Peter: God’s restoration in failure

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This past weekend in my message, “The Good News of New Beginnings,” I didn’t make my way into all the detail I had planned in the new beginning of Peter from his failure. Here are my sermon notes from that section, exploring Jesus’ restoration of Peter from the failure of his denials. I hope this encourages you in the midst of your own failures.


 

Now turn with me to one final story of new beginning, found in the next chapter of John’s Gospel. Here, we find the disciples have returned to their home area in Galilee to fish, but haven’t caught anything. Are they trying to de-stress after all that happened to them in Jerusalem? Are they forsaking all they learned from Jesus and just returning to their old lives?

We don’t know for sure, but something dramatic happens when Jesus Himself appears on the lakeshore to give them fishing advice. Jesus’ advice to throw their nets over the other side leads to a miraculously huge haul of fish, which makes them realize they are dealing with Jesus.

Peter, in His excitement, jumps into the water and swims all the way to shore ahead of the others. Jesus makes them breakfast, and they all know it is Him. In the midst of that breakfast, Jesus has a direct conversation with Peter in four parts.

Part 1 – Peter’s failed boldness (John 21:15)
Jesus: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (21:15)

This first question brings us back to Peter’s failure, when He denied Jesus three times.
Earlier in John’s Gospel before Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus had warned His disciples about the challenges about to come.

Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

Which is exactly what Peter did. Jesus is resurrecting Peter’s failure so that He can directly deal with it. Suppressing our failures does not bring life; instead it eats away at us from the inside out.

Part 2 – Peter’s failed love (John 21:16)
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter’s painful response: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

But earlier in the upper room, Jesus had addressed all the disciples, showing them what real love looks like, when he said: “If you love me, keep my commands” (14:15).

Peter had a failure of nerve, but also a failure of love. Jesus draws this out into the light so that Peter might not be trapped within his failure but move into a new beginning.

Part 3 – Peter’s pain revealed (John 21:17)
But Jesus is not done yet.

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” (21:17)

Just notice this phrase: “the third time.” Jesus is intentionally paralleling Peter’s three denials with three questions.

Peter’s pained response is “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Again, Jesus is calling all of the failure out into the light so that it might not be hidden or suppressed, but release, healed, and turned into a new beginning. What is that new beginning?

Part 4 – Peter’s calling (John 21:18-22)
After the three-fold “Feed my sheep” (21:17) Jesus speaks the ultimate: “Follow me!” (21:19). This echoes Jesus’ first invitation for Peter to follow Him. He is returned to a new beginning of discipleship that will lead him into a new beginning of ministry.

Jesus does not leave Peter to linger in failure, whether hiding it or brooding over it. Instead, Jesus addresses Peter’s failure by bringing it into the light, then healing it, and finally restoring him to a meaningful calling.

For us, too, failure can box us in. We hold it in the back room of our lives, afraid for anyone to know about it. We brood over it when no one is around, like it is something we cannot stand but something we cannot live without. This is not life, but less than living. Jesus comes to us, in the power of the resurrection, to say that what seems like the end in our failure does not have to be the end.

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, our failures can be the doorways to a new beginning of restoration in Him.

The Good News of New Beginnings [The Good News of Jesus]

Jesus Series GFX_App SquareAs we continued our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection at Eastbrook Church, I continued the themes of our series “The Good News of Jesus.” This second weekend, we explored four post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to Mary, the disciples as a group, Thomas, and Peter in John 20:11-21:25. Each of these stories gives us insight into the ways that the resurrection of Jesus intersects with our ordinary lives, in such things as grief, fear, doubt, and failure.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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The Good News of Jesus

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This weekend, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at Eastbrook Church, we will begin a two-week message series exploring “The Good News of Jesus.” Drawing upon the post-resurrection accounts within the Gospel of John, we want to bring into sharper focus the ways in which Jesus brings good news to the world.

April 20/21 [Easter]: “The Good News of the Resurrected One” – John 20:1-10, 30-31
The resurrection of Jesus from death brings good news into our lives. As we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, we will also explore three themes of how this is good news: light overwhelming darkness, freedom overcoming prisons, and life overpowering death.

