Pastor Peter Miller Loves Like Jesus

 

Nearly 250 years ago, a war was raging in America. The new Americans were fighting against the British – they wanted to live in their new land free and clear of their old lives and leaders. This war for independence was called the Revolutionary war. 

During war people do unkind things. Later they look back and wish they had been kinder to others – even to the enemy. But during war, most people treat their enemy very bad. The stress of war upsets people so much, sometimes, they even treat their neighbours poorly. 

During the time of the Revolutionary war, there was a pastor named Peter Miller. Pastor Peter looked after a church in a small town in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He visited people in their homes, read from the Bible to them and prayed with them that their sons would come home from the war alive. He also preached sermons every weekend in his little church. 

Pastor Peter had a horrible neighbour. He may not have been a horrible person before the war, but he was now. Every time Pastor Peter walked past the neighbour’s house he would shout mean things to him. When his neighbour saw Pastor Peter in town, he would laugh and call him names. He would make fun of Pastor Peter’s prayers and kindness to people. “He’s just coming to visit you for the free cakes and tea!” Sometimes his neighbour would even come to town when church was meeting just to make fun of people as they came out of the church. “Following that fool, Pastor Peter, are ya? What a bunch of sheep!” Pastor Peter tried not to let it bother him and told his church members to ignore the man. Pastor Peter knew his neighbour was suffering. 

During the war, Pastor Peter’s neighbour was having a hard time. He was losing money as his business failed. The more he failed, the meaner he got. One day, so soldiers came to the neighbour’s farm and arrested him. They took him to the local jail and locked him up. In a very quick trial, Pastor Peter’s neighbour was accused and convicted of treason. Treason is when you do something to help the enemy. 

Pastor Peter couldn’t sleep the night after the conviction. He knew his neighbour was mean and that nobody liked him because of his angry words. but he didn’t believe it. Pastor Peter didn’t believe his neighbour was helped the enemy. He couldn’t sleep, so he prayed. He prayed for wisdom. He prayed for his neighbour who was now in jail and would be hanged in a week. 

In the morning, Pastor Peter got dressed, put on his walking boots and began walking. He walked 70 miles to where he knew General George Washington was leading the troops. It took the better part of 3 days to walk the 70 miles. He stopped only to sleep in kind people’s homes when it was dark and began walking again at first light. When he arrived at the military camp he found General Washington and told him about his neighbour. He asked General Washington to write a pardon which would set his neighbour free.

“I respect your Pastor’s heart,” General Washington said. “But, I cannot set a man free just because it hurts your Christian sensibilities that he be hanged. If he has been found to be guilty, he is guilty.”

“I walked these 70 miles because I believe him to be innocent,” Pastor Peter said. “I beg you for my neighbour’s life!”

“I’m sorry,” General Washington said. “70 Miles is a long ways! Your neighbour is lucky to have a friend like you!”

“FRIEND!?!?” Pastor Peter laughed. “He only speaks wicked words about me and my church people. If anything, he’s my worst enemy.”

This caused General Washington to jump out of his chair. “WHAT!” he cried out, “You’ve walked 70 miles to save the life of an enemy? That, in my judgment, puts the matter in a different light. I’ll grant your pardon.” 

Pastor Peter walked home as quickly as he could. He arrived the morning his neighbour was to be hanged and entered the town as his neighbour was being walked to the gallows. 

“HA!” the neighbour shouted, “Pastor Peter! Come for your revenge, hey? Come to watch your old, wicked neighbour hang!”

Pastor Peter said “not at all” and handed the pardon to the jailer. His neighbour was set free and allowed to go home. 


How do you think this affected the neighbour? What about the townspeople? How do you think it made Pastor Peter feel to know that during wartime he’d saved a life? – even if it was the life of an enemy!

We are living in the middle of a war against germs! COVID is making some people sick. But, it’s making even more people angry and upset. It’s even causing some people to be horrible neighbours. 

We can choose how we talk and how we act. We can be like that neighbour or we can be like Pastor Peter. Do you know what made Pastor Peter different? He loved Jesus. He talked to Jesus. And he wanted to be like Jesus. He had read in Matthew where Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:43-45


Rise and Respond Church!

 There is no greater time than now, amid the chaos of COVID, to carry the Gospel to the world. We, the church, are the appointed agency for the salvation of all. We do this carrying – this lifting and laying on – of the Kingdom of God through our word and action. As we do, our embodied hope stands boldly juxtaposed against the words and actions of the broken fallen saddened angry world. Our own ancient story speaks to us through godly men who lived in evil empires of the past.

