Hope

Today’s reading:  John 20

What information source do you rely on to get your world news?  I am a Wall Street Journal reader.  Every day I have three different WSJ emails pushed to my inbox.  They give me give me a couple paragraphs about the top 2-3 stories, then 2-3 sentences about 15 or so other topics.  It is perfect.  I scan the page and quickly know what’s going on.  If I want more information about any topic, I can just click on a link that will take me to the full article.  Truth is, I don’t click out to most of the articles.  A couple of sentences about an event is usually about all I need to know.

 

On Saturdays, I get an email called Grapevine: colorful stories and diversions from WSJ.  My approach to this email is the same even though it comes on the weekend – scan the page and see if there is anything that intrigues me enough to read more.  At the end of beginning of May, Grapevine published a story about Patricio Galvez, a Swedish citizen whose daughter had converted to Islam and moved her family to Syria a few years ago.  This one caught my interest.  I clicked the link, read the entire article, and was left wanting more.

In early 2019 Galvez’ daughter and her husband were killed in an airstrike, leaving behind 7 children ages 1-8 somewhere in Syria.  The article was about Galvez’ travel to Syria “on mission” to find his grandchildren.  Eventually he located his youngest grandchild in a hospital and the other six in a northeast Syrian camp.  After much petitioning Galvez was admitted to the camp and reunited with 7 emaciated, feverish children.  While he was able to meet them, give them clothes, toys and food, he was unable to take them from the camp until the Swedish government officially claimed them.  Galvez was forced to leave the camp alone, without any of his grandchildren.  It was heartbreaking.

 

Three weeks later on May 20, the WSJ published an update to the story.  Swedish officials had claimed the children and they had been reunited with their grandfather in northern Syria.  A few weeks later, after some fundraising assistance, they all boarded a plane back to Sweden.  It was anything but an easy trip (they almost missed the shuttle because one child had barfed, another had come down with measles, and the grandfather and his two helpers had forgotten diapers for the baby).  The article ended when the family arrived back in Sweden and Swedish social services had gotten involved to help figure out a long-term plan to care for the children.

It is going to be a long, rocky road to integrate these 7 children into Swedish society and fully raise them to adulthood.  But…in their home country with a grandfather that loves them, they have something they didn’t have alone in Syria.  They have hope.

Do you ever feel hopeless?  If so, our scripture for today is just what you need.  This is the greatest hope story of all time.  It is better than a grandfather traveling all over Syria to rescue his grandchildren.  John 20 tells of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Only by dying and rising again could Jesus ultimately conquer sin and death. He is our only hope of abundant life eternally.  What would make you put your faith in anyone or anything else?

His Daughter Died for ISIS.  Can He Save Her Children? The Wall Street Journal, May 1, 2019.
New Start for Family Rescued from Syria, The Wall Street Journal, May 20, 2019.

A Rumor of Life

Today’s reading is Matthew 28

This is the account after Jesus death on the cross. He had been placed in a sealed tomb with guards for 3 days. The guards were there as requested by the Pharisees. They remembered Jesus saying he would rise on the third day.  If the guards were in place the disciples wouldn’t be able to steal him away to falsely fulfill Jesus words. The Pharisees were afraid Jesus may actually be who he said he was. (Matthew 27:62-65).

In Matthew 28, Mary Madgdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb. They probably hadn’t slept and were feeling heavy hearted and dismayed. They went expecting to care for Jesus dead body but instead they were met with an earthquake and an angel telling them that Jesus was not in the tomb!! The guards passed out in fear. The angel said “don’t be afraid” and instructed the women to go tell the disciples. They were the first to learn and share the good news of Jesus Resurrection. Jesus meeting them on the way sealed the deal for them. He reminded them” Don’t be afraid!”

In Matthew 28:8 it says they were “frightened but also filled with great joy!”. I love this description – just like any great adventure in our lives should feel. We may be frightened but also filled with great joy as we share the good news of Jesus resurrection that brings us eternal life.  The gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) all account for this event with different perspectives and details but the bottom line is the same in each account….Jesus was not in the tomb!  Matthew 28: 6 says “He isn’t here! He has been raised from the dead, just as he said would happen”.

