Tag Archives: Peter

You Can Call Me Peter

Among Bible characters, I have often identified with Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. I can easily spend time in contemplation about God or spiritual matters, essentially sitting at the feet of Jesus, while the chores of the day go unnoticed.

I have also identified with the apostle John, who referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” I know that Jesus loves me in the same way. Plus I love John’s gospel, epistles, and account of his vision in Revelation. I love the way he writes and his focus on the deity of Christ, and I identify with him because of my desire to do the same in my writing.

But this week I found myself identifying with a Bible character I never really identified with before. And that is the apostle Peter.

In Bible Study Fellowship we are studying the book of Matthew, and there is much about the character and behavior of Peter in that book. Last week we were studying Matthew 26. In that chapter, at the Last Supper, Jesus warns all the disciples that they will fall away that very night, and Peter fervently denies this, saying he will die with Jesus if he has to, even if all the others do fall away. Jesus then tells Peter he will deny Him three times before the rooster crows the next morning.

In the next scene, the little band of disciples is off to Gethsemane following their Master after a long day. In the garden, Jesus goes off to pray but brings Peter, John, and James with Him. He tells them to stand watch and pray, but all three fall asleep instead of praying. Jesus awakens them and again tells them to pray because “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Then He goes a little further to pray again His heartbreaking prayer that the cup of the Father’s wrath be taken from Him if it is possible. Jesus returns to the three to find them again sleeping and not praying.

In the next scene, Jesus has submitted to the Father’s will and awakens the disciples yet again to go and face His betrayer and the crowd that is coming to arrest Him. In spite of Jesus repeatedly telling the disciples that His arrest, crucifixion, and ultimate resurrection are the Father’s plan, Peter takes matters into his own hands and pulls out his sword, lopping off the ear of one of the crowd. Jesus rebukes him and tells him to put the sword away. Then as Jesus (and Old Testament prophecy) predicted, the disciples, including Peter, all scatter.

Two scenes later we see Peter again, slinking around the fire outside the courtyard where Jesus is being unjustly tried by the high priest. Three times Peter is asked if he was with Jesus, and three times Peter denies that he even knows Him, just as Jesus predicted.

Many times this year in BSF, something has happened in my life that fits right into whatever the lesson is for that week. Maybe God knows I learn better when the lesson is directly relatable to my life.

This week is no different as I find myself identifying with Peter. This bold and sometimes hot-headed disciple faced a great difficulty. And though he was warned by Jesus about what was to happen and admonished to pray so that he would not fall into temptation, Peter did not heed that warning.

I faced a difficult situation this week. I felt the Spirit’s nudge to pray about it, and to do so earnestly. Yet I did not pray. Although I didn’t literally sleep instead, I might as well have because I filled the time I should have been praying with useless activities. Then I found myself unprepared to face the situation. Instead of meeting it calmly, with love and grace, I exhibited my Peter-like hot-headedness. I met the situation with anger and fear instead of forgiveness and faith.

The good news is that if I repent of my sin and turn to Jesus, He will forgive me and restore me, just as He did Peter. And His plan will prevail in spite of my failings, just as the plan of redemption through His crucifixion and resurrection prevailed in spite of Peter’s failings.

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Whom Can God Use? – A Poem

Three weeks into the study of Matthew in Bible Study Fellowship I’ve already learned — or been reminded of — a great truth. God can, and does, use the most unlikely and undeserving people to accomplish His great purposes for mankind. He can use even me and you, whether we believe it or not.

Whom Can God Use?

Whom can God use?
He used Tamar the Hittite
Rahab the prostitute
Ruth the Moabitess
And the Gentile wife of Uriah
to create the line of King David
the ancestors of Messiah

Whom can God use?
He used Pharaoh the hard-hearted
Moses the murderer
Herod the Great, a cruel king
And Joseph the carpenter
to set up and fulfill prophecy
of calling His Son out of Egypt

Whom can God use?
He used Peter the hot-head
Thomas the doubter
Mary Magdalene the prostitute
and Paul the murderous zealot
to spread the Good News
of His mercy and saving grace

Whom can God use?
He used June from Australia
My sister the atheist
New friends in Bible study
And an angel in a dream
to call me out of my exile
from the hell of depression to the Light

Whom can God use?
He can use you
no matter your past
Despite all I’ve done
He can use me
to share His sweet love and light
with a world lost in darkness

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Betrayed and Denied – A Poem

Betrayed with a kiss
by one whose feet
He washed
but whose heart
remained unclean

Denied three times
by one whose feet
He washed
but who felt remorse
and was restored

May we all be like Peter
and not Judas

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Pentecost – A Poem

Today is Pentecost. It is the day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of believers. Jesus has returned to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, and this day marks the fulfillment of His promise to send the Counselor to give wisdom, comfort, and strength.

