Leadership

Back On Track– A story of restoration

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Has your life turned out the way you expected? Probably not. Some life events seem to shove our life off the rails. Then we have to figure out how to get back on track.

Perhaps your dreams of marriage or career didn't quite turn out the way you wanted, so you made adjustments. Many people express a desire to travel but something always seems to get in the way of them doing it. Dreams, ambitions, hopes, expectations all tend to run into road blocks or diversions along the way.

Life is not a straight line! Nor is it a steady trajectory up, although it might seem like a downward spiral at times. Life is full of ups and downs in every facet of life—marriage, family, work, relationships, even plans for vacations or days off.

A logic-defying strategy

Jesus had a strategy for establishing the church but it defied logic. It centered around twelve men He discipled, although one failed to make the cut. Where we see weakness, He saw strength. Even in failure, He saw the opportunity for restoration.

The primary purpose for the Lord Jesus to come, live, die, and rise from the dead was to bring reconciliation and restoration (2 Cor 5:17-21). His resurrection from the dead is a clear illustration of this.

Paul the apostle points this out in Chapter 15 of his first letter to the Corinthian church who were confused about a lot of things. Jesus was the second Adam who brought restoration to all humanity as a life-giving spirit and as the man who came from heaven (1 Cor 15:45-48).

The restoration of Peter

In the last chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus asks Peter the same question three times—"Do you love Me?" Each time Peter answers in the affirmative, Jesus gives him a specific exhortation (John 21:15-19).

This is how Jesus restored Peter after he denied knowing the Lord three times on the night Jesus was betrayed by one of His disciples (Judas) and arrested and condemned to death.

But we need to go back to the beginning to fully understand the significance of this restoration process. There's more to it than reversing Peter's denials. Jesus was setting Peter back on track with his first calling.

The starting point

As we often find in the gospels, when Jesus taught the people pressed in on Him. One of those times Jesus got into the boat of a fisherman named Simon, asked him to push out from the shore while Jesus sat down and taught.

When Jesus finished teaching He asked Peter to launch out into the deeper water and let his nets down to catch some fish. Peter protests at first, "Teacher, we worked hard all night and caught nothing. But if you say so, I’ll lower the nets.”

This discourse between Peter and Jesus became common. The Lord says something, Peter would counter it with his own idea, which brings a correction or sometimes a rebuke by Jesus.

Once the nets are lowered into the deep water they are filled beyond capacity with fish and begin to tear and require Peter's partners to help with the miraculous catch. They fill two boats to the point of sinking with all the fish.

A revelation and a calling

When Peter sees this huge catch he kneels at Jesus' feet and declares, “Leave me, Lord! I’m a sinful person!” The miracle shakes Peter and reveals the nature of this rabbi named Jesus. Peter understood he was in the presence of someone greater than himself.

Everyone else is amazed is amazed by all the fish caught, including Peter's partners, but the miracle had a greater purpose than the excitement it generated.

It was the way Jesus stirred Peter's heart to follow Him. “Don’t be afraid. From now on you will catch people instead of fish.”

Peter, his brother Andrew and partners James and John all left their boats and livelihood to follow Jesus at that time. You can find this story in Luke 5:1-11 (GW).

Peter's confession

As the time drew close for Jesus to fulfill His redemptive mission, He brought His followers to an area above the Galilee region. Caesarea Philippi is a beautiful area for a retreat by the headwaters of the Jordan River.

2 probing questions

While Jesus gathered His disciples together, He asked them what they were hearing about Him—

“Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matt 16:13 GW)

They told Him some thought Jesus was John the Baptizer back from the dead, possibly Jeremiah or one of the other prophets, even Elijah.

Jesus followed up with a more pointed question—“Who do you say I am?”

Peter immediately blurted out—

"You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” (Matt 16:16 GW)

A spiritual revelation

Jesus informs Peter that it wasn't His physical presence or is own intelligence that enabled Peter to know this but through revelation from God the Father.

Jesus replied, “Simon, son of Jonah, you are blessed! No human revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven revealed it to you. (Matt 17:17 GW)

This is a major turning point for His followers. They finally realize who Jesus is and He assures them that His church (followers) will be built on this important confession of truth (Eph 2:20) and they will overcome every obstacle and not be overcome even by the power of hell (Matt 16:18).

[This story is found in Matthew 16:13-18]

On Track

At this point in Peter's life following Jesus is going pretty well. Sure, there are a few bumps along the way and Jesus needs to remind Peter who's in charge, but he seems to be at the top of the class.

Peter evolves into the Lord's point man among the apostles and on track with the call of God for his life. If only it could last.

