Monday, December 17, 2018

Persuasive Power



An Unknown God
I’ve always thought it was pretty nifty how Paul ministered to the Athenians. Distressed at pervasive idol worship in Athens, Paul was quick on his feet, referencing an idol to an unknown god that he had found in the city (Acts 17:22-34). He had found a talking point that he believed that he could use to persuade them to follow Christ. Yet however clever he may have thought that he was, his appeal to the Athenians did not bear much fruit. Paul gained only a handful of converts there and we have no indication that he planted any churches in Athens. 

Persuasion to Preaching
And so from Athens, Paul moved on to Corinth where this time he attempted to persuade the Jews. He had about the same luck with the them as he had with the Athenians (Acts 18:4). But when his associates arrived, Paul began to alter his tactics. For whatever reason (perhaps his poor results), he abandoned the power of persuasion for the power of preaching and testifying (Acts 18:5) which, in New Testament terms, are always accompanied by a demonstration of the Spirit's power (Mk 3:14,15, Acts 10:42-44, 1 Co 1:17, 18, Heb 2:3,4). So while up to this point, the had Jews tolerated and even welcomed a good argument, they were in no mood for signs and wonders.

Jews to Gentiles
So, Paul shook off his feet and left the Jews behind and turned to the Gentiles in Corinth. With a handful of defeats behind him, Paul swore off “wise and persuasive words." Instead, he preached to the Corinthians through much fear and trembling, but in return, operated under the Spirit’s power. According to Paul, this resulted in their faith being established, not through human wisdom, but by means of the power of God (1 Co 2:3-5). And so, Paul stayed with them for a year and a half and established a Church there.

Fear and Weakness
The humbling effects of Paul's fruitless encounters with both the Athenians and the Jews likely affected his demeanor, leaving him weak and fearful. I like how some of the words used here are defined. In the Greek, trembling, or weakness, speaks of either an illness or a problem that comes from being wrongly overdependent upon something. Being very wise and learned, it would have been very easy for Paul to have become overly dependent upon his intellect. What’s more, the word used for fear in this passage has to do with a feeling of inadequacy that would make one withdraw. In this case, these would be considered healthy fears.

Weakness to Power
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.…For Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Co 12:9, 10 NIV). 

Paul discovered that his real weakness was his reliance upon his greatest strength...his intellect. While he did not abandon his ability to persuade, he learned to subjugate it under Christ's power—the same power that raised Christ from the dead (Eph 1:19-20, Ro 8:11). This fact should inspire each of us to ponder what drives or hinders our own effectiveness and how we can submit what we can do to what he can do. 

[This post was inspired by a teaching from Ray Lander Vaan]

Saturday, November 10, 2018

An Ongoing Invitation



“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 AMP)
Jesus is good at inviting people to live as he did, but the Church does not yet excel at this practice. Our most noticeable attempt and success at invitation is expressed through some of our efforts in evangelism.  We've learned how to throw out the welcome mat and establish a short-lived atmosphere of invitation. Then quickly afterwards, we change our tone and bring others into our world of obligation.

Somewhere along the line, we lost the concept that we were not only invited to see and enter the kingdom, we’ve been invited to run the race all the way to the finish line, and that we should invite others along with us. As Jesus tells us, this race carries a light burden because he is the one carrying us. But he can only carry us as far as we ask him to. If we stop and camp out too long, the burdens pile back up.
“Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds, and to him who keeps on knocking, it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8 AMP)
When we turn the smile of invitation upside-down, it becomes the frown of obligation. Still, many of us have learned how to force a smile while trudging through a life that we feel obliged to live. Even worse, we've learned to don an undeserved smile, thinking we’ve somehow achieved something without God. All these examples represent lives lived below what's been provided for us. 

So how do we transition ourselves from a life of obligation towards a life that draws us forward? Jesus already gave us the answer. He invited us to come, and to continue to both ask and to seek, with the promise that we will find. He calls us forward, beyond the obligations he already fulfilled, so that we can find the open door to more. “More” is what he died for, and more is what he provides so that heaven can show up here on earth—you know, like that prayer we all know (MT 6:9-13). 

Once we ourselves become established, we're able to cultivate a transformed environment so that others can move forward. Those who have yet to pass beyond the mire of obligation will always question why they're “doing all the right things,” yet aren’t living the abundant life that Jesus promised. Fortunately, there is more!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Invitation > Exchange > Transformation…Rinse and Repeat!


Invitation

The Gospel is an invitation. It is a royal proclamation of what God accomplished for the world. Within that proclamation is an invitation to believe this Good News. Until we accept that invitation, we can’t even see the Kingdom. 

Exchange

After accepting that invitation, our citizenship papers are rewritten. We now have legal rights and a view to see that citizenship fulfilled (John 3:3). We have not undergone an upgrade, but our eyes become open to an exchange—his life for ours, making us a new creation.

Transformation

Transformation is the ongoing process of entering the Kingdom (John 3:5). The same faith and the same power that allowed us to recognize and accept the invitation for the exchange, enables us to be transformed. The more mature we become in the Kingdom, more becomes accessible to us.

Transformation happens within the midst of life’s circumstances and life's circumstances make way for the process to continue, over and over again—producing an overflow that invites others into the process.

The Process

Life isn't always quite that simple. In fact, sometimes these processes overlap in such a way that it's difficult to discern one from the other. What's important is that we continue to accept each invitation, recognize each exchange, and allow the life it produces to change us and the world around us. 

