living a life of ups and downs

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Category : Jesus, Mark, bible, living a life of faith

Peter (one of Jesus’ closest friends) often seems like two different people.  In one moment he’s lopping off an ear.  In the next he’s running away.  At one instance he’s walking on water.  In another he’s terrified of drowning.

It seems as if Peter just isn’t very consistent.

Which means he’s just like you and me.

All of this comes into play just before Jesus is arrested.  Jesus and a few disciples head out to pray.  Jesus knows what’s about to happen.  He knows he’s going to die in a way very few of us can imagine.  All he wants to do is pray, and have his friends stay with him.  But despite Peter’s best efforts, Peter keeps falling asleep.

Jesus is understandably upset with Peter, and says something profound: “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  That line sums up our existence pretty nicely.  We have all experienced moments where we want to do the right thing.  But when that moment comes, something happens.  We end up not following through.  We become afraid.  Pride takes over.  Greed overwhelms us.  Whatever it is, we end up caving.

Peter, despite his best intent, ended up running away.

But as I said, you and I aren’t that different from Peter.  What sets Peter apart is the fact Peter said the things you and I think.  If Jesus told us, “you will deny me.”  We might think “yeah right!  No way Jesus!”  But Peter didn’t seem to have much of a filter between thought and talking – so he actually said it.

It’s a shame that Peter is sometimes portrayed as a coward.  In many ways he never stood a chance.  He always wanted to do the right thing, but his flesh was weak.

I don’t know what the takeaway from this is, other than maybe we need to give ourselves some more slack when we screw up.  And I think be a little more like Peter.  Because no matter how publicly he messed up, he always came back to give it another try.

photo provided by flickr user pittsinger

impatience

Category : faith, hope, live for the eternal

 

The economy is tough right now.  It seems like every day I hear about another friend losing their job.  Or gas prices rising.  And let’s not even talk about the housing market.  Frankly it feels as if nothing will ever change; that we’ll be stuck in this economy forever, with no hope of improvement. 

And yet, it wasn’t that long ago I remember wondering if the economy would ever slow down.  It seemed as if the stock market always went up, and new homes were bought just as fast as they were made. 

Funny how that is.

Why do we get so caught up in The Moment™ that we convince ourselves that nothing is going to change?  Peter felt that way the night they came to take Jesus to his death.  He felt so strongly that things weren’t going to change that he declared nothing would shake his faith in Jesus (Mark 14: 27-31). 

I think we get caught up in the moment because we lose sight of our true goal - a relationship with God that lasts forever.  When we shift our focus to other places, no matter how well intentioned, we get distracted.  True joy, true hope, and true happiness will never come from an economy – good or bad.   

Of course I’m no better at this than anyone else.  The reality is, it takes work to stay focused.  Some days it’s easy.  But more often than not it takes sheer will power.  In the end though, reminding myself to “focus on the eternal” keeps me moving towards God.  And that perspective helps me be a little more patient when life doesn’t work out the way I want.   

Peter’s redemption

Category : God, Mark, faith, hope

 

Peter’s world had just come crashing down around him.  The man he thought was God had just been arrested.  The man he thought was going to free Israel from the oppressive Roman rule had given up without a fight.  Now this same man was being beaten and disgraced.  And because things weren’t bad enough, Peter had just denied even knowing him.

All of this came only hours after swearing that he would be willing to die for Jesus.  Now Peter had to confront the fact that he had failed.  Spectacularly.  The thing is, Jesus had even told Peter all of this would happen.  But Peter was too proud to listen.  He was too sure of himself.

Up to this point Peter had a history of acting boldly.  Perhaps even impulsively.  He had never run away from God before.  So this was new territory. 

It must have been lonely.

I don’t think it’s a surprise that after all this Peter “broke down and wept.” (Mark 14:72)

If this is where the story ended it would be pretty depressing.  But fortunately this is just the beginning.

All too often we live with the belief that if we fail, even a little bit, God will become angry with us.  That somehow making a mistake is the worst thing we could do.  And therefore we don’t try at all. 

But this is clearly not the case.

Peter failed spectacularly.  His mistake is recorded in the Bible, which means people will read about it for thousands of years.  Talk about embarrassing!  And yet God used him to do amazing things. 

That’s one of the most remarkable things about God – no matter what we’ve done, he gives us another chance.  He says, “don’t worry about the mistakes in the past, trust in the promises I make for your future.  And act on them now.”

I guess that really takes all of my excuses away for not acting.  If God can use Peter after denying God, then I think he can use me too.

who said that?

Category : God, Jesus, bible, hope

 

You can’t keep quiet about God.

At least that’s my experience.

When someone experiences the revolutionary God, they become different.  They can’t help it.  And one of the first things to change is that they can’t keep their mouth shut!

How many times did Jesus say to someone, “yes I’ve done this miracle, but don’t tell anyone” and then that person went off and told, well, everyone?

“Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone.  But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.  People were overwhelmed with amazement.  ‘He has done everything well,’ they said.  ‘He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’” (Mark 7: 36-37)

People were overwhelmed with amazement.

Because that’s what happens when we experience God; he overwhelms us.  I think this is especially true when we’re living without hope.  When all we can see is suffering, pain, fear, and doubt it’s really hard to imagine anything good happening to us. 

So many people Jesus hung out with were completely isolated from society.  These were people who were truly without hope.  They were totally rejected, not just by the “cool kids” but by everyone.   

Everyone except Jesus that is.

It was into that pain that Jesus stepped and offered hope.  He offered not just healing from a current problem, but a new life, a new way of living, and most of all a future.  Is it any wonder everyone was talking?