Oh, there you are, Peter!

Read: Leviticus 14, Matthew 26:55-75

If you’ve never seen the movie Hook, watch it some day. Most everyone is familiar with the story of Peter Pan. In Hook, Peter is all grown up and has forgotten what it’s like to be a kid. He’s lost his happy thoughts. In utter disbelief that Peter Pan would have the nerve to grow up and have kids, the lost boys struggle to believe that Peter really has returned to Neverland. One boy, in an effort to find Peter, approaches the man and begins to pull and stretch his face until he sees something he recognizes. Eyes wide with wonder, he announces, “Oh, there you are, Peter!”

Peter had lost himself over the years, having completely forgotten his time in Neverland. But in the end, he was finally able to recall who he really was. He was Peter Pan. He could crow. He could fly. He could save Neverland from the evil Captain Hook.

A long time ago, another Peter forgot who he was. And on multiple occasions. The apostle Simon Peter was as passionate (and sometimes as foolhardy) as Peter Pan. No flying was involved, but there was some walking on water and crowing certainly had something to do with it.

But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Matthew 26:70 (NIV)

Peter did exactly what he told Jesus he would never do. Many would immediately disqualify Peter from ministry for his denial. But this wasn’t even close to being his first blunder. This man was rebuked and nearly drown. He assaulted a soldier and denied ever knowing or associating with Jesus. He, more than anyone, knew his own shortcomings. But what he didn’t know was that Jesus had already prepared for all of that.

But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.

Luke 22:32 (NIV)

Peter went on to be an effective missionary. Echoes of his work are still seen throughout the world today. He could have let his mistakes define him, but instead chose to believe what Jesus believed of him – that he would be able to strengthen others. Through his mistakes, he became stronger and, because he always turned back, he was able to strengthen others.

Like Peter Pan returning to Neverland to save the day, the disciple Peter returned to the faith he had been called to so that he could lead others to salvation.

Mark your moments

Read: Genesis 12-14, Matthew 5:1-26

Genesis 13:4

At significant moments in his live, Abram would build an altar. In the first few chapters of his story, he builds two and even returns to one. Abram built altars to mark the places where God spoke to or appeared to him. And where God spoke to him, Abram offered sacrifices and thanksgiving.

There are some things in life we should just forget about all together—faults and failures. But there are other things in life we should remember. When God speaks to us or when we have a moment of clarity or revelation, we should mark it. Like Abram, we may need to return to that place so that we can recall God’s faithfulness to us.

But aren’t we running a race? 

Yes, we are.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)

We need to forget the things that would hold us back and remember the things that push us forward. A runner cannot forget all that he has learned in his training if he is going to win the race. And we cannot forget all that God has done for us if we want to continue running toward His calling. If we forget why we’re running, we will stop altogether.

We shouldn’t always be in a rush from one mountaintop experience to the next. There are valleys in between that we may need to walk through as well. And in those valleys, we should be able to look back and remember the heights from which we came. Those moments on the mountain, and sometimes in the valley, should be marked so that we can give thanks in the moment and look back to remember and gain the momentum we need to finish the race.

Return

In Canada, today is Boxing Day. Not unlike Black Friday in the United States, today is the day of sales and deals and everyone goes out to get what they wanted for Christmas, but no one saw fit to give them. It’s also a day where many may try to return the gifts they got, but never wanted or needed, and exchange them for something they really want.

Life is full of exchanges. We want something and we go after it. Sometimes, once we get it, we may decide that we never really wanted it in the first place. But we keep it since it took so much effort to get it, or we may decide to give it up after all and go after something else.

All through the the Old Testament, Israel is chasing after something. Sometimes it’s God. Most of the time, it’s not. But, unlike Canadian stores on Boxing Day, God will take returns at any time from any vendor. You don’t have to bring something back to the place you got it from. You can take it to place you want to get something from.

I, the Lord, was very angry with your ancestors. Therefore, say to the people, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord Almighty.’

Zechariah 1:2-3 (NLT)

Israel was always out searching for the next best thing. Going out like Black Friday shoppers and making purchases for no other reason than it was a really good deal. Then they got home and realised they had absolutely no need for their acquisition. Instead of immediately returning it, they decided to make use of it. They borrowed gods and idols from other nations and, when they realised that those gods could do nothing for them, instead of tossing them in the hearth for firewood, they kept them. The effort to make the exchange was too great.

And then God comes along and makes a better offer than anyone or anything else could give them. Return to me, and I will return to you. Give me your useless things and I’ll give you what you really need.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve managed to bring into your life, God’s exchange policy will cover it. You can bring it to Him, lay it at His feet and He will give you what you truly desire and need. We don’t have to live our lives full of all the junk we’ve managed to pick up along the way because it seemed like a good idea at the time. God will take it all.

So if you’re holding on to some things that you don’t need, jump to the front of the line and go straight to God. He’ll take it all without any proof of purchase. Return it to Him and He’ll replace it with something worthwhile.

Daily Bible reading: Zechariah 1-3, Revelation 17

While you wait

We wait. Sometimes it seems like half of our lives are spent waiting. We wait at red lights and stop signs. We wait in line at the grocery store. We wait for a meeting to start. We wait for the workday to be over. We even wait to fall asleep so that we can start it all over again and wait some more.

So what do you do while you’re doing all of this waiting? Do you stare of into spacing hoping time will somehow move faster? Do you pull out your phone and check work emails or see what your friends are up to on Instagram? Do you have a book to read or a magazine? Or you you stand tapping your toes in impatience?

Some of us don’t mind the wait. We have something to occupy our time. Others of us can’t stand the wait and hate idle time.

As members of the church, we’re all waiting for something—Jesus’ return. And, while we wait, we can be be idle or we can use the time as an opportunity.

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent.

2 Peter 3:10 (NLT)

God isn’t meandering along His way trying to give us a lesson in patience. He is waiting for us to get our work done.

And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to live a pure and blameless life. And be at peace with God.

2 Peter 3:14 (NLT)

We’ve got some time and we’ve got a commission. We can either wait around hoping someone else does it, or we can get to work gathering as many into the family of God as possible.

What are you waiting for?

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 45-46, 2 Peter 3