“Mountaintop Blessings”

“Behold, on the mountains the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace! Celebrate your feasts, O Judah; Pay your vows For never again will the wicked one pass through you; He is cut off completely.” (Nahum 1:15)

“Let the mountains bring peace to the people, And the hills, in righteousness. (Psalm 72:3)

“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord; though it be uphill and against the heart, yet it is the mountain of the Lord, who will assist the assent of our souls towards him.’’(Isaiah 2:3)

 

“Come let us”… Those who are entering into covenant and communion with God themselves should bring as many as they can along with them; it becomes believers to encourage one another to good works, and to further the communion of believers and those who needed to know Him, by inviting one another and others into the blessed mountain communion.

 

And… we are encouraged to pass it on… For, those that have had it said to them shall say it to others. 

The gospel church is so called…

Not only the mountain of the Lord, but the house of the God of Jacob; for in it God’s covenant with Jacob and his praying seed is kept up and has its accomplishment; for to us now, as unto them, He never said, seek you Me in vain.

 

Draw Close Unto Him… He is Near



A Simple Message

We live in an intense, hyper-active, overly complicated world.

 

Take a few moments…

Hit the pause button…

Be silent…

Clear your mind…

Consider this…

 

As servants of God…

Are we truly making room for Him…

Have we forgotten that we must make room for Him… y’a know, give Him “elbow room.”

 

We plan and figure and analyze and predict that this or that will happen, but we forget to make room for God to come in and work as He chooses.

 

I sense we would either be so busy and preoccupied with our analyzing and planning that we would not notice if He showed up… Or… We would be so shocked… if God came into our meeting or into our life in a way we had never expected Him to come?

 

Do not look for God to come in a particular way, but do look for Him.

The way to make room for Him is to expect Him to come, but not in a certain way.

 

No matter how well we may know God, the great lesson to learn is that He may break in at any moment.

 

We tend to overlook or downplay this element of surprise, yet God never works in any other way.

 

Then…

Suddenly… God opens the door and walks right into our life… Wow… right here and now… Indeed… “…when it pleased God….” (Galatians 1:15)

 

Let us keep our lives so constantly in touch with God that His surprising power can break through at any point.

Let us live in a constant state of expectancy, and leave room for God to come in when and how He decides.

Make some margin… make room for Him to intersect… to surprise you…

 

Accept His blessing to act when you least expect Him… And, yes, in ways you never anticipated…

 

Draw Close, He indeed is near



Fishers of Men…Fishers for People

Fishers of men… Fishers for people

 

Let’s take a short tip back to the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus called Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew.

 

The first people that Jesus calls to follow and learn from him were in the business of catching and selling of fish.

 

The Gospel according to Mark tells us that Jesus saw them working and invited them into a life of discipleship with a play on words that described their new vocation in terms of their old one.

“I will make you fishers of men” (fishers for people)… is how he put it.

 

Like many good communicators, I sense that Jesus knew how to be both light hearted and profoundly serious at the same time.

The fishing metaphor worked for Simon and Andrew… as well as James and John on several levels:

 

<> It described a change of direction in their own lives, a pivoting away from their old work.

<> It picked up and built off an old image of God seeking out those who are estranged.

<> It introduced the idea that those who are called by God die to an old way of life in favor of life with God.

<> It hinted at the fact that life apart from God is lived in a chaotic abyss.

 

The fishermen would have gotten all of this intuitively… As, they were as deeply engaged in their vocation as fishermen.

Fishing was what they thought about and what they talked about.

It’s how they spent their days and why they sought sleep at night.

 

When Jesus calls them fishers of people, he’s building on their deep knowledge born out of years of experience.

 

I sense that we might also find similar insights for ourselves, if we take the time to study the Gospels and seek connections into their cultural context, but it won’t be intuitive for us.

We’ll have to imagine our way into the things that Simon and his fellows just knew.

 

But…

You know stuff too.

 

All of us fill our days with the activities of our various callings.

We are students and teachers, managers of projects and people, we are tradespeople and technicians, cooks and custodians.

We are writers and musicians and artists, scientists and mathematicians, programmers and web-designers.

We are fathers and mothers, sisters, brothers and friends.

Indeed…

We all spend time doing things…

We develop expertise and knowledge that is of great value.

In addition to helping us be good at what we do, it also provides us with ways of looking at life.

 

Consider this…

Our vocations or seasons of vocations can deepened our insight into the nature of God’s commitment to us and to His creation.

Our journey… our walk in life… can also deepen our understanding of how much God loves us and has been alongside us.

 

So…

Let’s get back to fishing…

Let’s get back to the vocation or vocations God has laid our for you… Yes… Your vocation… Y’a know… the things you know from doing… Consider… How they provide you with a way to describe the rule and reign of God?

How does your life’s work give you ways of describing the hope that is yours in Jesus?

How does your vocation open doors to shine His light into dim, dark places and souls who desperately must know Him?