Unfortunately some guards at the tomb went to the leading priests to tell them what happened. The priests bribed them to keep that news to themselves and instead say the disciples came in the night and stole Jesus body. The guards were paid off and everyone agreed on the story. This sad theory still circulates today.

Jesus goes on to meet with the disciples in Galilee and he gives the Great Commission. Matthew 28: 18 –  Jesus came and told his disciples,” I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This is the ultimate fork in road. Do you believe Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after being crucified? Do you believe the tomb was empty? Are you frightened but also filled with great joy at the thought of Jesus dying on the cross for your sins and then rising from the dead on the third day to give eternal life?

“Don’t be afraid”. Go and tell the good news.

Shelly

The last temptation

Happy Tuesday June 4, 2019

Today’s Reading Mark 15

Mark 15: 29-32

29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!” 31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself!

The last temptation. I know that at any point Jesus could of taken himself off the cross that day.  But He didn’t.  He was obeying His father, and following through with the plan had set since His humble birth. As a human, Jesus was tempted many times by Satan. Look back at Matthew 4: 1-11 after He was just baptized. Jesus never gives into the temptation. He understands how we are all tempted by the world daily. Temptation from Satan was coming in in the moments when Jesus hung on the cross, still, in this last attempt from Satan, Jesus kept himself on the cross for the sins of those present then and for everyone since then. Amen!

How is Satan tempting you today? For me, is it by the way I’ve been responding to my children 1 week into summer break? Is it the times I take my wife for granite daily instead of loving her like the church? Is it in my thoughts as I judge others in their various circumstances? Is it in my workload and my selfish ambitions to attain and do more? Is it the entertainment factor from a TV or phone that keeps me mindlessly engaged in time that has no eternal impact… for anyone? The list can go on and on.  We see, feel and are tempted.  We have been tempted since Adam and Eve and have failed just like them in Genesis 3. We are broken.  Still, Jesus knows this, says in these temptations, turn to Me.  Am I doing that? Are you doing that? Through all the temptations Jesus went through, He turned to His Father. Does someone you know right now going through some circumstance where temptation is staring them in the face? Maybe its you today?

Turn to God’s words.  Turn to Him in prayer.  The world is full of worldly things that tempt us daily.  On this day in Mark 15 the temptation to take Himself off the cross was there.  Soldiers, onlookers, priests saying hurtful mocking words and acting out in violence towards Him. Telling Jesus,  Take yourself down from the cross if you are the Son of God.  The human side of me would of pulled myself down and shown them, maybe even in my moments of displaced anger I would of did something to these mockers just to set an example.  Yet,this final mockery of Jesus on the cross to abandon His sacrificial death didn’t succeed. Jesus stayed on the cross to pay for our sins. Revelation 2:10 reminds me how Satan is always putting us to the test and Jesus wants us to remain faithful.

We are wrestling with various sins and temptations? Go to battle against them, let others know.  Know that we have a Father who has already declared victory when we turn our life over to Him.

Dear Jesus this fleeting pleasure pales in comparison to the joy and satisfaction we have in you.  Today, I choose an obedience to you then this temptation put before me.  Better is one day in your courts, then thousands elsewhere. We long for this day, please remind us in our struggles of this hope, strength, grace, and love you have for us always.  Thank you for your Son Jesus to be our perfect example of how in the flesh He resisted the temptations. I pray to draw closer and closer to His presence daily.  We love you! Amen

I love this song by Matt Maher because it reminds me of how much I need Jesus every day!

 

No Justice

 

 

Today’s Reading Matthew 27

 

Webster defines Justice as 

1athe maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments meting out justice -social justice

bJUDGEa supreme court justice—used as a title Justice Marshall

cthe administration of law a fugitive from justice especially  : the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity a system of justice

2athe quality of being just, impartial, or fair questioned the justice of the their decision

b(1)the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action

(2)conformity to this principle or ideal: RIGHTEOUSNESSthe justice of their cause

cthe quality of conforming to law

3conformity to truth, fact, or reason: CORRECTNESS

 

There are a couple of ways to look at the chapter and decide where is the justice and how it is applied. In the superficial and most poignant account of the Gospel, Jesus is the main defendant on trail and is sentenced to death.  But from a different perspective we can see our SIN, as the one on trial.

