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Did You Ever Wonder?

Why Did Peter Sink in the Water?

Let’s put it into context:

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”   Matthew 14: 22-31

So why did Peter sink in the water?

You might say, “James, Jesus just gave you the answer!” If I am going to take it at face value, then that is one of the scariest passages of all of scripture. What do I mean? If Peter, especially in that moment, is found to be of little faith, what hope is there for me?

Think about it. You and I are sitting in a boat next to Peter. The waves are slapping over the bow. Our feet are wet, lightning is flashing across the skies and peals of thunder rattle our bones. Suddenly, you spy some movement beyond the waves. We can only see the silhouette as the lighting flickers, but it appears to be the form of a man

“It’s a ghost!” a voice filled with trepidation calls over our shoulders. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a just a little bit scared. Stuck in a boat in the middle of the storm with nowhere to run.

Then comes the voice, barely audible over the wind and the waves. Did it say, “It is I?” Who is I? I don’t know anyone who can walk on water. How about you?

“Lord, if it’s you . . .” Peter’s voice shocks you as much as the ghost’s. Are you sure that’s the Lord, Peter? Can we ask for some ID?

“Tell me . . .” Good idea Peter, you think, ask for clarification. “Tell me to come to you.”

Whoa, Peter! This is all happening fast, but never in a million years would I have thought to make that request. What about you?

Then a single word cuts through the darkness, “Come.”

Peter stands and makes his way to the side of the boat. A wave sloshes over him as if trying to push him back to his seat. But he is determined. He lifts his leg. You realize he’s serious.

He steps out onto the water and stands firm.

Does Peter have faith? He has just demonstrated more faith in a single instance than I have ever shown in my whole life. I may say that I trust the Lord, but I have never walked in such faith, literally or figuratively.

I would argue Peter had great faith, but Jesus calls him, “You of little faith.”

What gives?

The thing is, we tend to think of ourselves as having X amount of faith as a constant. My neighbor has X – 10 faith and my grandmother has X + 20 faith. I think faith fluctuates.

Paul tells us;

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.   Galatians 5: 16-18

Just as the Spirit and flesh are constantly at war within us, so too are faith and fear. It is basically a struggle for control.

Let me give you an example of how this plays out in our lives.

After I graduated from college, I was interviewing for jobs. After an interview in May, I felt a nudge from the Lord that was the job I was going to get, even though they weren’t hiring at the time. In faith, I stopped interviewing. In July I was offered a temp job working at the local dump. There were times, as I stood atop a mountain of garbage wondering, “Was that nudge correct?” I turned down a few job offers in August hanging onto that nudge. I called the company several times. “Are you hiring?” No. Late September, I was married and unemployed. My wife had to give up her job. The waves were starting to really beat the sides of my boat. I decided that October 1st, I would apply for jobs again, even if I had to push grocery carts.

September 27th, I received a call from the company. “Can you start today?”

Like Peter, I started focusing more on my circumstances than the message I had heard.

Focusing on our circumstances, rather than on the Lord, tips the scales in fear’s favor.

Jesus gave Peter the keys to success before he ever set foot on the water. Take courage. Don’t be afraid.

He’s not asking you to trust in your ability, He’s asking you to trust in His.


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Why Did the Disciples Offer Jesus Two Swords?

Let’s put it into context

Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That’s enough!” he replied.  Luke 22: 35-38

My first take on this was Jesus preparing the disciples. As He was going to send them out again, it would be for a longer period and further away . . . to all the nations. The mission would be dangerous and maybe he wanted them to be able to defend themselves. Early church history tells us that all the disciples, except John, were martyred and did not put up a fight to the death with swords drawn.

In Matthew 26:52, just a few hours later, Jesus rebukes Peter for using a sword, perhaps one of the swords offered. He told him to put it back in its place. Where was its place? In the scabbard. He went on to warn that, “all who draw the sword die by the sword.” The literal sword was not to be drawn.