Pentecost
Peter and the others gathered in the house
Enter in the violent wind
Noise like they had never heard
Tongues of fire come to rest on everyone
Enter in the Holy spirit
Common faith connects them now
Over centuries we are connected, too
Sweet Jesus the Savior of us all
Truth resides in our hearts

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues
as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:1-4 (NIV).

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Four Truths to Remember

Today in church our Youth Minister Colie gave the sermon. We are still learning about our Christian Toolbox, and today’s tool was “service.” But I am not going to write about what she told us about service right now. (There will no doubt be more blog posts on this wonderful tool throughout this week.)

Instead, I want to share four truths that Colie shared with us at the beginning of her message. They are four truths that she heard a Christian speaker share at a conference earlier last week. But these four truths weren’t new with that speaker either. Their source is God and they are told to us in His Word.

  1. You are loved.

    But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. Ephesians 2:4-5a (NIV). 

  2. You matter.

    “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).

  3. You are chosen.

    But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV).

  4. You are not alone.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:16-18 (NIV).

So the next time you think no one loves you because you haven’t done anything to earn the love of others, refute that lie with the truth that God loves you. The next time you think you are to insignificant to matter to anyone, refute that lie with the truth that God has a plan for your life that is perfectly suited to how He made you. The next time you are feeling lost and alone, remember that you have been chosen by God to belong to Him and that He has sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in you so that you will never be alone.

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Focus on the Known

Some things in life are unknown. Right now I’m facing the unknown of health concerns. After multiple tests, doctors still don’t know what is causing recent symptoms. I do have a list of what it is not. Whenever a test reveals that it is not something else I’m told it is good news. And I know that for the most part it is. But the difficult news remains that we don’t know what it is.

I thought of this post this morning, but decided not to write it because, frankly, I get tired of complaining about my health. I know there are a lot of people worse off than me, and I’m sure it gets old for others to hear about my various maladies.

Then I went to my list of blog subscriptions to see what others had posted for today. I clicked on a post by one of my favorite bloggers, Karla over at Out of Eden Ministries. The post was called “at the beginning going low.” She starts with a discussion of how Rahab the prostitute appears in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:5, and goes on to talk about how God makes the insignificant into a significant part of His plan. Karla writes:

 Phone calls and prayers and prostitutes and a scarlet cord and you, yes you. Your life, your love, your pain, your prayer, and your hunger for more. All significant in the plans and the hands of God.

I immediately knew I had to write this post after all, because although it starts with my insignificant struggle with pain and its unknown cause, it doesn’t end there. It ends with a focus on the known. What I thought of to write for today was how, even though I don’t know what is wrong with me, God does. And even more importantly, I know the truth of what God has revealed in His Holy Word. Here are some truths that I cling to, that I choose to focus on, as I face my insignificant struggles.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NIV).

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV).

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10 (NIV).

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).

My own struggles are light and momentary in the grand scheme of the universe and God’s plan. Though I will suffer a little while, Jesus will restore me and make me strong. He will use my sufferings for good in the big picture of His purpose. He has plans to prosper me spiritually, and He will faithfully fulfill this promise.

(You might be wondering why certain words are bolded in the above verses. These are the words I remember and that I used to find these verses on Biblegateway.com, since I seldom remember the actual chapter and verse of the scripture that I have stored up in my heart.)

Karla’s post made me realize that I needed to listen to the prompt in my spirit to post about my struggles and the known promises of God that I choose to focus on, because there just might be someone out there who is struggling too and needs to know that God is with them. If that happens to be you, then hold onto the promises of God and He will see you through.

