Malankara World Journal Reinstallation of Peter: Do You Love Me?
Volume 3 No. 138 April 18, 2013
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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We are into the second Sunday following new Sunday of the Easter Season. There are many important stories of the appearance of Jesus Christ between His resurrection and ascension. The one appearing to Mary Magdalena is usually featured on Easter Sunday services. My personal preference for the next three important ones are:
We have covered item 1 (Doubting Thomas) last week. We will cover the encounter with Peter in this issue and the Road to Emmaus in the next issue. Unfortunately, we are a little off from the lectionary in featuring these stories.
Personally, one of my most favorite passages in the bible is John 21:15-19. It gives me goose bumps every time I read that. Perhaps it reminds us of the time when we did something really bad; got caught and has to go in front of the person who we have wronged. That was the shape of Peter when he encountered Jesus Christ after the resurrection. But then this gospel also assures us that we have hope because of Jesus Christ.
Peter, after boasting to Jesus a few days ago that 'even if he had to diem he will never forsake Jesus' promptly denied Jesus three times when Jesus needed his support the most. We all had been there. We had to say a 'white lie' to cover our behind. Most of the time we get away with that too. How do we account for that in front of the Great Judge?
If you think that this meeting was hard of Peter, think of the situation of Jesus. Jesus needed to use all his management skills to handle this situation. All the disciples are eagerly watching to see how Jesus handles Peter. Depending on the tact used, Jesus can lose Peter for ever from the ministry or He can reinstate him to be the rock on which he will build his church.
So, this situation is interesting both from theological and management perspectives. We can learn a lot from it.
The best part is that, we are assured that the Bible is a gospel of second chances. We are all sinners; but Jesus has paid the penalty for our sins and we all have a chance to be redeemed. Primacy of Peter was reconfirmed by Jesus even after Peter did the unthinkable, 'denying his master three times.' It also reinforces one of the themes of Malankara World, 'God takes ordinary people and do extraordinary things through them' as he has done with Peter in this story. We don't have a vengeful God, we have a Loving God who is waiting anxiously for our repentance and to follow him. Isn't that bible all about?
On the ancient Appian Way south of Rome, there is a small church with a Latin name: Domine quo vadis ("Lord, where are you going?"). (The photo of the church is on our cover this week.) It commemorates a legend beloved of preachers since St. Ambrose, who used it in a sermon in the Milan cathedral. The legend says that during the persecution of Christians by the Emperor Nero in AD 64, Peter fled Rome. As he hurried along under the cover of darkness, he encountered a man walking in the opposite direction.
"Where are you going?" Peter asked.
"I am going to Rome," the traveler replied, "to be crucified afresh."
Peter recognized the voice at once. It was Jesus, returning to suffer death again, because His followers were suffering there. Conscience-stricken, Peter turned back toward the city, whereupon his companion vanished. When Nero's officials arrested him the next day, Peter insisted that they crucify him upside down. He wanted to die like his Master, but felt unworthy to do so in just the same way.
The popularity of this legend is understandable. It goes straight to the heart: to the weakness that is in each of us, but also to our longing for one last chance to live up to the highest and best within us. (1)
Why I love this gospel section most is because it reinforces the importance of Love. Cross is the biggest manifestation of love. Peter, with all his human limitations, has to be prepared to meet the confluence of Cross and Love. Following Jesus means carrying his cross. Jesus teaches him that lesson here.
John Bergsma, in his article 'The Primacy of Peter and the Primacy of Love' explained the importance of love this way:
What a savior, teacher and leader we have in Jesus. He has our names engraved on his hand. Aren't we lucky?
We extend our condolences and prayers to the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing. These acts of terrorism originate from the evil in human beings that crept into us due to the fall of mankind. The only remedy to that is prayer, fasting and love. God will make it right in due course.
1 Rev. John Jay Hughes, A Saint for the Rest of Us
Dr. Jacob Mathew
This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings For The Second Sunday after New Sunday
Before Holy Qurbana
This Week's Features
by Dr. Timothy Emerick
The God we serve is not a small God. His plan for your life is not for you to reach one level, get stuck and stay there for 30 or 40 years. His plan is to increase you, open new doors before you, and take you places that you've never imagined.
He has something big in your future! He's already planned out big breaks, big opportunities and big ideas for you. You may have seen God's goodness in the past, but you have not touched the surface of what God has in your future! God is about to do a new thing!
And what I sense in my spirit is that the new thing is going to be far greater than you've ever seen before. It's going to be bigger than you imagined. It's going to be more rewarding than you thought possible.