Paul account of the justice and account of sin is so profound in Romans that every ounce of the book of Romans clearly spells out that the justice and justification of the Passion of Christ for us in simply Devine mercy and grace.  In Romans 6: 23: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So with this information as we review the high points on Chapter 27, can we ask ourselves “Is this the true justice that is due to our sins that we commit continually?”

 

  • Verse 23

Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

  • Verse 26

Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged[c] Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

  • Verse 28

And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand.

  • Verse 30

And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 

  • Verse 35

And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 

These are a few of the examples that our sin was subjected in order to produce the love and passion that Christ had and has for us today.  Christ was not on trial, He was the vessel that held the Sin that we all have committed to God was on trial.  He was the only perfect vessel that would be able to properly cleans our Sins and reset the relationship with God.  Sin ultimately was on trial and Christ was the final victim.  Through this perfect sacrifice a Savior who was not shown justice in this human form has justified us.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for Your amazing sacrifice and trading our sin for justice.  Thank you for justifying us when we continually are not capable of producing this justice for ourselves.  Amen

 

 

 

 

 

Your Will Be Done

He went a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father!  If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.  Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”               Matthew 26:39

How many times have you asked God to “take this cup from me”?  I can’t even count how many times over the past few months when I felt like I could not handle one more stress in my life.  I have asked, even pleaded with God to lighten my burden.  My stress and trouble usually revolves around a relationship, work situation, a health issue or anything thing that is not going the way I had planned or thought it would go. In my time of stress I think it would be really nice if I didn’t have to face a certain situation and would feel so relieved if God would just change the situation for my benefit.  I think I know best how a situation should turn out.

Then I pause and read the above verse from Matthew chapter 26.  I am brought to my knees with humility and shame when I realize how petty my so called trials and tribulations of life are.  Jesus must have felt that the world was closing in.  He knew what lay ahead and in the fullness of godhood and the fullness of manhood, Jesus understood what death on a cross involved.  The physical humiliation and agony of crucifixion would only be compounded by the horror of experiencing God’s wrath for the sins of the world.  There was only one solution for dealing with the feelings welling up inside Him — prayer!  So Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pour out His heart to the Father in private prayer.

In the garden we find Jesus asking God the Father to take away the immense physical pain and death he knows he will be suffering.  However, it is what Jesus says next that provides the most important lesson.  He says, “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine”.  In other words, “God please don’t let me suffer a horrible death, find another way for me to save all of mankind, BUT if that is what YOU want, I want to carry out your will.”

Have you thought about what God wants for your life?  He has the best plan, even if it is a hard path.  These 10 words can shift your thinking and direction when facing any hardship.  “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine”.  It is easy to get wrapped up in what we want or what we think would be the best outcome in a hard situation.  We try to assert our will over God’s will.  We want Him to remove all life’s trouble and pain (that is our will).  It is inherent in our fallen nature as human beings to think this way.  However, meditating on this verse helps us truly understand that God has a plan for us and in the end it is His WILL that we should pray comes to pass.

Where do you go when life seems unbearable, when stress is stretching every fiber of your being?  Jesus identifies with your pain and trial.  He knows how it feels to be overwhelmed with conflicting emotions.  But think about this:  the worst problem you will ever face is nothing compared to what Jesus went through on the cross.  And Jesus, who is God Himself handled His ordeal on earth by going to the Father in private prayer.

We need time alone with your heavenly Father.  We need solitude to read His Word, to communicate our deepest thoughts, and to discover His answers.  

A Prayer for the Future

Today’s reading is John 17.

For how often we as Christians are instructed to display peace and trust in God’s future for us, it can be so easy to worry about the future. We’re told of the Lord in Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Again in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” the Lord says “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  In the Psalms, in Psalms 94:18, the author tells us “When I said ‘my foot is slipping,’ your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” These are only a few examples of many, but we hear time and time again to take our worries to Scripture. Turning to the Lord in prayer and surrender is exactly what Jesus demonstrates in John 17.

