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Wednesday, April 24, 2009

Humphey, the Lancaster County camel
Humphrey, the Lancaster County camel!
We periodically pass this camel near our home. The owner is a Christian and has an annual Christmas display with real animals.

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"Do You Truly Love Me?"

"Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" (John 21:15).

These last several days in our daily encouragement messages we've gone fishing and yesterday we looked in on a men's breakfast that took place along the shores of Lake Galilee with Jesus being the host.  This was the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples after He was resurrected from the dead.  Immediately following the breakfast we have what is often called the reinstatement of Simon Peter.
Prior to Christ's death Peter denied three times that he had any relationship with the Lord or that He even knew Him.  But after  Jesus served the men breakfast he asked a probing question that forced Peter to clarify His love for Him.

"Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" What the Lord meant by "these" in this passage is not clear.

Possibly the Lord is referring to Peter's return to fishing and thus "these" refers to the boats, the net bulging with fish or the fishing gear.  Did Peter love the Lord more than his previous vocation?

"These" could also refer to the other disciples in the sense, "Do you love me more than you love these other disciples?"

Or "these" could refer to the love the other disciples had for the Lord and thus the question has the sense of "Do you love me more than these other disciples love me?"  This seems to be the typical way we take this passage.  As one commentator puts it the semantic force of what Jesus asks Peter amounts to something like, “Now, after you have denied me three times, can you still affirm that you love me more than these other disciples do?”  And interestingly, Jesus asks Peter to affirm His love three times; the exact same number of times he had previously disowned Him.

Jake and Nancy ShenkThe primary focus of the passage is getting Peter to focus on where his love should be.

I recall a message many years ago by Jake Shenk, a dedicated veteran missionary who has served in Africa since 1958. He challenged us to see Christ's question to Peter in the daily text as a question to all of us, "Do you truly love me more than these?" He shared how the unspecified "these" could be all the possible objects of our love.

Some objects of our love such as family and friends are good. Husbands are explicitly instructed in Scripture to love their wife (Ephesians 5:25). God has certainly ordained human love among families, friends and the church body. John commanded the church, "Let us love one another, for love comes from God" (1 John 4:7).  But do we love Christ supremely? Do we truly love Christ more than these?

Other objects of our "love" may not necessarily be bad in themselves anymore than Peter's boats or fishing gear. They have their place just as our vocational tools do today.  I may say, "I love my computer" (particularly when it's new!).   Over the past three weeks I've often heard Brooksyne repeat loud enough for me to hear as I'm at the computer in our downstairs office, "Just in case I haven't told you lately; I sure do love my kitchen!" But, as we internally evaluate our love or appreciation for all these things do we love Christ supremely? Do we truly love Christ "more than these"?

Finally, there are many who struggle with objects of love that are not good, but rather destructive. Addictive behavior, in its various forms, are rampant by both Christians and non-Christians. If our devotion and love for these behaviors, substances, relationships, or ungodly entertainment and its excesses take us in a direction opposite that of godliness and righteousness it becomes idolatrous in our spirit.  God makes it absolutely clear that He is to be our one and only God when He gave the command, "You shall have no other gods before me."

Christ's question to Peter in the daily text is a question we also need to ask ourselves individually. Place your name in the blank and ask, "_____________, do you truly love me more than __________?"  

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Jesus, as I exchange places with Peter today I hear the same question, "Do you truly love me more than these?" As I contemplate what "these" things are in my life I want my love and devotion for You to exceed anyone or anything that I value in this life.  In searching my heart this day I lay before You anything that would conflict or compete with Your supreme control of my life. I yield my affections to You, my Lord and Master. In loving You more than these my primary allegiance is to You and the Kingdom of God.  May my actions be a reflection of my words, I pray.  Amen.

Jake Shenk shared a touching story about a time when a great spirit of generosity swept over the African congregation and they felt led to raise funds.  A member stood up and said (in the native language of course), "Let's get a bathtub!" meaning the large round galvanized metal tubs that the people were accustomed to bathing in.  Apparently this is what they used for offering plates when people gave in abundance!

Galvanized tubBrooksyne's note: When I think of galvanized metal tubs my mind goes on a quick sentimental journey to my childhood.  Each summer I, along with my brothers and sisters, would stay a week with my Christian grandparents who lived very simple lives in the hills of Arkansas. They had no indoor plumbing or electricity so when Saturdays came around, the metal tub was hauled into the kitchen on the wooden plank floor.  The big cooking pots were filled with water from the spring and placed on the wood stove to heat up for baths.  Everyone was instructed that the kitchen was off quarters during bath time as we all took turns bathing for church on Sunday!

Nehi grape soda
Stephen's note:
I want to also share a memory from a fishing trip that this series has prompted. When I was a child "pop", as we called soda drinks, was a real treat. We rarely had these drinks in our home. Once my Dad took me fishing at a state conservation area near Schell City Missouri and afterwards we stopped by a filling station and we each had a pop, I had a Nehi grape as I recall. After we finished my Dad said, "Do you want another one?" I could hardly believe it. Two pops in one day!

Here's a photo I found of downtown Schell City Missouri. I'm pretty sure the filling station where we had the pops is to the left side of the photo at the white garage.  Schell City hasn't changed much since I was a kid!  Here's a google map of that area in southwestern Missouri for the terminally curious.

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources
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In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.

"I Love You Lord"  Audio

"My Jesus I Love Thee"  Video   Audio

"Love You More"  Audio

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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