The Rooster Crowed Twice …

Peter, this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times – Mark 14:30

My wife and I bought a house three years ago that backs up to a small horse farm. Along with the horses and a donkey, about eight chickens also reside in the barn and pasture. Daily, these eight trespass in our backyard. I do not mind. They provide humor to our life as they scurry about.

Among those residents is a rooster. I never hear him before dawn, but throughout the day he makes his presence known with the boisterous, familiar cock-a-doodle-do while his lady friends are well behaved.

Upon hearing this the first time, I thought of Peter. It struck me how the reoccurring crowing of a rooster would strike the memory of his heart. We know his response on that early morning when he denied Jesus three times. He fled and wept. Certainly he remained inconsolable for days. Shame filled his once proud, boastful heart.

I have traveled to many nations in Latin America and Africa carrying the Gospel of Jesus. I always hear roosters on these trips. These nations are more agrarian than the United States. They likely are similar to the villages and towns of Peter’s day.

I allow my imagination to picture what emotions and thoughts sprang up each time Peter heard a rooster during the balance of his life. What did Peter feel? I believe that each rooster’s crow reminded him of that fateful night when he miserably failed to support his Lord.

On that first Resurrection Day, when Jesus rose from the dead, what thoughts and emotions flooded Peter’s heart? I am confident that joy surged through his being. But, I also imagine that a shadow immediately followed that joy. Peter realized that eventually his denial would have to come face to face with the Resurrected Lord.

The nakedness of that thought flooded Peter with dread. How bad would it be? Would Jesus publicly shame and humiliate him? Would Peter be fully rejected by Jesus? These and other scenarios raced through the worried mind of Peter.

Then came that fateful moment. Peter and his companions went fishing one night and caught nothing. At daybreak, Jesus stood on the shore and beckoned to them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. They did and hauled in an enormous catch.

Upon recognizing that Jesus stood at the shoreline, Peter hurled himself into the water and swam to Him. There, Jesus had breakfast cooking. They added to it some of the fish they caught and then ate.

After the breakfast, the moment Peter feared arrived. Jesus looked deeply into Peter’s heart and pierced it with a single question: “Peter, do you love Me?” (John 21:15-17). Three times this question afflicted the guilty conscience of Peter. Three times Peter feebly replied “Yes.”

Then the question ceased. Jesus foreknew and predicted Peter’s failure. Jesus knew the true heart condition of this great apostle both before the denial and after it. Jesus knew that shame flooded Peter’s guilt-ridden soul.

Peter did not need to be shamed. Shame had already lashed Peter’s emotions for several weeks. Peter now needed a salve. Unexpectedly, it came via the double-edged blade knife of the question – “Do you love Me?”

The grace of Jesus removed the embedded thorn in Peter’s conscience. In kindness, Jesus allowed Peter to reaffirm his love three times just Peter had denied Him three times.

Asking the question twice would not suffice. Doubt would have remained in the heart of Peter. Asking it four times would convey an uncertainty in Jesus. Three denials required three reaffirmations.

From that moment onward, when Peter heard a rooster, I believe that he recalled his great failure …. however, Peter equally recalled the great mercy and grace of the Risen Savior. This double memory remained with Peter until he died.

Dear Reader: Where have you failed our Lord? Have you experienced “Your Question” from Jesus? Has your conscience received cleansing? Are you confident that Jesus will not remind you of your sin by throwing it back in your face? Grace and mercy abound for those of us who risk asking for forgiveness.

If Peter’s denial did not result in the rejection of Peter, then neither will you be rejected. Go to Him. Stay until you hear the reaffirming love of Jesus in the core of your being.

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Peace Surpassing Our Minds

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“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” – Isaiah 26:3 ESV

We start with our minds but finish with our hearts. Attempting to figure everything out will only lead you down fruitless trails into a wilderness of bewilderment. We attempt to escape the cacophony of the mind’s voices in many ways. Some of us busy ourselves. Others exercise. Many retreat into an addiction of some sort – we eat; we binge on movies or social media; we indulge in alcohol or drugs.

Perfect peace awaits us. It is within our grasp. As stated, we start with the mind but we must finish with our hearts. God our Creator did not fashion our minds to comprehend everything. To do so would require that we be God ourselves!

Our minds do serve a vital function, but because we are finite, we also must engage the heart. Within our heart reside our emotions, our will, our conscience, our spirit and our mind. The heart has a sort of fifth dimension to it – something that is larger on the inside than the outside.

This is more easily understood when we ponder Paul’s words to us:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:6-7

In prayer mingled with thanksgiving, the mystery unfolds. Our worries and anxieties come face to face with Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace. As we utter our petitions and our praises, we go beyond the mind. Our spirit connects with the Lord Himself. Somehow, beyond our mind’s ability to comprehend, an assurance supplants our worries. It is a mystery and we are to rest in it.

All of this starts with the mind. We read, muse upon, meditate upon and are guided by the Scriptures. The Word of God is intended to give us the fuel to have the courage to pray. Start with your mind, but end with your heart. Allow Jesus, the Prince of Peace to speak to your heart by His Spirit. The fruit of this will be a peace that surpasses your mind and worries.

The Blessed Journey by Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769)

Let Him lead thee bindfold onwards,
Love need not know
Children whom the Father leadeth
Ask not where they go.
Though the path be all unknown,
Over moors and mountains lone.
Give no ear to reason’s questions:
Let the blind man hold
That the sun is but a fable
Men believed of old
At the breast the babe will grow
Whence the milk he need not know.

