.

He pointed out the verse ‘ The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’ (Mark 12, quoting Psalm 110).  Notice this – Jesus is sitting on His throne in the perfect rest of His victory even BEFORE the enemies are made His footstool.  He is modelling what it looks like to live in Kingdom victory before the final expression of breakthrough.  He is in complete and utter rest.  No striving, no pacing around in worry, no begging the Father to come through as if we need to beg and plead to get Him to act… none of that.  Rather He is seated in total confidence that the victory He has won is irreversible, unshakable and is being inevitably worked out.  The footstool part is just a matter of time.

I’m so provoked by this.  There are so many things that i’m trusting for and praying for and if i’m honest, pushing for.  And it’s not that any of those things are bad, but on Sunday evening I was reminded that although I may not feel it at times, the most true reality is that i’m living in a seat of victory in Christ and the enemies that I see (suffering, injustice, sickness etc) and the breakthroughs that I long for are going to come about not from my pushing but from my understanding of what’s already been done and what’s been promised by a faithful Papa.  I’m not saying we stop praying or fasting or anything else we feel faith to do. I’m just suggesting we do those things with the beautiful peace that comes from complete confidence. Rest doesn’t mean inactivity (we know that Jesus isn’t inactive even as He’s seated – He’s interceding for us) but rest does mean certainty.

I have a wonderful friend who is living out this truth in the most remarkable way.  She is sick.  Sick to the point of death.  And while her body has been slowly but steadily ravaged by the horrible disease that is cancer, i’ve never seen a more inspiring and Jesus-pointing model of resting in victory even before her breakthrough.  She’s not out of touch with what is happening in her body.  She’s not living a super-spiritual denial of the facts.  She’s well aware that this cancer will take her very soon should her breakthrough not come on this side of eternity.  But even as I type this i’m overwhelmed as I think of the sheer confidence she’s living with.  He is good.  He WILL make the enemies a footstool.  It’s only a matter of time.

But this isn’t a truth that’s only relevant for us if we’re trusting for a breakthrough of healing.  This is a truth that is a gift for our everyday moments of life.  Our good good Papa is offering us a perfectly peace-filled place to live from.  Confident, certain and unshakable.  Victory over pain and sickness and death and brokenness is irreversibly ours because we’re in Christ.  And rest assured the footstool is being prepared even as you read this.

6
Share
, , ,

I’ve got to be honest, I got really grumpy with God this week.  Grumpy to the point where I must have resembled my toddler having a tantrum about not getting whatever it is that he wants.  Grumpy to the point where I was accusing Him of not caring and not being all that He’s promised He will be.  I think God must have used up extra patience from His storehouse on me this week…!

The thing is, it’s been a tough few weeks – battling illness in our home, children not eating or sleeping (or both!), multiple visits to different medical professionals and scary diagnoses being mentioned and looming threateningly overhead.  The levels of pressure have been up and the number of hours of sleep have been low.  That’s a dangerous combination right there.

And so, after another night of broken sleep my frustration and hurt and disappointment and weariness came tumbling out in some big questions – ‘Where are you God?! Why aren’t you breaking in? Don’t you care? We feel like we’re drowning over here!’  In all honesty, it felt good to let it out.  It wasn’t my prettiest moment, but it was real!  The funny thing is, even as the accusations were coming out of me, there was a deeper truth holding me steady in my heart, aware that the questions were rising out of my flawed perspective and sleeplessness rather than a new found discovery of flaws in Him.  But it did my heart good to let the hurt out so that I could invite truth and affection in.  Once i’d spent my hurting emotions fully, I was able to just be still for a while and as I did that, of course I could hear Him speaking into my circumstances.

I was reminded of 1 Kings 19:11-13 when Elijah is waiting to encounter God, but God is not in the dramatic earthquake or wind or fire but rather in a quiet gentle whisper.

The truth is, i’m a woman who likes breakthrough earthquakes – quick, epic turnaround moments where the landscape of my circumstance changes drastically in just a few moments.  And of course God does work that way at times, and I really love it when He does!  But the reality is, that’s not the only way He brings breakthrough and life.  Some of His ways are more subtle, quieter and less dramatic.  It’s easy for me to miss the whisper when i’m hoping to see Him in the earthquake.  But this week, after my outburst, God has graciously been pointing me to all His whispers of breakthrough in the last season.  Whispers of incredible loving family and community who have surrounded us and given us strength.  Whispers of health improvement in small increments where it’s easy to overlook the improvement because it’s not complete… but it’s improvement nevertheless!  Whispers of miraculous energy levels even despite shockingly low levels of sleep.  Whispers of smiles and giggles from poorly children where love and joy has overpowered illness.  The list goes on and on when I start to adjust my lenses.