 

And…

For most of us…

It just might have nothing to do with fish and that’s just fine…

 

So…

How’s your fishing going?

 

Draw close… He is Near

 



‘O Wondrous Cross

O’ The Wondrous Cross

 

 “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

 

Let’s take a memory lane adventure to southern England longs ago.

Sitting quietly, we find a young Isaac Watts writing poetry.

Watts eventually turned his attention to composing hymns.

There was a period of two years when he wrote a new hymn every week.

 

Later, at the age of 33… whilst contemplating an upcoming communion service, Watts was inspired by Paul’s letter to the Galatians and began thinking about the cross in a different way.

He recognized that the cross changes everything… Indeed, it does.

 

Reflecting on these truths, Watts wrote, “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died.”

At that time, “survey” primarily meant to consider or contemplate, like a surveyor to measure some ground.

It meant examining closely, in great detail.

 

As he examined everything about the cross, he concluded… “My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.”

 

Humbled, Watts prayed… “Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ my God! All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.”

 

He realized that nothing compares with Jesus… “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small: love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

 

Today… this Saturday before Easter Sunday… Let’s press pause amidst the business of the day and conduct our own survey.

 

Let’s be still and quietly and reverently reflect upon how the cross shows the immensity of God’s loves for you and for me.

In this still moment… raise your hands to heaven and allow Him to fill your heart with His love.

 

Now…

Re-commit your life to serving Jesus… remembering all He gave for you… Yes… His life for you.

 

Heavenly Father… forgive us for boasting in anything except the cross of Jesus.

We humble ourselves before You.

Thank You for Your amazing love.

In Jesus’ most precious Name.

Amen.

 

Draw Close, He is Near



Who is Jesus?

 

Who is Jesus

 

Let’s focus in and around Matthew 16

 

When Jesus headed back towards Galilee, He still was in predominantly Gentile territory towards the northeast of the sea. There He fed the four thousand (15:32-39), showing that He was fully able to meet the needs of the Gentiles, just as He had demonstrated that He could meet Israel’s needs when He fed the five thousand.

 

But when He returned to Jewish territory He was met with a challenging demand for a sign from heaven (16:1-4). Jesus refused to give the Pharisees and Sadducees the kind of sign they wanted, calling them a wicked and adulterous generation, a description of a covenant nation that was unfaithful to its covenant Lord (drawing on the imagery of Hosea). The only sign He would give was already there in Scripture, the sign of Jonah. But it was a different kind of sign, not one to convince people that He was the Messiah, but one that would come afterward to confirm that He was. It was the sign of the resurrection. But by then these enemies would have already opposed Jesus and condemned Him to death.

 

This challenge prompted Jesus to warn His disciples about the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (16:5-12). He called it “yeast,” because of its effects on the people. The disciples had trouble understanding this at first, thinking that Jesus was referring to actual bread. But soon they came to see He was warning them about their teaching. The false teaching of these religious leaders seemed to be taking a toll on would-be disciples, for the time of popularity in the Galilean region was now turning to opposition. Jesus and His disciples then left the synagogue and the town for the region of Caesarea Philippi; and many of the people were left confused between the teaching of Jesus and the teaching of the Jewish leaders. And so… Jesus would want to know what His own disciples thought of Him.

 

For those who have had the good pleasure to visit the land of Israel, and for those who want to and are hopeful they will someday be able to do it, the region of Caesarea Philippi is one of the most moving spots to visit in the light of this chapter. The city has not been worked very much by the archaeologists, but we know where it is and where the basic structures were. But across from it at the base of mountains there is this enormous mountain side of rock, like a solid wall stretching straight up to the heavens. At its base there is a cave, which used to be a source for water for the Jordan River. An earthquake stopped it, and the water now seeps up from underground and flows into rivulets and streams to become the headwaters of the Jordan. At the entrance to this cave Philip the tetrarch over the region had built a temple to Caesar (hence, the name was Caesarea Philippi to distinguish it from Caesarea Maritima, Caesarea by the Sea) and to the god Pan (so it is called Banias in Arabic). There were niches carved in the wall of the rock for statues of gods, and the temple was firmly built on the rocky plateau by the entrance of the cave.

 

What a setting for Matthew 16!

 

Jesus and His disciples had left the city where there was a lot of false teaching about Jesus, and as they came to this region, near Mount Hermon, they saw this temple with all the statues of gods. And Jesus asked His disciples who people said He was, and who they, His disciples, think He was. Then Jesus said that He would build His church upon a rock, but it would survive the gates of Hell. There is evidence of some association with this cave and its temple and the underworld. And then Jesus and His disciples continued up Mount Hermon where He was transfigured before three of them (Matthew 17).

 

Synoptic Passages

 

The account is also found in Mark 8:27-30 and Luke 9:18-22. The passage is treated similarly by all three Gospels. They all immediately follow the event with Jesus’ prediction of His death. But the teaching is found only in Matthew.

