Often life is hard, but God is always good

Posts tagged ‘Peter’

Getting Free and Clear

Photo Credit: M.G. Kafkas

Photo Credit: M.G. Kafkas

“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice, and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” I Peter 2:1-3 (NIV)

Peter wrote us a list comprised of mostly “inside out” problems. Clearly, he took to heart Jesus’ teaching on cleaning the inside of the cup.   I imagine Peter listening intently as Jesus confronted the Pharisees:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” Matthew 23:25-26 (NIV)

This truth in Peter’s first epistle has come to us English speakers as a call to “get rid of” these inner sins. (“to rid oneself” is to relieve or free oneself of something unpleasant or undesirable). In ancient times, Norsemen and Germans used the word “to rid” to describe clearing land.

So what do I need to clear out of my personal territory?

I am most struck by envy because I struggle mightily with that invisible ugliness in my heart. Each week, I avert my eyes from the magazines displayed along the grocery check out line- not because they horrify me. On the contrary, I am irresistibly drawn into the world of the beautiful, the famous, and the rich. I wish my life were more like theirs.

“Envy is nothing more than a hostile form of self-pity.” Courage to Change, Al-Anon Family Groups, Inc.

Other cannot see my envy – unless they look closely and notice its secondary effects. According to Proverbs, its cancerous corrosion actually makes us less healthy: “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

The antidote is “a heart at peace” or, put another way, “godliness with contentment”, as Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy.

“Actually, godliness is a great source of profit when it is combined with being happy with what you already have.” I Timothy 6:6 (CEB)

To sum up, it is not enough to do good works, look great on the outside, and paste on a smile to mask our malicious, envious thoughts. Keeping silence and hiding our insides makes us very effective hypocrites, not true disciples.

Let’s obey Peter and get rid of it all, clearing our lives to make room for all the lovely stuff that God has ready to grow in us.



Is it Worth the Risk? Part Two

Photo Credit: Jean Marc Linder

Photo Credit: Jean Marc Linder

When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from the land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it…When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified…

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

            “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

            “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.
Matthew 14: 23b-32a New International Version

I decided to take my own advice and take a risk.  I put together a resume and applied to be a Spanish language interpreter for a local language bank.  I was accepted, completed a brief orientation and then received a first assignment.  I passed my probation period and now face new and difficult jobs.

These first steps required initial courage, but now I am faced with new challenges and I am not calm.  Like Peter, I stepped out of the boat, walked on water a bit, and came toward Jesus as He called me. Then I looked down (and around) and felt my courage evaporate!

The Bible account of Peter’s water walking says that Jesus reached out his hand “immediately”.  He does not hesitate when we cry out for his help.  All over the Bible, God reminds us of this instantaneous assistance.  “I will help you.” “I will be with you!” are his signature words.

Have you ever noticed in this gospel story that the wind died down only after Peter and Jesus climbed into the boat? It was still stormy as they stood hand in hand out on the water.

When I put myself in Peter’s place, standing– not sinking – in the midst of buffeting waves, the wind whips our hair into our faces and we laugh in the face of the storm.  I grip Jesus’ his hand more tightly and feel an electric surge of joy.

This cycle of courage, fear, rescue, and joy plays itself out in a loop.  These are my ups and downs when I seek to trust Jesus as I walk on the stormy sea.   I am so thankful that Jesus does not despise us for our fears.

Recently, Hillsong UNITED released their song, “Oceans, with the beautiful bridge lyrics; “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders.  Let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me.  Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.” (Hillsong UNITED, Zion, Hillsong Music, 2013 CD)

Step out of the boat.

Keep taking those risky steps on the water.

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