So, why did Jesus say they would need a sword?

Jesus had spoken of a sword earlier when he said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) He wasn’t talking about a weapon made of metal, He was talking about the gospel. He went on to say that it would pit loved ones against each other.

I think the sword symbolizes the Word of God. In Revelations, John describes Jesus as having a two-edged sword in his mouth. In Ephesians, Paul talks of the “Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

When speaking to the disciples, Jesus was saying it is better to trade your possessions for a sword or the word of God. Granted, there weren’t any bibles around for them to tote with them on their journey. What’s amazing is that they weren’t just going to read it, some of them were going to write it.

So why did they offer him two swords? They didn’t understand what he meant. That is why they offered up literal swords. They didn’t have an understanding of what he was trying to tell them.

Alright, so that question wasn’t so difficult to answer. What seems more difficult to explain, if our answer is correct, is the response Jesus gives. After he is offered two swords, he says, “That’s enough.” Based on our answer, two literal swords would be enough for twelve disciples if Jesus wasn’t talking about literal swords. But why answer it that way? Again, I don’t think he was talking about those metal swords.

Let’s look at another passage:

Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”

But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”

“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered.

 “Bring them here,” he said. Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children! Matthew 14: 14-21

What happened here? Basically, the disciples saw a problem that Jesus didn’t see. What did they give him? You could say that they gave him fish and bread, but what they really gave was an excuse. Jesus essentially said, “Give me what you’ve got.” Was it enough? Oh, yeah, in fact, there were left overs. Enough for each disciple to carry a basket full. I imagine that was intentional.

Back to the swords. How were they presented?

The Bible says, “The disciples said, ‘See, Lord, here are two swords.’” It wasn’t one or two disciples. It said the disciples responded. I think he looked past the weapons of war and saw the willingness of a few believers.

When the Spirit prompts us to move, we often respond like those disciples with a half empty lunch box. We give excuses. But Jesus knows about our fears and inadequacies. He is aware of our wounds and past failures. He looks past those in search of willingness. If he finds it, regardless of everything else, He says, “That’s enough.”


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Why Didn’t Adam Stop Eve from Eating the Fruit?

Let’s put it into context:

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.   Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-6

This is a well-known passage of scripture. Sin enters the world and we all suffer. I’m sure everyone has wondered, at one time or another, why didn’t Adam stop Eve from eating the fruit.

Let’s review the facts. God tells Adam, “Don’t eat that fruit or you will die!” Eve says, “Have some,” and he takes a bite. What gives?

Some may say Eve tricked Adam. I don’t buy it. Scripture says Adam was with her, and I believe he was there when the serpent was speaking.

Others may say that he was a little dense. Ah, we are getting closer to the mark. I don’t mean to say the Adam was unintelligent, but he lacked experience. God told Adam he would die, but what did that mean to him? He didn’t have any idea what death was. It had never happened before. It reminds me of when I tell people I love gooseberry pie, then they ask, “What’s a gooseberry?” You have to feel for the guy, afterall; he was just born yesterday.

He hadn’t learned accountability either. What happened when God showed up?

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Genesis 3:12

Oh, no he didn’t! He blamed God and Eve. Basically, he blamed everyone he knew except himself.

Being a failure as a husband, he didn’t fare much better as a father. What do we know about his parenting skills? Only that his first-born son killed his younger brother.

Perhaps we can cut him a little slack when we realize that, as he was the first man, there was no one to show him the ropes. Nobody was there to give him any pointers on how to handle difficult situations.

Do you know what Adam really needed? He needed a Dad. He needed someone to teach him how to be a man . . . to be a husband . . . to be a father.

This hits home with me because I never met my dad. Sure, I’ve had a few men pop in and out of my life to serve as father figures. But learning to be a man, just like Adam, I was on my own. When you are left alone to figure it out, it becomes trial and error. Mostly error. You can learn from your mistakes, but sometimes lessons learned the hard way are painful and can even leave scars.

