Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Peter, the "Rock" - by M

Happy Holidays, everyone! I hope y'all had a blessed and wonderful Christmas surrounded by loving family and friends. What a gift!

You know you're a slacker blogger when you cannot remember the last time you posted OR the last thing you posted about. Yikes! For today, I'll share a small tidbit that I have been thinking about recently.

For a long time I've been interested in the story of Peter. I loved learning more about him and Paul on our trip to Rome this past summer, and I love reading about him over and over in the Gospels, too. I think that what I enjoy about Peter is just how relatable he is. Peter is just so normal and so human. While we all are created in the same image from which Jesus was begotten, it's easier to see ourselves in Peter than it is in Him. Why?

Because Peter's sin is on display for all to see throughout all four gospels. He is nothing short of a hot mess... Jesus famously refers to him as "you of little faith" (Matthew 14:31) after he flails about, terrified of drowning when Jesus asks him to come out to him, walking on the water. Later, Peter directly contradicts Jesus' prophecy that he will be killed by the chief priests, to which Jesus declares "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." (Matthew 16:23) At another time during his ministry with Jesus, Peter is one of the few disciples found by Jesus to be arguing about who of them will be the greatest (Luke 9:46-50) and before that he's among the group that blindly asks Jesus how He will feed the four thousand... days after they witnessed Him miraculously feed the five thousand (Mark 8:4). On top of that, we see Peter angrily taking a sword against Jesus' captors upon His arrest (John 18:10) and, of course, his denial of Jesus three times before His crucifixion (John 18:15-27).

I love the story of Peter because I see myself in Peter. A quick glance through the Gospels reveals Peter's fear, his pride, his lack of faith, his anger, his self-reliance, and more. And yet, we see Jesus say of him, " are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it." (Matthew 16:18) And again (after the resurrection) Jesus "reinstates" Peter, naming him the keeper of all of God's "lambs" and "sheep," for which Christ is the Good Shepherd (John 21:15-18). Peter is truly the embodiment of God's grace and forgiveness of us... of how God often has much more faith in us than we do in Him.

I've historically been amazed that Jesus calls Peter His "rock" after He has witnessed so many of Peter's failings and sins. It's crazy that Jesus chooses this man to lead the charge after He is gone. It seems hard to believe, doesn't it?

Yet, I read something recently that has given me a new perspective on all this, and it's in the very beginning of the Gospel of John:

"Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter)." (John 1: 25-42).

You see, I had always been so amazed that Jesus declared Peter His "rock" after He had seen just how sinful Peter could be. Yet, by this account, Jesus actually speaks this over Peter beforehand. Jesus looked at him, and the first words He says in their very first meeting is "you will be called 'rock'" (which the footnotes verify is the translation of both Cephas - Aramaic and Peter - Greek). Amazing.

Even though we all know that God exists outside of linear time, that He is omniscient, and that our works have nothing to do with His salvation, it's still easy to fall prey to thinking about God in these terms. It's easy to think that Jesus met Peter, Jesus got to know Peter, Jesus was disappointed in Peter, Jesus was good and forgave him anyway, and Jesus decided that Peter would be the foundation of the church. It's easy to think that we relate to God in the same way. And yet, we see through this story of Peter that God doesn't operate that way. Jesus meets Peter and He already knows him. He already knows the ways in which Peter will fail Him and the ways in which Peter will glorify Him. And it's not about what Peter does or doesn't do... it's about what Jesus did, in naming him "rock," long before he would ever prove himself worthy or unworthy of bearing that name.

It's a great reminder for all of us that God knows us outside of what we do and don't do. Just like Peter, God meets us where we are and asks us to follow Him, and if we do, He has a name for us, too. It is "perfect." It is "forgiven." And it is ours outside of how worthy or unworthy we are of it. Praise the Lord!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Grace, by M

So, W has been totally dropping the ball lately on updating this blog... which is annoying to me because I'm the one busy and working every night on wedding stuff! Perhaps this public shaming will motivate her to get back with it.

Anyway, per my last post... I've been thinking about grace a lot lately. I think this is because relationships (and dare I say engagement and marriage in particular) have a unique way of showing you just how much you need it. One of me and my fiance's favorite pastors is Tommy Nelson from Denton Bible Church, who did an awesome marriage sermon series several years ago on Song of Solomon. (Seriously, go download it for free on iTunes... now!). Anyway, in one of the sermons, Tommy says that being sinful and being single is like one hand clapping... you have faults and issues but you just don't know it yet. Preparing for marriage and being married means that all of a sudden your sin has something to "clap against"... and it becomes suddenly much more obvious what all of your issues are. I'm beginning to think that this is true.

And I'm not talking about all these big, dramatic things... just small realizations of "man, I guess I really am selfish" or "maybe I do have a lot of pride" etc etc because all of these things start meeting resistance... they start getting in the way. This is part of the beauty and purpose marriage, so it's not necessarily bad, just the name of the game, I suppose. All of this to say... I'm learning a lot about grace these days.

Earlier this week I read a post from one of the blogs that I regularly follow... it has haunted me ever since. Here's what it said:

"William Kitchens was executed in 2000 for the rape and murder of Patricia Webb.
These were his final words:
I just don’t know how to tell y’all I am sorry for what I did. There is no way for expressing I am sorry. I just hope that in some kind of way that y’all can move on and find peace in your life.

The Lord has given me peace and that is all that I pray for is that y’all can find that peace. I just want you to know that I am sorry for what I done. I can’t change that, all I can do is say I am sorry, that’s nothing for what I have done. I can’t replace your loss. I am sorry. I just want you to know that I love all of y’all. It’s been a pleasure, y’all just keep on with life, it’s gonna be good. The Lord’s gonna be with us.

If it’s alright, I just want to say a prayer first. Father, God, I just thank you for the time that you have given me on this earth, for having mercy on somebody like me for all the despicable thing’s I’ve done in my life, Father, but you still with your love and your mercy reach down into my heart and changed it before it’s too late.

I ask that you bestow peace upon the family of Patricia Webb, that you let them know, Father, that you are in a place where they can obtain that peace, and you will help them move on in their life, Father. Help them, Father, to find it in their hearts, not for my sake , but for yours, and their sake to, Father, find it in their heart to forgive me for what I have done.

Father, I just ask that you be with my family and comfort them to move on Father. Father, we are all here today for the mistake that I have made and I thank you for your mercy for sending your Son into this life, that we might come to know you, Father. Father, I pray for these Wardens and the officers and the people that deal with all of this, Father, I ask that you touch their hearts, Father, and if there is any wrong to it, that you will forgive them, Father. Just let them know that you love them, Father, and that You are the way. I just thank you and in Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen. I love y’all, y’all take care. I am so sorry.
My prayer is that all of us will remember just how desperately in need of grace we are.  We need forgiveness as much as William Kitchens.  We need radical mercy." -
I just cannot get this story out of my head.  I think it's because I can't believe how much faith this guy had on his dying day (literally). I can't get over how confident he was that God had forgiven him, that God did love him regardless of his actions, and that he could find peace and comfort in God's grace. It is an incredible story of incredible faith! And, if I'm honest with myself, it's also a bit convicting. When I fail and when I fall, do I accept God's grace or do I wallow in guilt and shame? Do I proclaim the good news of forgiveness and mercy or do I spend my energy feeling bad and beating myself up?

I want to take a cue from this man... a murderer beloved and redeemed by an awesome God. Amazing.