Babylon, used in Revelation as a synonym for the end-time empire that will reign over the fall of mankind into debauchery, was blessed to have decades of Divine guidance. A believer in the one true God named Daniel stood for what was right against all odds. A boy when Jerusalem fell, he came to Babylon as a captive. When Babylon fell some 70 years later, Daniel chose to stay when he could have gone home. He stayed to make Babylon a better place – bringing God’s light and love into darkened self-centred chaos.

Years before, Egypt was also blessed to have the leadership of a believer in the one true God. Joseph could interpret dreams. And through the power of God, he did so to save the kingdom of Egypt from famine. Like Daniel, Joseph stayed until his dying day. He also could have returned home. Instead, he invited his family to join him in the life he had built in Egypt. A life where he used Godly insight to bless an unbelieving kingdom.

We too live in trying times with death and chaos on every side. As the church, Christ’s body in the world, we have one job. We cannot choose to join the throng of unremarkable men moaning of the dust and doom. Our job is to glorify God’s name by using our spiritual connection with God on behalf of the dying world. Shine where we stand. Burn in the darkness and darkness cannot remain.

Dare to be a Daniel. Risking his own life, he stopped the deaths of Babylon’s unbelieving ‘wisemen’ by using his Godly giftedness. He asked and God answered – giving him the king’s dream and interpretation - and all were saved.

Journey like Joseph. His putting others first, repeatedly, led to God saving millions of lives – believers and unbelievers alike. To the ancient Egyptian nation God made Joseph a fountain of life. The nation of Egypt was preserved because of this one Godly man choosing to use his gifts for God’s glory in the court of Pharaoh rather than hide under a bushel and bemoan his lot in life as a slave.

Use your energy to reach out to those suffering around you. Find your happiness through helping and blessing others.

Use your words to create a refuge in this reign of chaos. Build the fortress that is God’s church which holds fast even in this old bitter revolted world.

Over millennia God has shaped His church for service. Shaped for such a time as this. You’ve been called out of darkness.

Church, you have been set alight with the marvellous light of God’s glory. Now shine!

 

God's Unveiled Glory

God is on a journey with his children. He designed us to be empowered by living in His presence. Unfortunately, sin and selfishness so marred the relationship that His Glory, which is meant to give us our light and life, can traumatise us.

As refugees in the desert, God’s children asked Moses to put a veil over his face. He’d been with God. He was radiant. Just looking at him hurt their eyes. So, he did. And he would only lift the veil when he went into God’s presence for council and when he spoke on God’s behalf to the people.

As residents in Israel, God’s children kept God behind a veil. The holy of holies was behind a layered curtain said to be as thick as a man’s hand. God’s presence radiated there, behind the curtain above the Ark of the Covenant. The High Priest alone passed beyond that curtain just once a year.

When Jesus died, that veil tore from top to bottom. No longer would Moses walk out, veil lifted, with new Glory to reveal. No longer would the High Priest make the yearly journey into God’s presence. Jesus, in his life and death, revealed God’s glory. And, as it was finished on the cross, the veil was lifted and God’s Glory filled the Earth.

Now, the apostle Paul says, the only spiritual veils, after the cross, are worn by people who do not want to see God’s Glory. Today, God’s children worship, pray, serve and sing, in His presence, soaking it up. Then they walk into the world with unveiled faces and radiate His love to everyone. 

I love road trips. I’ve driven from Melbourne to Yowah many times. Yowah is an outback mining town in south-west Queensland. It takes 15 hours of non-stop driving to get there from here. My Dad likes to mine for opal and I like to visit him. The journey is always richer with one of the kids tagging along.

Factoring in a few stops for meals, stretching and petrol, it’s good to leave home mid-afternoon.

At the start of the road trip the kids are always busy. They look out the windows and play games with licence plate numbers and road signs. Can you get from A to Z first? Then you play “I spy with my little eye.” 

As day turns into evening the screens come on. As they watch or play something, you listen to an audiobook. When their headphones come off, you turn off the stereo and chat. The little one has relaxed into the journey. The conversation wanders through whatever topics come up.

