Sunday, March 22, 2015

New Beginnings

On a quiet, sunlit day Pastor Brad welcomed us warmly to New Life. Brad began by telling us how many conscious decisions we make a day... at least seventy, which means we make thousands of decisions a year. "How many of you have ever made a decision you wished you could take back? Raise your hand." Most raised hands, and a few did not so he said, "Some of you have decided to lie in church, which is not a good decision."

Announcements included a reminder that next week is Palm Sunday, that there will be a Good Friday service, and that Easter Sunday we will have breakfast at the church along with an Easter Egg Hunt.

Ed played piano this morning in Darlene's absence and also played a harmonica solo as introduction to singing Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.

The offering and a time of prayer preceded the special music, which was followed by Brad's sermon.

New Beginnings

Brad began with a story about bringing a bunch of young people to the Mall of America for a scavenger hunt game in which the kids had to find a bunch of people they knew who were dressed in disguises. He was dressed like a wizard and even though he'd cleared the game with Mall of America management, the security officers seriously questioned what was going on or what his intentions were. He afterwards regretted having done this.

Of course we all have regrets about things we have done. It may be lying to your spouse or an addiction you are hiding.

Unfortunately, you can not go back and change the past. This is the hardest problem with bad decisions: you can't go back. Some people say you just have to forget it and let it go. Others say you need to overcome it by replacing it with good karma going forward. But how does God deal with our bad decisions?

This intro was a setup for the story of Peter's failure, his denial of Jesus in His hour of need. It is a familiar passage. After Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane the disciples fled. Peter, however, wants to know where the authorities have taken Him and tries to find out what is happening. It's dark and it's cold, and he warms himself at a fire that some people have built outside where Jesus is being questioned. Someone asks whether he was with Jesus, and he denies it. Another person chimes it, "Yes, you were with Him." He denies again. When a third person asserts that he recognizes him as having been with the Nazarene he is even more vehement.

Now the Lord had told Peter earlier that before the rooster crows "you will deny Me three times." To Peter this seemed utterly improbable. But when the rooster crowed, Peter remembered these words and it broke him.

The disciples' reaction to the death and resurrection of Jesus was in some ways surprising. These were the men who Jesus had trained to bring the message of life to the world. But each was aware of his failures and not yet ready. The Lord's next move was to set about to heal these wound men, each of them keenly aware of their failings.

Like many people who have issues they dealing with, they avoided facing up to it and set about going back to what they were familiar with.

Today's sermon drew upon John 21.  Peter said, "I'm going out to fish." He went off to do what was comfortable and familiar to him. So Peter and company went out and fished all night, but caught nothing. He's living with regret, and it feels like God is so far away from him.

But Jesus shows up in verse 4, though they did not recognize Him. Jesus calls out from the shore, "Do you have any fish?"

They would rather avoid the truth, to blame something else. But here they simply reply, "No."

God can begin His redemptive work only when we are honest. We can't fake it.

What's really going on in your heart? What regrets did you bring into this room that you can leave here and not carry back out with you?

After Jesus heard them answer he said, "Throw your net on the other side of the boat." They catch so many fish it's astounding, nearly breaking the nets. John suddenly sees, "It's the Lord."

Jesus didn't needle them for having failed Him. Instead, He chose to bless them. Grace finds you right where you're at.

Jesus was saying, "Come and have breakfast. Come and be with Me."

Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, "Just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people." Jesus is our redeemer. Many religions can give advice on becoming a better person. No other religion addresses this matter of sin and our separation from God.

Returning to the 21st chapter of John, Brad discussed John 21:15-19 where Peter is forced to become uncomfortable as Jesus helps him face his sin so that their relationship can be reconciled. Jesus wants to bring Peter back to where Peter can follow Him again, and become a leader of the church.

"Do you love Me?"  In other words, do you want another chance? Do you want back what you lost? Are you ready?

Jesus isn't doing this to rub it in Peter's face. He's saying you do not have to see yourself as a failure.

God doesn't erase our past. He redeems it, no matter how bad it is. And this is what he offers to us, a clean slate, so we can accomplish the things He has prepared us for.

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