Archive for October, 2015


I’ve been thinking on yesterday’s sermon on John 21:15-25 considering why it is that Jesus asked Peter whether he loved him.  Why did he ask so many times?  Aside from the comparison to the thrice denied Christ by Peter, was there another reason for such questioning?  Didn’t Jesus know Peter loved him?  Of course he did. Even Peter said as much. So why?

Jesus’ interrogation was for Peter’s sake.  It was for our sake.  Jesus’ is showing us something about how to love.  He is showing us what the love of God looks like, both by restoring an unlovable failure and by teaching him what love looks like in the face of his failure.

Christ is conveying these truths about how we must love by telling Peter to feed his lambs (twice), tend his sheep, and adding that no one else’s call is relevant to his call which is to simply follow him:

Loving me is other-centered, Peter Lori.

Loving me is not a popularity contest, Peter Lori.

Loving me is not a power trip Peter Lori.

Loving me has nothing to do with pride, Peter Lori.

Loving me is sacrificial service, Peter Lori.

Loving me is willingness to suffer, Peter Lori.

Loving me has nothing to do with competition and comparison, Peter Lori.

Loving me has nothing to do with your leading, Peter Lori.

Loving me is following wherever I lead, Peter Lori.

These are the things you failed to understand before.  That is why you fell.

Peter had grief over this interaction.  He had a certain sadness over Jesus’ questioning and doubtless his own culpability and regret.  He still had questions and some residual contest with his contemporaries in this heart.  Still, Peter was changed.  He was humbled.  By the power of God, Peter did follow Christ and change the world through his restored witness.

The grace displayed by God and the gospel toward Peter here is tremendous.  I know because the grace displayed by God and the gospel towards me, too, is tremendous.

I have been a doubter, a denier, an egotist, and a bombastic, just like Peter.  I look back with grief and a certain sadness.  When the Lord reveals the hard parts of his plan, I still pine over senseless questions about fairness and folly sprouting from a sinful nature .  I don’t know about Peter, but my biggest fear is falling away again.  What if my call is that which I find most unfavorable?  What if his love isn’t enough to keep me and what if I don’t really love him the way I think I do; the way I want to; the way he calls me to?

Foolish doubts and fears rooted in distrust and unbelief are silenced by the truth.  I know that he is the sustainer of all things, including my salvation.  I will not fear.

For Peter, martyrdom and death was the fear that caused his betrayal.  Peter’s restoration is proof that perseverance is possible.  He was afraid to die when he denied Christ, but later he died indeed for Christ by the power of God.

The love of God changes people.  It makes the unwilling, willing; the unloving, loving; the prideful, humble; the doubting, trust.  Our hope is found in forgetting our failures, formulas, fears, and trusting him to keep us from falling.  Our hope is found in following Christ wherever he leads.


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After all Moses’ excuses and hesitation, the grace of God wins out and he embarks upon his journey back to Egypt.  His mission is to do the will of God and deliver God’s people from slavery.

The first thing Moses does is request permission from his father-in-law, Jethro, to leave.  This simple act proves Moses’ humility.  When working for God, he does not forget he duty toward men in his life.  Either out of modesty over the job he has been entrusted with, or not wanting to alarm Jethro, he tells nothing of his intentions.  Jethro obliges him and gives he and his wife and son leave from his household.

As Moses begins his journey, God graciously restates his instructions and reminds Moses of what is going to happen as a result.  Perhaps to save Moses from discouragement, he again tells him of the initial resistance and opposition he is about to face.

Interestingly, the Lord refers to the people Israel as his “first born son.”  This, ultimately, is who Jesus Christ is, yet Israel, too, he claims as his own beloved by this title.