April 27/28: “The Good News of New Beginnings” – John 20:11-21:25
After Jesus’ resurrection, John offer a series of encounters that Jesus has with real people. Each of these encounters sheds light on the way in which Jesus’ resurrection is good news: God’s presence in loss (Mary), God’s peace in fear (disciples in the upper room), God’s guidance in doubt (Thomas), and God’s restoration in failure (Peter).

Key Assumptions on the Dark Side of Leadership

fullsizeoutput_ac8As part of my ongoing reflections on pastoral ministry, ministry in the North American evangelical church, and questions of ministry integrity (see my posts “Real Discipleship in a Consumer Church,” “Five Themes of Resilient Ministry,” and “Recovering Holiness“), I pulled a book off the shelf that I read over ten years ago entitled Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership by Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima. This is an outstanding book that is both immensely helpful and chilling. I want to share a few things from this book over this coming week, but let me start with the basic assumptions upon which the book is written. If you take them seriously, you cannot help but become reflective right away. It is, in one sense, an outworking of the prophet Jeremiah’s words: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

As in all works, there are numerous assumptions foundational to the development of this book and the reader’s understanding of the material presented. These are assumptions derived from our study of various subject matters, including our own personal experiences, a substantial array of literature on the subjects of leadership and personal dysfunction, and observation and conversations with those involved in the leadership of churches and numerous Christian organizations. Briefly, it is assumed:

  1. Every leader suffers from some degree of personal dysfunction varying from extremely mild to extremely acute.
  2. Personal dysfunction, in one form or another, can often serve as the driving force behind an individual’s desire to achieve success as a leader.
  3. Many leaders are not aware of the dark side of their personalities and the personal dysfunctions that drive them.
  4. The personal characteristics that drive individuals to succeed and lead often have a shadow side that can cripple them once they become leaders and very often causes significant failure. This dynamic is what has been labeled in this book the “paradox of personal dysfunction in leadership.”
  5. Learning about their own dark side and the dysfunction that have created it can enable leaders to address those areas and prevent, or at least mitigate, the potential negative effects to their exercise of leadership.
  6.  Scripture has much to say about the dark side of human personality and the motivations that drive us to achieve, which can be helpful to leaders in their efforts to understand themselves and overcome those areas of their personalities that might threaten their effectiveness as leaders.

[pages 14-15]

When you read these assumptions, what do you think? Do you agree with them or not?

If you read this and thought of someone else the entire time, then you should probably read through them again while giving attention to yourself.

The Weekend Wanderer: 15 September 2018

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

 

The head pastor of the Zion church in Beijing Jin Mingri poses for picures in the lobby of the unofficial Protestant "house" church in Beijing“China outlaws large underground Protestant church in Beijing” – Those connected to the church in China are aware that the government has been putting increasing pressure on churches in China. This latest news is one more example of that. “Beijing city authorities have banned one of the largest unofficial Protestant churches in the city and confiscated ‘illegal promotional materials’, amid a deepening crackdown on China’s ‘underground’ churches.” See Christianity Today‘s helpful write-up about this here.

 

O6THYFTPZII6NGJ7OPDJHKEYEA“John MacArthur’s ‘Statement on Social Justice’ Is Aggravating Evangelicals” according to Christianity Today‘s “Quick to Listen” podcast. And they’re not alone, as is evidenced by a lot of mainstream attention to “The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel” authored by John MacArthur and others (see last week’s “Weekend Wanderer” for more info). In one of his columns this week at The Washington Post, Michael Gerson writes in response to the statement that “Christians are suffering from complete spiritual blindness.”  Over at the Missio Alliance blog, Dennis Edwards posted a two-part response to the statement. I keep intending to write something on this, but have not had the time to get there this week. However, I did mention in my message last weekend at Eastbrook Church that the church should be a kingdom-oriented community that is so heavenly minded that we are more earthly good than anyone else.

