Why the Lord gives us appetizers of Heaven

Often, as we serve Him on earth, the Lord gives us these little glimpses of Heaven, special moments when we know “the Lord is in this place!”

Pastor Perry Sanders decided to witness to his seatmate on a plane bound for Richmond.  “Do you know the Lord?” he asked the elderly gentleman.  “I sure do!” the man said.  “I’d love to hear about it,” said Perry.  The man said, “Years ago, I was traveling the highways of South Carolina in sales. As lost and miserable as it’s possible to get. And one day I picked up a hitchhiking college student.  He told me about Jesus and led me to the Lord.”  Perry said, “Sir, do you recall where you let that student out?”  “Yes sir.  He got out in Bamberg, South Carolina.”  Perry Sanders, longtime pastor of Lafayette, Louisiana’s First Baptist Church, said to him, “Sir, I’m that boy. I was a student at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC and always tried to share my faith with anyone giving me a ride to my parents’ home in Bamberg.”  A little foretaste of Heaven.

In Heaven, they ‘re going to be coming up to you: “Do you remember that time you witnessed?  Preached a sermon? Prayed a prayer?  Gave an offering?  Wrote a note?”  And God used it.  So, He lets that happen just a little in this life in order to prepare us, to encourage us, to keep us faithful.

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. (2 Peter 1:16). 

In the middle of His teaching on discipleship, the Lord Jesus paused to utter a one-of-a-kind prophecy, one that would be fulfilled within the week:  “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste of death till they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom” (Matthew 16:28).   The gospels of Mark and Luke phrase it slightly different.  “…will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power” (Mark 9:1).  “…shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:27).

The prophecy was fulfilled a few days later when the Lord took with Him the three disciples of His inner circle–Peter, James and John–to the top of the mountain where He was transfigured. Several things happened…

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Teaching the clueless: a quick study of Matthew 16

“The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him; neither can he understand them for they are spiritually appraised” (I Corinthians 2:14).

“Are you getting this?”

“Am I getting through to you?”

Ask any teacher. Trying to convey a lesson to the clueless is the toughest part of their job.  The students sit there and stare at you as though you are speaking Swahili.  They just don’t get it.

Matthew 16 has three groups that do not get what the Lord Jesus is doing and teaching.

The Pharisees and Sadducees (16:1-4). They wanted a sign.  The Pharisees were the ultra-conservatives of that day and the Sadducees the ultra-liberals.  The only thing they had in common was an animosity to Jesus.

These so-called religions authorities had no time or energy to consider what Jesus was doing and saying and what it meant.  By asking for a sign, they were saying: “If you want us, you’ll have to overwhelm us with your miracles so we have no choice but to believe.”   But without faith, it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6) and the just shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4; quoted in Romans 1:17, Colossians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38).

No one enters the Kingdom who is unwilling to come by faith in Jesus Christ.

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Why the Lord is so rough with some of His best people

“O you of little faith!  Why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).

The teacher is hardest on the best pupils.

The Master Teacher is hardest on the Star Pupil.

The coach is in the face of the player with the greatest potential, on his back, never letting up.

Check out these words from the Lord Jesus.  “Get behind me, Satan.  You are a stumbling block to me;  for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (Matthew 16:23).

He said those harsh, cutting words, not to the Pharisees, but to Simon Peter, His “star apostle.”

Simon Peter–the disciple with the most potential, the one Jesus renamed as “Rock.”  He called Peter a “satan” (adversary) soon after commending him for his confession that “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).  When Peter said that, the Lord said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

Called him blessed one moment and turns right around and calls him a devil.

What’s going on here?

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Stepping out of the boat: Something Simon Peter did a hundred times

Sometimes it’s scary obeying Jesus.

The incident recorded in Matthew 14–in the darkest part of the night,  the Lord came walking across the wind-tossed sea to the disciples and Peter is allowed, nay encouraged, to leave the boat and walk to Him, managing to take a few tentative steps over the sea before his fears got the best of him–turns out to have been the story of the rest of Peter’s life.

In a manner of speaking.

Leaving his comfort zone to come to Jesus, stepping out of the metaphorical boat and onto the watery surface where no visible means of support presented themselves, thus risking everything, is what Peter did–or was called on to do–again and again for the rest of his life.

One.  Peter, will you confess Jesus?  “Well, normally I would–but today it’s scary!”

He was warming himself at the fire in the courtyard while, not far away, the Lord was on trial. Three times Peter has the opportunity to confess Jesus.  The problem is that was a most scary thing to do.  He would have been hanging himself out there for all to see, he would have made a target of himself, and it would have been uncomfortable.  Luke tells us what happened at the end….

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I’m so glad Peter didn’t walk on water for a half hour. Here’s why.

“But seeing the wind, Peter became afraid and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Save me, Lord!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him….” (Matthew 14:30-31).

It’s like a video of the Boston Red Sox guy letting that World Series game-winning single run through his legs.  Had he caught it and stepped on first base, the game would have ended and the Red Sox would have ended that so-called curse a full fifteen or twenty years earlier than they did.  Ask that player and his family.  It has run a zillion times on youtube and in the minds of the fans.  They have enshrined his failure.  They think of him and they forget all the thousands of put-outs he made at first base, the hits he got, the runs he produced.  That is how Peter must feel.

Think of Simon Peter walking on the water to Jesus that night when the winds howled and the sea raged and far from being impressed–as one would think we should be!–we see only that “he took his eyes off Jesus and put them on the wave,” and began to sink.  As though we would not have!

I’m so glad Peter did that.  Yes, I’m happy he walked those few steps on the Galilee, of course, and really really impressed.  But everything inside me gives thanks that he then had a problem with what he was doing and messed it up.

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Deciding what kind of man you want to become

Every male coming into the world will become a man, if he lasts long enough.  But sometime along the way he should stop and ask, “What kind of man do I want to become?”

“Quit you like men” is how the old version of I Corinthians 16:13 reads.  Modern translations has it saying: “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong….”

Be a real man.

Be a man like Jesus.

He went up to the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone (Matthew 14:23). 

Our text is the 14th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel.  In this passage, we have several stark contrasts in manhood.  We have King Herod Agrippa, we have the Lord Jesus Christ, and we have a disciple named Simon Peter.

Take a look at them…

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Perhaps the most amazing thing the Lord told His disciples

“He who receives you receives me” (Matthew 10:40).

“He who hears you hears Me; he who rejects you  rejects Me” (Luke 10:16).

Imagine this scene:  You are about to go out and preach the Word of God.  You are devoted to your Lord, certain of the message, and sure of your call. But then….

You begin to worry about the kind of reception you will get.  Will I be effective? What if I’m not ready? What if they don’t like me?  I’m not that great a speaker.

That’s when you hear the most amazing words from the Lord.

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