To Whom Would We Go?

Peter Has Foot-in-Mouth Disease

We all have experienced cases of foot-in-mouth disease, but it seems that Peter has a severe case.

There are several instances of Peter talking (or acting) before thinking.

There was the time when Peter, James and John are with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration.

While Jesus was praying, “the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor… Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)” (Luke 9:28-33)

Then there was the time when the disciples went ahead in the boat and saw Jesus walking on the water.

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. 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?” (Matthew 14:22-31)

And don’t forget the time when the disciples are eating their last meal with Jesus, and He tells them that they will all deny him before the night is over.

 “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:

“‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (Matthew 26:31-35) And we talked about Peter’s denial last week.

Peter was Peter and even with his mistakes he would continually come back and ask for forgiveness.

And then Jesus was crucified before he had a chance. This left Peter broken and lost so he went back to what he knew…fishing.

After Jesus’ crucifixion and appearances His followers were left not knowing what to do. Then while they were fishing on the Sea of Galilee this happened.

Several of the disciple were fishing and not having any luck when a man on the beach asks if they’ve caught any fish. They replied that they hadn’t.

Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.

Then one of the disciples said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he jumped into the water, and headed to shore. When the others got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.

“Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. (John21:1-14)

After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these.”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”

“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”

“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep. (John21:15-17)

I find it interesting that Jesus asked this question of Peter three times. This is the same number of times Peter denied knowing Him.

In John 6:22-70, Jesus is telling the people the commitment it was going to take to be one of His followers and people began to leave. Then His disciples were complaining, and Jesus ask the Twelve, “Are you going to leave?”

And Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go?

You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”

This is really what it all comes down to. No matter how many times we mess up or what we do, Jesus will forgive us because…

To whom else could we go?

Having Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed Can Move Mountains

What Do One Sheep, One Coin, and Two Sons Have in Common?

This sounds like the start of a joke, doesn’t it. But in reality, there’s an important message here. Not that jokes can’t have important messages.

Jokes are a form of stories, and we can all relate to stories. Stories help us to see things from different perspectives or witness things when we aren’t even there. They can let us see things that we can’t physically see. They allow us feel things that we can relate to.

Jesus used stories to help us understand and relate to things.

As Pastor Lisa has been going through the Book of Luke, we’ve heard a lot of Jesus’ stories. This week was no different. These stories are commonly called parables.

A parable is an illustrative story, by which a familiar idea is cast beside an unfamiliar one in such a way that the comparison helps people to better understand or grasp the unfamiliar one. A simple story is told, certain features of which are similar or parallel to the points or principles one wishes to drive home.

Back to the one sheep, the one coin, and the two sons.

In Luke 15, Jesus is hanging out with a bunch of sinners (this would be all of us). And once again the Pharisees and teachers of the law are grumbling about this. Then He tells them a story about a single lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7) and the importance of finding it.

Then He tells them about a lady looking for one lost coin (Luke 15:8-10) and how she looks and looks until she finds it. Then she celebrates and the shares her excitement with her friends once it’s found.

We’ve all heard the story about the two sons, commonly called the “prodigal son”. (Luke 15:11-32) The younger son is given his share of his father’s money and after squandering it, comes back to be welcomed by his father. Then the older son is upset about him being welcomed home with a celebration.

We can all relate to the different people in these stories at different times.

Both sons in this last story made mistakes. Like the sons in this story, we’ve done stupid things as well. The father forgave both of his sons for their errors. One wasn’t better or more deserving of forgiveness than the other. Our Heavenly Father does the same for us.

In Luke it is clear that Jesus was looking for the least, the last, and the lost. From the first chapters until the end. Luke is always drawing attention to the ways in which, as Mary puts it in the Magnificat, God casts down the proud and lifts up the lowly. 

Forgiveness is something that we need to both give and ask for. It is one of the most powerful weapons we have. We need to forgive those who do not ask for forgiveness. Forgive those who criticize us unjustly. Forgive ourselves.

Forgiveness is a secret that is hidden in plain sight. It costs nothing and is worth millions. It is available to everyone and used by few. If you harness the power of forgiveness, you will be sought after and regarded highly. And not coincidentally, you will also be forgiven by others!” (6th Decision from The Traveler’s Gift)

It doesn’t matter who we are, we can be forgiven.

