Posted from the airport in Kilimanjaro. The last ten days it has been my distinct honor and blessing to be in the country of Tanzania. At the strong urging of one of my elders I began my mission with a two day safari. WOW! What an experience - to see so much of God’s creation and creatures up close and in their natural habitat. Any attempt to describe that would fall short. On Sunday I preached three times at two congregations. And then Monday - Friday I was blessed to lecture the last week in a short course for the graduating preaching students of the Andrew Connally School of Preaching. A very humble and sharp group of young men. I know most of you will never meet these men - they will plant churches in obscure (to us, not to God) villages and cities all over this part of Africa. I met one student who graduated 5 years ago who has planted 6 growing churches, started a school and an orphanage! I got to enjoy being around two servant hearted missionary families (Cy and Stephanie Stafford and Sean and Anita Hochdorf) who treated me more royally and made me comfortable in every way possible. Then today I spoke at the graduation ceremony. The notes below form most of my thoughts. It might offend you some - but stay with it - the payoff is pretty neat in my opinion.
Graduates, Administrators, Faculty, Staff, friends - brothers and sisters. Congratulations to you on the completion of another school year - and graduates - congratulations to you on the successful completion of your studies here at Andrew Connally School of Preaching.
I wish you every success in the mission before you which is the great commission - to spread the Word of Life into the heads and hearts of men and women, boys and girls. To increase the rolls of heaven and to go in and take captives away from satan and deliver them to our God.
Peter spoke boldly of Jesus before the High Priest and his cohorts two chapters after he used the keys to the kingdom and helped usher in the first converts to Christianity and the Lord’s church - and he said forcefully: “ Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved
Just days before he had stood in front of probably 10’s of thousands and spoke boldly of Jesus as he said “God has made this same Jesus whom you have crucified both Lord and Christ.”
Ahh, Peter! What a force!
It was he who answered by the revelation of God in Matthew 16 and first confessed the good confession that most in this room have mimicked: “you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
He knew that Christ is the only answer for all the world
I have seen despair in the eyes of the lowest caste of the poorest of the poor in India and the magnificent pink palace of Jaipur, India. I’ve stood in the onion shaped shadow of the St Basil’s cathedral in Red Square in Moscow and sung with those who turned from Atheism to submit to Him. I’ve studied with Mormans in America, Atheists in the Ukraine, 7th Day Adventists in Central America and tribalist in Nigeria - I’ve seen the light come into the eyes of these people world wide when they realize this grand truth - Christ is the only hope for all the world.
So today you are commissioned to go. There will be obstacles - there always have been - both within and without. Peter knew it all too well.
Sometimes he did good - but the times our quick tongued brother messed up are legendary.
Yes, we remember Matthew 16 - who do men say I am? Who do you say I am? “blessed are you Simon…” - but moments later Peter as Jesus spoke of His impending death for our sins Peter took him aside and began to rebuke Him! Never Lord. And Jesus said “shut up Peter” - You are not thinking right - get behind me satan, you are a stumbling block. You are not thinking right!
Turn your page and in Matthew 17 it is Peter who speaks up with the big 3 get to see the bigger three (Peter, James and John, get to see Moses, Elijah and Jesus) and says “It is good to be here - let us build 3 tents of worship!” And God said Shut up Peter! “Jesus is My Son - listen to Him!”
Only a handful of vss later Peter takes another stab at it: Matthew 18:21 - “Peter came to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” I wonder if he had someone in mind and a list!? Maybe someone had pushed the 7 number - Jesus corrected his math - no 490 times and the parable that followed shows that you need not keep any list! Shut up Peter!
In Matthew 14 the disciples are in a small boat in a big water and in big trouble as the sea grows harsh. They see a ghost coming toward them in one of the most vivid horror stories in the Bible - but, as you know it turns out to be Jesus. As He grows closer Peter wants to be able to walk with Him on the water - “If it’s you bid me to come…” Moments later a less buoyant Peter is rescued spitting up seawater. And Jesus said: “O you of little faith” - Shut up Peter!
Peter meant well in the event recorded in John 13 as he did not want the Lord to preform the menial task of washing his dirty feet and said - “You won’t ever wash my feet!” Jesus said: Shut up Peter - if you don’t let me wash your feet you are not a part of my family.”
We could go on couldn't we…but just one more:
Matthew 19 - it’s been a good day - great multitudes are following Jesus (v. 2). The Lord has silenced the Pharisees again (vs. 6-9). He has upheld the foundation of society - the home (vs. 4-6). He’s blessed little children (13-15). He’s taught one of the most comforting short sermons of all time. Verse 26 “…with God all things are possible.”
And then Peter has to chime in:
Verse 27 “Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?”
And, I want to shout “Shut up Peter!” How dare you be so self-centered and selfish. Is that all you are doing this for? To pad your pockets? To get something out of Jesus? Is that all you are interested? What, you want a certificate? a pension? a paycheck? a position of prestige? Will you ever learn to keep quiet? Shut up Peter!
Come on Christ - set him straight! You better hang on Peter - you think the rebuke “get behind me satan” was tough - this one is going to knock your socks off. Of all the lowdown, self-serving things you have said, and there have been plenty of them, Peter, this one takes the cake. The last time it was a bright cloud and the voice of God - this time you might even be zapped with a bolt of lightening from above!
Verse 28 “And Jesus said to them” here it comes!
“Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Oh. Well, that’s pretty neat.
But that is not all the Lord said. Because of Peter’s inappropriate question the Lord said something to you graduates and to me and to everyone here who has followed Him completely: “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life … many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.”
And you have lived this verse. You have left lands and family, moms and dads, houses and comforts for the name of the Lord. When we married Melanie had only lived in two houses in her life - over the next six years she would move seven times with each leaving behind much. We too lived hundreds of kilometers from our moms and dads, we too gave up much for the sake of the Kingdom.
And in return - the Lord has been true to His Word. We have thousands of families who consider us a part of their family because we are a part of His Family. We have older saints who are our moms and dads and younger ones who are brothers and sisters, we have houses around the world that we are told to treat as our own. We have children we love so very deeply. We have tried the ominous task of putting ourselves last and the Lord keeps pushing us to the front of the blessings line.
And, if all that were not enough, we have the promise and the not yet but someday assurance/hope of life eternal.
Thank you Peter - thank you for speaking up!
Yes, there are sacrifices to be made. There is on occasion the pain of obedience. Having to go against every desire you have for a life of ease and comfort. There is the deep yearning for comfort, control, for things to be easy.
But greater than the pain is the promise of faithfulness!
Will I walk though the pain of obedience to experience the promise of God?
Graduates you have a mission, a charge and a commission! Go, teach, everyone. God bless you in this.
Thank you Peter.