You've got to come into agreement and say, "Yes, God, this is for me today. I'm not going to get stuck where I am. I'm not going to go around with little dreams, little goals. I know you're a big God, and You have something big coming my way!"
by Fr. Jack Peterson
There is an enormous amount of brokenness and sin in our world today. We see it in societies where poverty, hatred, war and genocide still abound. It is evident in homes where genuine care, loving sacrifice and dedicated family time often are absent. We also see it in individual lives where selfishness, despair, resentment and anger reign.
Jesus died on Good Friday and rose on Easter Sunday to destroy these evils that prevail in much of our world. He is the Divine Physician who wants to heal our wounds, forgive our sins and renew our hearts. Jesus has a mission to repair our broken world, one heart at a time.
This week's Gospel lays out for us Jesus' effort to heal the heart of Peter, the rock upon whom He intended to build His church. Peter's own weakness and brokenness led him to deny that he knew Our Lord three times during Jesus' darkest hour. The one who, hours before, had boldly promised that he would die for Jesus, has a meltdown before the ones who question him, "You are not one of his disciples, are you?"
Peter's three-fold denial of Our Lord seriously damaged his faith, confidence and sense of self. Jesus, keenly aware of this reality, approaches Peter to heal him and renew him. "Simon, Son of John, do you love me?" The risen Jesus begins the healing by simply approaching Peter and initiating an encounter. Then, Our Lord intentionally questions Peter three times concerning his love for the divine Savior. Our Lord gave Peter the chance to repair the breach and to pledge his heart anew with a three-fold public confirmation. What a skilled Physician.
In addition to healing Peter's heart, Our Lord recommissions him as head of the apostles and visible leader of His church. As the father in the parable of the prodigal son restores his son's dignity as a member of the family by the gift of the sandals, ring and fine robe, Jesus restores Peter as chief shepherd of the flock by commanding him to feed and tend His sheep. Peter desperately needed this moment in order to have full confidence in the role that Jesus had given him after the first miraculous catch of fish. This encounter fashioned by our risen Lord was an incredible gift to Peter and the church.
The Divine Physician also exercises His role as the Divine Teacher by highlighting that leadership in the kingdom must flow first from love for Christ. St. Paul will emphasize this reality in his famous passage from First Corinthians where he states that if I have the gift of prophecy, the faith to move mountains, and the generosity to give everything I have away but have not love, then I am nothing at all. All leadership among Christians must begin with a profound love for the person of Jesus Christ. Otherwise the leadership will be corrupted and go astray.
Jesus knew well Peter's heart. His love for Peter, His gift of healing and His extraordinary trust in him proved true. Peter became a generous, wise and courageous shepherd of the flock. By God's grace, Peter served Our Lord faithfully and remained close to the one he loved until the very end. Simon Peter gave his life in the end in Rome as a witness to the risen Lord and as leader of the church commissioned to make disciples of all nations and to teach them all that the Lord had commanded.
All of us have had our meltdowns and denied Jesus with our words and actions. We have damaged our faith and lost confidence. The Divine Physician knows our hearts as well. He wants to extend His mercy, bring us healing and send us out to be His witnesses in the world. Let's commit to being like Peter this Easter season and accept the new life of Christ.
About The Author:
Fr. Peterson is assistant chaplain at Marymount University in Arlington and director of the Youth Apostles Institute in McLean.
Source: Arlington Catholic Herald
by Pope Francis
1. What a beautiful truth of faith 'Divine Mercy' is for our lives: the mercy of God! God's love for us is so great, so deep; it is an unfailing love, one which always takes us by the hand and supports us, lifts us up and leads us on.
2. Apostle Thomas personally experienced this mercy of God, which has a concrete face, the face of Jesus, the risen Jesus. Thomas does not believe it when the other Apostles tell him: "We have seen the Lord". It isn't enough for him that Jesus had foretold it, promised it: "On the third day I will rise". He wants to see, he wants to put his hand in the place of the nails and in Jesus' side. And how does Jesus react? With patience: Jesus does not abandon Thomas in his stubborn unbelief; he gives him a week's time, he does not close the door, he waits. And Thomas acknowledges his own poverty, his little faith. "My Lord and my God!": with this simple yet faith-filled invocation, he responds to Jesus' patience. He lets himself be enveloped by divine mercy; he sees it before his eyes, in the wounds of Christ's hands and feet and in his open side, and he discovers trust: he is a new man, no longer an unbeliever, but a believer.