Speaking of sons, Moses’ son had never been circumcised – a strict command God had given to his “first born son” people Israel whom Moses was part of.  Moses has married a foreign woman and ignored his duty to obey God in this area.  Matthew Henry states that, “This was probably the effect of being unequally yoked with a Midianite, who was too indulgent of her child, while Moses was too indulgent of her.”  Until this point – the beginning of his ministry – God has not confronted Moses about his sin and shucking of responsibility.  Now, as a seemingly odd twist of the story, the text says the Lord seeks to kill Moses.  Apparently, a man who has no backbone in regards to his wife and family is not fit to lead God’s people.

He likely became ill on the journey and was near death.  His wife, Zipporah, apparently knowing their fault – perhaps due to her lack of willingness to carry out such a painful practice on her child previously – immediately circumcises their son in obedience to God’s command and touches Moses with the foreskin.  Afterward, God miraculously restores Moses.

It isn’t everyday that God calls you to something great, convinces you to go do it, and then seeks to kill you for previous disobedience.  At first glance, event C does not seem to fit.  After further consideration though, the Lord’s dealing with Moses in this way makes perfect sense.

If Moses is about to do great things for God and speak on his behalf, God needs him to fully understand and own the severity of his own sin.  Every minister God calls to preach goes through a preparation that they might get rid of all that the enemy can use against them while doing God’s work.  God’s ministers are called to be blameless.  God simply had to deal with Moses’ sin of omission before he would allow him to go any further with his obedience to his commission.

Finally, his brother and spokesman, Aaron, meets him in the wilderness.  Moses fills him in on the things God had said and Aaron told the elders and the whole people of Israel.  They showed God’s people the signs and the people believed, just as God had said they would.  They bowed their heads and worshiped God.

The ultimate end of our obedience to God is others’ obedience to God.  Because Moses obeyed, Israel was found obeying – at least for now.  Therefore, let us be found obeying rather than objecting to God.  Let us consider any sins of omission and rectify them.  Then, perhaps God will cause our brothers and sisters to obey and worship him because of our good example of obedience.

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God has laid out his plan for Moses to deliver Israel out of Egypt.  Moses has given a couple humble objections to which God has faithfully replied.  God has assured Moses that it is not about him, that he will be with him, that the people of God would believe him, and that they would have victory over Egypt. Where Moses should have started acquiescing, he continues declining and excuse-making.

In chapter 4, we find Moses bickering with God.  He gives three more rebuttals to God’s commands:

-They will not believe me or listen to me.

Um, Moses, God already told you they will.

– I am not eloquent…I am slow of speech and tongue.

Moses.  I (God) made your mouth.  Go.  I (God) will be with you and your mouth.  I’ll teach you what to say.

-Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.

Fine, Moses.  Take your brother and let him speak.

After all this refusing, God is angry with Moses’ stubborn unwillingness to simply do what he is commanding.  Still, God stays and reasons with Moses.  He gives Moses unmistakable miraculous signs.  He assures Moses that he has made him entirely capable of doing what is asked of him.  He even offers Moses’ brother as an acceptable substitute for the speaking parts of his assignment.  Again, God promises to be with them both, to instruct them both, and to give them miraculous signs to accompany their words.  Finally, Moses obeys.

Here we find that God was speaking directly to Moses and Moses continually refusing his explicit commands.  Remind you of anyone?  Us.  Right.

 It’s like praying for God to speak to us and then refusing to open our Bibles.  He did speak.  He has spoken.  Our refusal to obey is nothing other than continual rejection of his clear instructions.  Matthew Henry puts it this way, “An unwilling mind will take up with a sorry excuse rather than none, and is willing to devolve those services upon other that have any thing of difficulty or danger in them.”

How many times do we stand around expecting God to do great things in our lives and the lives of those around us without any commitment to carry out the instructions he has already given?  We often expect God to accept our requests while rejecting his commands.  How foolish.

Pray.  Read the Word.  Obey.  Trust him in small things and big things.  Stop making lame excuses about why you cannot.  Do whatever he tells you.  Rest knowing that he is with you and he is faithful.  If we are faithful to even just these few things, our lives and the lives of those around us will undoubtedly change.

