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But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Mark 8:33

I remember hearing a story about a young couple who lived in a small town in theMidwest. They were high school sweethearts and went away toBibleCollege. One day as they spoke of their future together they both realized they had a desire to go to the foreign mission field. They prayed about it, talked to some close friends and when they were quite certain that this was indeed a ‘calling of the Lord’, went home to tell their parents.

This news was not taken well by the parents. In fact, there was weeping and pleading and even a few threats along the way. ‘How could they abandon their families like this?’ ‘Why go waste your lives overseas when there are plenty of people who need ‘saving’ close to home?’ ‘Why not just teach Sunday School or lead the youth group at church? We’re always looking for good youth leaders.’

Eventually the nagging and pleading and arguments took their toll. The couple abandoned their quest for missions and tried to settle into a life in the quiet town in which they grew up. Life wasn’t easy. There was financial hardship. The life of love they expected didn’t turn out as well as hoped. It seemed like they endured set-back after set-back. Finally, they divorced and went their separate ways.

Now, I’m not saying that the reason for the calamity in this couple’s life was their decision not to go to the mission field, but one has to wonder if that wasn’t the case. A similar situation happens with Jesus and the disciples. After discussing his real identity as the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus begins to tell them the next step in the chapter of his life.

Peter, however, would have nothing of that. There was plenty of work for Jesus to do here on earth. He rebuked Jesus for even thinking such a thing! One wonders if there wasn’t the sound of “We won’t let anything happen to you Jesus, count on us!” in Peter’s voice.

Jesus looked at Peter but spoke to the one who always prompts us to go our own way. The enemy, Satan will use every tactic possible to keep us from making an impact in our world for Jesus. He can use jobs, children, spouses, parents and any other tactic to keep us from the work God has for us. In this case, Satan used Peter to try to distract Jesus from his ultimate goal, to glorify God (which is each of our tasks).

There are many ‘good reasons’ not to step out of our comfort zones for Jesus but none of them are will bring fulfillment in our lives. The message is clear. Stay true to your calling. Pursue it at all costs. Don’t allow the pleasures and comforts of this world keep you from the eternal rewards stepping out for Christ will bring.

There is another lesson in this story and it comes to those of us on the other side. Jesus referred to Peter as a stumbling block. Be cautious when someone comes to you with a vision of what God wants them to do, especially if that person is someone you ‘can’t live without’. Don’t allow your personal security to hinder their opportunity to do the work God has for them. Honestly pray with them to determine if this vision of theirs is of God or not. Don’t be a stumbling block.

PRAYER: Father, stepping out into the unknown is hard for me. I like the false security that my life brings to me. Still I want to be open to your leading. Protect me from the arguments the enemy will use to keep me from stepping out for you. Give me wisdom so that I won’t be a stumbling block to others as they seek your will. In Jesus name, Amen.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22

Sometimes it’s important to read between the lines when we read the Bible. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should add to what is being said, or take away from the directives taught. When we read God’s letter to us it’s important to remember that the events of the Bible are real-life events in the lives of real-life people. The people, places and events of the Bible aren’t removed from the reality of life itself.

Such is the case with Matthew 18: 21-22. Jesus has just finished teaching on the importance of dealing with situations in which we have been openly wronged by someone else. That got Peter thinking. Perhaps he was hoping to justify some feelings of resentment or bitterness. Maybe he was about to get the revenge he was hoping for. For whatever the reason he goes to Jesus, I think for vindication of feelings of judgment.

‘So, Jesus,” He starts out, “How many times should I forgive? Up to seven times?” Street logic of the day said three times and you are out. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, fool me a third time and look out! So Peter, knowing who he was talking to, doubled that and threw one in for good measure. Seven times oughta do it.

Jesus’ response isn’t so surprising. If we forgive as God forgives there are no limitations. Fair? No! Grace and forgiveness are never built on the premise of justice or rights. But it’s what Jesus doesn’t say that catches my mind.

Jesus didn’t ask Peter if the person in question asked for forgiveness. He didn’t ask if this was a one-time sin or one that had been done repeatedly. He didn’t ask if the person actually deserved forgiveness, or if the person was of the same denomination or sexual persuasion, or political party. He didn’t question Peter as to whether the person was pro-life or pro-choice. He simply said forgive.

We won’t always agree with those who wrong us. We won’t always approve of their actions. We won’t appreciate the pain they cause to us emotionally, physically or spiritually. We may dislike their body piercings, shudder at their dress or be disappointed with their worship style and music.

Do we choose our family? If my father accepts the doctrine of my adversary shouldn’t I? If my Father accepts people and loves people and forgives people who are drastically different than I am, shouldn’t I?

When Peter came to Jesus he learned a valuable lesson each of us needs to remember. When we came to Christ we came with various amounts of baggage. Some of our loads were piled high. Others not so much. No matter what baggage we carried we were forgiven. Should we not forgive those who are different than us as well?

PRAYER: Father forgiveness has always been hard for me. So many times I’m afraid to forgive because I’m not about to let myself get hurt again. Yet you have forgiven me countless times for recurring sin in my life. Empower me with your Spirit to forgive those who have wronged me and accept those who are different than I. In Jesus name, Amen.