Forgiveness requires faith. We must have faith in God. We must have faith in others. We must have faith in ourselves. Having faith in ourselves is one of the hardest things to do.

We make faith harder than we need to. In Matthew 17:20-21 Jesus tells us, “I can promise you this. If you had faith no larger than a mustard seed, you could tell this mountain to move from here to there. And it would. Everything would be possible for you.”

The mustard seed is tiny. When our faith is smaller than a mustard seed…it’s pretty much non-existent.

Learn from Jesus’ stories. Forgive yourself and others. Have mustard seed sized faith.

Starting a Conversation with Someone Can Be a Scary Thing

Why Do We Find This Simple Act to be So Terrifying?

Most of us are uncomfortable in situations when we are surrounded by people that we don’t know. It can be hard to start a conversation with people in these kinds of circumstances.

I know that I find this hard. For me, I often feel like what I have to say isn’t important. My initial feelings are those of inadequacy. This discomfort then becomes my focus, and I’m not fully engaged. Then, afterwards I can’t remember much…including people’s names.

It’s easy to get caught up in what we think others think, but ultimately, it comes down to being comfortable with who we are.

In the story of the woman at the well, John 4:4-42, Jesus is traveling through Samaria, a country of people that the Jews did not get along with. This issue was serious enough that many times when going from Galilee to Judea, Jews would go around the country of Samaria rather than go through it.

Jesus was resting by a well in Samaria, when a Samaritan women came to draw some water. Jesus asked her if she would give him a drink. This surprised the women because…He was a Jew.

Their willingness to have this conversation and talk with each other led to her being saved, which led to many more Samaritans being saved…

Their willingness to have an open and honest conversation was life changing.

Some conversations are harder than others, especially when we’ve done something that causes damage or harm to others.

This is the story of Joe and Amy. In 1992, Joe Avila was driving drunk and hit and killed Amy Wall, a teenage girl. Joe fled the scene of the accident and was later arrested for second-degree murder. While in jail in the days that followed Joe was afraid, sad, and angry…he was looking for a way to kill himself.

Two lives were destroyed the night Joe Avila killed Amy Wall, but God wouldn’t let their story end there.

While preparing for his murder trial, Joe checked into a six-month sobriety program with the Salvation Army. It was there that, as Joe explains, God “put some people in my life who made me understand what reconciliation was and forgiveness was. “A few months into the program, he came to the decision that would impact him, his family, and the Wall family, too.

Although Joe expressed remorse and went to rehab, the judge still had little faith that Joe was saved from his alcoholism and sentenced him to 12 years.

For the next seven and a half years, Joe was incarcerated at California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo, California. Choosing to make the most of his life behind bars, Joe spent his time serving the prison’s hospice patients. Through Prison Fellowship Angel Tree, Joe was able to remain a presence in his daughters’ lives. And he served in the chapel, sharing the Gospel with his fellow prisoners—the highlight of his incarceration.

Not long after Joe’s release, his mentor called to say that Amy’s brother, Derek, wanted to meet with him. For years Joe had prayed that God would help him reconcile with Amy’s family. Even so, Joe was nervous about the meeting.

That first meeting with Derek was several hours long. Derek told Joe about all the things he and Amy used to do together, how much he loved her, and that he had thought Joe was a monster who should get the electric chair for what he had done.

But then Derek explained that his family had been following Joe’s progress behind bars. They knew he was trying to make his life better.

Joe told Derek something he had long wanted to say: “I’m really sorry for what I’ve done, and I hope that someday you can forgive me.”

Later, Joe’s mentor called again. This time, Rick Wall, Amy’s father, wanted to see Joe. During that meeting, something miraculous occurred.

Rick told Joe about the two days a year when he visits Amy’s grave—on her birthday and the anniversary of her death. And then Rick said, “Joe, I know what you’ve been doing for a long time now, even when you were in prison, and I approve of it.”

Joe’s prayers for reconciliation were being answered. “Rick Wall, Amy’s father, forgave me before I even asked him to forgive me,” Joe says.