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Fail in Order to Succeed

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Success often arises out of the ashes of failure! We avoid failure like the plague. It seems like a good idea. Yet, the avoidance of failure may keep us from taking risks. Risk taking is the fertile ground out of which success grows.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

In 1984, I boldly launched out into ministry. I moved to Miami from Indianapolis – a distance of 1,250 miles. From there I planned to do mission work in foreign nations. My greatest strengths in God were my faith, bible knowledge and prayer life. I had read of the great men and women of faith who had likewise left all behind to be missionaries in foreign lands.

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The Lost Diamond & Regret

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Nearly a decade ago, I dreamed that I stood on top of a hill holding three diamonds in my hand. A sidewalk went down from the hill with many steps. Suddenly, one of the diamonds fell from my hand. As though in slow motion, I watched it bounce down this sidewalk to the bottom and into the grass.

I fixed my gaze upon this diamond, hoping to recover it. I thought that if I focused my eyes upon it and the final resting place that I could easily recover it. Rapidly, I descended the same steps. I kept my eyes upon the exact spot, confident I would find it.

Upon arrival, I knelt and meticulously searched for the diamond in the grass. Much to my surprise, I could not find it. I did, however, find a few dollars which I picked up. After a long time, I gave up. Disappointment filled my heart and then the dream ended.

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Comparison and Competition: Enemies of Leadership

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“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt

We all do it. We compare ourselves with others. Some of us are more skillful at hiding our attempts. Sometimes we  seem to grow out of it a little bit as we go through life, but often it lurks just below the surface. Given the right circumstances, it reappears with lightning speed. It never really diminished. It merely hid for a season.

Comparison appears early in life. One of the first things a parent tells of their newborn is their weight and length. It builds from there. School and sports arrive quickly along with the accompanying comparisons. We are indoctrinated. It is ingrained. Who can possibly escape this vortex or the gravitational pull of the incessant questioning of: Who is better? Who is bigger? Who more beautiful?

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Financial Death by a Thousand Cuts

Only the Foundation
of My Aunt’s House Survived the Tornado (1974)

The first time I heard the phrase “Death by a Thousand Cuts” my imagination ran off with a graphic image of someone literally bleeding to death drop by drop. I had a great aunt who almost died from such a fate.

In April 1974, a tornado hit her house in Indiana. She lived in a two story farm house about 30 miles east of Indianapolis. The tornado made a direct hit and her house vanished. Only the foundation remained. Moments after the tornado passed, a neighbor drove down the road and wondered aloud, “Where is Mary Hawkins’ house?”

He parked his truck and surveyed the damage. Across the road from the former house, he heard groans and found her in a barren cornfield. The tornado had thrown her about 200 yards away. Someone found her bathtub a mile away. My brother found a letter bearing her name and address 15 miles away while hunting for mushrooms a few weeks later.

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Traveling the Risk Road

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“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood … and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” These famous lines from the Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken describe our lives on a regular basis. Daily and weekly we face choices. Often these paths seem little different, yet upon examination one is shown to be traveled less than the other.

In leadership, it is good to take the road that others avoid. Leadership is a trait that is developed. There are a few who are “born leaders,” but even these must develop their character or in the end it will go to waste as they will eventually fail and fall. About 95% of all leaders were developed by being mentored by another or by being thrown into a crisis situation. Many of these did not show potential early in life, yet they developed into remarkable leaders.

As I develop leaders, the mantra which has emerged is “get them in over their head.” The concept is that if things are too comfortable, a person will not develop. Getting them into situations where they are forced to step up or to face their own deficiencies is a good thing even if they fail! Continue reading

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Wisdom’s Tuition

dumbass no more

For years, as I have mentored young men, I have joked about a book that I’d like to write entitled Dumbxxx No More: 501 Stories from My Life for You to Not Repeat. The book has yet to be written but the response is 99% positive. The only negative one came from a pastor who feared laughing at the word “dumbxxx.” He just did not know what to do in the moment.

“Knowledge is Power” goes the saying. While this is true, my observations of 4 decades as an adult is that there are a lot of  stupid knowledgeable people traversing our planet. Let me explain.

There is a powerful “commodity” that you can add to knowledge that amplifies it ten-fold. It is Wisdom! There are a lot of people who have great knowledge but demonstrate significant deficiencies in the realm of wisdom. Continue reading

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Stepping Out & Taking the Plunge

Zdub rock jumping

I stumbled upon a marvelous leadership principle by accident some 10+ years ago.  I was reading The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. He stated the the single most important thing that we can do to develop leaders is to get them in over their heads. At first, I was surprised. I took a few minutes to ponder this unexpected thought. It challenged my thinking and my style.

Up until that moment, I had focused on protecting those I led. In short, I was a helicopter leader, which meant that those I led were stunted by my myopic style. Suddenly, a different seed had been planted in my mind. It germinated and grew to a thought that attracted me. Had I really, unintentionally, kept young men from developing? Yes, I had! Continue reading

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The Secret Ear & Voice of Encouragement

Listening earIsaiah 50:4 “The Lord has given me an ear to hear His inaudible voice as a disciple SO THAT I can be His voice to those who need encouragement. Morning by morning He awakes my ear to listen to His voice.”(Paraphrase)

As followers of Jesus Christ, most of us long to be used in meaningful ways to further the advancement of the Kingdom. One of the greatest things that we can do is to be an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5). An ambassador is one commissioned to represent an authority and speak on their behalf. Typically this is thought of as sharing our faith with others who do not follow Jesus. But there is a twin aspect to this, which is the encouragement of the saints.

While it is noble to long for and desire to be used of God to strengthen and encourage our fellow believer, the efficacy of our attempts are often found to be less than we had hoped. One of the great secrets to fruitful encouragement is found in Isaiah 50:4. Here the prophet reveals his own habit which led him to become the greatest Old Testament messianic prophet. No one else in the Scriptures prophesied about the coming Messiah as clearly and distinctly as did Isaiah. Continue reading

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