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:5

So, imagine, just for a moment, that you are one of Jesus’ disciples. It’s been a long day walking along the hot and dusty road through the wilderness. You are hot and tired. Even the thoughts of the people Jesus healed in the last town aren’t lifting your spirits. All you can think of is laying down to eat and giving your hot sore feet a rest.

As you enter the room where the meal is to be served you breathe a sigh of relief. The room is ready. The clay walls have kept the room cool. A welcome relief from the blazing sun outside. You scan the room briefly. Table is ready. Bread is out. Fresh wine is already poured. Foot washing bowl is in the corner complete with towel and ….wait. Where is the foot-washing servant?

You shake your head. Judas and his penny-pinching. How hard would it have been to get a servant to wash your feet? The coolness of the room is replaced by the heat of anger rising inside you. It doesn’t take that much to plan.

You look around once more. Nope. No servant. Most of the others probably think your face is red from being outside. It isn’t. It’s red with anger as you make your way to your spot. Hopefully you’ll get a place near Jesus so that if an opportune time comes you can tell him what you think of the lack of a servant.

John reclines beside you. Great! Everyone knows that he has the smelliest feet of the group and now there’s no one to wash them. Can this day get any worse? Your thoughts are interrupted by the sloshing sound of water. A momentary sense of relief comes as you turn towards the sound. The momentary relief is replaced by shock as you look down and see Jesus at your feet. Towel wrapped around his waist, his hands gently washing the hot dust from your feet. It feels so incredibly good on one hand, and seems so incredibly wrong on the other. He’s the Rabbi! He has no place stooping so low as to wash our feet.

What was that he was saying? No servant is greater than his master? Of course not. A servant is a servant. Then it hits you. We are all servants. John with his stinking feet is no better or worse than you are. Judas with his penny-pinching, shady ways is on the same level as you too. And Peter, with his arrogant, speak-now-think-later ways? No worse than the attitude you are embracing in your heart.

It’s the same Jesus today as in the upper room. He is still willing to kneel down to your level. He’s still willing to touch you in the areas that are most in need of his touch, no matter how dirty, no matter how rotten those areas are.

His love is like soothing cool water on hot, painful feet. His touch softens the hardest calluses of your soul. Jesus thinks nothing of stooping to the lowest level to lift you up. Let him wash your feet today. Feel the soothing, healing relief of his love and forgiveness. Then reach out to those who need to feel that touch as well.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank you for the lesson of the feet washing. I confess that there are too many times I’ve thought myself to important or too busy to reach out to others who need to feel your touch. Refresh me with the soothing touch of your love and forgiveness. Empower me to share your love and forgiveness with those around me. In your name I pray, Amen.

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. Acts 12:7

“I’ll pray for you.” We say it all the time, especially as believers. I remember when my son was only a few months old. He was very sick and the doctors in our small town couldn’t figure out what was wrong. We were referred to a doctor in a much larger city, very well-known for it’s medical expertise.

As we were making the preparations to go and word spread, many from our church called or stopped by to offer support and prayers. Some even prayed with us. The one comment that sticks in my mind the most was a dear lady where I worked. In a very sincere voice she said, “We’ll be thinking of you.”

The reason her comment has stayed with me all these years is because of how empty those words were. ‘Thinking of me? What good will that do?’ Of course I knew her heart and sincerity, but I was struck by the fact that our prayers are so much more than simply thinking sympathetic, heartfelt thoughts about something or someone. Prayer, whether spoken, written or simply thought in our minds, is a personal, intimate communication with the eternal, omnipotent, all-knowing God of love! What a privilege we have to approach Him in that way for ourselves and on the behalf of others.

The apostle Peter was taken prisoner and sentenced to death. The Bible gives us no indication that he was distraught about this, but it does give us a picture of God’s people in action. We don’t know the details, but at some point after his arrest a prayer meeting was held to pray for his deliverance. It was in the midst of that prayer meeting that an angel appeared to Peter. How many of us, if we were in prison and to be executed the next day, would have to be awakened from a deep sleep! Peter wasn’t worried. He knew that whatever happened, God’s will would be done.

Prayer works. Don’t think prayer doesn’t work when you don’t get the answers you want. Don’t think it a waste of time because no one will hear you. As a follower of Jesus Christ, you have the privilege, honor and responsibility to approach the very throne of God. Don’t take the matter of prayer lightly. When you say you will pray for someone, do it. Right then. Whether you are driving, walking, in a meeting or working, PRAY! You don’t know how much impact your prayer may have on the person(s) involved.

As a body of Christ we must always be ready to fight the enemy. Prayer is our major weapon of attack. It was no doubt the fact that Peter ‘knew’ his friend were praying that allowed him to sleep that night.

One more thought. Surround yourself with people who pray. ‘Thinking of others’ is a nice gesture, but thinking of someone doesn’t really do anyone any good. Your problems may not go away when you have friends praying but the burden will be lighter.

PRAYER: Holy God, I thank you for the gift of prayer. Thank you for the example of prayer in the life of the early church. Like Peter, I ask that I can have the faith to rest in the midst of despair because I know people are praying for me and your perfect will will be done. Help me to remember to pray for others and not treat it as merely a spiritual exercise. Help me to really believe that prayer works. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

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