Most people, whether they go to church or not, know something about the New Testament account of Jesus walking on water. We all have probably heard jokes that assume we have some knowledge of Jesus doing so. Many of those who know something about the account of Jesus walking on water also know that Peter joined him.

Both Matthew and Mark tell about Jesus, but only Matthew tells us about Peter. Both tell how the disciples went ahead of Jesus in the boat, how they were having trouble going into the wind, and how Jesus walked on the water to them. Both tell how the disciples saw Jesus, thought he was a ghost, and were afraid. And both quote Jesus as saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.”

Only Matthew tells that after Jesus identified himself, Peter answered, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus invited Peter, and he responded by walking on the water to Jesus. Matthew 14:30 and 31 report, “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?’”

Here’s a question to ponder: should we compliment Peter or criticize him? In my experience I have heard a lot more criticism of Peter than I have compliments. And I don’t think that is fair, do you?

No doubt, there is a note of scolding in Jesus’ words to him afterwards: Peter’s faith shrank and doubt entered. And there is certainly a challenge for us today in hearing what Jesus said to him. All of us probably need to cultivate more faith and chip away at our doubt.

But I want to compliment Peter. He did ask Jesus to call him to come to him. And Peter did walk on the water. I admire Peter’s courage for getting out of the boat. There were 11 others in that boat that night who did not ask Jesus to call them and who did not walk on the water. Peter’s faith was not as strong as it could have been, and the wind did cause him to doubt, but he walked on the water.

I’ve tried to imagine the discussion in the boat later that night among Peter and the others. I seriously doubt if anyone was critical of Peter. I’m confident they wanted to know what it was like to walk on water; and other than Jesus, Peter was the only one who could tell them.

Should we compliment Peter or criticize him? I’m perfectly willing to let Jesus do any correcting that is necessary, and I’ll compliment Peter.

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For our recent church staff retreat our senior pastor asked me to reflect on my 44 years of ministry. He asked me to share what I would do the same, and what I would do differently, if I had it to do all over again. I settled on four things I would do the same and four I would do differently. I thought some readers, whether working as a member of a church staff or not, might enjoy reading a shortened version of what I said.

If I had it to do all over I would make the same moves I made. During my 44 years of ministry I made two moves and a third one following what I thought was the conclusion of my work as a pastor.

My first ministry was as a part time youth minister while a student. Upon graduation I became full time, stayed just over another year, and then after five years moved to Philadelphia to lead a small church. In some respects my years of youth ministry were the most exciting and fruitful.

I stayed almost 10 years in Philadelphia with a loving congregation and had the privilege of continuing my education at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Temple University. Although the church did not grow numerically as much as I would have liked, our 10 years in Philadelphia were great years for me as a pastor and for our family. We left the East Coast and moved to Southern California to plant a church.

I had the privilege of planting Discovery Christian Church in Moreno Valley, and after 30 years as senior pastor, I stepped down as I thought it was time for a change in leadership and I was running out of gas. We stayed two more years and then moved to Amarillo to be close to our grandsons. There are no adequate words to summarize our satisfying and fulfilling time in California.

In looking back I don’t think I stayed too long or left too soon in any of my three ministries. I do, however, think it is interesting that there were a few people who were negative about each of our three moves — not about our leaving, but about where we were going. (I am currently the part time pastor to seniors at our church and also the Bible teacher at our local high school.)

If I had it to do all over I would show more grace and more quickly admit when I was wrong. With the passing of time I did become more gracious, but not as early as I should have. I also matured to the point of being willing to acknowledge mistakes. One of the greatest examples we can set for others is to admit when we were wrong and ask for forgiveness.

If I had it to do all over I would again make my personal growth and learning a priority. I was committed to reading as much as I could to keep on developing professionally in ministry, intellectually, and in my walk with the Lord. I was pleased that every former staff member who spoke at my retirement thanked me for challenging them to keep on reading and growing.

If I had it to do all over I would do less; I would not preach as much as I did or feel the need to be involved in so much that was taking place in our church and ministry. I would share more of the load with the competent staff members who were a part of our team.

If I had it all to do over I would again make my family a priority. I never told them they had to do something, or couldn’t do something, because I was a pastor; I challenged them to do or not do certain things because they were Christians.

While our children were young Friday night was family night and we stuck to it. Jan and I went to every game or event in which our children participated that we possibly could. We wanted them to know they were important to us. We also regularly planned and took family vacations.