On the evening before his execution, after spending the evening in fellowship with his disciples and teaching them, he knows that the time of his death is quickly approaching. In his final moments as a free man, rather than worry or be afraid or experience the other host of human emotions we’d feel knowing our death is close, he turns to God in prayer. And with this important and conclusive prayer, Jesus provides a timeline of his experience with the Lord, summarizing His past works, reflecting on the future, and sharing His hope for the future.

First, Jesus reflects on how His past experiences  have shown the glory of God. He recounts with thanks for the opportunities He has had to reveal God’s nature to the world, and tells fondly of how the world has come to  know God more through His teaching. He prays for all those He has encountered, that they belong to God, and that they would be protected. He says in verse 10, “glory has come to me through them-“ noting that through their learning, reverence, and celebration of who God is, they have glorified the Lord and shown that He is good and faithful. He concludes the reflective portion of this prayer by praying that as He kept his disciples and all believers safe from evil in His time on earth, that God might continue to protect His believers for all time to come.

Jesus proceeds to recognize the task at hand presently now – namely, His approaching death. He says in verse 13, “I am coming to you now,” fully admitting as He has many times before that the hour of His death is present. He compares His own detachment to this world to ourselves – “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” Just as the ways of the world went vindictively against what Jesus taught, the world around us may scoff at us for putting our faith in the eternal Lord. But Jesus, knowing this, prays not that we may avoid hardship in this world, but for strength despite the hardships we will face. In verse 15, He prays “not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.” Jesus prays that as we are sent out to the world to spread the word of God that He has shared, God would provide refuge from Satan’s counter-attacks against us.

As Jesus’s prayer continues, He next prays for those who will believe in Him – those in the future, who either have not yet turned to Christ or those not yet born. His prayer for the future emphasizes “that all of them may be one… just as you are in me and I am in you.” Just as Jesus and God are together, He prays for the unity and togetherness of all us and all to come, for togetherness and community in not only our spiritual lives, but all aspects. And Jesus prays that this unity that we share would point the world to the unifying and all-encompassing love the God shows for us.

In what must be a difficult time for Jesus in His human state, He instead takes this last opportunity to turn to God in prayer, praying specifically for us. Being at peace knowing that His work is complete and the world’s salvation is coming soon by His death, Jesus sets us a wonderful example to come to God when worries grow. His blessings continue as His prayers bless us with protection from evil, perseverance against the corrupt ways of the world, and strength in unity with our other believers. In Jesus’s example, we are reminded that when we are worried about the future and what troubles it will bring, God is ready to ease our hearts when we turn to Him in prayer, just as Jesus prayed we could do. Let’s give thanks today for the incredible God watching over us and providing salvation from the clutches of death. Let’s give thanks today for the God who saves and gives eternal life!

  • Ross B.

Till I Found You…Grief Into Joy

Today’s reading is John 16 where the night before He was crucified Jesus foretells of his death and the sadness it will bring followed by the joy that will come when they see Him again through His resurrection.

“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

John 16:22

Merriam-Webster defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”

As I read this, I thought to myself, do I have joy? Where am I seeking joy? Often we seek joy in the next promotion, the next sale, the new house, the new car, our net worth, or earthly relationships..only to find these things bring temporary pleasure. This brief pleasure is always fleeting..sometimes within minutes or hours, but always within days or years. None of them last forever. Even the best of marriages end with one spouse passing before the other and even if we are lucky to have an ending like The Notebook and pass at the same time…our life on this earth still ends. It doesn’t last forever. No marriage can bring everlasting joy.

Let’s break down how a relationship with Jesus provides true joy by Merriam-Webster’s definition…

When we know Him, we know our “well-being” is forever being take care of. Romans 8:31-32 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not graciously give us all things?”

When we know Him, we know we are a “success.” Despite our past sins, relational, professional, or financial failures, we know that we are a “success” because of Him. In Romans 8:38, the Apostle Paul says, “No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” He also talks about winning the prize or the race in other writings.

When we know Him, we know we have “good fortune.” Can anything give us more “good fortune” than knowing every single one of our past sins and future mistakes are forgiven? Psalm 103:10-12 says, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” If that’s not good fortune, I don’t know what is!