So i’m writing this this morning with my circumstances having been somewhat improved but not yet completely restored.  But i’m smiling and full of hope knowing that God is whispering to me even now and that every moment of my setting is a set up for me to encounter His goodness if i’ll just stop and be still and let the whispering God envelop me again.

16
Share
,

For a little while now i’ve been thinking over the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand.  It’s an epic story – almost unbelievable – yet it really happened!  My focus hasn’t been so much about Jesus and the incredible miracle He performs, but rather His disciples and their role in the whole thing.  I’ve been trying to put myself in their shoes, trying to imagine how they felt as Jesus asked them to do something so completely ridiculous as feed a crowd of more than five thousand people with someone’s pitiful packed lunch.

Can you imagine it?  Matthew 14 tells us that Jesus and the crowd are in a desolate place – there’s no hope of relying on anything in that setting to bail the disciples out when Jesus asks them to feed the crowd.  The disciples are faced with thousands of hungry people… a crowd that are so hungry that they may well be tipping into the well known phenomenon of hanger (the meeting point between hunger and anger!) at any moment!  And as they face this crowd that may well turn into a rioting mob pretty soon, Jesus is asking them to do the impossible.

Just at the point when things probably seemed like they couldn’t get much worse, Jesus gets everyone to sit down so there’s an increasing sense of expectation, prays over five loaves and two fish and then breaks them up and hands the pieces (which when divided by 12 can’t have been much more than one handful each) to his disciples.  At that point the disciples must have been looking into their hands and then looking up at the crowd wondering what on earth Jesus expected them to do.  Was this some kind of painful, un-funny joke?  It’s actually quite an embarrassing moment if you think about it.  They must have been so nervous as they made the walk from Jesus towards the crowd, they must have been calculating how many crumbs they could break their handful into and wondering how many people they could possibly placate before the crowd would start rioting in disappointment and frustration.  Surely not an easy moment for them.

I wonder at what point the multiplication happened.  At what point did the disciples realise that the pieces just kept remaining in their hands even though they were handing them out.  Please note that there’s no mention that the disciples had any help carrying the food which presumably means that the multiplication didn’t happen all in one go at the beginning so that the disciples knew there would be enough for everyone, but rather must have happened in the process of them walking from one person to another which meant that they required faith to keep going until the very last person’s needs were met.

It’s remarkable to me that they did it.  That they agreed to Jesus’ crazy plan.  That they obeyed even when what they held in their hands right up until the very last second was painfully small.  The fact that they did walk from Jesus to the crowd with such meagre supplies tells me that they must have been convinced enough about Jesus’ heart for them and ability to do something amazing (although my guess is they had no idea what kind of miracle was about to take place), to make them walk forward into the crowd, rather than finding the quickest route out of that desolate place.  The disciples must have believed that Jesus was for them.  That Jesus wouldn’t set them up for failure in such a horrible elaborate way.  That Jesus wouldn’t ask them to do something if He didn’t have some kind of plan up His sleeve.  They must have had enough faith in who Jesus was for them to empower them to walk towards an otherwise pretty certain beating up.

I’m so inspired by what the disciples did.  At the beginning of this year as i’m looking at a busy diary and fresh challenges (some fun and some definitely not so fun!) and increasing demands on what i already feel are meagre resources, i’m provoked by the faith of the disciples to meet the challenge head on.  They knew Jesus enough to know that He isn’t mean.  They knew Him enough to know that He isn’t a fan of cruelly setting up to fail those who trust in Him.  They knew Him enough to know that He cared about them and that when He put them in crazy situations it was because He wanted to do through them equally crazy miracles!

So, at the beginning of 2017, as i look at the packed lunch in my hand and feel the nudge of Jesus to walk forward and feed thousands with what surely is not enough, i’m challenged to believe that His heart is for me.  That He loves me.  That He’s not setting me up for some kind of spectacular defeat, but rather catapulting me into the wonderful realm of the miraculous.  I’m provoked to press myself ever deeper into His heart for me so that the crazy situations i find myself in, the situations that feel horribly overwhelming, suddenly become opportunities for increase and Kingdom breakthrough.

What resources are you holding in your hand at the start of this year and what situations are you facing that far outweigh your ability? Rest assured, it’s a set up.   A wonderful, God-filled, Kingdom-favoured set up.  He’s going to do the impossible and He’s going to do it through you.