 

girl-1192032_1280“Gen Z’s Biggest Legacy: Has Social Media Hacked a Generation?” – Rachel Seo, a sophomore at UC San Diego, reflects on social media’s impact on her generation. “There is research now that, in addition to paralleling with my own experiences, reveals the darker effects of social media, most particularly its long-lasting impact on Gen Z. Did anyone predict the impact of how a few apps could lead my generation into a mental health crisis? Could anyone have predicted it? Or, perhaps more hauntingly, did some people know about the potential effects that it would have on others—and simply not care enough to share?”

 

religious-father-praying-with-children“How parents act on their religious beliefs linked to the onset of atheism in their children” – A recent study at Religion, Brain & Behavior (“Predicting age of atheism: credibility enhancing displays and religious importance, choice, and conflict in family of upbringing“), highlights the fact that the credibility in the way parents live out their faith directly influences the way in which their children lean toward atheism. Eric Dolan writes of the study: “People tend to become atheists at a younger age when their religious parents talk the talk but don’t walk the walk, according to new research published in the journal Religion, Brain & Behavior. The study provides evidence that exposure to religiously-motivated actions plays an important role in the onset of atheism.”

 

virtues“Why You Can’t Name the Virtues” – Speaking of credibility in our faith, Karen Swallow Prior writes about the moral vacuum, not just in terms of action, but in terms of character formation. This is basically an excerpt from her book On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life in Great Books, which was just released. She writes: “For the past several decades, American evangelicalism has been concerned about morality—and for good reason. Sexual promiscuity, pornography, abortion, divorce, materialism, racism, and countless other ills so permeate our culture—even among the churched—that they seem to be the rule rather than the exception. But moral choices flow from moral character. Perhaps if we wish to reform morality, we should turn more attention to the formation of character.”

 

24f547f8af102a02576ce0a9d5d7bda6“When the Ship Has Sailed: Alan Jacobs on Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis” – Alan Jacobs’ new book, The Year of Our Lord 1943, explores the inheritance of the Christian intellectual tradition in the middle of the twentieth century, weaving together the life and thought of W. H. Auden, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, Jacques Maritain and Simone Weil.Whether you have or have not read the book, you will likely enjoy this interview with Jacobs by Robert L. Kehoe III at The Point in which they discuss various strands of Jacobs’ argument in the book, with a few loose ends in greater depth, including a few last words about Jacques Ellul.

 

perfect storm“Leadership’s Perfect Storm” – Steve Smith of Potter’s Inn reflects on the leadership failures in the evangelical church, giving attention to four main forces that he finds most concerning in today’s realm of leadership: “a success intoxicated leadership culture; the cult of emphasizing leadership gifts and skills rather than integrity and character; unchecked power in positions of leadership; and the unchecked speed and busyness in the life of a leader.” This is definitely worth a read, and has wider application than simply in the church. [Thanks to Tom Keppeler for sharing this article.]

 

power“Confronting the Toxic Power in Me: High-profile stories of fallen pastors can distract us from ourselves or hold up a mirror to our souls” – This article pairs well with Steve Smith’s above, this time giving attention to our own selves. If you ever read articles about the failure of leaders and say, “I would never do that,” then you are deceiving yourself in some way. Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel offer a very meaningful look at power and the ways in which we all can deceive ourselves. I remember the words of an older Christian who, in the midst of a discussion about temptation, said to me: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” May we let God’s grace into our lives in ever-more transforming ways.

 

alan lee“Making fantasy reality: Alan Lee, the man who redrew Middle-earth” – With the release of the latest posthumous collection of J. R. R. Tolkien’s stories from Middle-Earth, The Guardian offered a nice interview with Alan Lee. Lee’s illustrations of Tolkien’s world are so closely linked with the works themselves that his vision of Middle Earth was one of the greatest inspirations for the film adaptations, aside from Tolkien’s own illustrations.

 

sub“Eerie photos show dilapidated relics of the Soviet era” – When I saw some of these photos, my mind spun around in all sorts of combinations of post-apocalyptic movies with some tinges of science fiction. If that’s your sort of thing, you should spend some time browsing through this unique photo collection. “Many of the areas where the photos were taken were inaccessible during the Soviet era, as they contained classified technology. They depict monuments, factories, military bases and various kinds of vehicles and technology, most in an advanced state of decay.”