Let us also remember Peter: three times he denied Jesus, precisely when he should have been closest to him; and when he hits bottom, he meets the gaze of Jesus who patiently, wordlessly, says to him: "Peter, don't be afraid of your weakness, trust in me". Peter understands, he feels the loving gaze of Jesus, and he weeps. How beautiful is this gaze of Jesus - how much tenderness is there! Brothers and sisters, let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God!
Let us think too of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus: their sad faces, their barren journey, their despair. But Jesus does not abandon them: he walks beside them, and not only that! Patiently he explains the Scriptures which spoke of him, and he stays to share a meal with them. This is God's way of doing things: he is not impatient like us, who often want everything all at once, even in our dealings with other people. God is patient with us because he loves us, and those who love are able to understand, to hope, to inspire confidence; they do not give up, they do not burn bridges, they are able to forgive. Let us remember this in our lives as Christians: God always waits for us, even when we have left him behind! He is never far from us, and if we return to him, he is ready to embrace us.
I am always struck when I reread the parable of the merciful Father; it impresses me because it always gives me great hope. Think of that younger son who was in the Father's house, who was loved; and yet he wants his part of the inheritance; he goes off, spends everything, hits rock bottom, where he could not be more distant from the Father, yet when he is at his lowest, he misses the warmth of the Father's house and he goes back. And the Father? Had he forgotten the son? No, never. He is there, he sees the son from afar, he was waiting for him every hour of every day, the son was always in his father's heart, even though he had left him, even though he had squandered his whole inheritance, his freedom.
The Father, with patience, love, hope and mercy, had never for a second stopped thinking about him, and as soon as he sees him still far off, he runs out to meet him and embraces him with tenderness, the tenderness of God, without a word of reproach: he is back! And that is the joy of the Father. In that embrace of the son there is all of this joy: he is back! God is always waiting for us, he never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence, hope - always!
A great German theologian, Romano Guardini, said that God responds to our weakness by his patience, and this is the reason for our confidence, our hope (cf. Glaubenserkenntnis, Würzburg, 1949, p. 28). It is like a dialogue between our weakness and the patience of God, a dialogue that, if we will engage in it, gives us hope.
3. I would like to emphasize one other thing: God's patience has to call forth in us the courage to return to him, however many mistakes and sins there may be in our life. Jesus tells Thomas to put his hand in the wounds of his hands and his feet, and in his side. We too can enter into the wounds of Jesus, we can actually touch him. This happens every time that we receive the sacraments with faith.
Saint Bernard, in a fine homily, says: "Through the wounds of Jesus I can suck honey from the rock and oil from the flinty rock (cf. Deut 32:13), I can taste and see the goodness of the Lord" (On the Song of Songs, 61:4). It is there, in the wounds of Jesus, that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his heart. Thomas understood this.
Saint Bernard goes on to ask: What can I count on? On my own merits? No, "My merit is God's mercy. I am by no means lacking merits as long as he is rich in mercy. If the mercies of the Lord are manifold, I too will abound in merits" (ibid., 5). This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus' mercy, to trust in his patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of his love. Saint Bernard even states: "So what if my conscience gnaws at me for my many sins? 'Where sin has abounded, there grace has abounded all the more' (Rom 5:20)" (ibid.).
But some of us may think: my sin is so great, I am as far from God as the younger son in the parable, my unbelief is like that of Thomas; I don't have the courage to go back, to believe that God can welcome me and that he is waiting for me, of all people. But God is indeed waiting for you; he asks of you only the courage to go to him. How many times in my pastoral ministry have I heard it said: "Father, I have many sins"; and I have always pleaded: "Don't be afraid, go to him, he is waiting for you, he will take care of everything". We hear many offers from the world around us; but let us take up God's offer instead: his is a caress of love. For God, we are not numbers, we are important, indeed we are the most important thing to him; even if we are sinners, we are what is closest to his heart.
Adam, after his sin, experiences shame, he feels naked, he senses the weight of what he has done; and yet God does not abandon him: if that moment of sin marks the beginning of his exile from God, there is already a promise of return, a possibility of return. God immediately asks: "Adam, where are you?" He seeks him out. Jesus took on our nakedness, he took upon himself the shame of Adam, the nakedness of his sin, in order to wash away our sin: by his wounds we have been healed. Remember what Saint Paul says: "What shall I boast of, if not my weakness, my poverty? Precisely in feeling my sinfulness, in looking at my sins, I can see and encounter God's mercy, his love, and go to him to receive forgiveness.