His life in us is the hope of glory (Col 1:27). Glory is when the atmosphere around him affects the atmosphere around us. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Fisherman's Dream




A fisherman’s dreams are perhaps not much different from yours or mine. Their dreams are often conceived within the context and boundaries of what is known to them and they are not often realized as expected. But what happens when a fisherman’s dreams are fulfilled? What does he do then? 

“One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.’ So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:4-11 NIV) 

Up until this event, Peter had one means of making his way in the world and that was to bring in each day’s haul and maybe…just maybe, bring in the “big catch.” That’s what fisherman dream about. Whether it’s the size of the fish, or the number, there’s always that prize that they feel will prove their worth. 

Then suddenly, it happened—a catch so epic that it nearly sunk two boats. This isn’t the fish story about the one that got away, this is a story about the massive haul that was abundantly more than Peter could ask or think, bringing a finale to his dream. And, that was the problem.

Where does one go when they realize that they’ve achieved it all, especially when they discover that achievement alone doesn’t bring real fulfillment? That’s where Peter found himself—undone, and at the feet of Jesus with his heart laid bare, declaring, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” But it was not Jesus’ plan to throw Peter back. He had skillfully chosen the right bait, knowing just how deep to go that he might catch the fisherman. While capturing Peter’s heart was a miracle, technically speaking, the catch of fish was not.

There is no indication that fish were generated out of thin air, transformed from some other state, or even multiplied. The text does, however, indicate that this was a supernatural intervention brought about by a prophetic word—that is, the location of the fish had been revealed to Jesus by what is known as a word of knowledge. The word of knowledge is one of the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. In the chapter preceding this story, Jesus had been filled with the Holy Spirit. Through that event, Jesus had been enabled to operate in all of the gifts of the Spirit. By them, Jesus found a way to untangle Peter’s life and set an example for us to follow—a path which Paul says we should eagerly desire to follow (1 Corinthians 14:1).

There is nothing wrong with a fisherman’s dreams, nor is there anything wrong with the dreams we dare to dream. God gives us the power to imagine and to set up goals for ourselves. He wants us to seek for greater and to go deeper. But once hooked, he will not hesitate to upset our dreams that he might reveal himself to us in the process. 

And, after all, Peter’s dream was not wasted, was it? Jesus was able to turn it on its side and motivate Peter to leave his past behind, pointing him towards his true identity—not as a catcher of fish, but as a fisher of men. How will God use your dreams to propel you into your calling, and, how will he use you to bring the destiny of others to the surface?

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Another Paul?



Another Jesus?

There will never be another Jesus. That’s not to say that the world can’t see Jesus expressed in his body today, but Jesus came and finished his earthly ministry. I think we all understand that. But here’s a question—will there ever be another Paul? 


Another Paul?

Many look to Paul and see him as their model in ministry. But, many also see his life as a goal beyond reach. So again I ask, when God created Paul, did he “break the mold?”

Paul is unique. He was a man who, in his own words, was “abnormally born” (1 Co 15:8). He was set on this earth for a certain place, a certain time, and for a certain task, yet still speaks to us today. He likely shines as the greatest voice for the Gospel outside of Jesus himself. Yet Paul is not the pinnacle. Jesus is the goal. While Paul told his readers to look to him as a model, he did so within the context of how he followed Christ.

Following Christ

We are all called to follow Christ. In doing so, what can we hope to attain? Can we attain to the stature of Paul, or Peter, or John? What did Jesus mean when he said that those who believe in him will do greater works than he? Was he speaking only to those whose lives fell within the confines of canonical Scripture? Do the apostles set the high-water mark while we operate at a lower water pressure? What goal should we set for ourselves and what can we set our faith towards?

Imagine a Kingdom

Imagine for a moment that there is no penalty for over-reaching. Consider a Kingdom that allows believers to pursue the highest ability to love and one that encourages a burning desire to be extremely effective ambassadors for Christ. Like I said, imagine that in this scenario, there is no penalty for over-reaching and along with that, there is a limitless supply to draw from. Imagine that in this kingdom that within this generation, there is not only the ability for people to have the same impact as a Paul or an Apollos, but that there is a demand for such people—and not just them. Imagine that there is a great need for people today who can fill the shoes of a John or a Timothy, a Barnabas or a Luke,  a James, or a host of others we’ve read about.

The Stars

In this storyline, every believer gets to shoot for the stars. But you may ask, "What if they reach for the stars and fail?" Did I mention that there is also forgiveness, restoration, and second, third, and hundreds more chances to overcome? I know this sounds too good to be true, but perhaps that’s been the problem all along. What if many have turned down the gospel they heard because they felt like it was setting them up for failure? And even worse, what if the gospel some have accepted has done the same thing?

Comparison

Perhaps we've made the mistake of not heeding Paul's admonishment that we don't compare ourselves to each other, or to him. If we compare who we are today to what Paul ultimately accomplished, we will always come up short. Instead, we must set our hopes upon what is not yet seen, but what has been promised to us. “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed…Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20 NIV)


Laying Hold

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:10-14 NIV)

When Paul called us to follow him as he followed Christ, this is what he was talking about. He believed that he could take hold of it, and more importantly, he believed that we could as well.


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Transforming Transformation




When Jesus turned water into wine, He did so with no fanfare—quietly demonstrating the secret to the health and viability of the Church. Jesus commanded a handful of unnamed servants to fill six stone pots with water, then draw that water out and serve it as wine. That’s not how wine is usually made and served. Now while Jesus might have begun with grapes and sped up the wine-making process, or multiplied a half-filled cup of leftover wine, he chose instead to have water drawn out that it might be transformed into wine.