 

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Praying for Deliverance [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13)

Within many cultures, and particularly here in North America, we seem obsessed with discovering who we are. Many times, it is suggested that in order to find ourselves we must leave behind all limits and throw aside all rules. The key, many say, is to give ourselves to the full range of experiences and desires, and by doing so we will find out who we truly are. In that approach to life, words like “temptation” and “evil” lose their meaning, unless interpreted as the temptation toward an evil of resisting our desire for anything that helps us become ourselves.

Jesus’ life, however, presents a different way. His public ministry begins with a season of self-denial marked by intense temptation in remote, solitary places (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). Three times in that story, Jesus resists temptation. It is the temptation to become less than God intends for Him by giving into various forms of desire. Each time, Jesus resists a very real enemy, Satan, and does so by the power of the God’s Word. Reaching out to God for victory as He quotes Scripture to the devil, Jesus walks through the time of trial and into God’s deliverance and care. Jesus models for us the great truth that we are more than our desires, and that the pathway to the kingdom of God involves denying what we often see as our very self.

Within Jesus’ teaching on prayer here in the Sermon on the Mount, He reminds us that we must call out to God to save us from temptation and also to deliver us when we find the evil one coming against us. If it is true, as the Apostle Peter points out, that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), then the related truth is that we must “be alert and of sober mind” so that we might “resist him, standing firm in the faith” (5:9). The strength for this sober alertness and resistance of faith comes when God fills us with power by the Holy Spirit. As God strengthens our will to resist temptation, He will also reveal that there is a way out of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).

May our prayers rise up to God so that we might resist temptation and find deliverance from God in the midst of a world set against Him and His ways.

Save us, Lord, from temptation,
and deliver us from evil.
All around us, Lord, we know
the snares of the evil one
and his minions are gathered.
Truly he is like a prowling lion,
hungry for the sweet taste of human suffering.
Lord, embolden us to resist him,
even to flee from him,
as we run into Your embrace.
Give us eyes to see the darkness around us
and the way out from temptation.
Also, grant us Your strength to stand firm
when the day of evil comes.
Lord, if we should fall, quicken us
by the grace of Your Holy Spirit
to turn around with holy repentance
and find forgiveness at Your throne of grace.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

Trouble (discussion questions)

Chosen Words Series Gfx_4x3 TitleHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Trouble,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This continues the series, “Chosen Words,” where we will journey through John 13-17 over the next number of weeks.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When did you face deep troubles in your life? What happened and how did you deal with?
  2. We continue our series, “Chosen Words,” by studying John 13:18-14:4, where Jesus faces into deep troubles. Before you read those verses aloud, take a moment to ask God to speak to you as you read His word.
  3. The first section of this passage, verses 18-30, focuses largely on Jesus’ expectation of betrayal at the hands of Juda. Judas is mentioned five times in John 13 (vss 2, 26, 27, 29 30). What do you notice about Judas from these verses?
  4. Jesus clearly knows that someone will betray Him (vs 21), but it also appears that this is part of God’s plan (vss 18-19). How could these both possibly be true?
  5. In the second section of this passage, verses 31-38, how would you summarize Jesus’ description of what He will face next? What do you think this means?
  6. In verses 34 and 35, Jesus offers “a new command.” Although this may be familiar, what do you think it means practically to fulfill this command? Why do you think there is a direct connection between this command and identification of Jesus’ disciples?
  7. Jesus confronts Simon Peter’s bold declaration with a hard truth about his upcoming failure. Why do you think Jesus said this to Peter?
  8. When do you think it is the loving thing to do to confront someone with a hard truth?
  9. The third section is found in 14:1-4. Here, Jesus balances words about His departure (13:31-33) with the reassuring work of God. What does Jesus promise to His followers?
  10. How do Jesus’ words here help your perspective on the challenges of your own life or the global events unfolding around us?
  11. What is one specific thing that God is speaking to you about life with Him through this study? How will that shape your life in the next week? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray for one another. If you are studying on your own, write it down and share it with someone.

 [Next week we will study John 14:1-31; 15:26-16:15. Read it ahead of time to prepare. Join the 40-day journey associated with this series by visiting http://www.eastbrook.org/chosenwords.%5D