If I had to do it all over I would be a better son to my parents. One of my regrets is not being more involved with my parents as well as being more intentional about having our children involved with their grandparents. Of course, distance was an issue, but I could have done better and wish I would have.

If I had to do it all over I would again deal with church staff the way I did; showing them respect and love as well as supporting, protecting, and caring for them. I was not too open to receiving criticism of them and tried to give lots of public recognition for the good God added to our church and ministry through them.

If I had to do it all over I would make sure I defined success appropriately. In looking back, I’m not sure I always did. Sometimes pastors focus too much on what bigger churches are doing and rob themselves of the joy of their own church’s progress.

As we all know, we don’t get to do things over. The challenge, and our hope, is that we don’t do too much damage, and that we learn along the way. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had in ministry and for the request to look back and reflect on them. I hope my observations are helpful and thought provoking.

(If you would like to read more about my experience in ministry you may be interested in a book I wrote after I stepped down from Discovery entitled A Pastor and the People: An inside Look through Letters. Click “my books” on this site to learn more about it and/or how to order it. Let me know if you would like to read the introduction and I’ll email you a PDF.)

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TALENT (A Guest Post by Rob Mink, Jr.)

(I am pleased to share some thoughts my son wrote in this post.)

I wasn’t even reading my Bible this morning when I felt called to look up the “Parable of the Talents” in Matthew 25: 14-30. Speaking not only of Christians, it is obvious that we are all not given the same amount of talents, the same amount of resources, the same amount of blessings or the same amount of opportunities. While we can find similarities, no two people are in the exact same situation. However, I will state that all Christians are given talents and we are all expected to provide a return on those talents for our master.

I am currently at a time in my life where I feel like I have been given much and returned very little. Regardless of where you may feel you are today in light of this teaching (I encourage everyone to read the parable in Matthew 25: 14-30), I do have a few things I would like to make a note of.

First of all, I noticed that the poor servant who only had one talent ended up having that talent taken away and given to the servant who had the most. I am not going to make an argument about socialism, but it is worth noting that not having much is not an excuse for not producing more.

Secondly, while hard-work is extremely important, this passage mentions only that the two successful servants were “faithful.” The Bible does stress the importance of hard-work–Colossians 3:23 tells us “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters . . .”

The third thing I noticed was in verse 19, “Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.” This came as a relief to me because it shows that I still have time to do better. Eventually the master did come back to settle though.

Being afraid and not having much isn’t a good enough excuse to not faithfully serve the Lord and use our talents. While at times I feel like I don’t have a lot, I only have to look around at the people in my life to realize how greatly I have been blessed. My girlfriend brought to my attention an athlete who plays outside linebacker for the University of Central Florida named Shaquem Griffin. He was also the AAC defensive player of the year last year. The interesting thing is he only has one hand due to a birth complication that led to an amputation at age 4. After being part of an undefeated team this season Griffin said, “It always comes down to the work ethic. God put you on the Earth for a purpose. I feel like my purpose is to get away from people making excuses.” I would wish him luck in the NFL, but he doesn’t need it.

If you would like to let me know where you are today in light of this parable, or what you think, please leave a comment below or send me an email at




In an ad promoting a new movie as “the best western since Unforgiven”, I was reminded of the impact Unforgiven had on Jan and me when we first saw it when it came out in 1992. We saw it in the afternoon, and even though it was sunny leaving the theater, we both commented to each other how depressing the story was.

Whether you saw the movie or not, (and I’m not recommending it if you haven’t see it), the title Unforgiven is attention getting, isn’t it? I’m not sure who was forgiven and who was unforgiven in the movie, but I do know forgiveness is important. Forgiveness is a central subject in the Bible in general and specifically in the teaching of Jesus.

Our greatest need is to be forgiven by God. Much of the Old Testament law is about what God wants and expects from his people as well as how to receive his forgiveness. The New Testament is about God’s ultimate provision for our forgiveness through Jesus. That’s why we call him our redeemer and our savior.

If our greatest need is to be forgiven by God, our greatest gift is to receive and have that forgiveness. I think we all agree with David when he declares, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (Psalm 32:1). And it’s even more than that: God’s promise through Jeremiah is that he “will remember our sins no more” (31:34).

What could be worse than to be described as unforgiven by God?