There is obvious symbolism here—the water of the Word transformed into the wine of the Spirit, and of course, allusions to the marriage supper of the Lamb. But there is more here than what lies on the surface.

Jesus commanded that water should fill these six stone water pots—containers used for ceremonial washing of hands and utensils. But Jesus repurposed these pots that he might reveal his glory and demonstrate Kingdom transformation. While it’s true that believers have been transformed from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of the Son by being born anew, our transformation was not meant to end there.

These six stone water pots represent the transformed heart of man, stone hearts repurposed for Kingdom use. Filled to overflowing with the cool, cleansing water of the Word, the servants dipped deep below the surface of these pots so that they might draw out the treasure within. That's when the transformation took place. What lies within the hearts of believers is real and substantial, but it often sits idle in the midst of a depleted supply of yesterday’s wine. But through this miracle, the servants demonstrated a better way. The moment they drew out the water, it turned into wine. Through this act, one form of transformation birthed another.

While it is the role of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip believers for ministry, each one of us has the ability to draw out the wine of the Spirit. This is what we refer to as encouragement. While we might already be familiar with and perform healthy acts of encouragement, complete encouragement involves the act of drawing out the gifts deposited within each other. This is what builds up the Church.

Our gifts must be manifested both within the church and to the world around us. While all believers might strive to be continually filled, we must also be constantly encouraged that we might realize our full potential and reach that goal. Deep calls to deep, transformation to transformation, and glory to glory. John tells us that Jesus revealed his glory to his disciples through this miracle. As his disciples today, we too must believe and therefore strive to draw from each other what He put there.

The wine produced that day was more than enough to satisfy all in both quantity and quality. Each and every gift of the Spirit together represent the tangible expression of the ministry of Jesus through the Holy Spirit and therefore must be drawn out until all are satisfied.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Deeper Still


“There is no pit so deep, that God's love is not deeper still.” ~ Corrie Ten Boom


Extraordinary Times

The above quote from Corrie Ten Boom came to mind this morning and it made me think about how glad I am that I didn’t have to experience what she went through. How dismal to live in a country taken over by Nazi Germany. Sent to a concentration camp for hiding Jews, she lost both her father and sister in the process. And yet of those experiences she says, “God’s love is deeper still.” This thought along with her life and ministry challenge my thinking—if in fact, I dare to think about the implications at all.


Pursuit of Love

But if I choose to think about the relationship between suffering and God's love, I might ask which comes first— God's love that we might prepare for adversity, or adversity so that we might experience his love in a deeper way. Perhaps, however, neither are the right question.

1 Corinthians 14:1 tells us to pursue love—that is, "pursue with all haste ("chasing" after), earnestly desiring to overtake (apprehend)." In addition, 1 Corinthians 16:14 tells us to do everything in love. So while it's true that his love runs deeper than our suffering, experiencing God's love is not dependent upon a "pitiful" experience (pardon the pun). Love is to be pursued at all costs and in all situations!

Somehow, we have become more need-oriented then love-driven. It's not that we should not reach out when in crisis, but our relationship with the Father must extend beyond our need for intervention. While we do find multiple examples of David crying out for help in times of adversity, we also know him as a man already after God's own heart—already pursuing the love of God.

If it is true that pain and suffering predominately motivate our relationship with God, it can train us to see him only as a rescuer, and ourselves as children worthy of attention only when we're hurt. Pain and suffering become our only tie to his presence.


Measuring Up

It’s often been noted that we view life through the filters of our beliefs. Some, it is said, see life through "rose-colored glasses,” while some see only the negative around them. Those same filters affect our judgements and we come to conclusions based on our past experiences. Often, that's how we measure life, and we do so for self protection. We are self-preservationists doing our best to avoid the pitfalls of life.

In the midst of all that, how do we allow the Spirit of Christ within us to begin to rise above our tendency towards self-preservation? How can we begin to stretch outside of ourselves, pursuing God’s love—love that is selfless and that extends to others?  


The Want To

“…When you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (John 21:18 NIV) 

Jesus gave Peter a taste of what was ahead for him. What would you do if Jesus said that to you? I not only avoid places I don’t want to go, but I am anxious to leave my current discomfort behind. Are you that way too? And when we're in that pit, is it our experience that God’s love actually turns out to be deeper still as Corrie Ten Boom suggests? If so, how does all this work?


Moving Beyond

In the midst of great opposition, what drove the disciples to pray for boldness that they would push themselves further into adversity (Acts 4:23-31)? What compelled Paul towards Jerusalem knowing what awaited him there (Acts 21:13)? What within us challenges us to bust out of our cocoons of relative safety? When do we cease living our lives with us at the center?

How do we go about pursuing the love of God and what he intends for us?


The Joy Set Before Us

Religion teaches us that perseverance, sacrifice, and self-discipline alone bring spiritual success. The fact is that those who live by them alone, also die by them. But instead of mere determination, Jesus set joy before him so that he might endure the cross (Hebrews 12:12).

While love is the greatest of the holy triad—faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13), the pearl of the trifecta of the kingdom—righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, is joy (Romans 14:17).

While love must be pursued, joy must be considered:

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4 NIV)

James says that perseverance is produced by the testing of our faith, within the context of joy. Joy is an attribute of knowing God and knowing him to be faithful. Joy is not only defined as gladness, but also as the awareness of the source of that joy, specifically the grace and favor of God. We know who he his, so we know he is with us through our trials.


Fullness

Corrie Ten Boom suggests that, among other things, the pit helps us to measure God's immeasurable love which surpasses the parameters of the pit and surpasses knowledge itself.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV)

Although we may be in a pit, a container and place of dispair, we're actually dealing with the places within us. It's within ourselves that we discover the love already shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5)—that place where we’ve already been made one with him (1 Corinthians 1:16). 