 

The Structure of the Passage

 

The structure of the passage is straight forward. In verse 13 Jesus asked the question of His identity; in verse 14 the disciples reported. Then Jesus asked them the same question (v. 15), and Peter responded (v. 16). The rest of the passage is Jesus’ teaching about His program and the powerful authority given the apostles.

 

The Analysis of the Text

 

  1. The Question of Jesus’ Identity (13-16).

 

First, the narrative begins with Jesus question: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (13). Jesus asked this question when He and His disciples came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, a city built by Herod Philip the tetrarch on a plane about 1100 feet above sea level at the foot of Mount Hermon. The location is 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. Here Jesus wanted to know who people thought He was. The reason for the question was probably the changing of opinions about Jesus under the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. And, this place with its temple to Pan provided the perfect backdrop for the revelation to come.

 

Mark and Luke do not include “Son of Man” in their report. Some have suggested that the wording in Matthew gives the answer away, “Who do they say the Son of Man is? But Matthew’s report is probably the original since Jesus uses this title for Himself in the Gospels, and since the title can have a somewhat ambiguous Messianic meaning, making the question significant. The title “Son of Man” was clearly Messianic in Daniel; but it could be used of the prophets as well (as in Ezekiel). Mark and Luke shortened the question for their audiences.

 

Second, the answer the disciples give is: “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets” (14). Some thought He was John come back from the dead. Some thought He was the forerunner of the Messiah and so Elijah. Only Matthew includes Jeremiah, the first of the latter prophets in the canon. Perhaps some people had been struck by the authority of Jesus and His suffering as well at the hands of the leaders. Or, He was considered a prophet of doom like Jeremiah.

 

No group was openly confessing Jesus as the Messiah.

 

There were individuals who had addressed Jesus with Messianic titles before this (9:27 and 15:22), but we do not know how strongly they believed what they said, how much they understood, or how influential they were. People might have thought Jesus was the Messiah, but still had misgivings about it.

 

Third, Jesus wanted to know if the disciples knew: “Who do you say I am?” (v. 15). The “you” is emphatic and plural in the line; Jesus was asking all the disciples. Therefore, Peter was speaking on behalf of the disciples when he answered.

 

Fourth, Peter’s confession was clear and direct: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Mark has: “You are the Christ.” Luke has “You are the Christ of God.” A lot of scholars say “Son of the Living God” was added by some editor. But there is no reason to take that view. The inclusion of the description provides a better explanation of the other Gospels’ forms; and besides, “Son of God” probably indicated kingship to Peter (based on the Davidic covenant), even though in time it came to mean divinity. The Gospels frequently use “Son of God” to describe Jesus, and so it is not out of place here.

 

We have already noted that “the Christ” is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew “the Messiah,” meaning, the anointed one. And since in the Old Testament the Davidic King was to be called God’s Son (Ps. 2; 2 Sam. 7), it is likely that Peter meant just that. He was convinced that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the coming king who would miraculously heal the people and drive out the oppressors in the land. As we have noted before, the description of Jesus as “Son of God,” however, is filled with meaning, and will go beyond His description as king to His description as one who is the same as the Father. But Peter would not yet know all that, judging from the things that he said and did after this event.

 

  1. The Teaching of Jesus’ Mission (17-19).

 

Critical scholarship thinks that these verses should be deleted because they are not in the other gospels. Others suggest they are simply in the wrong place. But there is good evidence to support these verses as original and necessary. In fact, the idea of God’s revealing these things goes back to Matthew 11:25 where the Father’s revealing Christ to people is correlated to faith. What Jesus would be saying here in the argument of the book is that the system was working as He said in 11:25. The Father had been revealing the Son, and Peter got the message.

 

Therefore, the first point in the teaching is that Jesus appraised the work of the Father in Peter (17). He said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” In spite of the leaven (teaching) of the Pharisees and Sadducees, in spite of the confusion among the people, Peter got it right. And this, Jesus said, was revealed to Peter by the Father. The procedure had worked; no one could know the Father or the Son unless it was revealed to them. And so, the revelation of the Son to Peter, with all the authenticating signs and miracles, was received. Such knowledge cannot originate in flesh and blood, that is, it cannot originate from mortal flesh. It has to come from above (see 1 Cor. 15:50; Gal. 1:16; Eph. 6:12; He. 2:14).

 

Peter’s confession assumes a deeper level of understanding than other confessions that had been made. Now, this is not the first time that he and the disciples were made aware of the Messiahship of Jesus. In fact, the disciples followed Jesus, believing that He was the Messiah. But their understanding of what Messiah was to do was still weak. What made Peter’s confession so important was the fact that it came against the backdrop of all the confusion and false teachings about Jesus. His confession of faith was so strong that Jesus could begin talking about His death on the cross.