Yeah, Adam needed a Dad. But you know what he did have? A Father. His Heavenly Father, his Creator, instructed him. “Don’t do it!” Whether he understood or not, all he needed to do was to simply obey the words of the Father. You see, God tried to warn Adam about death. And what is death? Death is the wages of sin and sin is separation from God. The Father was warning His child of the only way that He could lose him.

When you find yourself in a difficult situation or facing a tough decision, like whether or not you should smack fruit out of your spouse’s hand, take it to your Father. Test it against His word. He wants to guide you. Where? To Himself . . . to Life.

As I’ve learned to tell my kids, “Trust and obey and you’ll be okay.”


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Why Was Philip Teleported Away?

Let’s put it into context.

The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
    and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
    Who can speak of his descendants?
    For his life was taken from the earth.”

The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.   Acts 8:29-40

I think we often overlook the fact that Philip disappeared from the water and appeared in a town. Why would God sweep Philip away in the blink of an eye?

We can look to another person, who was quickly removed from the scene, for the answer. John the Baptist had the glorious honor of announcing Jesus to the world. He baptized Jesus, saw the Holy Spirit descend as a dove and heard the Father speak from heaven. But then what happened? He was imprisoned and killed. He was obedient; then he was gone. Why? John gave us a clue when he said, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)

John understood that, although he had a great number of people following him, once he pointed them to Jesus, he couldn’t lead them anywhere but away from Jesus. John had to get out of the way.

Have you ever seen this happen in your life?

I joined a lunchtime Toast Masters group, where people meet to practice speeches in order to hone their public speaking skills. After my first few speeches, the Holy Spirit began nudging me to share my testimony. I was hesitant. One member asked if he could give a speech on the mayoral candidates in the upcoming election. You would have thought a grenade had been dropped in the middle of the room. The leader of the group came unglued. Nothing controversial! I thought I had my out, but the nudge only got stronger. The day of my speech came. I gave them the title; “The One-Step Program.” I proceeded to tell the group how I struggled with alcoholism and was totally healed when I gave my life to Christ. After the meeting, I received positive feedback from everyone but the leader. She then pulled me aside. To my surprise, she had tears in her eyes and shared that her brother struggled with alcoholism. She wanted to know more. I simply told her that Jesus took it away from me and gave me an entirely new life.

When I returned to the office that day, my manager told me that they were implementing a change in schedules. I would no longer be able to go to ToastMasters. I never saw any of them again.

Over the years I’ve wondered why it happened that way. I was faithful. Just like John. Just like Philip.

Maybe God just moves us out of the way once we point people to him. Our job is done, for the moment.

What did Philip do after he was teleported away? He continued to point people to Jesus . . . and move on.


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Why Did Jesus Compare Us to Sheep?

Let’s put it into context:

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”  John 10: 14-16

My sheep know my voice.

Jesus referred to us as sheep more times than this. In fact, the entire first half of chapter John 10 is full of references to Jesus as the shepherd and believers as sheep.

I don’t know about you, but it is easy for me to take offense to being referred to as a sheep. They are smelly and needy. Let’s face it; they are not too bright.

But then, the more I think of it, I can start to see the resemblance as I read the parable of the lost sheep.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders  and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15: 3-7

What did the sheep do wrong? It was just operating within its natural tendencies. It was looking for greener grass with its eyes cast downward. It had taken its eyes off the shepherd and focused on the pleasures the world had to offer. Does that make the sheep evil? No, it needs grass, but it allowed its need for grass to become its highest priority. It then lost sight of the shepherd and became lost.

I can relate to the shepherd’s perspective. I have a few Longhorn cows. I pay for the pasture, the hay and grain they eat. The cows have little understanding of this. If I walk out into the pasture, they will come up and sniff my hand. If it is empty, they will walk away. If I have a pocket full of alfalfa cubes, they will eat until the blessing is gone. We pray for God’s will to get us out of a problem, then when the problem is gone, we too walk away in search of grass.