"...You greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith...Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy." (1 Peter 1:6-8 NIV)

His love is deeper still!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Holy Ghost Story




For many of us, merely surviving the natural world is enough. The supernatural is more than we can handle. This is not strictly a 21st Century reaction. The same could be said of people in Jesus’ day as the following story illustrates.


A Ghost Story

“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It's a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.” (Matthew 14:25, 26 NIV)

They were scared! But why? This wasn’t the first time they had witnessed the miraculous. They had walked with Jesus for nearly two years. Miracles had become a part of their daily lives. And, just hours before, Jesus had multiplied a few pieces of bread and some fish, feeding over 5,000 people. 

The disciples themselves had just returned from a ministry trip where, without Jesus present, they healed and delivered many (Mark 6:6-12). Yet despite living in this participatory culture of miracles, Jesus managed to scare them through this encounter.


The Cure is Worse than the Disease

Obedient to Jesus’ command, the disciples had been doing all within their power to row to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But, they were coming to the end of themselves.

“… the boat was in the middle of the lake, and… the disciples [were] straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn… A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough… they had rowed about three or four miles…” (Mark 6:47, 48, John 6:19 NIV)

While they were obviously overwhelmed, the Gospels don’t reveal their exact state of mind until the point that they encountered Jesus coming towards them.

“When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear… They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.” (Matthew 14:26, Mark 6:49, 50 NIV)

Now, while we get the names Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost from the word Pneuma, which means wind, breath, or spirit, the word Ghost in these two passages comes from the word Phantasma, meaning ghost, phantom, or apparition. 

Sometimes, God’s presence surpasses both our expectations and our comfort zone and so we react in fear.


Mistaken Identity

“But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat…” (John 6:20, 21 NIV)

This would not be the last time that the disciples would need reassurance before they would recognize and accept Jesus. Many post-resurrection appearances required Jesus to reveal himself and prove his identity, much like his appearance on the Sea of Galilee.

“Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost… 'Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.'” (Luke 24:26, 27, 29 NIV)

In both instances, Jesus needed to reassure the disciples that he was not a ghost.

While God encounters can be unnerving, they are not ghost stories. We must learn how to discern the difference.


Insult to Injury

While the eleven realized that Jesus had come to save them and that things were finally winding down, Peter just couldn’t leave things alone. Now that Jesus had showed him what was possible, he wanted to walk in the same ability Jesus had demonstrated.

“'Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said.’ Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” (Matthew 14:28, 29 NIV)

Yes, there are believers who actually request that Jesus enable them to do supernatural exploits, much to the dismay of other believers.


Why?

Why did Jesus walk across the Sea of Galilee and why did he empower Peter to do the same? Why these extravagant demonstrations, especially since it appears that neither of them ever walked on the water again?

Many view acts of the Spirit as effort better spent on more practical concerns. After all, what real gain did this miracle produce? I suspect that the disciples secretly asked this same question each time that Peter failed miserably. “How’s that trip out on the lake helping you now?” 

Yet, Jesus never rebuked Peter for stepping out or for over-reaching—only for doubting.


Mysterious Miracles

Scripture contains an abundance of other strange manifestations which generate more questions than they do answers—in outcome or in how they were performed. Here’s a few which meet that criteria:

Old Testament
  • Naaman cured of leprosy by washing seven times in the Jordan River
  • Elisha’s bones resurrect the dead
  • Balaam’s donkey spoke
  • Walls of Jericho fell by walking around it and shouting

New Testament
  • Jesus produced wine from water for a crowd that was already drunk
  • Jesus enabled a supernatural catch of fish for Simon, only to have Simon immediately walk away from his fishing business. 
  • Jesus made mud with his spit to rub in a blind man’s eyes
  • Peter caught a fish with a coin in its mouth to pay their taxes
  • Peter delivered out of prison by an angel
  • Rag’s from Paul’s clothing healed many

Luxurious

While some view these and modern-day expressions of God’s power as luxurious, difficult to explain, and impossible to defend, God is not embarrassed by them… even if we are.

What we deem as scary, risky, or uncomfortable—the very things which advance the kingdom (Matthew 12:28)—we’ve taken the luxury of putting aside. Each seem incongruent to our daily lives and so we move on to "greater things.” Maybe we’re missing an important aspect of God’s character.

“He’s wild you know. Not like a tame lion.”  C.S. Lewis - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe


You of Little Faith

“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.” (Matthew 14:29-32 NIV)

While Peter is often remembered here for having little faith, how should the other disciples be remembered? It takes no faith at all to sit in a boat and wait for someone else to succeed or fail.

Peter’s “little faith” (as small as a mustard seed) enabled him to walk on water. But, the size of his doubt was also enough to sink him. That's why Jesus commended him for his “little” faith, while at the same time, asked him why he doubted.


The End of a Ghost Story

Ghost stories illicit fear. The Bible tells us to “Fear not,” as many times as there are days in the year—365. While the disciples were as troubled as the waters under their boat, Pentecost enabled them to leave those ghosts behind and step out in boldness.

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly…With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people.” (Acts 4:29, 30, 33, 5:12 NIV)


By the Spirit, Jesus indeed stretched out his hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through each of them and like Jesus before them, they did not sink.

... For more on Peter's walk on the water, see Peter Tested Both Jesus and His Own Faith

Thursday, June 14, 2018

I Can Dream, Can't I?




