Passion: Warmed At The Enemy’s Fire

Rachel Billups

Today we are taking a slight turn away from Jesus and toward one of his boldest disciples, Peter.

Peter is a fire, ready, aim, leader.  He talks first and thinks later.  And this rowdy follower finds himself in a particular situation.

“Then seizing him (JESUS), they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly” (Luke 22: 54-62 NIV).  

Peter is one of Jesus’ disciples.  And not merely one of the 12, Peter is one of Jesus’ closest friends!  And so, when Jesus is taken by the authorities, Peter follows.

It’s at a distance, true, but eventually Peter finds himself in the courtyard of the house of the high priest. It’s dark and a bit chilly so Peter joins everyone else around the fire. He doesn’t want to be caught, he wants to blend in like everyone else.  Just to merely be part of the crowd.

Maybe like Peter you are desperate to blend in, to not make waves, to merely be part of the crowd.  Whatever the situation here’s what I know about Peter and you and me.


Peter was tired.

Just before his arrest, Jesus had just asked him to pull an all-nighter—to stay alert and to pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemene.  But Peter was wiped from the celebration of Passover, and he had fallen asleep.

It’s in his exhaustion that he’s tempted to take shortcuts–to deny who is and his relationship with Jesus.

Nearly a month ago I had to get honest with myself about just how tired I really was.

I was on my way to Florida to do some long-term message planning, and as soon as I arrived at the airport, my flight was delayed. Delayed eight hours.

Now, I’ve been through some things in the last 3 plus years—staff transitions, community tornados, congregational deaths, intense sickness, pandemics and policies, to mask or not to mask…honestly through it all I’ve stayed relatively calm, gracious, centered.

But not that day in the airport.

I wanted to cuss somebody out.

When I get mad, I cry, which makes me even angrier because I don’t want to show weakness!  I was attempting to restrain myself, but I know I pulled an attitude with the employee at the ticket counter.  I needed to get out of there and fast.

I made my way to the restroom, collected my thoughts, called my husband and asked him to turn around and pick me back up. 15 minutes later, finally home and cooking myself breakfast, I asked myself, “What was that, Rachel?”

What is really going on?  I was tired.  Not the kind of tired that can be fixed with a 20-minute power nap, but the kind that makes you realize your soul needs some divine rest.

Have you ever been short with a coworker, yelled at your spouse, laid into the kids, got a little road rage, blew up your friend on social media or otherwise blown a gasket?  Why?

When you are tired, you are tempted to take short cuts. You eat those extra carbs, down one more drink, pop one more drug of choice and then you feel like trash the next day.

When you are tired you forget the boundaries you’ve created, the margins you need, the soul rest that won’t happen on its own.

So what do we do?


We live in a culture that promotes self-care, but sometimes self-care becomes self-indulgence. How do you make a distinction?
Ask these three simple questions…
1. It is good?

How do you feel while engaging in this activity? How do you feel afterwards—rejuvenated or exhausted? Affirmed or ashamed?  Pay attention to your feelings.

2.  Is it kind?

Is what you are doing care-full?  Are you actually being kind to your heart, mind and body?

3. Is it sustainable?

Does this activity afford you the ability to live at the pace of grace?  A sustainable lifestyle of rhythm and pace?

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 1 1: 28 The Message).

It is challenging to live at the pace of grace! There’s a new crisis every day. We must take care of ourselves if we ever hope to stay a-float.

I imagine like Peter, you find yourself at a crossroads of some sort.  Remember, he’s warming himself by the fire in a crowd of people who are invested in seeing Jesus punished for whatever wrong they think he has done. And Peter is blending in, or trying to until he opens his big mouth.

As the people begin to recognize him, Peter has choice to make: He can either own his identity and embrace his association as follower of this Jesus from Nazareth or deny his connection and friendship to “those” people.

Peter’s denies knowing Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times.



Close to the end of John’s Gospel, after Jesus was raised from the dead, Peter is out fishing. He hears someone yelling from the shoreline, and the moment he realizes it’s Jesus, Peter jumps into the water and swims to shore.

And there’s Jesus, roasting fish on a fire…a familiar smell.  Peter denied Jesus by the fire, and the smell would have triggered the memory.  So what does Jesus do?  He redeems even the smell of fire…

Matching Peter’s three denials Jesus asks Peter the same question: Peter do you love me? And then following Peter’s response Jesus gives him a command, “Feed my sheep,” a responsibility, a calling, a work.


Because JESUS hasn’t given up on Peter by a long shot.

Peter’s got to be able to forgive himself, to receive God’s forgiveness so that he can move forward to forgive others.

Much earlier in their relationship Jesus had said to Peter, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18 NIV).

How can Peter be the rock that Jesus uses to build the church? Isn’t he a screw up and a letdown?

It’s not the folks who fall that are disqualified. It’s the ones who are too prideful to get back up.

“Whatever politics the church is founded on it’s clearly not an authority that never makes mistakes” (Passion and Power, Wells, 144).”

It’s time for you to get back up. You get a do-over. You can experience Jesus’ amazing grace.  It will heal you from the inside out! That amazing grace can place you on a path back to your purpose, your passion and calling.

We all need forgiveness and reconciliation.

Watch the full message:

Rachel Billups 1 Senior Pastor Visionary

Pastor Rachel Billups
Senior Pastor | Ginghamsburg Church