I am also reminded of Nathan’s parable to King David.

There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.  2 Samuel 12: 1-3

Isn’t that a wonderful picture of love? The little sheep ate and drank with the master. She slept in his arms. It isn’t in the sheep’s nature to live that way. The master chose the relationship before the sheep did.

I realized I needed Jesus as I was outside of a bar on my hands and knees in mud vomiting blood. I knew that if I kept living the life I had chosen, I was going to destroy myself. Years of self-indulgence was taking its toll. I had to lift my eyes up from what the world was offering me and look for the shepherd, who was already pursuing me.

Just as the man in the parable had purchased the sheep that he would treat as his own child, Jesus had bought me at the price of his own blood.

Although I was a dirty, smelly lost, little black sheep, Jesus had reserved a spot at the marriage table for me.



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Why Did the Early Church Think Peter was an Angel?

Let’s put it into context:

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.  Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.

 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”

When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.  Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”

 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”

 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Acts 12: 5-7, 11-16

I love this passage of scripture because it raises so many questions in my mind, but we will only address a few.

While Peter was in prison, the early church was praying for him. How were they praying? Scripture says they were praying earnestly.

The beautiful aspect of this passage is that God answered their prayers in “real time.” It could very well be that while they were praying the words for Peter’s release, God was taking immediate action.

When Peter showed up at the door, Rhoda, a servant girl answered. She never opened the door. All it took to know that it was Peter, was hearing his voice. She got so excited, she left him standing outside.

Rhoda ran to the others claiming that Peter had arrived. Granted, they couldn’t see him, but what was their response? “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. A little harsh.

When Rhoda persisted, they said, “It must be his angel.” They thought he had died.

This brings up two questions:

  1. Why did they think Peter’s angel was at the door? How common was it for dead people to just show up after they died?
  2. If they were just earnestly praying for Peter, why could they not believe he was there?

I think we’ve found the root of the problem, and I don’t think it is limited to the early church. I know there are many times that I earnestly pray for God to intercede with a problem, but I find myself planning how I am going to handle it before I can even get up off my knees.

Those early church goers had just found out that James, who had been arrested with Peter, had been put to death. They probably assumed Peter was next and there was no way he was getting out of there alive, no matter how earnestly they prayed for his release.

So, what does it look like to pray with earnest faith?

I once knew of a two-year-old little girl, who was camping in a tent with her mother. The toddler had recently come to the realization that other children had both a mommy and daddy, but she did not. As the mother and child were settling down for the night, the girl told her mommy that she wanted a daddy. The mother sadly explained that although she was sorry, there was nothing she could do about her request. She told the youngster that she would have to pray and ask God. The child wanted to pray immediately and ask. So, they did. As soon as the prayer was over, the little girl headed for the tent flap and started unzipping it. “What are you doing?” asked the mother. The toddler peered outside the tent and explained, “I’m looking for my daddy!”

If the early church members had the faith of that little girl, Peter would have found them waiting at the door.

As for the little girl, her daddy did come. He came a year later. He adopted her and she has had a mommy and daddy that love her ever since.

I pray that we all would have faith like that little girl. Believing without seeing. Praying with expectation.

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How Could the Centurion Amaze Jesus?

Let’s put it into context:

When Jesus arrived in Capernaum, a Roman army captain came and pled with him to come to his home and heal his servant boy who was in bed paralyzed and racked with pain.
“Yes,” Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.”
Then the officer said, “Sir, I am not worthy to have you in my home; and it isn’t necessary for you to come. If you will only stand here and say, ‘Be healed,’ my servant will get well! I know, because I am under the authority of my superior officers and I have authority over my soldiers, and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave boy, ‘Do this or that,’ and he does it. And I know you have authority to tell his sickness to go—and it will go!”
Jesus stood there amazed! Turning to the crowd he said, “I haven’t seen faith like this in all the land of Israel! ~ Matthew 8: 5-10 (TLB)

This question is not a James Lotz original. I heard it in a church service one Sunday morning years ago. The preacher had read the text, and a voice came from the back row. “If Jesus is God, how could He be amazed? It’s kind of like being surprised.”