 

Second, Jesus announced that He was about to build His Church (18). This verse and the next have been at the center of controversy for ages. In verse 18 Jesus declared, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” The saying relies on a pun on the name of Peter. The Aramaic name is Kepa(Cephas), and the Greek translation is Petros. The Aramaic word means “rock.” But the saying “on this rock” uses the feminine form of the word,  petra. Many have argued that because there are two different words for “rock” used here, the meaning would be that Peter is a small stone, but Christ is the rock on which the church if founded. This would be a difficult sense since Jesus said He would build the Church; would He also be the rock on which it is built?

 

Or, others argue that the rock on which the Church will be built is the confession that Peter just made, the revealed truth about Jesus. This too is a fairly common view, and there may be some reasonable support for it. But both these views have probably been developed mostly in reaction to Roman Catholic teachings based on this passage. And yet, to say that Peter is the rock would be the normal way to interpret the line. However, and this is important, to say that Christ was going to build his church on the foundation of the apostles does not in any way teach an apostolic succession, papal infallibility, or exclusive authority for successors of Peter. Those doctrines were developed later. All the text would be saying is what the rest of the New Testament affirms, that Christ established His Church on the apostles. Their teaching, their writing the Scriptures, their establishing and organizing the Church, all were the necessary ways that Christ began to build His Church.

 

If Matthew had wanted to make a contrast between “rock” (Jesus) and “stone” (Peter), he probably would have used lithos for the latter. But then there would be no pun in the passage—and the pun (called a paronomasia) is the force of the line.

 

The metaphor of the rock is consistent with other uses in Scripture. Here Jesus will build his church; but elsewhere Paul and the apostles build it (1 Cor. 3:10). Jesus is the foundation of the Church (1 Cor. 3:11); but the apostles and prophets are also the foundation (Eph. 2:19,20; Rev. 21:14). Peter has the keys here; but in Revelation 1:18 and 3:7 Jesus has the keys.

 

So here in Matthew 16 Jesus is the builder of the Church. The foundation will be the apostles. Peter was the first to make this profound confession, and so he is prominent in the early church. But the other apostles have equal authority, even to rebuke Peter (Acts 11:1-18; Gal. 2:11-14). Peter is simply first among equals. If there had been succession, then Peter’s successor would have had authority over John and the other apostles still alive. And that is not the case.

 

Christ will build His Church. The Church, as most people know, is the “called out” body of believers, Christian congregations of people redeemed by Christ. The Church is known as the assembly of the people of the Messiah. The people of the assembly are the people of God—but this will be a new type of assembly. It will differ from Old Testament congregations of believers in that Christians were now living in the new covenant—Messiah had come and that changed things. In the Old Testament congregations the people knew nothing of the fulfillment of the promises, or of the coming of the Spirit.

 

But the Church is not completely identical to the kingdom either. The Church is a form of the kingdom in that Christ rules over his Church, and people who become believers and enter the Church also enter the kingdom. But the kingdom for which we pray will be a new order in which Christ will put down all enemies and rule over the whole world. So there is overlap between the terms and the times they cover; but there are distinctions as well. Jesus announced here that he was going to build His Church, indicating clearly that the Church was a future program and not a continuation of Old Testament assemblies.

 

Because the Church is a part of or a form of the kingdom, nothing can prevent it from realizing its fully promised blessings when Christ returns. It is tied to the coming kingdom of God. And so the gates of Hades cannot prevail over it. “Gates” is figurative for the power or the powerful leaders of Hades (in the Hebrew literature “gates” could be substituted for those who sit in the gates). Thus it would represent Satan or Satanic forces, the powers of Hell, who inflict death and destruction on the human race. Since Jesus the Messiah was building His assembly of believers, the powers of death and destruction could not prevail over it. This is especially true since Christ has defeated sin, death and the grave through His resurrection. Since He has done that, there is no power in the world below that can win over His program. The Church may seem at times to be weak, divided, and ineffective. But that is usually the result of human leaders and institutions creating problems; the Church itself, the company of the people of Jesus, will be victorious, because Christ has overcome the world. Even death, a weapon of Hell, cannot destroy the true Church. It may ruin denominations or local churches that lose sight of the vision; but the universal body of believers, the universal Church, will be victorious.

 

Third, Jesus gives the keys to the kingdom to Peter (v. 19). Now the metaphor changes from rock-foundation to the keys of the kingdom. The person with the keys has the power to admit or exclude people (Rev. 9:1-6; 20:1-3). The allusion is to the chief stewards of the monarchs (Isa. 22:15, 22). The king was still sovereign; but whoever had the keys had authority over the house. What then was the binding and the loosing?

 

A literal translation of this line would yield: “whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” If this is the translation, there is no place for earthly ministers to claim the power; they simply speak for God and enact what heaven has enacted. Unfortunately, the history of the Church has shown many who think they have the power to admit to heaven or confine to hell. For the many views ad arguments on the verse you can consult the commentaries at will.