In my own life, I have so often seen God's merciful countenance, his patience; I have also seen so many people find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to him: Lord, I am here, accept my poverty, hide my sin in your wounds, wash it away with your blood. And I have always seen that God did just this - he accepted them, consoled them, cleansed them, loved them.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us be enveloped by the mercy of God; let us trust in his patience, which always gives us more time. Let us find the courage to return to his house, to dwell in his loving wounds, allowing ourselves be loved by him and to encounter his mercy in the sacraments. We will feel his tenderness, so beautiful, we will feel his embrace, and we too will become more capable of mercy, patience, forgiveness and love.
[Editor's Note: Text was slightly edited and reformatted.]
by Dr. Ray Pritchard
Gospel: Luke 22:31-34
Bible has many stories of spiritual leaders falling into grievous sin. There is Noah who got drunk, Abraham who lied about his wife, Moses who murdered an Egyptian, and of course there is David who committed adultery and then had a man murdered to cover up his sin. Then there was Peter, the rock, who has denied Jesus three times.
But for the Grace of God
Why does God allow such things to happen? Why does he allow good men to fall in to sin - and what are we to learn from this? I'm sure we all know one answer already. God allows good men to fall into sin so that the rest of us will learn not to make the same stupid mistake. That's true, of course. How many of us have heard bad news about a friend and said, "There but for the grace of God go I?" I have said that to myself many times - and so have you. It's perfectly true that we can all take a lesson from the mistakes of others - and if we don't, we may find ourselves wishing we had.
But there is much more to be learned and that is the burden of my message. I want us to take a look at the story of Peter who three times denied his Lord. Perhaps the place to begin is with a simple reading of the text. Listen to these words of Jesus spoken to Peter on the night before he was crucified. "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:31-32). These words must have seemed strange to Peter, coming as it were out of the blue. It has been well remarked that Peter in many ways is the most human of all the disciples. He constantly gets in trouble because he blurts out the stuff everyone else is thinking but doesn't have the guts to say. He is the man with the foot-shaped mouth, constantly promising more than he can deliver.
This night is no exception. When he hears these words of Jesus, he knows without being told that they contain a great rebuke - a prediction of personal failure that must have seemed impossible. But Peter is nothing if not brave at heart, so he replies foolishly but honestly, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death" (Luke 22:33). He did not know that years later he would keep that promise. But not that night. As he uttered those words, his moment of greatest personal failure - the blot that 2000 years cannot remove from his record - his threefold denial of Christ was less that five hours away.
Ponder the words of Jesus for a moment, "But when you have turned back." The King James says it this way, "But when you are converted." Some people have stumbled over that statement but I think it is entirely accurate. The words of our Lord hang in the air with a message we need to hear. It is entirely possible to be an unconverted Christian. Peter was saved but in some deep sense he was not yet fully converted to the Master's use - and that explains his tragic failure.
From this text I'd like to share with you four important principles that help us understand why good men fall and what we can learn from it.
I. No Christian man is beyond the possibility of real moral failure.
This point is so obvious that I imagine no one would argue against it. Jesus told Peter that Satan desired to "sift" him like wheat. One translation says, "Satan has demanded" while another says, "Satan has claimed the right" to sift you. That thought may shock some of you because it is sometimes said that Satan has no authority over the Christian. That's true in one sense because we know Satan can do nothing without God's express permission. Martin Luther said that the devil is "god's devil," meaning that he ultimately serves God's purpose in the universe. But he also said that this world is filled with devils who threaten to undo us. In this day and age, it's easy to become unbalanced regarding Satan and his work. But let our text speak with a full voice. There is a mortal enemy of your soul who would destroy you if he could. Peter never forgot the words of Jesus that fateful night, and many years later he said it this way, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). We are fools if we do not take these words seriously.
I met a retired missionary who had served the Lord with distinction for many years. After hearing me speak, he asked if he could talk to me privately. He confided that when he was a young man, he had struggled greatly in the area of sexual temptation. "When I got to my fifties," he said, "I was still fighting the battle, but I always thought that when I finally grew old, the temptation would disappear." But it didn't. "It's as strong today as it was when I was a young man." He was in his mid-80s when he talked with me.
I say that simply to point out that sin comes to all of us in many different ways, and we dare not take anything for granted.
II. Satan often attacks us at the point of our strength, not at the point of our weakness.
After all, had not Peter boldly said, "Even if all fall away, I will not" (Mark 14:29)? If you had asked Peter six hours earlier to name his strong points, no doubt he would have listed boldness and courage right at the top. He would have said, "Sometimes I put my foot in my mouth, but at least I'm not afraid to speak up. Jesus knows that I'll always be there when he needs me."