You want to talk about a hard conversation. Most of us will never experience these kinds of hard conversations. In both situations there was open honesty and forgiveness.

We need to remember that God made us in His image, and God doesn’t make mistakes. It’s up to us to believe in ourselves.

If the Samaritan woman at the well and Joe Avila can have hard conversations like this…we can too.

It’s Not Because We Have Value That We’re Loved

It’s Because We Are Loved That We Have Value

We all want to be valued, but most people are looking for it in the wrong place. They’re looking for value from a worldly perspective. They see value in material things.

Our true value is bigger than the world.

Last week we discussed the surprising connection of salt and light, rules and laws. I shared how in Matthew 5 verses 13-20 Jesus shows how these are related.

It’s not good to be without salt and light. The same goes for rules and laws. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some poor human laws (like India’s cobra law).

God’s rules, however, are meant for our protection.

My Mom lives in the country and a neighbor down the road has a dog that likes to run out in front of cars, running around in circles barking. Mom was concerned that she was going to run over the dog. So, after dealing with this for a while, one day before the dog had a chance to get started, she stopped the car, rolled down her window and forcefully told the dog to get back in the yard. After repeating this to the dog a few times, it went back to the yard. This process went on for a while as Mom would drive by. Now, the dog recognizes Mom’s car and doesn’t even bother to go to the road.

People are like this dog and sometimes God has to roll down His window for us.

This week Pastor Lee continued looking at God’s rules and laws in Matthew 5 looking at verses 21-37. Like the dog, these rules are for our benefit. God’s rules are because He loves us.

The religious leaders in Scripture were focused on the rules not God’s love. Jesus came to fulfill the law not to abolish it. He came because He loves us.

It can be hard to love people who treat us badly. But we are told to love our neighbor. The worse a neighbor has treated you, the harder it is to love them.

We all know how Jesus was treated and how He responded.

But you may not know how Douglas “Pete” Peterson was treated or how he responded.

Pete was flying bombing missions in Vietnam in 1966 when his plane was shot down. He landed in a mango tree and was badly hurt. He had head injuries, both knees dislocated, a broken leg, arm, and shoulder.

He was caught by a group of villagers. They stripped him of his clothes, bound him and dragged him back to their tiny village. After a while he was moved to another village where he was interrogated, and then, still in his broken, untreated state, piled into the sidecar of a battered motorbike, and paraded through countless other villages.

Then he was taken into Hanoi, to the Hoa Lo prison – known to its American inmates as the Hanoi Hilton – and there he was brutally interrogated.

After four days, Peterson was finally transferred to a hospital and from there, to a prison camp south-west of the city, known as “the Zoo”.

His prison room, “had three air-holes in the ceiling, a trap door in the door which food and so on was passed through, and a bunk, just planks of wood set on concrete pillars – and that was the bed.”

Peterson was released on March 4, 1973.

He remained in the Air Force until 1980, retiring as a colonel.

In 1990, he was elected to Congress and remained there until 1997. During this period, he revisited Vietnam three times in the hunt for information about US soldiers missing in action, the “MIAs” who some believed were still be imprisoned in Vietnam.

These trips were a chance for Peterson to come to terms with his wartime experience.

Peterson became a voice for reconciliation. After he chose not to run for a fourth term in Congress, he was approached with a job offer.

“President Clinton contacted me and asked if I would be interested in being a candidate for the ambassador slot in Hanoi.”

“I was a little concerned. You can go back and visit a country and that’s one thing, but going back and being a chief diplomat of a country is quite different,” he said.

From one perspective, he was a strange choice. How would the Vietnamese receive a man responsible for 66 bombing raids on the country – raids which Peterson admits probably resulted in civilian casualties?

And although he insisted at the time that he would “check hate at the door” would his counterparts in the country buy that, or assume he still bore grudges from his ordeal during the “American War”?

He was welcomed with open arms, according to former LA Times journalist David Lamb. He said that during his four years in Vietnam, Peterson became “a walking billboard for reconciliation”.