When we know Him, we “possess what one desires.” What do we all desire? In my humble opinion, it is the forgiveness we just discussed, as well as a loving relationship that lasts forever through eternal life. The only way we get it is through one with Him. God began to let us know how He would do this all the way back in Isaiah 25:8 which says, “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces…” God reminds us of this amazing promise again at the end of the Bible in Revelation 21:4 which reads, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall their be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

What do you believe is the greatest love song of all time? Well, I believe the greatest love song of all time has to be about the only love that can bring us true joy which cannot be taken from us because it lasts forever. Check out “Till I Found You” by Phil Wickham.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ewhz3pCk9vM

Jesus, the True Vine

John 15

Well, I’m sorry to say that today I have the perfect example to write on for John 15, 1-17.

Vs 4 “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” Vs 5 For apart from me you can do nothing.” Vs 9-11 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! These are some highlights from the chapter, but take the time to read the entire chapter as there is so much more than I can address here.

I’ve had a busy few days and gotten less sleep than I need the last few nights. You have all been in this spot…tired, a little overwhelmed and generally sick of the grind. When I woke this morning, I was not ready to face my list of things to do so I made the decision to lay in my bed for a few minutes and scroll through my phone before getting up and heading to my first apt for the day. Sounds harmless, I know. The issue is that a few months back I had gotten into a bad rut of running too hard at life and my time with God was getting squeezed out regularly instead of just occasionally. I was miserable, my heart was heavy in almost every relationship I was in, I wasn’t getting direction from God so I had no idea how to proceed in some seriously tough situations and I missed my Creator, Friend, Helper, Father and Confidant. When I finally made time to sit down and confess my selfishness with Him, He asked, What are you going to do from here on out to not land in this spot again in your life? As I was mulling over my options and feeling really frustrated because I knew my schedule wasn’t going to be slowing down anytime soon, He softly said to me, How about you commit to not looking at your phone when you wake up until you have met with Me? (I think we all know, and God for sure knows, how many minutes or portions of an hour we can mindlessly pass through while scrolling through FaceBook, Instagram, the news, texts, emails, or “one more level” of our favorite game.) I resisted in my heart to committing to His plan. I know myself well enough to know that I prefer a slower start to the day.  I’m not at my best first thing in the morning and I had consciously decided several years back that I wanted God to have my best time so I chose then to meet with Him later in the day after I had cleared the sleep cobwebs out of my brain a little. Since I made that “later morning” commitment my life has gone through some changes, and my schedule looks very different then it did at that time.  Back to my conversation with God this morning. In His perfect wisdom He asked me another question while I was fighting with myself over agreeing to His new plan.  He gently asked, How is that portion of an hour more valuable to you, with Me or your phone? It is blatantly obvious what is best for me. I surrendered and committed to change my time with Him. I even addressed my jumbled and wondering mind first thing in the morning and God graciously agreed to help redirect me back to our topic at hand if/when my mind wondered first thing in the morning. So now you understand the weight of my decision to pick up my phone this morning. I wish I had chosen differently. I chose to separate from The Vine today. I chose my phone over remaining in His love. This one decision was bad enough, but because I wasn’t connected to Him from the start today, I missed His voice later in the day when He was warning me away from another bad decision. My second poor choice of the day affected other people. My stomach was in knots while I was working over every angle of the mess in my mind to try to free myself and get out from under my choice. For about an hour, there was no way out. I was completely out of control of the situation I had created and all I could do was wait to see what the fall out would be.

Two important things:

One, God didn’t pull His love away from me even though I sinned and chose to separate from Him this morning. He still spoke to me, still tried to slow me down and give me time to think through my decision before I sinned a second time.  Because I pulled away from Him first thing this morning, I wasn’t connected later and blew right by His gracious warning. I landed myself in a mess because I didn’t pay attention to my Vine’s voice.

Two, My joy was gone for the entire morning! I experienced the polar opposite of joy; worry, frustration, fear, and dread. I was overflowing with stomach acid instead of joy. Jesus was really clear in Vs 9-11 that our joy is connected to our obedience to His commands and I was sitting in the middle of a perfect life lesson for this truth.

 

I do not deserve the resolution that God provided me this morning. He managed things in a way that only He could and He kept the damages minimal. Again, God out-loved me. He is the true vine and remains in me when I remain in Him..and even sometimes when I don’t. I’m in awe today of Love so full, so rich, so complete, so selfless, so forgiving and so personal!