Jameel grew up listening to the great radio shows of the 1930s and 1940s. His favorites were the comedians: Jack Benny, Bob Hope, and Red Skelton. From a young age, he knew he wanted to become an entertainer. After the war, his savings bonds matured and provided him enough money for a year of study at the Pasadena Playhouse in California. So, he left Ohio to follow his dreams.

After his money ran out, he picked up some roles here and there until one day, he was recommended for a bit part playing a new character on the Red Skelton Show. Skelton took to Jameel right away and he appeared on Skelton’s show over a period of about a year. He picked up some other roles and even landed a small part in a big movie. But just as things were picking up, Jameel was drafted into the army.

When Jameel returned home a few years later, his father had passed away, he and his family had no money, and his career had dried up. So, he knew he had to quit the business to take care of his family. But, Skelton would have none of it. He gave Jameel emergency money to send home to his mother and then hired Jameel as kind of a personal assistant. His duties included occasional performance time, but mostly involved working behind the scenes.

Jameel worked with his childhood hero for about a year until the itch to jumpstart his career was too much for him. This was in the late 1950s and he spent the next 25 with an up and down career until he got his big break. Of course, early on, he knew that his name, Jameel Farah, needed to be Americanized if he were to work in the entertainment industry, so he changed his name to Jamie Farr. To most of the world, he's know as Maxwell Q. Klinger form the T.V. show, M*A*S*H. He remained friends with Skelton until the legendary performer’s death.

It's an amazing story, one you don't hear everyday. But, it raises a question. How far can a dream go? Can it be fulfilled beyond what we could ever ask or think? Can stories like this create hope that our dreams are worth dreaming? In addition, is it too late to start dreaming; are only childhood dreams honored, and only for a select few?

Think about it! Paul McCartney dreamed the song Yesterday. He woke up with the tune in his head and he went around for days asking people if they’d heard it before. After a while, he realized that he had dreamed an original song. So, he wrote lyrics to it and it has become the most recorded song in music history, recorded by over 2,200 people.

As believers, stories like this should give us hope. Our spiritual heritage is steeped in dreams. Ultimately, Old Testament dreams birthed New Testament realities. And, according to Acts 2, dreams are our business. But dreams aren't meant to stay only dreams. They must be enacted. Jameel had to go to California for his dreams to be set in motion, and McCartney had to take the chance and record his song before it could make it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the most recorded song in history. And let's not forget that when Jamie Farr showed up on the set of M*A*S*H to say a handful of lines for a one-day shoot, he stayed on the series for the eleven-year run of the show. I bet that was more than he could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

When the Disciples Became Christians



An Obscure Reference

Of the four Gospel writers, John is the only one who directly chronicled the conversion of the apostles:

“…Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’” (John 20:21, 22 NIV)

This happened on the day of Jesus' resurrection, the day when the disciples were born again. Up until this time, they were not yet born of the water and the Spirit. Although they had put their faith in Jesus back in John 2:11, their faith was still waiting for the New Covenant to be enacted — paid for by his blood, and proven by the resurrection.

“…God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:25 NIV)
“…If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17 NIV)

Jesus had to accomplish and fulfill his ministry before anyone could be enabled to take full advantage of what he finished on the cross. Despite the fact that they had walked with Jesus for three years, had been chosen to be his apostles, and had performed signs in his name, they were not yet even least in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:19). Until the resurrection, they were held under the Old Covenant. 


Have We Been Ripped Off?

Now that Jesus had fulfilled everything on the cross and had conquered death, the disciples were finally enabled to fully enter into the salvation bought for them. Yet for some reason, the four evangelists limited the account of the apostle's personal salvation experience to a two-line mention in John’s Gospel. That’s it!

In addition, their report to Thomas upon his return (he had been absent from this event), consists of one, four-word testimony, “We have seen the Lord!” (John 20:25 NIV)

What? Is that all? Why is John the only writer to report concerning the disciples new birth event and why so short? Why only four words to Thomas? Did these details get erased over the centuries, or did God have something else in mind?


Low-key Reporting

Interestingly, their salvation report is not alone in its brevity. Luke's account of their filling by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4) which took place a few weeks later, is also uncharacteristically short. With over 120 present, the Holy Spirit fell upon all the believers in the room. They saw tongues of fire and spoke in other languages.

This synopsis is nearly as long as Luke's actual account, which consists of four sentences constructed from 62 words. More verbose and more dynamic if compared to, "Receive the Holy Spirit, and “We have seen the Lord,” yet a little lackluster considering this is what Jesus referred to as, "The promise of the Father." 

One might question why the two most vital New Covenant experiences (the new birth and baptism in the Holy spirit) are given so little coverage in the lives of the disciples. It’s almost as if one must really apply themselves and seek out the true value and significance of these events for themselves or else their significance might easily be lost. Unless of course, this was the point all along.


What Does it Take to Believe?

John says that Jesus did many things, more than could ever be recorded (John 21:25) and that what has been written in his Gospel was written so that we might believe. His statement might also imply that what had not been written down for us was withheld for the very same purpose... that we might believe.

There are a precious few references which clearly define the new birth, and how to obtain it. Jesus’ discourse with Nicodemus—specifically John 3:3, 3:7, 3:16, and passages like 1 Peter 1:22, 23 constitute the bulk of them. But, sometimes, less is more. 

I believe that it's easy to disregard or perhaps even devalue something if is provided without any effort on our part. But, if we are hungry enough to dig and eventually uncover the truth—much like finding a treasure hidden in a field, we hold it in higher esteem.