 

The meaning of the binding and loosing in the verse probably refers to people and not to teachings (see 18:18 for “whatever”). The keys then speak of the permission of entering the kingdom or being excluded from it. The meaning of this idea is clarified by the teaching of Jesus in Luke 11:52. There Jesus denounced the teachers by saying that they had taken away the key of knowledge and had not only failed to enter the kingdom themselves but had hindered others from doing so. This meant that by their approach to Scripture they were making it impossible for people under their teaching to accept the revelation about Jesus and enter the kingdom. In strong contrast, Peter, by confessing Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, had received the revelation and so was to be given the “keys.” The metaphor of the “keys” refers then to the clear teaching about Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel. Peter, by proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, which by revelation he was understanding more and more, would open the kingdom to many and shut it to others. See Acts 2:14-39 and 3:11-26, and the result that the Lord was adding to the church those who were to be saved (Acts 2:45). There we see how Jesus would be building His Church. But the proclamation of the Gospel message would also alienate and exclude people as well (see Acts 4:11-12; 8:20-23).

 

This view then harmonizes with the translation of “whatever you bind . . . will have been bound . . . “ and so forth. By making the proclamation of the Gospel, the message of the kingdom, Peter would be binding and loosing what heaven had already bound and loosed. Peter would preach the Gospel, and that preaching would be the means by which those bound in heaven would be bound, and those loosed in heaven would be loosed. As long as Peter proclaimed the true Gospel, he would be binding or loosing what had been bound or loosed in heaven—he would be using the keys to the kingdom properly.

 

There is a strange use of these expressions among Christians today for a commanding, authoritarian form of praying. In it people say they bind or loose evil spirits in people when praying for healing. There is no warrant for that use of the words; the context clearly ties the keys of the kingdom to salvation, who enters and who does not, and the authority to grant entrance and announce exclusion comes only with the proclamation of the Gospel already revealed. When the Gospel is preached, it appears that it brings some into the kingdom and repels others. But the Gospel being preached is only the earthly manifestation of the heavenly process.

 

Are these keys given to Peter only, or to the apostles only, or to all Christians?

 

If the keys refer to the proclamation of the Gospel to the world, then they are the possession of all believers, because that is the task for the church. Christ’s disciples were and are to be fishers of men (Matt. 4:19), lights to the world (5:14-16), and witnesses who proclaim the message of the kingdom (10:6-42). They are also commissioned to teach the nations all that Christ commanded (28:18-20). Even though the glorious kingdom will come suddenly in the future, in the meantime Christ builds His church. He established it on the foundation of the apostles; but He builds it through the proclamation of the Gospel, the accurate preaching of the word of God. In proclaiming the Good News the people of God will make it clear how others can enter into the kingdom, but they will also make it clear what will exclude people from the kingdom. Their message will include and exclude. But the passage in no way teaches that they, or the apostles, have a direct pipeline to heaven, or even worse, can make the final decision of who is bound and who is loosed. God does that, has done that; and we by our preaching the Gospel will see it all work out, what has already been bound or loosed in heaven. The passage is not concerned with Peter’s power or infallibility, but rather the role that he and the disciples of Jesus will play in the building of the Church. Since his proclamation is the basis of preaching about Christ, it precipitated Jesus’ teaching about how the Church would be built.

 

Finally, Jesus safeguards the method of the kingdom by forbidding publicity (v. 20). Jesus was not trying to keep the message quiet, or his identity a secret. He was refusing to bow to the demands of the people to declare himself with a sign. He wanted people to come to faith in Him as Peter and the disciples had done, through the response of faith to the revelation. He wanted to make sure that they would come to Him by faith, and not because of messianic zeal without true repentance. And He wanted to ensure that the steady progress to the cross would not be hindered by full disclosure. After the resurrection there would be complete proclamation to the world. The disciples were beginning to understand how all this was to work, but they still were unclear on the death and resurrection (see 16:21-23).

 

Old Testament Correlation

 

If you have time you could study many Old Testament passages about the Messiah as the Son of the Living God (some of these are in the archives under the daily devotions on Old Testament Christology). But there is one passage that is parallel to this one in Isaiah 51. There the prophet writes: “Look to the rock from which you were cut, and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who gave you birth.” In that passage the LORD is reminding the Israelites of their heritage in the Abrahamic Covenant. God began with Abraham and Sarah and built a nation, the people of God. Now, in a parallel fashion, the Lord begins with Peter and the other apostles to build His Church, a ew program in the New Covenant.

 

Conclusion and Application

 

This is one of those passages that will involve more reading of different interpretations than of simply studying the text. And some of those views will involve a lot of passages and a lot of theological reasoning. That may be more than most people wish to do, but it is important to understand traditions of churches. But a careful study of the text of this passage will show how far the passage can be taken; and thereafter teachings allegedly based on this passage will have to be evaluated carefully. If a church denomination holds to apostolic authority, it would have trouble proving it from this passage alone. If a church denomination is adamantly opposed to such a teaching, it would have trouble basing its view on this passage if it sought to remove Peter as the rock. In other words, that debate is more involved, and this passage is brought into it because of Peter and because of the keys. The views are not going to change.