Every one of us needs to be forgiven by God, and in the New Testament we are called to forgive others. Jesus makes the connection of God’s forgiveness of us with our forgiveness of others more than once in his teaching. Perhaps the best known is one of the requests of his model prayer: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). He continues in verses 14 and 15, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

My favorite teaching from Jesus about our forgiveness of others is his Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21-35. It’s about a person who was forgiven an impossible debt by his master, who in turn was unwilling to forgive a small debt owed him by a fellow servant. When the master learned of this he reversed his previous kindness. Jesus concludes the teaching: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Is Jesus teaching in these passages that God’s forgiveness of us is contingent upon our forgiveness of others? You can wrestle with that question yourself. He certainly is saying that if we accept and understand God’s forgiveness we should do the same with others. But is our loving and forgiving heavenly father unwilling to forgive the sin of unforgiveness?

Three things I do know: I am grateful to be forgiven by God, I don’t want to be unforgiven by those I have wronged and hurt, and I want to be forgiving of those who have hurt and wronged me.

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Can we move on and hold on to our memories at the same time? It’s a challenge, isn’t it?

Even if we don’t know the lyrics of the song, the title makes the point: Precious Memories. Obviously not all our memories are precious, but many of them are. We have precious memories of days gone by, of loved ones who have died, of places where we once lived, of friends with whom we have lost touch, of pets that added to our lives, and so much more.

A couple of Sundays ago at church I spoke with a man whose wife of many years recently died. I suggested the holidays had to be hard for him and he agreed saying something about his many memories. As with many similar situations, I told him he would never get over it, but it would get better.

As painful as it is, the death of a loved one is not the only way we experience loss. And when we deal with a loss, we eventually have to move on. We can’t do it immediately and we can’t skip the necessary grieving of our loss. But when we do move forward it does not mean we cannot hold on to our memories. Of course we can and do.

What sparked my thinking about this matter was an accidental coming across of a YouTube video last this week. It was the video of my “Talking about Transition” message the next to last week of my tenure as Senior Pastor at Discovery Christian Church in September, 2014. Watching it brought back many memories of my 30 years of enjoyable and fulfilling ministry at this church. (Here is the link for those who may be interested in watching it:

That was over three years ago, and both the church body and I have moved on. But moving on does not mean we don’t still hold on to our memories. Nor does moving on take anything away from the appreciation or love we had for one another during all those years.

At the age of 66 I’ve experienced all the losses I mentioned above and more, but up to this point I haven’t experienced many of the losses others have endured. My sense is that among the hardest losses would be the death of a child or a spouse. During my years as a pastor I’ve been present with many who have grieved such a loss, and their pain always impacts me. I pray my words are helpful: that they would never get over it, but it would get better.

Can we move on and hold on to our memories at the same time? With God’s help, yes.

(The above photo is of Jan and me with her parents in April of 2017; one passed away in June, the other in October.)

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The first Sunday of 1998 my message title was “A New Year’s Talk with Myself.” I learned from a staff member that her husband asked if they had to come. When she asked why he responded, “Because he’s just talking to himself.” This year – 20 years later – I am going to have a similar talk with myself; and I invite you to listen in.

I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions as such; I’ve done that in the past, and it never seems to work out the way I intended. My intention is to do better and to keep growing. I want to become more and more the person the Lord has called me to be.

Twenty years ago I used Titus 2:11-14 for my text. I’m revisiting that passage at the beginning of this year:

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

In 1998, at the age of 46, I said very little about the Bible passage, but quite a bit about what I wanted to do in the coming year. In 2018, at the age of 66, I want to better understand, as well as be challenged and encouraged by, these four verses.

The premise of the passage in verses 11 and 14 is the grace of God shown in the giving of Jesus to be our Savior. I don’t know of anything more important than the grace of God when it comes to doing better and continuing to grow. God’s grace has been foundational for me the past 20 years and will continue to be in 2018.

Note also these verses include both some negative as well as positive instruction.

Verse 12 calls us to “say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passion.” I don’t know precisely what that would mean to you, but I have some ideas of what it means to me to do better and continue to grow. Isn’t it interesting that as we make progress and move forward by minimizing things we shouldn’t do that we better realize what we should be doing?

That’s where the positive instruction of verse 12 is helpful: “to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives.” Doing better and continuing to grow is not just about what we don’t do, it is also about cultivating the doing of what is right. Talking to myself now, I am aware of some ways I need more self-control that would contribute to my being more upright and godly.

In my 1998 sermon I was specific about attitude, spoken words, and actions. I won’t let you listen in to this part of my talk with myself, but 20 years later I still can do better with some of my attitudes, some of the things I say, and some things I do.

I am excited about the New Year and hope listening in on my talk with myself stimulates your thinking. I have so specific resolutions as such – but I do want to do better and keep on growing. How about you?

Happy New Year!

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