28
Share
,

This morning i was thinking again of the story of Jesus and his disciples in a boat in the midst of a storm.  Remember that one?  Jesus is fast asleep while his disciples are understandably terrified as the storm rages all around them and the waves are breaking in, filling the boat.  They think they’re going to drown and are wondering why Jesus isn’t doing anything to help.  They find him asleep and wake him with these words, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ (Mark 4:38)  And Jesus amazing, wonderfully gets up, speaks to the storm and suddenly everything is quiet and still again.  He then turns to the disciples and asks them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ (Mark 4:40).

Often i have read these words and thought that Jesus was asking the disciples why they didn’t have faith that He could calm the storm, but i’m not so sure that that’s what He’s getting at anymore.  I think that Jesus’ question as to whether the disciples had faith is in relation to their earlier question – ‘Teacher do you not care that we are perishing?’ – which in fact was a question of love not of power.  They weren’t asking whether Jesus could calm the storm, they were asking if He cared enough to do so.  ’Do you not care that we are perishing?!’… ‘Here we are in the midst of a storm and you are fast asleep as if you don’t care enough about us to do anything about the waves that are about to overwhelm us!’  And Jesus turns to them, having quieted the storm, and asks them why they are afraid and if they still have no faith.

If 1 John 4:18 is right, perfect love drives out all fear.  Jesus sees the disciples are afraid and the reason is that they have not fully understood His perfect love and so in the midst of the storm, fear rushes in because their hearts are crying out with questions about His heart and whether it has enough affection for them to meet them in their most vulnerable space.

I wonder how many who read this today are finding themselves in the midst of a tumultuous storm.  I wonder how many of us in our brokenness are crying out with questions about God’s heart towards us.  There’s nothing quite like the combination of a storm and a sleeping God (or so we assume because of His seeming lack of breaking through) to make us question whether we really are that important to Him and whether He cares all that much for us.  The enemy loves to jump into the boat with us and shout in our faces that God doesn’t really love us and the storm is proof of it.  Oh but don’t listen to the enemy – he is a liar.  His only intention is to deter you from your destiny.  Let me encourage you, even in the midst of the most terrifying of storms: GOD LOVES YOU.  His heart is full to overflowing with affection for you.  He sees you.  He hears you.  Even in the midst of your storm, He is putting in motion His plan to make all things work for your good and has dispatched His goodness and mercy to be your unwavering companions.  Take heart, stand tall, lift up your weary head and let the warm rays of His steadfast love light your way ahead.

15
Share

Over the last couple of days i’ve been reminded of some well known verses in the book of Ezekiel (chapter 37) where God takes the prophet to a valley filled with the bones of an army.  It’s a valley that represents utter hopelessness and total defeat – you only see a graveyard of an army if that army was defeated.

And yet, into this hopeless place of defeat, God speaks to Ezekiel and tells him to prophesy to these dead, defeated, dry bones and tell them to live.  And of course, as Ezekiel obeys the promptings of God and makes prophetic declarations of life even in this valley of defeat and failure, life springs up and what was once silenced by the enemy is restored to full strength and glory.

I wonder how many of us carry the shame of our previous defeats?  Moments where we failed to be all that we’re created to be.  Moments where opportunities – so promising – were missed and seemingly forever lost.  I wonder if for some of us, God is calling us to revisit these valleys in our hearts where we have grieved over dry bones, and is prompting us to declare life into the places where we’ve fallen before.

What strikes me about the passage in Ezekiel is that we’re told there were very many bones – a vast army defeated – and that they were very dry – this defeat had happened quite a while ago.  I believe some of us are being called to revisit the places we would see as our biggest defeats, our most epic failures, and into those many bones that may have been in the valleys of our hearts for quite some time, we are to start prophesying flesh and breath and life.

The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the grave is very much alive in us and still loves to bring dead bones back to life.  In a Kingdom where the grave itself holds no permanence and weakness is the perfect platform for power, defeats and failures are merely opportunities for God to show His nature as restorer of what is broken all over again.  Let Him in, excavate those dry bones and let Kingdom power break out to make the valleys shake with the sounds of life once again.

5
Share

It’s been a few months now that i’ve been living in the ‘But God…’ space.  You may not call it what i do, but i can bet that you’ve lived in that space too at some point or another.  It’s the space where all your circumstances seem to be completely opposite to what God has promised you.  It’s the point of tension between what your world looks like and what God has said it should look like.  It’s not an easy space to live in.