Why?  Because, “Even self-diffidence, when it grows to an extreme – when it either hinders us from duty or clogs us in duty, or when it discourages our dependence of the grace of God, is very displeasing to him.” ~Matthew Henry

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God has just commissioned Moses to go back to Egypt after forty years of being a fugitive of sorts.  He tells him to go to Pharaoh and bring the people of Israel out.  Moses is understandably hesitant but God answers his first objection by promising, “…I will be with you…”

Still, Moses goes on hesitating and objecting.  He is worried that God’s people will ask God’s name.  He asks, “What shall I say to them?”

Does he think they’d forgotten who they were crying out to?  More likely, he is asking because he himself wants God to reveal more of who he is.  Moses want to know this God he is going to radically serve.  Perhaps Moses is asking for reassurance in the context of intimacy.  Trust is built on intimacy.  He, like Saul/Paul,  could be essentially asking,  “Who are you, Lord?”

Again, God’s response delivers a concept of his enduring presence.  God says, “I am who I am…say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you…The Lord, the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ “

I am.  If Moses’ was anything like all of us, and I suspect he was, his fears were rooted in his alone-ness, his unworthiness, his being ill-equipped, and his lack of felt authority for such a task.  Fortunately,  a present-tense God remedies them all.

Moses, you don’t need anyone else to go with you because I am.

Moses, you are not worthy to tell the elders and the Pharaoh what to do, but I am.

Moses, you are not equipped to change the hearts and minds of powerful leaders who oppress and enslave the masses, but I am.

Moses, you have no right to tell anyone what to do and you are not anyone’s authority, but I am.

Go, Moses.

Go tell the elders of my people that you’ve seen me.  Go tell them I am coming to bring them up to a good land.  Do not worry, Moses, they will listen to you.  Take the elders and go to Pharaoh.  Ask for a time of sacrifice to me in the wilderness.  He will not let you go but I will send plaques.  Afterward, he will let you go and you will plunder the Egyptians in the end.

I can just hear Moses now.  The elders, God?  You mean those guys who saw me kill a man and asked if a was going to kill them, too?  You mean the guys who mocked me asking who made me their boss?  Really?  And Pharaoh?  The leader of Egypt?? The guy who takes away straw and doubles the workload when slaves get out of line?  The guy with the power to take my life in an instant?  That guy?  And say what?!

The man has just seen a powerful miracle (the burning bush.)  God is speaking directly to him.  There is no question Moses is completely immersed in the supernatural.  Still, the natural man shifts into doubting worrier gear the moment God commands him to do something big; something unexpected.

What grace Our God has for our foolish hesitations over obedience!  What grace Our God has for our foolish objections to his call!  Next time God commissions you to step out and do the next thing in his will, remember his response to Moses’ quibbles.  Let’s make it personal:

Christian, I will be with you.

Christian, you don’t need anyone else to go with you because I am.

Christian, you are not worthy to tell those in positions of authority what to do, but I am.

Christian, you are not equipped to change the hearts and minds of powerful leaders who oppress and enslave the masses, but I am.

Christian, you have no right to tell anyone what to do and you are not anyone’s authority, but I am.

Go, Christian.

Go tell everyone you know that you have seen me.  Tell them I see their pain and their problems.  Tell them I am coming to bring them up to a good and glorious heaven.  Do not worry, Christian, those who belong to my people will listen to you.  The enemy will not listen, but I will deal with him.  We will win.

Go, Christian.  Go do something big; something unexpected and I will be with you.  Don’t worry, I am.

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After Moses approaches the burning bush, follows the command to remove his shoes, and hides his face for fear of God, God lays out his plan.  Again we are told of God’s great concern for his people enslaved in Egypt.  Moses is told by God himself that he sees their misery, he hears their cries, he knows their suffering, and that he is surely coming.

Curiously, the text records that God tells Moses that he has “come down” to deliver them, and that his plan is to “bring them up.”  This particular choice of words is symbolic of the future, final deliverer and what he was to do.  This is precisely what Christ did for the people of God.  Surely we serve an unchanging God.