Tune in next week for the conclusion of Peter's story of restoration. If you can't wait, although I hope you check in next week, here's a link to a message I preached related to this post— Back on Track

Until then—

What seems to be going well at this time in your life?

How have you seen your life get off track at times?

Buzzword...Program...or Reality?

Our nation thrives on what's popular. We (North) Americans are a nation of consumers. This has become the earmark of our culture and the engine of our economy.

Sadly, the American church often reflects this consumerist identity.

People seek churches and ministries that appeal to them, and churches and ministries get trapped into making themselves more appealing.

Lasting Fruit—the Plan of Jesus

The mangoes of the Philippines are amazingly delicious! It's their national fruit, and I've found no other mango like the queen of mangoes, the tu-od variety. I posted this photo on Instagram and Facebook a few years back, proclaiming their goodness, and saw a lot of agreement.

But there are plenty of other wonderful fruits in the Philippines and SE Asia—papayas, guavas, lanzones, jackfruit, and even durian, and much more.

Yet, the fruit I'm most excited about in the Philippines doesn't grow on trees.

Discipleship—How Did Jesus Do It?

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Has someone ever laughed at you, yet you're clueless as to why?

When I was a young pastor grappling with the responsibility of shepherding God's people, I knew discipleship was key to doing it well. But I had no plan or program to do so.

I told a good friend who assisted me in the church that I needed to find out how to disciple people. His response? He laughed at me!

Discipleship as a way of life

Why did my friend laugh at me? He told me I was already discipling people. Because I was discipled, I naturally discipled others. It was how I came to follow Jesus.

Because I was discipled, I naturally discipled others

I can trace it back to one of my good friends in high school who became a believer ahead of me. He was young in the faith, but he shared about his life since following Jesus. Since I knew him from before  ("BC"), I could see the change in his life.

He was gracious to me as I touted my own spirituality. I was caught up in the philosophy and morality, or lack thereof, of the times (the late 60's/early 70's), but he shared his faith in Jesus along with the love of Jesus. It was simple, relational, and intentional.

My friend was not a pastor, nor is he today. He was a follower of Jesus. He has remained faithful and still follows Jesus. Though we are separated by a few thousand miles and time, we're fellow disciples of Jesus who disciple others.

All believers are to be fellow disciples of Jesus who disciple others

Everybody's got an opinion

Recently, I read and reposted an article written by Seth Barnes. I saw it on a leaders blog I'm subscribed to and went to his site. I'm funny that way, I like to know something about the person writing the article.

I read and liked the post (appreciated, not just social media "liked" it), so I reposted it. I also read some of the comments. Several people also appreciated his article, but quite a few took exception to it. They thought he should include their view of discipleship.

Here's the thing. It's easy to have an opinion, but opinions are cheap and not always true. The question is— If you think discipleship is important, are you doing it?

From what I see of Seth, whom I don't know personally, he's doing it and doing it well. He has what Jesus says is important in John 15:16 NIV—fruit that will last.

The question is— If you think discipleship is important, are you doing it?

Discipleship is something you do

I'm not a program type of guy. I don't have a grid for discipleship that people need to fit into. I am committed to discipleship. In 1995, I started up a Bible college in the Philippines. The crazy thing is, I never finished Bible college myself.

I developed a curriculum of study through the Bible that was inductive and text-based. It was simple. I realized a few years later that the key ingredient wasn't the curriculum, although important, it was the personal involvement with students as they studied.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I learned how to teach while in the Philippines. Of course, as a church planter and pastor, I thought I knew how to teach. I'm still learning today, as I disciple and mentor others.

Discipleship is done, not taught, per se. Yes, it can be studied, written about, and curriculum can be developed for it, but it must be done to bear fruit—lasting fruit. This is what Jesus did and we cannot improve upon it.

Discipleship is something that needs to be done, not talked about or studied

Here are some more questions and thoughts to consider

  • Do you talk about discipleship, or do it?
  • Do you intentionally and relationally disciple others?
  • Discipleship is more about life example than doctrine or theology.
  • Jesus discipled in a very personal and intentional way.
If you are a follower of Jesus, who is following you as you follow Jesus?

I'm not a well-known expert on the subject of discipleship, but here are some thoughts I have on it— Thoughts on the Essence of Discipleship [Download it by clicking on the link]

Here is what's more important than my thoughts—

  • Learn about Jesus and follow Him (Matt 11:29; 16:24)
  • As you follow Him, be mindful of your example and influence on others, and... 
  • Develop gracious relationships with people who need and want to follow Jesus

This is what my friend did for me, and what Jesus did with His first followers.