My first thought was, “That was kind of rude to interrupt the preacher’s sermon.” My second thought was, “But he’s got a good point.”

I don’t remember the preacher’s answer or if he even gave one, but that question has stuck with me.

I once heard it said, “You can’t disappoint God because He already knows what you are going to do.” Granted, He may know everything we are going to do, but I imagine on Judgment Day, when He has to turn people away, He will experience disappointment . . . and heartache, no matter how far ahead He saw it coming.

If Jesus is fully God, wouldn’t He have known what the Centurion was going to say? Jesus knew exactly how and when He was going to die. I believe He knew what he was going to say, because he even knows the source of our words.

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. ~ Matthew 16: 15-17

And a few verses later . . .

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” ~ Matthew 16: 21-23

So, what was the source of the Centurion’s profession of faith? Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

Now, Jesus knew what the Centurion was going to say and where the words came from. With all the miracles He performed and other unbelievable acts, why would this one statement amaze Him?

Being a parent, God uses my children to reveal things to me quite often. Watching them take their first steps is always an exciting adventure. I watch them crawl around putting everything they can find on the floor in their mouths. Then they pull themselves up to a standing position and steady themselves against a couch or chair. They shuffle around the room from one piece of furniture to the next. But one day, they let go and take those first steps. Now, I know they have the ability and I expect them to eventually do it, but that first step . . . to see it actually happen . . . is truly amazing.

I believe Jesus knew what the Centurion was going to do. But just like a proud parent, watching that first Gentile child take that first step and walk out a faith he wasn’t even supposed to have . . . in the eyes of Jesus . . . was truly amazing.

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What happened to Nathanael under the fig tree?

Did You Ever Wonder . . .

What happened to Nathanael under the fig tree?

Let’s put it into context:

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.”     John 1:43-50

It all began with a simple command; “Follow me.” Philip didn’t receive a detailed plan on what they would be doing, just two simple words. I love Philip’s response. He goes and finds his friend Nathanael. Why? It wasn’t part of Jesus’ command. It was because he loves his friend and wants to bring him to Jesus.

What is Nathanael’s response to the great news? Let’s just say he has some doubts about this man being the promised one. Is it normal to have doubts about whether something is truly from God or not? I hope so, because I have. Years ago, my wife and I discussed having another child. At the time, we had two girls and a boy. I was feeling a little overwhelmed and expressed my concerns. My wife said those dreaded words, “Go pray about it.” So I did. In my prayer time, I felt God told me, “You will have a son.” Yes!!!! Things will be even, two girls and two boys. I was onboard with God’s plan. I told people I knew that we were having a boy. “God’s giving me a son, He told me so himself!” Sitting in the sonogram room, I was waiting for my boy to appear on the screen. We got a pretty good view of our child, but it was missing a key component to make it a boy. A girl??? I was devastated. Not necessarily because we were having a girl, but because what I heard was wrong. I started to doubt, not only the promise God had given me, but whether or not I had ever heard from God correctly before.

Am I alone in this? Fortunately not. After John the Baptist announced Jesus to the world, he was thrown into prison. Viewing his surroundings, he began to doubt whether he heard correctly too.

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Matthew 11:2-3

What is Philip’s response to Nathanael? He doesn’t engage in a theological debate, he simply says, “Come and see.”

Upon his arrival, Jesus makes an assessment of Nathanael. He has doubts, but at least he is honest about it.

Nathanael continues to express his doubt saying, ”How do you know me?”

