Today's Word for Pastors...
The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Today's Preaching Insight...
Peter and Me
Every so often I find myself struggling to fully comprehend the enormity of God's grace and how to communicate it to you.
I take great relief in this biblical case study of Peter, the one who Jesus called "Rock Man," who had the kind of faith upon which Jesus was determined to build His church. Thank God for the biblical record of Peter's life. How exaggerated it has become in 2000 years of church history. I am so glad that I can be reminded it was Peter who ventured out on the water at the command of Jesus, only to take his eyes off of his Lord and begin to sink. How reassured I am when I read the Bible and am reminded that it was Peter who, the night of our Lord's betrayal, scoffed at the notion that Jesus should die on the cross, determined to protect his Lord, only to fall asleep during our Lord's agony at Gethsemane. Peter denied Him three times during His trial before the high priest, Caiaphas. How relieved I am to know that it was Peter, a circumcised Jew, who ate only kosher food and wouldn't think of associating with Gentiles, who God had to confront with that vision of unclean animals and hear God declare, "What I have called clean, you dare not call unclean." He then humbly adjusted his thinking so that he could go and share the Good News of the Gospel with that Gentile, Cornelius.
I don't feel so bad when I realize that it has taken me years to comprehend the impact of the Gospel upon my life. Then I realize that maybe yet I've not fully comprehended it. We may observe Peter the day Titus didn't need to be circumcised. Gentiles didn't need to become Jews to accept the Gospel, and even he, Peter, was free to sit down at the table in Christian fellowship, conversation and food with Gentile as well as Jewish brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Watch him as he comes to Antioch and does just that. Then those men who claimed to come from James arrive in Antioch, and Peter draws back and separates himself from the Gentiles, afraid of those who belong to the circumcision group, drawing other Jews with him, even dear, whole-souled, generous Barnabas. At this point, Paul had to confront him, his hypocrisy, his fear, his intentional or unintentional refusal to embrace the Gospel in the full acceptance of brothers and sisters in Jesus who were very different from himself.
...I am reassured by this case study. If Peter had a hard time getting a handle on this and took quite a while to understand and flesh this out, it helps us understand our struggle. It also helps us come to a deeper appreciation of the enormity of God's grace.
(To read the entire article "Accepting Others" by John A. Huffman Jr. at Preaching.com, click here)
Birth in a Grave
by Geoff Pound
Human tragedy is never ultimate. Purpose often springs out of chaos and light from the darkness.
Paul Tillich tells of a moving event that came to light during the Nuremberg War Trials. It seems that in Wilna, Poland, in an effort to escape the clutches of the Nazis, several Jewish people resorted to hiding in graves in a nearby cemetery. There, in such an unlikely place, a young woman gave birth to a child.
An 80-year-old grave digger was the only one there to assist in the birth; and, as he saw what was happening, he said in awe: "Great God, hast thou finally sent the Messiah to us? For who else but a Messiah could be born in a grave?"
The old man was wrong as to the identity of the child because the emaciated mother had no milk and very soon the child died. But he was right in another sense, for only God could do something as incredible as cause life to be born in a grave.
This is exactly what did happen on Easter morning and is the greatest of all symbols of God's ingenious resourcefulness. Out of that awful matrix of death and tragedy, healing began to flow.
(Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations, 1955, chapter 20. Quoted in Easter Sermon by John Claypool, Tragedy and Hope.)
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