In my Father’s House are Many Mansions

Today’s reading is John 14

My 5 year old son, Samuel, asks a million questions a day (at least it seems like a million!). Recently, he asks a lot of questions about heaven. What it looks like, who is there, what people do in heaven, etc. Inevitably the conversations eventually turn to the topic of losing someone, and he makes declarations that he doesn’t want to die and doesn’t want me or anyone else in our family to die. These kind of conversations are challenging – especially with a 5 year old child – but also with mature adults. God has given us so many things on earth to love and cherish that our finite minds have difficulty comprehending the eternity of heaven.

Growing up, I went every Memorial Day with my dad to the cemetery on the edge of town. Many of his loved ones were buried there. His father (who died in his forties), his sister (who died when she was 4 days old), his grandparents, and many more. We would tidy up the areas around their headstones and leave flowers. But the best part of the trip was that my dad talked about them. He told stories about their lives and made me feel like I knew them, although I had never met any of them. And always he spoke of their love for God. He would remind me that while we didn’t get to be with them now, that because they were in heaven with God we would all someday rejoice together for eternity.

As Christians, the concept of eternity is one of the most important things that separates us from non-believers. Death and what comes after should not be frightful for us. In fact, everything we do should be centered around the eventuality of reaching heaven and praying that everyone we know and love will be there too.

I am thankful not only for the memories made all those years ago with my dad, but for the way he was able to bring faith to life about what happens after death. Hopefully the talks that Samuel and I have about heaven will leave him at peace about the concept of mortality and eternity, both of which he is just beginning to grasp.

I am so thankful for the words of Jesus, which are not only comforting, but (to me anyway:) ) exciting as well:

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” John 14:1-4

Tested, Proven, Perfected

I am fully enthralled with the story of Peter’s denial.  Today, in Mark 14, we see both the warning that Jesus gives him and Peter’s vehement denial.  These two statements are extreme opposites.  In verse 31, Peter  “said emphatically, If I must die with you, I will not deny you.’”  Contrast that statement with verse 71 where Peter  “invokes a curse on himself and swears, I do not know this man of whom you speak.”  How could Peter so fully believe that he would follow Jesus, at all cost, and, at the same time invoke a curse on himself trying to denounce him?  Clearly, Peter did not understand what he was capable of.  Are we all so fallible?  If so, how do I know what I really believe?
The answer, unfortunately, is that we don’t know.  Seriously, until our beliefs are put to the test, we do not know how we will respond.  My fear, of course, is that I will fail as Peter did.  But why?  Why do I fear failing when, failure is the very thing that leads to success.? That was certainly true for Peter.  After failing the test, Peter broke down and cried.  In that moment, Peter knew himself better than he ever had.  More importantly, he came face to face with the gulf between who he was and who God created him to be.  He fully understood that if he was to be whole again, he would need God to make him so.  I can only imagine how difficult the next few days were for Peter.  Jesus was dead, and he failed.  What hope was there?

God leads into the dark night those whom He desires to purify from all these imperfections so that He may bring them farther onward. ~Saint John of the Cross

I am sure that through this test,  God planned to help Peter become who he was created to be.  Throughout the test, Peter was 100% responsible for his response.  He got to choose what was next.  In the end, Peter could not deny the changes that Jesus had made in his heart.  He was a different man.  While his heart may have reflected sorrow and shame, he was not far from worship.  It shows in his excitement to be reunited with Jesus in John 21:8.  It was this contrition of heart that led him to a full victory in John 21:15-20.

As I learn about Peter in this passage,  I find myself reflecting on how God has and is testing my faith.  I can see times of failure and, like Peter, experienced a dark night of the soul.  Maybe you are experiencing a test of faith right now. I am comforted to know that victory is ours if we choose it.  We choose it by acknowledging that Jesus is our savior and our Lord.  When we do, He promises that we will become “perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4).  That is who God created us to be.

Diamonds, Hawk Nelson

Saint John of the Cross. The Dark Night of the Soul (annotated) (Kindle Location 151). Kindle Edition.