Monthly Archives: October 2016

The God of Second Chances

Scarlet Bee-eaters by Ross Sayers. (Used with permission)

Scarlet Bee-eaters by Ross Sayers. (Used with permission)

THE GOD OF SECOND CHANCES

John 18:10 (NKJV) Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.

I don’t know about you but I can’t help but like Peter. He was impulsive, outspoken, and passionate. The proverbial “bull in a china shop”!  He was never at a loss for words, always ready to speak his mind. He had his problems, but a lack of confidence certainly wasn’t one of them! Added to that, he really loved Jesus!

No wonder he was shocked when Jesus predicted that, he the bombastic but solid Peter, would not stand up for Him in His hour of most need! Surely not Peter!

Think about it…….we see from our scripture verse that he had enough courage to take a swipe at the thug who came to take Jesus away. Instinctively, when he perceived Jesus was in danger, he pulled out a sword and cut off the man’s ear! (John 18:10). Certainly that proved he had the courage to take a stand for Jesus.

How then could this burly, opinionated fisherman be reduced to trembling figure of fear by the questioning of a mere servant girl?

When he was with Jesus and the other disciples, he could not imagine ever denying Jesus. Yet, when Jesus was imprisoned, he seemed to have lost his bravado and Peter tried to pretend he didn’t even know Jesus!

Could this be……..? Yes, sadly it was true……………

Luke 22:61-62 (NKJV) “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times. So Peter went out and wept bitterly.”

When Peter realized what he had done by denying Jesus, even as Jesus was being tortured for his sake, it broke his big, tender heart.

Peter learned a life changing lesson in his denial. He faced his natural human reaction of going along with the crowd for fear of exposure and discovered that it wasn’t worth the price of his broken heart! Peter had failed His Lord and failed him miserably BUT Peter discovered that all was not lost. He quickly realized that he served the Lord of the “second chance…..third chance…….. And may I add…..the fourth chance”!

What do I mean by this statement?

I can only imagine how deeply Peter must have agonized knowing he had failed His Lord. Thoughts like…. “How could I have done such a thing?”………”Will there ever be forgiveness for me?” must have been racing through his mind and crushed heart.

COME; walk with me, into the silence of the Garden Tomb where they laid the body of Jesus.

SEE; the women coming early in the morning only to find that the tomb was empty.

HEAR; as they encounter two men who reminded them that Jesus had told His followers that He would arise on the third day.

WATCH; the stunned women racing to tell the disciples, who received their news in astonishment and were having difficulty wrapping their heads around this turn of events! BUT NOT PETER…………………Luke 24:12 (NKJV) “But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.”

Do you not wonder if Peter, our compulsive Peter, had seen an opportunity to grasp a ray of hope that He would see His Lord and seek his forgiveness; SO HE RAN WITH ALL HIS MIGHT TO THE TOMB?

Mark in his Gospel gives a similar account but in his record the divine visitor to the Garden Tomb instructed the women to tell the disciples AND PETER. (Mark 16:7)

Of all the disciples, I am sure Peter was the one that MOST needed to HEAR that his Lord was asking for him! It must have been music to Peter’s ears and a balm of healing to his soul!

We all, I am sure, can empathize with Peter…….. We all have failed many times in our faith and our walk with the Lord. I know I have!!

This passage in today’s Nugget gives me great reason to rejoice for it shows me clearly that we serve the God of second chances! Our loving Lord is not willing that ANY should perish so He extends his forgiveness, love and mercy to each of us over and over again!

Immerse yourself in His love today – let your heart sing, for the risen Lord has called your name and you are forgiven!

The Testing of Faith

Bush path by Trace Africa Photography

Bush path by Trace Africa Photography

THE TESTING OF FAITH

Reflecting of the events of the physical battle I have been waging over the past couple of months I was reminded of a statement I had written in my personal Devotional Journal 23 years ago.

These were the words I had written:

Faith is not the belief that God will do what you WANT. Faith is the belief that God will do what is BEST and RIGHT for you and be CONTENT to TRUST His choices!

Consider carefully the statement I have just written and allow it to soak into your soul. We all can have grand faith in God when everything is going well, but how do we react to God’s decisions in our lives when it was not what we asked Him for?

The best way for me to answer this question is to share with you from my own personal experience where God’s answer to my trusting faith was not what I asked for!

The date was April 20, 1993. It was our daughter’s 17th birthday. The medical orderly was making small talk with Glyn as he wheeled me down the long cluttered hospital corridor. We came to a set of swing doors; the orderly turned to Glyn and told him that this was as far as he could go. With barely time for a whispered “I love you” and a tender kiss, the doors closed behind me and I was wheeled into the glare of the cold sterile operating room. As the nurse and orderly slid me onto the narrow operating table, I shivered with apprehension, plus the coldness of the room began to chill me. Heated blankets were quickly brought to cover me and my shivering stopped once the warmth began to cocoon me with a sense of security. My surgeon patted my shoulder and asked if I was ready for a good sleep. As I began to drift off into a drug induced sleep I reminded the surgeon to draw a “smiley face” once he had removed the mass, as I was trusting God for a benign diagnosis.  THOSE WERE MY ACTUAL WORDS!

The fog of the anesthetic began to lift, in the distance, (or so it seemed) I could hear my surgeon’s voice breaking through to my waking moments. He took my hand and softly said:  “Norma I am sorry but you have extensive breast cancer and I need to do radical surgery tomorrow!”  Terrifying words…….not what I was expecting to hear.

The shock of the news began to sink in…..

My heart was screaming…… “How could this be?”