And when i’m in that space, i find the words ‘But God…’ trip off my tongue so frequently.  ‘But God, why are you letting this happen?!’… ‘But God, don’t you remember what you’ve said?’… and on and on my questions go.  Initially my ‘But God…’ questions were not questions of faith but rather questions of complaint.  Questions which at the heart of them contained doubt as to whether God cared about what He’d said and what was going on in my life.  But then i read some words in Genesis 32 which changed the ‘But God…’ question for me.

In Genesis 32 we see Jacob who has been called by God to go back to the land of his fathers hearing some seriously frightening news that his brother Esau (who Jacob previously cheated out of his father’s blessing) is on his way to meet him with 400 men by his side.  Not news that Jacob wanted to hear at all!  So when he hears the news, this is what Jacob prays –

“O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. 11 Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. 12 But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”

Here’s Jacob obeying the call of God and trusting His promise to him and suddenly he hears terrifying news.  News that stole every last bit of courage for his home-coming out of him.  News that filled him with fear as he realised that he may never make it to his homeland given that Esau was on his way to meet him and presumably was not particularly impressed by the wrongs Jacob had committed against him.  As Jacob stood bang in the middle of the point of tension between what He’d heard God say to him and what his circumstances seemed to be screaming at him (i.e. TURN AROUND AND RUN AND SAVE YOURSELF!), he began to pray a ‘But God…’ prayer, but not one that was steeped in doubt bur rather in faith –

But you said, ‘I will surely do you good…’’ (verse 12) (italics mine)

Jacob stood in the ‘But God…’ space and chose to make it a place of courage, a place of faith.  He reminded himself (and God!) of the goodness promised him and then refused to obey what his circumstances were telling him to do.  He refused to turn around.  He refused to give up.  He made his home in the ‘But God…’ space.  But God had promised to surely do him good, so onwards he would go.

I wonder what promises God has spoken over you that your circumstances are trying to get you to turn away from?  I wonder whether you are listening to the discouraging voice shouting in your ear ‘Turn around! You’ve got it wrong! Go back to where it was safe!’ or whether you’re allowing the still small voice to wash over you with ever increasing certainty, ‘But You said you will surely do me good.’

God has promised that His goodness and mercy will follow you all of the days of your life.  Into the wind, into the waves, into the heart of the storm they will follow you. Don’t give up.  Don’t turn around.  Onwards into his promises let us go, choosing to make our home in the ‘But God…’ space until all the other things fade away and what He has promised unfolds in all its brightness before our eyes.

18
Share

Do you have a theme for your year? Every January i like to spend some time thinking, dreaming and praying to get a sense of what the year ahead is going to look like and to settle myself into a truth that i believe will be key for the challenges and adventures ahead – a theme for the year if you like.

For any of you who’ve been following this blog for a while now, you may remember that last year’s theme was God’s faithfulness – and boy did i need to return to that wonderful truth again and again as my husband and i said goodbye to loved ones, moved countries, took on new jobs, renovated a house, found new friends and had a gorgeous little baby boy! Faithful is certainly one of the words i’d use to describe my Papa God in 2015!

So, looking ahead for 2016, i’ve stumbled upon a new theme for a new year. This one’s going to require more courage from me. My theme for this year is ‘Playing by the Rules’. Now that may not sound like it will need much bravery to see it through, so let me try to explain –

In Ezekiel 11 God tells the Israelites

“You have not walked in my statutes, nor obeyed my rules, but have acted according to the rules of the nations that are around you.”

As i read this verse a couple of weeks ago, it struck me that we are all playing by someone’s rules. No matter how we live our lives, no matter how independent-minded or unusual we like to think of ourselves, the reality is each of us is living life either according to Kingdom rules or worldly ones – there is no other option.

The more i think about it, the more i can see how big a temptation it is for me to live by worldly rules – rules that dictate how i spend or save my money (usually selfishly and in accordance with my bank statement), rules that dictate how i interact with people (often seeking to please people so i will be liked), rules that dictate whether i take risks or not (failure is something to be feared so playing it safe is often deemed more ‘sensible’). The temptation to live by worldly rules is strong because it makes me feel more in control.

Playing by Kingdom rules is much more risky. Now, don’t get me wrong – when i mention Kingdom rules, i’m not talking about the 10 commandments. I’m talking values far deeper and far harder than 10 simple laws. I’m talking about outrageous, over-the-top love like Jesus modelled, even to my enemies. I’m talking extravagant generosity, for my finances are dictated by the unlimited resources of heaven and my Papa who loves a cheerful giver is my provider. I’m talking crazy faith that laughs in the face of risk – for faith pleases Him, not performance, and so the fear of failure need not have a hold over me anymore. I’m talking unreasonable joy and unshakable hope and mystifying peace.

