In the game of baseball, each at bat has a limit of three strikes of four balls. You never get an extra strike. No umpire will ever say, “Strike three…but wait…I’ll give you a fourth strike…step back up to the plate.” But that is exactly what happens to Peter. Jesus predicted that on the night before His death, before the rooster crowed twice, Peter would deny His Lord not once, not even twice, but on three separate occasions. That is exactly what happens. Peter denies Jesus once – strike one; twice – strike two; and yet a third time – strike three. By baseball standards, Peter was out. But this is not the case when God is involved. Yes, Peter had failed. Yes, Peter denied his Lord three times. But no, Peter was not done. God still had a wonderful place for Peter in advancing the Kingdom of God. Peter would later be the one on the Day of Pentecost to preach a powerful sermon to thousands upon thousands which would result in 3,000 people coming to faith in Jesus Christ. Maybe you have failed your Lord. Maybe you have done so more than once. You may feel like you have struck out spiritually. Don’t underestimate the grace of God. You’re not done! He still has a purpose for you! Step back up to the plate
I have to admit that sometimes I take God’s creation for granted. How should we respond to God’s handiwork? Psalm 33 was written by David, who says, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, by the breath of His mouth all their hosts were made. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord, let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him! He spoke and it was done. He commanded and it stood fast.” Why should we know about creation? Because the more you know about our eternal creator God the more it will impact the way you walk with Him and talk to Him and live with Him every day this week. The more I take time to recognize God as creator, the more we will respond to Him in worship. The more I realize that all that is came into being by His power and His word, the more I will be able to trust Him for the problems and adversities that come into my life. Keep that in mind the next time you look at creation. After all, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” What a creator! What a God!
Genesis 1:1, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, refutes all of the major false philosophies in our world today. It refutes atheism which says there is no God. Not only does it refute atheism, it refutes polytheism which is the belief that there are many gods. It refutes evolution which says that it all happened over billions of years by chance. It refutes pantheism which is the belief that God is not a person but rather he is in all of creation.
And most importantly Genesis 1:1 refutes fatalism. Fatalism says you have no purpose. Fatalism says you live, you die and the wheels on the bus go round and round. Fatalism says there's no purpose. When you die, it's done. When we bury you, your existence ceases. That's why fatalism breeds materialism. If there is no purpose, if this life is all we get, if there is nothing after death, then we should adopt the philosophy of materialism which says, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die.” The Bible says in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and He created it all with a purpose. You, my friend, are made in the image of God and you have a purpose. The same God who is your creator is also your redeemer.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. That is how the Bible begins. Immediately you are brought face to face with the fact that God exists. What's interesting is that nowhere in the opening chapter of Genesis does God give us any arguments to try to prove to us that God exists. He doesn't try to convince us based on logic. He simply says, “In the beginning God,” leaving the reader with just two options. You either believe it or you don't.
There are many logical arguments for God’s existence, like the argument of design that says if there is a design, there must be a designer. But logic alone cannot lead you into a relationship with God. A relationship with God must be based on the foundation of faith. That’s what the writer of Hebrews said when he wrote, “By faith -- not by logic, not by science -- by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. Faith becomes essential because if you cannot believe by faith that God created the world, how will you ever come to the point where you can believe by faith that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead?
The early chapters of Genesis are the very foundations of Christianity. Yet, many attempts have been made to write these off as being simple myths or allegory. The truth is that the New Testament sees these early chapters of the Bible as being historical and factual. There are at least 165 passages in Genesis that are either directly quoted or clearly referred to in the New Testament. 165. That's a lot and many of those passages are quoted more than once so really in the New Testament the book of Genesis is quoted or directly referred to over 200 different times. That's how foundational it is to our faith. Let me give you another statistic. Every one of the first 11 chapters of Genesis is alluded to somewhere in the New Testament. In fact, every New Testament author refers to Genesis 1 through 11. Now, that's not every New Testament book because some writers wrote more than one book but every New Testament writer somewhere refers to the first 11 chapters of Genesis. Jesus quoted from the first 11 chapters of Genesis six different times. Not once in all of these New Testament references is there the slightest indication that these are allegorical, myths, or simple symbolism. Every New Testament writer affirms that Genesis 1 through 11 is without question historical fact.