Finally, a third reference to the keen notice God has taken of his people is given.  Verse 9 says, “…the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them…”  Make no mistake, the message of God is clear: he sees, hears, knows, and cares deeply for the pain and needs of his people.  His plan, however, is not to instantaneously airlift them out of earthly suffering and into heaven.  No.  His plan includes the sending of a man – Moses, and ultimately, Christ.

Here,  we find God commissioning Moses to speak to Pharaoh and bring his people out of Egypt.  Moses responds with a humility that says, “Who am I?”  Clearly, he counts himself neither capable nor worthy to do such a task for the Lord.  Before he begins to make excuses, God assures him that he would be given a sign – after he obeys.

Likewise, God’s plan of salvation and deliverance from the enemy involves the sending of a man, Christ, to save us.  It also involves the sending of human men like Moses to preach to us.  Christ has “come down” to “bring us up” and he has commissioned each of us to go on his behalf preaching the gospel to those still enslaved by the enemy.  The proper response is that which Moses gave: “Who am I?”

Not one of us is worthy to do God’s bidding, yet he send the likes of us for his own glory.  The confirmation of our commission comes not until after we have obeyed in faith.

Moses, like us, has some fears and objections about his calling.  Fortunately, God patiently answers all of his faithlessness with fatherly wisdom.  More on that later.  For today, know that God sees; he hears; he knows; he responds to our pain and prayers.  He has come down to, eventually, bring us up to himself.  He sent a man to deliver us and commissions us to tell others who are still enslaved how to escape.  We are not worthy of this task, but using us is his plan for his own glory.  Let us cease from excuse making and go out with the gospel to set the captives free.

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I used to pray for martyrdom.  Yes, you read it right.  Everyday I would pray that when my card was pulled, my end would be for Christ at the hands of a persecutor.  I sold myself on the fact that being a martyr was truly the only “good” way to die.  Perhaps it is.  I mean, who wants cancer?  Or dementia?  Or years upon years in a nursing home?  A car wreck?  At least dying as a martyr has significance; purpose; honor.  Yep, that’s me.  I want a selfless death because I’m…selfish.

A martyr shouldn’t be confused with a murderer.  Many terrorists today are called martyrs but the truth is that all they are is murderers on suicide missions in the name of selfishness and false religion.  A Christian martyr is killed for his faith.  A Christian martyr does not kill for his faith.

Anyway, I read many books on the martyrs of the Christian church down through the ages.  I read how they died, who killed them, and why.  That’s about when I stopped praying that I’d be one.

I mean, these men and women were brutally treated and mercilessly tortured.  They were brave, courageous, and unmoved by horrendous physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse.  They are rocks.  I figured I probably didn’t qualify.  Moreover, I recognized a greater truth: It is harder to live for Christ than it is to die for him.

By saying so, I do not mean to diminish the valor of those who stand in the face of death without wavering in their profession of faith.  There is no greater honor on earth than to die for Christ.  In Jesus’ words, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  

Still, the Bible, in its great wisdom, calls me to much more than a one time act of valor.  Christianity calls me to repetitive, daily actions referred to collectively as “dying to self.”  Those who do not discipline and master the art of living life for Christ will never stare down the barrel of a terrorist’s gun or kneel to be beheaded and confess Jesus Christ as Lord.

Early in my Christian life I would not only daily pray to be a martyr, but also for wisdom, insight, and conviction of sin.  These were the main things I prayed for day in and day out for years.  The wisdom God gave me at the time was that I must learn to live for him everyday if there was any chance I’d have the opportunity to die for him one day.  Because living for Christ is dying for him.  Every.  Day.   He’s still working on that with me.

All that to say, I’m thankful for college men and women who will stand, look death in the face, and confess Christ.  What an amazing faith!  What an amazing honor.  I know what “kind” of Christians they must have been.  They were real ones – not mere professors.

Maybe I won’t ever get to die for Christ.  Then again, maybe I get that opportunity every single day I live.

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” ~Philippians 1:21

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