So, you see, my theme of ‘playing by the rules’ is no easy task – it will take courage to live in the grace that will empower me to live according to these rules. But oh, i want to go all out in playing by them. I don’t want to play it safe any longer. I want to be outrageous and unreasonable and unshakable and risky. And i want to do it all to the glory of God.

How about you?

3
Share

In recent days i’ve been thinking a lot about the power we have in forgiving ourselves. Unless we’re able to embrace God’s grace and mercy in wiping the slate clean for us and walk freely forward without looking back at our own failures, we’ll never be able to step fully into all that God has for us.

I keep going back to Peter’s story in the gospels. The ‘head boy’ of Jesus’ disciples who then falls so epically in denying Jesus just before His death… we all know the story. The bit of the story that i can’t get out of my head is the series of events after Jesus has risen from the dead.

We get a little hint that all’s not well in Peter’s heart when Jesus speaks to the ladies at the tomb to ‘Go and tell the disciples and Peter’ (Mark 16:7) about the resurrection. Why would Jesus feel the need to say ‘and Peter’ when Peter was one of the disciples – and arguably one of the most important at that? Had Peter been voted out of the discipleship group? – we get no indication from that in scripture. Maybe Jesus knew that Peter would need special encouragement after such a deep failure, to see himself again as the person he’d been called and created to be. Maybe Jesus wanted Peter to know that He still believed in him, that He still wanted him in his original role, even after the betrayal.

The next clue that we get that Peter’s heart is hurting is after Jesus has appeared to him and the disciples. Jesus turns up and shows the disciples that everything He ever said and claimed was true and that He really is God. WOAH!!! Time to throw a party! Jesus is alive and is GOD! But Peter does’t throw a party. In John 21 we see that knowing everything he now knows, Peter decides to go back to his old job – ‘I’m going out to fish’ (John 21:3). Now what on earth would make him do a thing like that? This is the same Peter who once said there’d be nowhere to go outside of Jesus because He ‘holds the words of life’ (John 6:68). Why’s he now walking away from Jesus who’s just had His most victorious moment? I wonder if it’s because Peter couldn’t shake off his sense of disappointment in himself. I wonder if it’s because He couldn’t look at Jesus without seeing his own worst and lowest moment and he couldn’t take the pain of that. I wonder if Peter walked away not so much because he was seeing Jesus differently, but because he was seeing himself differently – because he no longer felt worthy of his ‘head boy’ status but now was struggling with such a sense of unworthiness because of his failure that he decided to walk away.

But here’s the beautiful thing – Jesus was not disappointed with Peter. Disappointment requires for you to have had higher expectations of someone than what actually happens. But Jesus had accurate expectations of Peter right from the beginning. He knew that Peter was going to fail dramatically even when He called him. He knew on the night it happened and so warned Peter that ‘“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31+32) We often read these verses thinking that when Jesus is praying for Simon’s faith not to fail, He’s praying that Peter won’t betray Him – but i don’t think that’s what Jesus is getting at at all because in the very next sentence, Jesus makes it clear that Peter will fail, but will then turn back. I think the ‘faith’ that Jesus is praying for is not the faith that stops the mistake, but the faith that helps us to continue believing in His words declared over us, in what He’s called us to be after the mistake is made so we’re able to turn back and strengthen others. Listen up: Jesus is not disappointed in you when you fail, because His expectations of you have always been 100% accurate, so He saw what was coming even when He called you. What He’s drawing you towards and strengthening you for is the ability to accept His grace over you, for the courageous faith to believe Him even when you no longer feel like a person worthy to carry His promises. The power to ‘turn back and strengthen the brothers’ is the power to forgive yourself and believe Jesus’ words over you again.

In one of the most tender moments of the gospels, the God of the universe cooks His disciples breakfast so that He can help one of His friends back to a place of faith again (John 21). Jesus calls Peter back from his sorry fishing expedition so that He can restore him to the fullness of his call and so that he can step freely into the destiny marked out for him. I wonder how many of us need to accept Jesus’ invitation to breakfast this morning? I wonder how many of us need to invite Holy Spirit to empower us to walk free from the shame of the past? Let Him in today – He cannot wait to break off the chains of your self-disappointment so you’re able to run again with full abandon the race marked out for you.

12
Share