"It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings." (Proverbs 25:2 NIV)

What do you suppose would be the result if the disciples experiences had been spelled out for us in greater detail? I suspect that instead of seeking a true and legitimate relationship with God, many would attempt to use the disciples experiences as a checklist to follow, instead of a roadmap to decipher.


When the Church Received the Spirit

Perhaps this level of ambiguity explains another phenomenon in the Church—why many of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit experienced today are not clearly detailed in Scripture. Although Paul lays out a large list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians, Acts does not spell out and define each spiritual manifestation. The record of the Day of Pentecost is an excellent example of this.

The outpouring of the Spirit on that day had very much to do with the gift of tongues, yet Peter, who claimed he would explain everything to those who had asked, never once mentioned this gift. 
“‘… We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”… and… they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
 “… Let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say… this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy…'” (Acts 2:11,12-14-18 NIV)
While Peter lists a number of manifestations of the Spirit, he doesn't mention tongues at all—the very thing they experienced, the very thing they asked about, and the very thing he said he would explain to them. It's as if he was saying, "These things Joel talked about are the kinds of things you just experienced." 

Despite Peter's omission, his explanation seemed to be sufficient to win over this crowd of 3,000 and despite the fact that Scripture isn't particularly explicit as to how to receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, over 500 million people today identify with that experience.

We in the Western world are a literal crowd. We want everything spelled out for us in a how-to list, however, Scripture rarely obliges us. Yet despite these shortcomings, God still moves successfully into the lives of all who will believe. Again, maybe that was his plan all along.


Takeaways

The Gospels emphasizes living out our lives by demonstrating the Kingdom and confirming those things written in Scripture. It's all there, it's just not always there they way we might desire it to be.  

Paul puts it like this. It's...

“… the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people… the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:25-27 NIV)

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Deep Water - How a 1959 recording of a Traditional Spiritual Song Inspired the #1 Single of 1970


The Swan Silvertones


Have you ever heard of a song called, Oh Mary, Don’t You Weep? I hadn’t. Despite being noted as “one of the most important of negro spirituals” by music critic and author Dave Marsh, and the fact that it regained prominence during the Civil Rights Movement, this pre-Civil War song is not as widely-known today as the song it inspired.

Even though this song might seem obscure to many of us, Oh Mary, Don’t You Weep caught the attention of a very successful singer-songwriter. He listened often to a 1959 version of the song as recorded by the Swan Silvertones. The lyrics of the song center around the death and resurrection of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus. In addition, it also introduces other Biblical references along the way. 

As a “slave song,” Mary Don’t You Weep also contained messages and references to freedom and hope for those longing for liberation from enslavement. Forty years ago, a certain New York born, Jewish singer-songwriter played this song often and was inspired to weave its simple message of hope into an all-new pop music hymn. Musically, the 1959 tune and #1 hit of 1970 which it inspired, bare no resemblance to each other. However, there is one striking similarity between the two. Buried at the end of the song (and if you don't listen closely, you might just miss it) Oh Mary contains a line which will likely sound familiar to you — “I'll be a bridge over deep water if you trust in my name.”

That one line inspired Paul Simon to write a simple, two-verse “hymn” called, Bridge over Troubled Water. As he wrote it, he knew he had something special. He took the song into the studio. When his partner, Art Garfunkel and producer Roy Halee worked on arrangements for the song, they came back to Simon and convinced him that the song needed to be bigger and that he must write a third verse that would set the song off into a crescendo. Uncharacteristically, Simon quickly wrote the third and final verse of the song right there in the studio. When they all felt that they had achieved what they wanted, they planned to include the song as a cut on their next album release.

But, when Columbia Records president, Clive Davis heard the song, he not only insisted that it be moved up as the title track of the album, he also made sure that even despite its five-minute run time, that it be released as a single. At that time, only a very few songs that long had ever been released as singles. These included Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan, and Hey Jude by the Beatles. A year later, Don McLean would release his eight-minute single, American Pie — likely because of Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Bridge Over Troubled Water received immediate, positive reaction, even before its release. Art Garfunkel and others have reflected upon the fact that in the studio, people stopped what they were doing and became mesmerized by the song. In addition, Simon and Garfunkel performed it live on a handful of occasions before its 1970 release. Despite having never heard the song before, crowd reactions were unusually enthusiastic.

Today and in addition to selling over six million copies and ranking #48 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, BOTW has proved itself as a source of hope for people the world over. Although not intentionally or overtly a “Christian” song, Bridge dutifully and creatively applied the theme of hope which it borrowed from the song which inspired it. Upon hearing the song, one might just begin to believe the promise which first inspired Paul Simon to write it — “I'll be a bridge over deep water if you trust in my name.”

- - - - - - 

Addendum:

This post was written from multiple sources, with some details having been stuck in my memory for years. It was fun to compile it all together into one complete theme. I first published this story in April of 2018. So imagine my delight to discover that I got the story right! 

This excerpt from Paul Simon's new, authorized biography covers the same ground as my post, but includes a few other details as well. Feel free to take a look. 

http://denver.cbslocal.com/2018/06/15/paul-simon-reveals-the-story-behind-bridge-over-troubled-water/



Listen to: Oh Mary, Don't You Weep


Sunday, April 8, 2018

A Local Pastor’s Sacrifice Lead to a Book Which Has Never Been Out-of-Print



A Tale to Remember

Can God take one man's spiritual journey, his defeats and triumphs and affect history? Can one man’s rejection by his own spiritual tribe inspire someone else to reach multiple generations? The answer is yes!

Samuel K. Horshour was a Lutheran pastor and educator in the Hagerstown, Maryland area. Eventually becoming president of North Western Christian University (Butler University), he met a few bumps and influenced a few people between here and there. His personal triumphs and the seeds which grew from them would not have happened if he had not made some hard choices right here in Hagerstown, Maryland. His story starts here, but his influence has in one sense gone around the world.