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The Shepherd – A Poem

The other day I posted a “found poem” that my son wrote for his social studies class. After reading a bit about this form of poetry, I decided I wanted to try writing one. I thought of all the references to sheep and shepherds in the Bible and chose to focus on these references for my found poem. Biblegateway came in handy so that I could easily search and “find” the verses I wanted to include. I thought about including all of the scripture references as footnotes, but decided that would make the post too cluttered.

I’m posting this poem as my Thankful Thursday post because I am thankful that Jesus is our Good Shepherd. I am also thankful for the consistent theme of God as the shepherd of His lost and wandering sheep throughout the Bible.

The Shepherd

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel,
You who lead Joseph like a flock;
You who sit enthroned
between the cherubim.

Like a hunted gazelle, like sheep
without a shepherd,
each will flee to his native land.
Save your people and bless
your inheritance; be their shepherd
and carry them forever.

He had compassion on them,
because they were harassed and helpless,
like sheep without a shepherd.
This is what the Sovereign LORD says:
Woe to the shepherds of Israel
who only take care of themselves!

Should not shepherds take care of the flock?
The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not be in want.
“I will place shepherds over them
who will tend them, and they will
no longer be afraid or terrified,
nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD.

Then I will give you shepherds
after my own heart, who will lead you
with knowledge and understanding.
They will follow my laws
and be careful to keep my decrees.
And David shepherded them
with integrity of heart;
with skillful hands he led them.

For you were like sheep
going astray, but now
you have returned to the Shepherd
and Overseer of your souls.
And when the Chief Shepherd appears,
you will receive the crown of glory
that will never fade away.

For the Lamb at the center
of the throne will be their shepherd;
He will lead them to springs
of living water. And God
will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
So the LORD’s people will not
be like sheep without a shepherd.

But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.
“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.”

He will stand and shepherd
his flock in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD
his God. And they will live securely,
for then his greatness will reach
to the ends of the earth.

“I am the good shepherd
who lays down his life for the sheep.”
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

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Jesus Understands Our Invisible Pain

So the last couple of posts I’ve mentioned that I haven’t been feeling well, that I have been in pain. Had the beginnings of a migraine two days last week but was able to catch it in time, and then started having a mild flare up of my fibromyalgia.

I really didn’t want to write about it, but then I realized that sharing my struggles with this syndrome might help someone else who struggles with invisible pain.

When someone breaks a leg, or suffers a severe burn, or is covered with cuts and bruises it is easy for people to see what is wrong and to sympathize. But the pain of fibromyalgia is invisible pain. From the outside the person suffering with the pain of fibromyalgia looks just fine, and so people don’t understand what they are going through.

It is also an unpredictable pain with no easily determinable cause or trigger. One day you feel just fine and you wake up the next day feeling like you got run over by a freight train. I’ve gone for months feeling fine, with very little pain, then suddenly every muscle in my body aches and certain movements cause sharp pains in my legs, arms, and neck.

I try to figure out why. I’ve had doctors give me conflicting theories of what causes this pain, and I have read conflicting theories as well. One doctor told me it is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Another has told me it is caused by what I eat, by an inability of my muscles to process sugar that results in toxins in my muscles. Another suggested it is a symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that stems from some early trauma. I have also read that there is a strong link between fibromyalgia and Epstein Bar Virus (or mononucleosis), which I had when I was in junior high. Finally, I have read that it is simply hereditary.

The pain of fibromyalgia is truly invisible. There is no medical test that shows whether someone has fibromyalgia. There is a “tender point” test in which the doctor checks 18 designated tender points on the body and if 11 or more are tender to the touch a diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be made. But even that test is somewhat subjective.

All my life I have felt pain in circumstances where someone else thought I shouldn’t have felt pain. I can remember saying something hurt when I was a kid only to be told, “That didn’t hurt.” This summer I experienced pain from something that didn’t seem like it should hurt. I was at my cousin’s house in Houston and his granddaughter was playing with three pine cones. She kept handing them to me to play with, but the sharp points started to really hurt my hands. I said I didn’t want to play anymore because it made my hands hurt. My sister looked at me and asked, “Does that really hurt?”

Invisible pain. It’s difficult to cope with sometimes. But I know that Jesus knows how I feel, and that give me a great deal of comfort. Although the pain Jesus experienced when He was scourged, beaten, and crucified was quite visible, He experienced an invisible pain, too. He experienced the pain of having the sin of the world laid upon Him and of His Father turning away as He cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 (NIV).