He drank tea with Nguyen Viet Chop and Nguyen Danh Xinh – two of the men who pulled him from the tree and dragged him back to the village through the rice paddies. He walked through the fields, holding hands with the grandson of one of his former captors, to the mango tree in which he had fallen 31 years earlier.

Pete Peterson was not a man to relax in his retirement, nor was he one to dwell on the past. Years ago, he said that he had no intention of becoming a “career POW”, but that God had not saved his life for him to be angry. “My life was preserved to do something constructive.”

I believe that we can all take some lessons of forgiveness and love from Pete. He didn’t get hung up on the rules and law…he was focused on love and reconciliation.

We are loved by God and that love is what gives us our value.

It is up to us to share that love with others and show them their value.

We All Need Grace, and Getting It Comes Down to a Choice

This Is True for All Life’s Important Decisions

Our whole life is made up of decisions. It’s up to us to make the right choices.

Too often we don’t.

Sometimes it’s because our life situation is all we’ve ever known.

This was the case for Johnny Lee Clary. He grew up in a family full of hate and fear. His family was racist and full of aggression.

“There was a lot of alcoholism in our home and fighting all the time. My mother was constantly cheating on my father. My mother drove my father into bankruptcy, and then my father was faced with losing everything he had worked hard for.

I watched my father, one night, take a pistol and put it to his head and blow his brains out.”

Johnny was only 11 years old when his father died. Immediately after the funeral, his mother put him on a bus and sent me out to California to go live with his sister.

“That just made me hate that much more. So, I was hating everyone. At 14 years old, I felt like committing suicide myself.  I was thinking seriously about ending my life so I could go be with my dad.”

Then he saw David Duke, head of the Ku Lux Klan on television telling everybody that the White people needed to stick together. This made him feel some kind of a weird connection to his dad.

Johnny wrote Duke a letter telling him his life story. Before long, there was a knock on the door.

“I opened up the door, he shook my hand and said, ‘I’m a friend of David Duke’s.  We’re here to protect you, son.  What you need is a family.’”

The Klansmen taught Johnny the ways of the KKK. When he was 18, he returned to Oklahoma to start his own Klan chapter. Eventually he rose to the rank of Imperial Wizard, the Klan’s top leadership position.

“I finally felt like I’d found something that I could amount to in life.

The FBI opened an investigation on Johnny. He knew it was just a matter of time before he was going to end up getting arrested.

Johnny decided his only shot of staying out of prison was to step down as Imperial Wizard. But when he did, the Klan turned on him, fearing that he was an FBI informant.

Once again, he became a person without any friends. He started drinking, and the fear and hate consumed him.

“I thought of my daddy and I thought Daddy had the right idea. I sat down and was looking at the gun and there was a Bible sitting there. I thought that there is no possible way that the good Lord can forgive somebody like me, because I had been so full of hate. I had all the violence and lived such a bad life.”

He flipped open the Bible and it opened to Luke 15, the story of the prodigal son.

Johnny read Jesus’ parable of the young man who demanded his inheritance from his father, then squandered it all. He returned home to the father remorseful. His father did not chastise him, instead he celebrated his return.

“I finally got on my knees and said, ‘God, my life is screwed up.  God, I’m in a mess.  I need Your help.’”

He went to a nearby church. What he saw there amazed him: Blacks and Whites sitting together.  This moved Johnny’s heart, and at the end of the service, he gave his life to Christ.

“I felt like a new person, brand new creation.  I felt like I had had a weight lifted off my shoulders.”

Johnny wanted to share this with others but didn’t know how to get started, so he called on the Rev. Wade Watts, Minister of an African-American church that the Klan harassed.

“The Klan had set fire to his church and did everything under the sun to harass this man. I remember he debated me at a radio station one time. He looked right at me, and he goes, ‘You can’t do enough to me to make me hate you.  I’m going to love you. I’m going to pray for you whether you like it or not.’”

Johnny went to Rev. Wade Watts and they became good friends.

Johnny learned how to love and live in unity with all people.

“Not only has He given me a good wife to stand by my side, but He’s given me good friends. He’s given me a good life here on earth.  He’s given me hope, gave me the gift of love. Taught me what love’s all about. Isn’t that what God is? 