 

Putting aside the centuries of Christian debate on that issue, we can conclude that in this passage:

 

  1. Peter declared his faith in the Messiahship of Jesus, the Son of God. His words fit the language of the Bible; but in time he and the others would come to realize that those words meant more than they had understood at the time. And as they studied the Old Testament again and again they would see that the higher meaning of those words was in there. Today, how people answer the question, “Who do you say I am?” will reveal whether or not they have faith, and so whether or not they are part of God’s program.

 

An aside is necessary here. Some may be satisfied that Jesus was a prophet (as Islam would claim). If He was a prophet, then His words must be true—and He claimed to be God, and to have come to die for our sins. If people reject that, then they cannot say He is a prophet, or at least not a true prophet.

 

  1. Christ declared that he was going to build His church on the apostles; they would proclaim the message of Christ, record it in Scripture, and establish the Church throughout the known world. Everything we do today is based on the work and the teachings of the apostles, who were commissioned by Christ and inspired by the Spirit.

 

  1. Christ gave to the apostles and to all disciples the privilege of proclaiming the Gospel to the world, and by that proclamation binding and loosing what was already bound and loosed in heaven. This was no mysterious power reserved for a few; by proclaiming the Gospel one would see faith or rejection in the hearers, and understand how the kingdom of Christ was growing in a world that often refused to enter. We all have the keys of the kingdom because we can proclaim entrance into the kingdom. Our task is the faithful teaching of the truth of the Gospel, even though some will be offended and refuse it. The message is based on the person of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, and on His work, the work of redemption.


Praying for the Hurting

Praying for the Hurting
 
Praying for a hurting person can be done in many ways. Recently this prayer was shown to me as a way to pray for a relative. You can substitute the name for a different  person.
 

A Prayer for Clark

 

You are the God of our Fathers… the God of Clark.

You are Jehovah… the Self-Existent One.

You are Adonai… Clark’s Lord.

You are El Elon… the Most High.

You are El Roi… the Strong One who sees Clark.

You are El Shaddai… the Almighty God.

You are El Olam… the Everlasting God.

You are El Berith… the God of the Covenant and the God who keeps His promises to Clark.

You are Eloi… My God, said Jesus and Clark’s God.

You are Jehovah Jireh… the God who Provides for all of Clark’s needs.

You are Jehovah Nissi… the Lord… Clark’s Banner.

You are Jehovah Shalom… the Lord… Clark’s Peace.

You are Jehovah Sabbaoth… the Lord of Hosts and there is no one greater in the universe.

You are Jehovah Maccaddeshcem… the Lord… Clark’s Sanctifier, who is continually conforming Clark to the image of Christ.

You are Jehovah Raah… the Lord… Clark’s Shepherd, who cares tenderly for Clark and protects and guides Clark’s family.

You are Jehovah Tsidkenu… the Lord… Clark’s righteousness and the One who makes Clark acceptable.

You are Jehovah El Gmolah… the Lord God of Recompense and the One who will restore to Clark and Clark’s family all that the mouths of the locust have eaten.

You are Jehovah Nakeh… the Lord who smites every physical… every spiritual that attempts to invade… to harm Clark’s body… Specifically smiting any complications to healing in Clark’s body.

You are Jehovah Ropheca… God… Clark’s Restorer.

You are the Ancient of Days… Who is from everlasting to everlasting.

 

You are the Rock of Israel and also Clark’s Rock… Likewise, you are Clark’s Glory… our Salvation and our Comfort.

 

My prayer… All of Who You are… and all of what You do… I beseech You our God that you rain down Your Blessings, Protection, Healing… on Clark and his family.

 

For, Lord… your ways are not my ways… and your thoughts are not my thoughts… For, I do not understand… but neither do I question… You are loving and true… kind and longsuffering… Holy… wonderful and steadfast.

For you love Clark more than we can ever imagine… Yes You do… may Clark feel your very presence.

So, I beg You to be You…

So, I beg You to move the rest of us to Glorify Your Name even times that may seem downtrodden and tragic to us… For, You alone are worthy to be Praised…

 

And another special petition for Clark…

I pray that the Shekinah Glory of God may invade every place where Clark is… as You Lord, many years ago, invaded a simple stable.

I pray that all those about him will see… hear… accept and be amazed by the full and complete power that only comes from the movement of the Holy Spirit…

I pray that all will see Him… and praise Him, for He and only He is worthy… Christ alone.

 

We Praise Your Name… and the Name of Your Son… Jesus Christ.