Smithsburg and Hagerstown 

“In the spring of 1828, I received a call to a Lutheran pastorate at Smithsburg, Washington County, Md., which I accepted.…In 1831, I removed from that pastorate, to Hagerstown, the county seat of Washington County, Md.”

Horshour became a respected theologian, giving lectures on the New Testament and so was tagged to counter the arguments of another local minister who espoused what was then thought by some to be unorthodox teaching — that of full immersion water baptism.

Disciples of Christ at Beavercreek

“About six miles south of Hagerstown in a settlement called Beaver Creek…At that time [1834] a "proclaimer of the ancient Gospel" made his appearance in the community; not a scholarly man, but who understood the New Testament pretty well… The "Campbellite proclaimer" produced quite a stir in the communities around…he was in the habit of challenging the "sectarian" preachers to contradict his positions--was ready for a public debate at any time. But no preacher heeded him.”

Although no one felt called to debate him personally, one of his hearers convinced Horshour to take up the challenge.

The Challenge

"'You are the man that can do it, for I heard you once preach on baptism, and I thought you made it very clear that sprinkling or pouring is valid baptism; do authorize me to say to Webb when he throws out his next challenge, that there is a preacher that will meet him…' I therefore resolved to prepare myself well, re-survey the whole subject of "water-baptism," and give the disturber a signal defeat.”

Through much study on Luther and other Lutheran writings, Hoshour discovered that he could not dispute the validity of full-immersion baptism, especially since the word itself means to submerge, immerse, or dip under. Perhaps it is hard for us today to realize the extent of Hoshour’s inner turmoil. That was a different time. Despite the fact that his denomination would not approve of his beliefs, he could not deny his conscience. Instead of entering into debate, he decided to submit himself to full immersion baptism.

The Pricetag

“The report that "Hoshour had been dunked" ran rapidly through Hagerstown…When on Monday morning "I went down town" none of my old Lutheran friends deigned to recognize me…In a short time I received a brief letter from the secretary of the Synod to which I belonged, in these words: ‘Mr. S. K. Hoshour, it is understood that you teach and practice contrary to the doctrine and usages of the Lutheran Church, and that therefore it is hoped that you will peacefully withdraw from the Synod to which you hitherto belonged. J. G. M.’ My reply was: ‘How can two walk together except they be agreed.’”

As his life as a Lutheran came to an end, he returned to New Market, VA for a time and by 1835, ventured West to Indiana. By this time, his wife who had been devastated by the scandal and uprooting of the family, found agreement with Samuel’s decision and she too was water baptized.

A Good Life

By 1836, Horshour became Principal Supervisor of the Wayne County Seminary in Centreville, Indiana. He and his wife ran a bookstore and he led what is now known as a Disciples of Christ congregation.

It was during this time that Hoshour had influence over the children of many of the elite in Indiana. Here is the testimony of one of his students, 40 years later:

“His doctrines were opposed by the other religious denominations, and his usefulness and popularity as a teacher somewhat impaired. But the purity of his life, his ability, and proficiency as a teacher, finally overcame existing objections, and backed up and heartily sustained by the less sectarian sentiment of the people, and by the friends his ability brought him, he became the most popular teacher the old Seminary ever had, either before or since his time.” ~Judge J. B. Julian - Richmond Palladium, 1879

Not only did Samuel inherit a new life in Indiana, his autobiography recounts that he returned to Hagerstown 30 years after he left and was warmly met by members of his old congregation. All this seems a happy ending for him, but there is still more to the story.

Young Lewis and The Rest of the Tale

One student influenced by Hoshour distinguished himself in a way that can hardly go unnoticed even now — nearly 180 years later. As a 13 year-old boy, Lewis was sent to the Wayne County Seminary “because of Professor Samuel K. Hoshour’s great reputation as an educator.” 

Lewis also wrote:

“I can see the professor standing in his door, lamp in hand and bareheaded, dismissing me for the night, with exactly the same civilities he would have sped an official the most important in the state. Ah, the kindly cunning of the shrewd old gentleman! He had dropped a light into my understanding and caught me. So, step by step, the professor led me into and out of depths I had never dreamed of, and through tangles of subtlety and appreciations which proved his mind as thoroughly as they tried mine. Before the year was out he had, as it were, taken my hand in his and introduced me to Byron, Shakespeare, and old Isaiah. The year was a turning-point of my life, and out of my age and across his grave I send him, Gentle master, hail, and all sweet rest.”

Samuel Hoshour had an impact on many of his students, but without his decision amid a great crisis of heart, he may have never gone to Indiana at all. It seems like a scene from It's a Wonderful Life, but in many ways, Hoshour's life was wonderful. The death he experienced brought him a new life and that life touched many others, including the life of Lewis Wallace, otherwise known as General Lew Wallace — the author of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.

A Novel Approach

Samuel Hoshour began tutoring Wallace in Algebra but quickly realized he simply had no aptitude in Mathematics. Instead, Hoshour encouraged Wallace’s interest in literature.

“He was the first to observe a glimmer of writing capacity in me. He gave me volumes of lectures on rules of composition, English, and style.” This included the writings of John Quincy Adams as well as a copy of the New Testament.

“‘There, read that! It is the story of the birth of Jesus Christ.’ This was entirely new to me and I recall the impression made by the small part given to the three wise men. Little did I dream then what those few verses were to bring me—that out of them Ben-Hur, was one day to be evoked.”