I love the story in Matthew 14 of Peter walking on water. I think John Ortberg recaps that story best in his book, If You Want To Walk On Water, You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat. One of the things that Ortberg stresses is that this is not a story about extreme risk-taking. It’s actually a story about extreme obedience. Here is what John writes:
“Matthew is not glorifying risk-taking for its own sake. Jesus is not looking for bungee jumping, hang-gliding, day-trading, tornado-chasing Pinto drivers. Water-walking is not something Peter does for recreational purposes. This is not a story about extreme sports. It’s about extreme discipleship. This means that before Peter gets out of his boat, he had better make sure Jesus thinks it’s a good idea.”
That is exactly what Peter does. He asks, “If it is you, Lord, command me to come to you.” Jesus responds with one word…“COME!” That’s all Peter needed. His stepping out of the boat into a raging sea in the middle of a severe storm was an act of obedience to the one word command of God. So if you’re going to walk on water, you must exhibit extreme obedience. You must seek God to discern His will for your life and then follow whatever it is no matter what storm it leads you into.
There’s nothing easy about following and obeying the commands of Jesus. It’s tough. Christ calls us to do many hard things. Which is hardest for you? For me, it’s two verses found in a New Testament book that is all about the topic of “JOY.” In Philippians 2:3, Paul writes,
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.”
Now that’s tough. We are to do NOTHING out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. It’s not, “Do most things without selfish ambition or empty conceit.” It’s “do nothing.” That’s pretty all inclusive with no wiggle room for exceptions no matter how much we rationalize it. But what is “selfish ambition”? It’s the desire to get ahead. This is a reminder that when it comes to what I do in ministry, it’s not about me! I’m reminded of the news correspondent that was watching a nun unwrap the bandage foot of a wounded soldier towards the end of WWII. Gangrene had set into the wound to such an extent that the odor coming from the wound caused the news correspondent to vomit. After he regained his composure he said to the nun, “I wouldn’t do what you’re doing for a million dollars!” To which the nun replied, “Neither would I!”
We are all familiar with the story of the Women at the Well in John 4. We remember her as being a very lonely and immoral woman that Jesus offered living water to. But the thing that I like most about the women at the well was her style of evangelism that literally brought a multitude of people to Jesus. What was her secret? She simply invited them! We read beginning in verse 28 these words, “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward him.…Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the women’s testimony.” Church growth experts tell us that the number one reason that people visit a church is simply this…BECAUSE THEY WERE INVITED!! If this is the case, then why don’t we invite people we work with, shop with, and even live with to attend church with us? The greatest tool we have to get people to come to church with us is a simple invitation. When was the last time you invited someone to church with you? Who will you invite to church with you this Sunday?
I don’t fear being dead and I'll tell you why. According to the Bible, the very last breath I breathe here on this earth will be the very first breath I breathe in heaven. You know why? Because I have put my faith in the only one who has authority over death. Someday I'm going to die. 10 out of 10 people do. I don't know when. I don't know how. I'm really not hoping it's any time soon. In fact, if you in the coming few years hear that I died please know I was very much surprised. But I know this. Whenever it happens, however it happens, it will be the most spectacular moment of my life. The Bible says the day of one's death for the believer is better than the day of one's birth. Why? Because my very last breath on this earth will be my very first breath in heaven because I have put my faith in the only one who has the authority because He died for my sins and He rose from the dead.
1 John 5:11-12 says “This is the testimony. God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
One of my favorite angles of the story of Jesus in the Bible are all the different times Jesus used a touch of compassion. I think my favorite one comes from Mark 1 when someone with leprosy comes up to Jesus. In that day the thought was that leprosy was highly contagious. So if you contracted leprosy, you were having to stay away from all other human contact of people who did not have leprosy. If you were walking down the street as a leper and someone was coming towards you, you had to cry out unclean so they would stay away from you. This guy has not felt a loving human touch since the day he was diagnosed with leprosy. He comes to Jesus and Jesus heals him, but here's what I love. Jesus could have just healed him by saying, be healed. He could have just done it with his words. But the verse says Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him. Can you imagine what that felt like to that leper? The first loving human touch he had felt in a long, long time.
Maybe today you are lonely and hurting like that leper. My prayer for you is that through the Word of God that you will experience the compassionate touch of our Savior.