In the Name of Him we call Emmanuel…

The One Who shows us what we cannot explain… The One Who has shown and continues to show us how great the Father’s love is for each of us… Yes, Clark… God is with you… Yes He is…

Indeed, He is with us…

This, I pray for you…

Amen.



O’ Praise Him

O’ Praise Him

 

Have you ever opened your eyes in the early morning and had an overwhelming sense that you MUST praise our Lord…

One of those… Wow… I must praise Him… Fall on your knees and Worship Him…

Before the morning shower… before all the things of the world crash in on you…

 

I pray… this morning was another one such time… O’ Praise Him… O’ Worship Him… Then that first ray of today’s light of day, spills over the hills… softly illuminating my small space in this world… O’ such a Blessing.

 

So… today starts…

Impressed again by the heart sense that we should praise God often… For,  Praising God is such an integral part of worshipping Him.

And, as we kneel this morning…

Remember that our days in Heaven will be filled with worshipping God, and as such we should be doing that now, too.

For, there is so much to praise Him for…

 

I know that it is impossible to mention even a small portion of God’s Blessings… 

But prayerfully here are some for us all to think about…

 

<> We should praise Him simply for Who He is… “Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.” (Deu. 4:39)

 

<> We should praise Him for His Holiness… “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness.” (Psa 29:2)

 

<> We should praise Him for providing for our salvation…  “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of His glory.” (Eph 1:13-14)

 

<> We should praise Him for His dependability… His faithfulness… “I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of Your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and Your truth from the great assembly.” (Ps 40:10)

 

<> We should praise Him for providing for our everyday material needs… not always our wants, but our needs… “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!” (Luke 12:27-28)

 

Let us remember to praise God each day… Let us remember the eternal and temporal benefits…

 

Draw Close… He is Near



“After Christmas”

“After Christmas”

Now that another Christmas day is past… pause for just a few moments… breathe the cool morning air… be still and consider what we just celebrated.

Christmas…

O’ that special intimate time that in a most remarkable moment, God became a man. 

Close your eyes and envision…  envision Heaven opening herself and placing her most precious One in a human womb.

O’ there’s more…

For Jesus came, not as a brilliant flash of light, accompanied by rolling thunder… Not even as an unapproachable conqueror… But… As a new born baby… whose first cries were not heard by kings or queens or even leaders of the religious… But… Simply heard by a peasant girl, a humble carpenter and a few assorted farm animals.

Now… look more closely… at the hands that first held him… un-manicured, calloused, and dirty.

And… now look onward… catch the glimpse of His future thirty-three years… That time when he would feel everything you and I have ever felt… Yes… at times, weak, weary and even afraid of failure… He even got His feelings got hurt.

As I send this, I have a knot in my heart… For, to think of Jesus in such a light seems almost irreverent.

Indeed… there’s something about keeping him divine and predictable.

But… seemly distant…

For sure… His Holy Sprint shan’t have us go there… For, our Precious Lord and Savior desires for us to see Him as human as He intended to be.

So…

Today… let Him into the mire and muck of your world.

Why?

For, only if we let Him in can He pull us out.

Now… remain still and praise Him from the stillness of your heart.

Go forth and spread The Good News… He is with us.

 



In Times Like These

Maybe some of you are like me, stunned, saddened, concerned and even sometimes angered by the news.

 

Daily we are saturated with heartbreaking news concerning mass killings, all kinds of other violence, civil, business and political misbehavior and insensibility.

 

Perhaps you remember a few weeks ago when Conan O’Brien spoke about the mass killing in Las Vegas. His head script counsel had come to him with the words he had spoken following the long list of previous mass shootings…  O’Brien was obviously deeply affected as he again considered what to say… “we’re all tired of hearing reporters, let alone comics, discuss mass carnage in the most affluent and influential country in the world. Something has got to change.”

 

For most, I sense such occurrences are not the sort of daily news we had hoped for. For most… the kind of world in which we’d like to live is much different… one more peaceful and hope not only for ourselves but also for our neighbors. And now… it seems that this vision continues to elude our grasp.

 

Thinking… sometimes saying… “God it’s so painful”… It’s so close (thanks to today’s connectivity)… O’ how our dream of peace seems so far out of reach…

 

Today… The intensity… the in our face awareness of all of this violence can leave us speechless and consequently, feeling helpless.

 

Frequently, when we don’t know what to think or say, reaching for the words of others… songwriters can help us find ways to come to terms with ourselves, the world around us and the tasks that lie ahead.  Their words often not only express our grief and anger, they can also call us back to those truths we hold most dear.

 

Whilst I was thinking about all of this and researching helpful material, a memory of the melody “Finlandia” swept through my audio consciousness… this melody supports a lyric written long ago (in the 18th century), which itself is an adaptation of an older lyric… the 42nd Psalm.

 

My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”

 

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:

how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.