Samuel Hoshour was a catalyst to a story which has never been out of print and has spawned 5 major movie adaptations. Until Gone With the Wind, it was the top selling book in the nation, behind the Bible. It was also the first, but not the last, to wrap a Biblical story within a fictional tale. In a span of 21 years, the stage version of the story was seen by over 20 million. It was written in 1880 and is still relevant today and managed to appear on my television screen just an hour and a half ago. Yet, this monumental book may never have happened if it weren’t for a local Lutheran pastor who dared to follow what he felt God had called him to do.

A Tale to Remember

Many left Hagerstown and the surrounding area for the MidWest in the early to mid 1800s. Many of their stories left and died with them. Some, like this one, are slowly coming back to the surface. The circumstances of Hoshour’s time in Hagerstown may not seem to put our spiritual heritage in the kindest of light, but it is exactly those stories of how individuals persevered and overcame that we should reflect and take stock of what we believe. Today, the controversy of how one is baptized is not the dividing point that it used to be, but we can still draw from the life of Samuel Hoshour today and follow his example of discovering what we really do believe from Scripture, making it count for us like it did for him. We just might end up doing something big, or like Hoshour, inspiring others to rise to greatness.

A Personal Note

I live a block and a half from where Samuel Hoshour lived while pastor in Smithsburg. Knowing his story, being friends with the current pastor of the Lutheran Church, it brings this story ever-closer. The religious tensions of Hoshour's day are gone, but the call to represent this area is not. Samuel Hoshour inspired one of America's greatest authors, but he also inspires me. That's what a tale is supposed to do.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Peter Tested Both Jesus and His Own Faith (and he didn’t die in the process)



“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,' he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” (Matthew 14:25-29 NIV)
If you’re like me, you might question Peter’s sanity. Many of us today are so fearful of being taken in by false, supernatural manifestations, that we would not have given Jesus the time of day, much less asked him to call us out on the water. Eleven other guys agreed with that assessment as witnessed by their inaction. While they stayed in the boat, Peter asked to walk on the water outside of the boat. Why?

Peter was convinced of a few things. He had witnessed Jesus’ authority over sickness and disease (Matthew 4:23). He also knew that Jesus had authority over the wind and the waves through their experiences on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 8:23-27). Perhaps he wondered what more a follower of Jesus could accomplish. He had already been enabled to perform some of the same miracles that Jesus performed. More and more was becoming possible.

“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness… As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matthew 10:1,7 NIV)

Peter, a common (and sinful) fisherman (Luke 5:8) had been empowered to both proclaim and demonstrate God’s authority and power to heal. But this was altogether different. Jesus—if it actually was Jesus—had come walking towards him on the lake. When Jesus attempted to calm them down, Peter must have recognized the voice of the Great Shepherd (John 10:27), for he said:

“‘Lord, if it’s you… tell me to come to you on the water.’” (Matthew 14:28 NIV)

What was he thinking? What if it were not really Jesus, but a ghost as they had first reasoned? Was Peter really willing to take that chance, knowing that if it were not Jesus, he would immediately sink to the bottom of the lake? Peter seems to have had a genuine method to his madness. Not only did he know from his own experience what faith could do, he learned a very important lesson from a certain Roman who was not so different from himself. This man had come to Jesus and said:

“‘…Just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, “Go,” and he goes; and that one, “Come,” and he comes. I say to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, ‘Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.’” (Matthew 8:8-10 NIV)

Perhaps Peter, who on the day he first met Jesus exclaimed, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man,” identified with the centurion’s disposition, and therefore, also identified with his faith. Both men understood the power of operating under authority. The centurion had been commissioned by the Roman army and was accustomed to his subordinates obeying his commands. Likewise, under Jesus’ command, Peter had been successfully commissioned to heal the sick. Yet, we have no record of Jesus’ commending Peter for his great faith.

At that moment, however, Jesus exalted this centurion’s faith over all those living in Israel, including Peter (Matthew 8:10). I don’t think Peter ever forgot this encounter and the lesson it held. So in faith (perhaps coupled with a little jealousy), he put what he learned to good use on the Sea of Galilee and asked Jesus to command him to come (Matthew 14:28). Jesus responded:

“‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” (Matthew 14:29 NIV)
When someone with authority says, “Come,” they come. Right? That was the lesson, wasn’t it? Jesus had praised the centurion for understanding this truth about faith and now Peter took a step towards walking it out… literally, on the water! In Peter’s estimation, no one but Jesus was qualified to call him out onto the water and empower him to walk upon it. If Jesus was calling, then Peter could do it.

Peter gets a raw deal from those who don’t appreciate what he accomplished. At this point in his life, he was just a fisherman who simply applied what he learned by walking alongside Jesus. That's called discipleship. While his actions were dangerously bold, they were not flagrantly foolhardy. While most are more likely to error on the side of caution (as if Jesus will not be there to catch us if we get in over our heads), Peter volunteered to have his faith tested and he was not rebuked for anything, except for his doubt.

Jesus desires for us to ask him to call us to step forward where it appears there is no place to lay our feet, for he wants to take us further than we ever thought we could go. It is only those who attempt to walk on the water who ever will. The only reason anyone might ever have cause to walk on the water, and perhaps the only reason Peter wanted to, is because Jesus walked there first. Jesus said that we would do the works he did (John 14:12).

Peter had already demonstrated that this is so by following Jesus in healing the sick and casting out demons — acts that many Christians avoid today. He simply took this truth a step further. Like a good follower, he wanted to see just how far he could walk.

... For more of Jesus' walk on the water, see Holy Ghost Story