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Posts Tagged ‘Simon Peter’

There are lots of ‘perks’ in writing novels, I’ve discovered. One is being able to decide the fate of my characters. I can have them live long and prosper or write them out of the picture altogether. Another is giving my characters my own and others’ experiences and having things turn out even better than they might have in real life. And yet another is actually naming my characters in the first place. Does that name really suit this character? Will he or she be confused with a previous character in one of my other novels – or perhaps even another character in the same novel? Is the name right for the particular time period in which the novel is set?

I have been known to get half way through a novel and decide a name definitely doesn’t suit one of my main characters. After all, when I started out, I didn’t expect he or she would say and do the things they now have. Characters evolve, I find. Some of them grow up and make up their own minds as to the way ahead. They might decide they want a much more exciting life than I had planned for them. So a nice, conservative, common name won’t do – they need something much more colourful and unusual. And thankfully, that can happen easily these days. I have lost track of the number of times I have been so grateful for the ‘Find and Replace’ function on my computer, where, with one click of my mouse, Andrew becomes Aidan or Angela can instantly become Amy several hundred times over!

In real life, however, I have discovered a name can be made beautiful and just right whether it’s old-fashioned or unusual or anything else, if it is spoken in a caring, respectful, loving way. Two examples from Scripture I noticed recently come to mind. In each case, Jesus speaks out someone’s name with such deep love and understanding that they must both have been shaken to the core. In John 20:15, Jesus simply says ‘Mary’ – and turns her world upside down. And in the following chapter (21:15), he speaks out Peter’s original name in a tone that must have been so full of forgiveness and grace – ‘Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?

I have no trouble imagining the tone of Jesus’ voice as he addressed Mary and Simon Peter – or how they must have felt. Many years ago, at a particularly needy point in my life, I believe God gave me a wonderful picture of Jesus holding me as a baby and looking down at me with the most incredible, tender love. He was smiling and almost lost for words as he gazed at my face and marvelled. And the only words I heard him say were ‘Wow – Jo-Anne!’ But that was all I needed to hear to know in the very core of my being how much Jesus loved me and how delighted he was with me – before I had ever achieved anything in my life. He loved me just the way I was created – uniquely and in his image, with my own personality and gifts that he intended from the very beginning. I was – and still am – his precious child, perfect in his eyes and completely loved.

So as you read this today, may you hear Jesus speaking your name in just the same loving, gentle way in the very depths of your spirit. Your name is important to him, whoever you are. He knows you. He cares about you. He believes in you. He loves you. And that’s all that matters.

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This morning, as I read from Luke’s Gospel, I was bowled over yet again by the amazing grace and patience of Jesus.  He is sitting at the table with his disciples and they have just celebrated the Last Supper together, when a dispute apparently occurs as to which of them should be considered the greatest.  Jesus cuts through all their arguing and tells them that is not to be their attitude.  Instead they are to serve, just as he served them.  But then he goes on to address Simon Peter in particular:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  (Luke 22:31-32)

What an amazing glimpse into Jesus’ heart for Simon Peter and for us!  Jesus, the Son of God, out of love and concern for this man, puts time and effort into praying for him, that his faith will remain firm.  All this, despite knowing Peter will in fact deny him soon after, as the following verses show.  Jesus obviously loves and believes enough in this passionate disciple of his to forgive, even ahead of time, the hurt and pain of Peter’s denial, so soon after asserting he would be prepared to experience prison and death for Jesus’ sake.  But what’s more, Jesus actively prays in faith that he will repent and return to being the passionate disciple and leader Jesus knows he can be.  Jesus says ‘when you have turned back’, not ‘if you turn back’.  And he also shows his complete trust in Peter’s future willingness and ability to strengthen his ‘brothers’.

How incredibly humbling it must have been for Simon Peter to hear that Jesus, the Son of God, was praying for him!  How incredibly humbling it is for me to sit here today and realise that even now, according to Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25, Jesus is seated at the right hand of God in heaven, still pleading for me and for each one of us.  However much we have fallen short of the person he wants us to be, however much we have ignored or denied him, he still reaches out to us in love, reminding us that he died for us, that we belong to him, that we can step up yet again and encourage others, as we rely on his strength.

In John 21, we see how Jesus, after his resurrection, meets Simon Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and reinstates him.  He asks him the pointed question three times: ‘Do you love me?’, and three times Simon Peter strongly affirms he does.  May this be our hearts today.  May each one of us realise afresh today that Jesus is ‘for’us, that he loves and believes in us and that he longs for us to remain firm, just as he did as he prayed for Peter.

And may we too extend this same amazing grace and patience to others, knowing we would not be where we are except for Jesus, who pleads even now on our behalf.

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I wonder if you’re like me and don’t greatly relish being told what to do at times.  Of course, it depends on who’s doing the telling – and what the context is.  But in general, I like to make my own mind up about things.

I remember my poor mother telling me more than once in an exasperated tone when I questioned why I had to do this or that: ‘Because I said so!’  I vowed I’d never say this to our own children – and yet they tell me I certainly did!  So perhaps it was because of all this that I noticed this same phrase recently in Luke’s Gospel.

In Chapter 5, the picture is painted for us of Jesus getting into Simon’s boat on the Sea of Galilee and asking him to pull out from the shore, so he can teach the word of God more easily from there to the people crowding around him.  Simon does that, but in verse 4 we read that when Jesus had finished speaking, he told him:

Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.

It seems Simon almost baulks at this.  You can hear the resignation in his voice as he replies:

Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.  But because you say so, I will let down the nets.

‘Because you say so’ – that was the clincher for him.  Simon seems to have seen and heard enough from Jesus to know that obeying him might be a good idea.  And sure enough, in the next few verses we read how they caught so many fish that the nets began to break.  They signalled to their partners in another boat to come and help – and as they hauled in all the fish, both boats began to sink! The passage ends with Simon Peter falling down in astonishment and awe before Jesus, as does his partners.  Then they pull their boats up on the shore, leave everything and follow him.

How would it be if we all had that same response to Jesus?  How would it be if I listened carefully every time to what Jesus tells me to do and then hopped straight in and did it?  Sometimes I do.  But sometimes I rationalise or procrastinate or am just plain disobedient too.

So this coming year, obedient to this prompting from God’s word, I’m choosing to say: ‘Lord, because you say so, I will “let down the nets” for another year with my writing and speaking.  I will put myself out there, so others can hear and respond to you, as you have gifted me – and I will leave the results to you.

May you hear God’s word for you too in 2010 – and may your nets be full to overflowing!

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