 

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. (Psalm 42:3-6)

 

As I continued into my time of prayer and discovery, also thought about a lyric from the hymn “When Aimless Violence Takes Those We Love,” written by Joy Patterson. The third and fourth stanzas tell highlight truth…

 

Our faith may flicker low, and hope grow dim, yet you, O God, are with us in our pain; you grieve with us and for us day by day, and with us, sharing sorrow, will remain.

 

Because your Son knew agony and loss, felt desolation, grief, and scorn and shame, we know you will be with us, come what may, your loving presence near, always the same.

 

 

So…

Where is our God in times like these?

 

Hear this clearly…

God is here in the middle of the suffering.

God is here confronted by evil and bearing the agony that is evil’s intent but not only as an act of divine empathy.

God in Jesus bears this evil as an expression of defiant love and life.

 

When the lyricist’s words bring us to the suffering of Jesus – a suffering for which these days have increased our sensitivity (we can add every other tragedy and natural disaster of which we are aware), they also bring us to an awareness and celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. Just as our grieving finds resonance in the suffering of Christ, so Jesus’ resurrection draws our sorrow and anger into hopefulness – perhaps not all at once; we may need to be patient with ourselves.

 

Those of us who sit slack jawed, sometimes not even fully believing the news we’re reading… hearing… seeing… are called again and again and again to the hope that violence and death will not have the last word. For… this last word belongs to life – Jesus Christ has made it so.

 

And so…

With this… having begun to find our words again and in our words, hope… we begin to put the pieces together that will result in action.

 

We pray…

We talk with one another…

We seek to learn and understand the nature of the world in which we are called to serve.

 

Then we again take up our vocations anew and work for life.

Each of us will go at this differently… for, our vocations are not exactly alike… but none of us will do this alone.

 

For… God in Christ Jesus is with us…

With us in our shock…

With us in our concern…

With us in our pain…

 

Together, we who are with the Body of Christ… the people of God… are with Jesus in the hopefulness of life.

 

Yes…

There can be a tenaciousness to the hope of those whose trust is in God.

 

Well, I won’t back down / No, I won’t back down You can stand me up at the gates of hell / But I won’t back down (Tom Petty with Jeff Lynne, I Won’t Back Down)

 

Draw Close, He is Near

 

P.S.

 

Ruth Caye Jones composed this song long ago… It has been a blessing and comfort for many.

 



Come Down From The Mountains

Come down from the mountain… the work is in the valleys

“Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Mark 9:5)

Peter had just experienced the most wonderful, powerful event in his life. He had been caught up in the glory, taken to the summit of the mount with his master, the Lord Jesus.  The sights of his surroundings and the constant murmur of men had overshadowed his world with a sense of glory that he had never known before. For a moment, for a brief moment, he had lost himself and wanted nothing more than to forget everything and everybody that he had ever known and stay on that mountain top forever. The temporal things of the world had become his enemy and he no longer wanted anything to do with them. He wanted to rise above them in rapture, stand on the summit in victory, and set up an eternal tabernacle on that mountain top.

How many times have you wished for the same?

How many sweet times of fellowship with my Lord have you longed to have last forever? 

How many times have you been content to sit on the mountain top… marveling at the beauty of His handiwork… content to listen to the gentle whispers moving from peak to peak… through the rocky crevasses… singing their high mountain song in the clear, cool, frosty air?

When you reclined at His table and took the cup and the bread in your hand in remembrance of Him, or during the nights that you spent at the altar in prayer… 
How often did you wish to set up a tabernacle in that place? 

But, too soon you heard the stirring of people, the hushed voices of those around you… soon, the doors open and people gather as life shows up again.

Have you often mourned over having to leave that special place too soon.

Exclaiming… “Why do I have to go back?  Why can’t I just stay here? This is a good thing. This is a special place. I don’t want to leave! Why must I always leave the quiet place to return to the roar of the battle? Why won’t my Lord allow me to do what Peter asked and make for Him a tabernacle here?”

But know this… The answer we receive is the one given to Peter – “Get up and go! This is not your rest.” 

For, you see… men were not made to remain on the mountain. 

We were made for the valley.

The place that is best suited for the soul of man is not the mountain of glory, but the valley of ministry. 

Listen as you descend….
Listen to the voices at the foot of the mountain… the voices of the multitude who need to be delivered. 

Hear their cries as they come up the cliffs from the valley of their humiliation…

Now, hear His clear voice speaking to you…
“Do you believe that you are too good to enter into the tents of suffering of these?”
“Do you believe that you are above being able to help to those bound up by sin?”

Heed His voice… His counsel… His gentle push… Do not fear… Do not dwell in such thoughts, for He will be with you…

Now, as you begin your descent… The veil of the mountain is parted for you… Yes, it is drawn away for your good. 
Descend now…  down the mountain…

There is much He has planned for you.
Hear His Words clearly… 
“Go forth… Build your tabernacle where many need to hear the Good News.”

Draw close… He is with you… go!