God is love. 

I’m not that mixed up kid looking for a family anymore.  I’ve got a family. I’ve got a relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

More of Johnny’s story

Most of our have not experienced or done the things that Johnny did, but we all need grace. If he can receive it, so can you.

Receiving grace is a choice and available to anyone who asks for it.

Forgiveness is More for the Forgiver Than the Forgivee

Anger, Resentment and Hatred Hurts the Carrier the Most

We have all known someone who has been wronged and will not forgive. This eats away at them both mentally and physically. They carry this anger around, locked away, waiting to be given to someone and never finding anyone worthy.

Forgiveness is the most powerful weapon we have and one of the least used.

I listened to a Marie Forleo podcast earlier this week in which she interviewed Dr. Edith Eger, a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor.

“In 1944 she was just a teenager when she experienced one of the worst evils the human race has ever known. As a Jew living in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe, she and her family were sent to Auschwitz, the heinous death camp. Her parents were sent to the gas chambers, but Edith’s bravery kept her and her sister alive.  Toward the end of the war Edith and other prisoners had been moved to Austria. On May 4, 1945 a young American soldier noticed her hand moving slightly amongst a number of dead bodies.”

“Though I could have remained a permanent victim –scarred by what was beyond my control– I made the choice to heal. Early on, I realized that true freedom can only be found by forgiving, letting go, and moving on.”

If Edith can forgive the people who did these horrible things to her and her family, there should be no reason we can’t also forgive. We have been forgiven by God. We should do the same for others.

Andy Andrews does a great job of explaining forgiveness in Decision #7 the “Compassionate Decision” in his book The Seven Decisions. He points out that too much of the time we expect other to ask for forgiveness and they may not even know that they wronged us.

He also brings up the importance of forgiving ourselves. Often, we are our own biggest critics. We expect one thing and when we don’t achieve that we beat ourselves up.

Remember to forgive yourself.

We can accomplish so much more and we will be much happier and healthier if we will forgive.

There Are Miracles Waiting at The Edge of Our Faith





That Faith Only Needs to Be as Big as a Mustard Seed


We really don’t believe in miracles, we say that we do, but not really. Our faith is almost nonexistent. We sell ourselves and God short. It’s no wonder that we live lives of mediocrity.

Even the apostles, who had witnessed Jesus perform miracles doubted. He told them, “If your faith were the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Dig yourself up and plant yourself in the sea.,” and it would obey you.” Luke 17:5-6 I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a mustard seed, but they’re tiny.

Faith requires action.

Imagine yourself at a circus watching all the amazing trapeze artists and high wire acts. After the tight rope walker goes across the high wire the ring master asks the crowd if they would like to see him ride a bicycle across. Everyone applauds and says yes. Next the ring master asks if they would like to see him go across with someone riding on his shoulders. The applause and screams are louder than before. Then the ringmaster asks…who will volunteer to be that person? The crowd instantly is quiet. Oh, ye of little faith.

We’ve been put here for a purpose. To live out that purpose to its fullest requires faith and action.

Faith starts with forgiveness.

Anger stops the flow of miracles. Forgiveness releases them. We think holding back forgiveness is punishment to those who have wronged us…it isn’t, forgiveness benefits the forgiver as much as the forgiven. It clears the blockage and opens a clear path for miracles to flow through.

Faith is all about believing.

We only need to believe a mustard seed amount for miracles to happen. It’s sad how many people don’t even have this much faith. God will never expect us to do more than we can. The problem is that we don’t believe. There are examples of amazing things all around us if we will just look. The more we believe in God and ourselves the bigger the miracles will be.

Faith concludes with serving.

Serving is the result of putting our faith into action. Our specific purpose is to serve God and others using our gifts and talents. Serving others is not demeaning, it is the fulfillment of our purpose. Small acts of service ripple through out time and space ending in huge miracles.

We are made in God’s image but live in a fallen world. It is hard to see through the haze of the fallen world to the miracles that happen. In the story of the mulberry tree above, it says, if you have faith, it will obey you…it doesn’t say anything about seeing it.

We witness miracles every day that were started by someone else’s faith and action.