Then darkness comes. And they fall asleep. You relax into a chat with God. Thanks for the good road. Thanks for my family. Thanks for safety. Thanks for loving us. The conversation ebbs and flows through the night. It moves from tonight’s 1400km journey to the lifetime journey He is leading you on. Thanks for this life. Thanks for the future. What’s next, Lord?

As morning comes in outback Australia, you’re driving through a deep mist that hugs the red dirt and low scrub. Every new photon of white light refracts in one of the billions of droplets of dissipated water. Slowly the sun peaks over the horizon and the white foggy fields turn radiant gold.

“Oh Wow!” You whisper. Your voice interrupts the sleepy silence.

Little one wakes up in the backseat and sits up. She stretches and yawns, “What, Dad?”

“Just look,” you say.

She looks - into the sunrise. Big red kangaroos bound through the golden fog filled fields. Leaping toward the sun.

“Wow.” She says, mesmerised. “That is so beautiful!”

“It really is,” you say.

You both stare into the sunrise as the sun silently changes from a blip to a bubble to a ball. Darkness is gone. The world is lit.

Then she asks her favourite question, “But why, Dad?”

You look into the mirror and see her little face, bathed in the sun’s light. She’s radiant. “What dear?”

“Why?” She repeats. “WHY is it so beautiful?”

“Because, little one,” you say pausing to look at her in the mirror, “Because God LOVES US all, so very much.”

She takes the answer silently, sits back into her seat and looks out the side window. The veil of mist has lifted and a mob of kangaroos stand like sentinels. They each stretch tall, facing the sun – their faces aglow.

“He really does, doesn’t He?” she whispers.

“He loves US ALL, so very much.” 

The Servant Heart of God

A oneliner in an online Bible-study lecture just made me laugh. And then, it got me thinking.

The lecture was about how the God of the Old Testament seems so angry and violent and scary. And yet in the New Testament, when Jesus comes, he is none of those things. Jesus claimed to be God. And yet, Jesus was gentle and kind and served people with love. The lecturer said, "What happened to the God of the Old Testament between Malachi and Matthew? Did he give his heart to Jesus or something?"

Well, yes. Yes, Jesus does have God’s heart.
But he had it long long before Malachi. Like forever long.
Jesus has always been at the heart of God.

Jesus came to Earth to completely reveal the character of God. In fact, he said, “If you have seen me, you've seen the Father.” So what is God like? Well, Jesus cared for the poor, fed the hungry and healed the broken.

God was not updated in Jesus. Our understanding of God was updated.

Before Jesus visited, It was like the God Channel had really poor reception on Planet Earth. No matter where you stood in the room or how you adjusted things, the picture was mostly snow with a shadowy image way off in the background. The picture was poor and the sound was either way too loud or non-existent. The problem wasn’t with God, it was with us. Our spiritual aerial was mucked up with sin. The only way to fix the situation was for God to do something – in person.

So God came down and dwelt among us. He lived next door. He wore our clothes, spoke our language and showed us what he looks like. In his life and his death, Jesus cleared up the misconceptions of God. In his life, he modelled the servant heart of God. And in his death, he installed a permanent pole-top signal booster for the God Channel. Now, God comes through picture perfect – in Jesus.

Jesus lived a cross shaped life and died a cross shaped death. He expected his presence to tune us in –perfectly – to God. When the disciples asked Jesus to show God to them, He said, “How long have I been with you and you still ask me to show you the Father?” Every word. Every deed. Everything he was – was God.

Jesus’ death on a cross was the ultimate act of service that God could do for his lost children on planet Earth. The cross installed on Earth a clear image of the Father in Heaven. We get God now – loud and clear – anytime we come to the cross. The cross reveals the God who serves and calls us to be a people who serve.

Service saves people. Service shapes people.

I just came home from the hospital last night. I had a cancerous tumour removed from my right kidney. One night, the nurse asked me what the book I was reading was about. I told her it was about Christians in the Early Church and how they changed the world. She said, “Wow! So how did they do it?”

“By being like you!” I smiled and continued, “The first Christians were focused on service – they cared for the sick, they looked after the unlovely, they fed people who needed food.” I paused and smiled at her, “True followers of Jesus are like nurses.”

“I didn’t know that,” She said quietly.

“Most people don’t.” I said, “Thank you for changing my world!”

She smiled and said, “You’re welcome!”

Serving other people, day in and day out, changes you. I call nurses “God’s undercover angels” because they really are.

Now, it’s your turn. Look to the cross. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Rediscover the servant heart of God.

Then go change the world!