“Why had God let me down?”

“Surely there must be a mistake?”

“Why God, why did you not “honor” my faith in you?”

Questions were pounding in a rising crescendo….. But I had no answers!

Alone in the hospital room after loved ones had left for the night, I began to cry out to God for answers. This just seemed so wrong on all levels to my limited human understanding.  How could I have breast cancer? I believed firmly in divine healing and had even experienced miraculous touches from the Lord. I had given my life in ministry without ever looking back and now I am facing the “BIG C” and could not fathom why God had not honored my declarations of faith! Once the storm of tears had abated I had a sense of the comforting presence of the Lord silently permeating the hospital room. Picking up my Bible I felt a strong prompting to read:

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV) “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your OWN UNDERSTANDING; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

WOW! Like an exploding rocket, the truth of these verses burst upon me……

God was asking me to TRUST HIS CHOICE for my life in RESPONSE TO MY FAITH in Him!

To many readers this might sound like a total contradiction for a child of God. How could I even accept that dealing with breast cancer would even come close to resembling “God’s best” for me?

The answer was simple……..I needed to TRUST Him on this painful journey I was about to embark on, knowing that He, my loving heavenly Father, would direct my paths!  The years have slipped by; the recovery from the disfiguring surgery is a mere scar on my body and in my memory; the debilitating side effects of the therapy have long abated; the lessons that God was teaching me in the fires of suffering were learned and my voice was not silenced by the ravages of cancer.

Learning contentment in God’s choices has now become my daily bread.

You see…… God turned a devastating diagnosis into a “living classroom” and taught me so many lessons of faith that can be shared with others.  NOW, I CAN say with Job:  “Though He SLAY me, yet will I trust Him….” Job 13:15

Yes……. Faith is not the belief that God will do what we WANT. Faith is the belief that God will do what is BEST and RIGHT for us and be CONTENT to TRUST His choices!

Remember Jesus

Sunset at our home on October 15, 2016

Sunset at our home on October 15, 2016

REMEMBER JESUS

REMEMBER!

There are many things in our lives that we want to remember but there are other events that we would be just as happy if we could forget!

So this begs the question……What should we remember?

2 Timothy 2:7-9 (NKJV)  Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained.

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the young preacher, Timothy instructs him to “remember Jesus”, while he (Paul) is sitting in chains and within earshot of the sound of the anvil sharpening the blade that would soon behead, this great soldier of the Cross.

Notice Paul doesn’t use his last few hours having a “pity party”; NO, instead he urges Timothy to “remember Jesus”.

Can’t you just visualize the picture?  The old warrior, bowed and frail from the ravages of time, awaiting his execution and pouring his last hours of life into encouraging the young protégé that he had mentored. I have a feeling he was smiling as he slowly wrote with trembling hand……”Remember…..Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel….”

I think maybe Paul was reflecting on the many times in his own tumultuous life that Jesus “came near” and brought him help and comfort! He is now passing the torch to Timothy and the one thing he was endeavoring to instill in Timothy was that in ALL circumstances of his life he was to “remember Jesus”.

We have all been there, memories of events both good and bad, flooding our hearts at the most unexpected times and we will continue to make memories as long as there is breath in our body!

So once again I raise the question……..what or who should we remember?

Listen to Paul’s voice echoing down the long halls of time.

When times get hard, REMEMBER JESUS.

When friends don’t listen or care, REMEMBER JESUS.

When your tears are flowing and will not stop, REMEMBER JESUS.

When disappointments share your night hours; REMEMBER JESUS.

When illness and pain become your constant companions; REMEMBER JESUS.

When you stand beside the stark, open grave and say your earthly good-byes to love ones, REMEMBER JESUS.

This brings me to my next question.

How do we “remember” Jesus? Simply by “seeing” Jesus!!

SEE holiness walking hand in hand with humanity.

SEE the sick that were healed by his gentle touch.

SEE righteousness in command when Jesus cleared the temple of the unscrupulous money changers.

SEE His eyes when He looked with compassion on the woman at the well who badly needed to draw from the “living water” that He could give her.

SEE His infinite power when he called the evil spirits out of the man who was named Legion and restored him clothed and in his right mind, to his startled family.

SEE Him as he weeps over Jerusalem; the very God incarnate who shed human tears for lost humanity! Yes, remember and see Jesus!

You see each one can share times and events in our own lives when Jesus walked beside us, many times even carrying us as we struggled to cling to faith and trust in the midst of painful, confusing situations that threatened to overwhelm us.

YES, He stood beside Glyn and me on that dark night, when our son, Gary Anthony was born but did not live long enough to see his first sunrise. He held us in His loving arms while we clung to each other and wept.

YES, He was there in the hospital, walking beside me as I was being rolled on a gurney down the sterile hall to the operating room; knowing I was facing radical surgery for cancer! He was there in the operating room guiding my surgeon’s skillful hands while I slept a peaceful drug induced sleep.

YES, He was there that early morning hour when our phone rang and the doctor’s grave news that Glyn would not live through the day, wrenched the sleep from my eyes and broke my heart. He gave me the strength to call the children, get the saints praying, then race to the hospital and He filled me with His assurance that my beloved soul-mate would recover!

Oh, there are so many other times I could re-count when Jesus was in the midst of the storm with us and brought us through victoriously……….

You see…………….when we “remember Jesus” in the situations of life that confound our faith; we will SEE Him in our everyday encounters, assuring us that He is the author of our faith.  Then courage will bubble up in our soul like a mountain spring; and we WILL be more than conquerors!

REMEMBER JESUS AND SEE JESUS TODAY!