If you struggle under the weight of invisible pain, take heart that you are not alone. Christ understands your suffering and your pain. You also have fellow Christians who understand what you are going through. The apostle Peter provided for us who suffer a wonderful encouragement in his first epistle:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.  1 Peter 5:6-11 (NIV).

Satan would love to devour us in our pain, to make us fall and cease to be of use in God’s kingdom. But if we cling to Jesus, cast all of our fears and anxiety on Him, He will help us to defeat Satan’s plans. If you are struggling with invisible pain and feeling like you are at your wit’s end, leave me a comment and I would love to pray for you. It would be a blessing to me to be able to ask our Lord to strengthen you and give you peace and comfort, that you might be enabled to stand firm in your faith. Would you do the same for me?

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Eternal Life – A Poem

1/5/13 update: I decided to link to this poem from the prompt today at dVerse Poets Pub. Check it out for more poems on peace.

So often we speak of eternal life as something that we get after we die. But that is not what Jesus promised. He said “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24 (NIV). Belief in Jesus leads to the immediate possession of eternal life, which is an abundant life in relationship with our Creator. Although I am thankful of the promise of heaven when I die, the promise of a place with no more pain and no more tears, I am even more thankful for the gift of eternal life that I possess right here and now. Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3 (NIV).

Eternal Life

Every day I know You more
the Alpha and Omega
end of all and beginning of life
real life, abundant life
now and forever
aware each moment of Your
love and mercy

Love and mercy
inundating my soul
filling me with peace
eternally and today

Do you possess eternal life? Do you know the one true God? Have you asked His Son Jesus to be your Savior and Lord? If not, what are you waiting for? Listen to the words of eternal life that your Creator has to offer.

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
John 6:67-69 (NIV).

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Haunted by His Mercy

I mentioned a couple of times last week that I went to Fish Fest with my friend A and saw Third Day, my favorite Christian band. When we arrived at the concert, the band Above the Golden State was playing. I had never heard of them, but they sounded pretty good as we walked around checking out the food and other vendor booths. They ended their set with a wonderful rendition of “I’ll Fly Away,” one of my favorite old hymns.

I decided right then I wanted to check out their CD and see if they had recorded it. Unfortunately, their CD didn’t have “I’ll Fly Away,” but it was only $10 so I thought I’d give it a try. I am so glad I did because I love it!

The first time I listened to the CD was at work while I was doing something that didn’t take a lot of focused thought, but had to be done. I hardly ever listen to music at work, but this was one of those rare opportunities when I could. I was quite enjoying the CD playing in the background but wasn’t really paying attention to the lyrics, until the eleventh song came on. It has become my favorite song on the CD and is called “The Haunting.”

The line that first caught my attention was “Your mercy haunts me every night / In a dream.” Then I listened closer to all the lyrics and was enthralled by how wonderfully it was written. For the past few days it has been running through my head often.

I love how this song captures the feelings Peter must have had as he stood just a “stone’s throw away” from Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. It never really occurred to me that Peter, James, and John saw Jesus’ agony and heard His plea to the Father to take His cup of suffering from Him. They were right there, witnesses to the beginning of His passion.

All He asked was that they stay there and pray, and they wanted to, but they were so tired. They just couldn’t keep awake. I thought of all the times He has asked me to pray, when I have known that prayer was so important in the face of some trial, but I was so tired I simply fell asleep instead.

For Peter, the outcome of his failure to pray was that he denied Christ because his flesh was weak and fear overtook him. “This man is not my friend,” he said. He knew it was a lie, because the mercy of Jesus haunted him. Yet three times the denial came, just as Jesus had predicted. Those nights after the crucifixion, the mercy of Jesus must truly have haunted Peter’s dreams.

I think back on my own life wondering what weaknesses and fears have overtaken me because I failed to pray, choosing sleep instead. Were there times I should have stood up and claimed Jesus as my Lord and Savior, even as my friend, but did not? Perhaps, even if only by my silence when boldness escaped me. Then I remember that it doesn’t matter. Just as Jesus kept asking Peter for his loyalty – “Peter, do you love Me?” – and restored Peter for each denial, He has restored me. And I know I will follow Him until I reach the end. I would be lost without Him.

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