Then Jesus says a simple statement. “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Before we try to answer our question, let’s look at Nathanael’s response. So far, everything he has said has been a question, because of his doubt. Now, he makes one of the boldest proclamations in all the bible; “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” He goes from “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” to “This man from Nazareth is not only a Rabbi (sign of respect), but the Son of God (considered blasphemy) and the King of Israel (don’t tell Herod)!”

Why the change? Why the 180 degree pivot? What happened under the fig tree? Was he visited by an angel? Did he have a vision? Did he witness some sort of miracle? Scripture doesn’t tell us.


Because it was personal. Something happened under the fig tree that allowed Nathanael to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. That is what happens to us. We all have that “Come to Jesus” moment where He becomes real to us and our faith is established. That is your story to share.

What is your “Come to Jesus” moment? If you don’t have one, take it to Him. He will turn your doubt into super-sized faith, just like Nathanael. But that is just the beginning. As Jesus said, “You will see greater things than that.” He is faithful.

Oh, what happened to my promise of a son? First, that little girl, that sent my faith into a freefall, had me wrapped around her finger from the moment she was born and I wouldn’t trade her for the world. Then, a couple years later, God gave me the son he promised. You see, He only told me what I needed to hear. Just like with Philip. Just like Nathanael.


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How did Noah and his family stand the smell in the ark?

Did You Ever Wonder . . .

How did Noah and his family stand the smell in the ark?

Let’s put it into context:

You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.  Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.” Genesis 6:19-21

The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days. Genesis 7:24

Can you imagine the smell? Noah and his family were locked in the ark with all those animals for 150 days of flooding. (Actually, if you read chapters 6, 7 & 8 and do the math, they spent 211 days trapped in there.)

Have you ever gone to the zoo and walked into one of the animal enclosures that is indoors? Smells toxic at times, right? I have a small hobby ranch with only six horses. In the winter time, I can walk out into our barn, turn around and walk right back into my house. My wife will walk past me and say, “You smell like barn.”

I cannot fathom the smell with hundreds of animals . . . day after day. I imagine Noah and his family spent some time sitting on the roof of the ark . . . even in the rain.

I once heard a theory that God made all the animals sleep through the whole ride. Sounds nice. That would keep them from attacking each other, reproducing and reducing the need for Noah to use a pitchfork. However, Genesis 6:21 says, “You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.” If they were eating, they weren’t asleep. So much for that theory.

This question came to me several years ago. We had a 7 year old daughter, a creative, “strong willed” toddler and a baby boy. I was working overtime with a 55 minute one way drive to work. My wife was trapped in our own little zoo alone for 10-11 hours each day. She wanted to move and had a house picked out that would cut my commute in half. I told her I would pray about whether we were to move or not. In my prayer time, I felt God was telling me the timing was not right. In desperation, I asked, “What am I supposed to tell my wife?” God immediately responded with, “Tell her Noah’s wife didn’t like the smell in the ark.” Things did not smell good in the Lotz house either.

I’ve reflected on that response many times in my life since. You see, sometimes we look at the circumstances and feel that we are suffering unjustly. Noah’s wife could have been asking, “What did I do to deserve this?” She was just trusting her husband, who I’m sure had been called a nutjob by all of his neighbors for building a giant boat in the desert on a whim from an unseen God. The Bible also says that Noah and his family sat in the ark with the animals for seven days before one drop of rain came. I’m sure there were several times on days two through seven where Mrs. Noah stood with her arms crossed, foot tapping while asking, “Are you sure this is from God?”

I’m sure my wife’s thoughts were similar to those of Mrs. Noah, however, she trusted what God had told me. Was it difficult? Sure, especially when she saw the sold sign go up in front of her dream house. But, as with the flood, the clouds parted and a ray of hope shone down upon us. A few months later, the for sale sign was back up again. This time, God said, “It’s yours.” Why the wait? I’m not sure I’ll ever know.

So how did Noah and his family stand the smell? They simply persevered while God prepared their blessing.

And what blessing was that? He gave them the whole world.

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