But when Satan attacked, it came so suddenly, so swiftly, so unexpectedly that the "bold apostle turned to butter." By himself Peter is helpless. In the moment of crisis, Peter failed at the very point where he pledged to be eternally faithful.
Should this surprise us? After all, why should Satan attack only at the point of your self-perceived weakness? If you know you have a weakness, that's the very area you will guard most carefully. If you know you have a problem with anger or with laziness or with lust or with gluttony, will you not be on your guard lest you fall?
But it is not so with your strengths. You tend to take those areas for granted. You say, "That's not a problem for me. I have other problems, but that area is not really a temptation at all."
Watch out! Put up the red flag! There is danger ahead. When a person takes any area of life for granted, that's the one area Satan is most likely to attack. Why? Because that's the one area where you aren't watching for his attack.
It happened to Peter. It will happen to you and to me sooner or later.
III. God allows us to fail in order to strip away our excessive self-confidence.
Never again would Peter brag on himself like he did that night. Never again would he presume to be better than his brothers. Never again would he be so cocky and self-confident. All that was gone forever, part of the price Peter paid for his failure in the moment of crisis.
It is a good thing that the Lord allows this to happen to us. By falling flat on our faces we are forced to admit that without the Lord we can do nothing but fail. The quicker we learn that (and we never learn it completely), the better off we will be. Failure never seems to be a good thing when it happens, but if failure strips away our cocky self-confidence, then failure is ultimately a gift from God.
Many years ago during a difficult moment, in a time of enormous stress, I said some things to some dear friends that I ought not to have said. The reasons don't matter nor would I repeat here what I said to them. Suffice it to say that under duress, I got angry and said hurtful things to people who did not deserve to be treated like that. In the days that followed, I paid dearly for losing my cool. I found that the anger within subsided very slowly. It was as though once the top had been blown off, I couldn't get it back on again. My anger flared every time I thought of that confrontation.
A month later while attending a conference in another state, I happened to meet a man who was to become a close personal friend. One night we stayed up late and I told, in exhaustive detail, the story of my personal explosion. As I told it, I got angry all over again.
My friend listened to the whole sordid tale and then he spoke. "Ray, you are a lucky man. What happened to you was a sign of God's grace." I was baffled by his words. Had he missed the point of my story? But he knew me better than I knew myself. "God has shown you his grace by allowing you to lose your temper like that." How could losing my temper be an act of God's grace? "For many years you've had the image of a man completely in control of his life. You appear on the outside to be laid-back. People who don't know you well think that you don't have a worry in the world. And you've cultivated that image because it makes you popular and easy to like. But the truth is far different. There's a seething cauldron inside you that you've managed to keep a lid on for a long time. But that night, the lid came off. Before that night, if anyone had said, ‘Do you have a temper?' you would have laughed and said, ‘Not really.' You can't say that anymore."
Then he went on to explain a fundamental truth about the Christian life. "As we grow in Christ, most of us come to the place where we think there are some sins we just won't commit. Maybe we don't say it out loud, but in our hearts we think, ‘I would never do that.' That's what happened to you and your temper. You covered yours for so long that you thought it had gone away. But it was there, like a snake coiled in the grass, waiting for the chance to strike."
He concluded with these penetrating words. "That night God pulled back the cover and let the world see the depravity within your own heart. From now on, whenever you stand up and speak, you can never say, ‘I don't have a temper," because you do. God let you say those terrible things to your friends so that you could never again pretend to be something that you are not. That's the grace of God at work in your life."
I believe every word my friend said was absolutely true. God let me fail in the moment of crisis and in so doing, he showed me a part of myself I had never seen before.
That's what he did for Peter. Never again would Peter stand up and boast about his courage. In the future he would talk about humility instead.
IV. God can redeem your mistakes if you will let him.
I notice two encouraging facts about the way Jesus treated Peter:
Jesus knew about Peter's denial long before it happened. He knew what Peter would do, he knew how he would react, and he knew the kind of man Peter would be afterward. That's why he said, "When you have turned back." Not if ... but when! He knew that Peter's heart was good, he knew after his terrible sin he would return to the Lord. Isn't that wonderful? Jesus has more faith in Peter than Peter has in Jesus. He knew that Peter had important work to do - "Strengthen your brothers" - but it couldn't happen without his fall and his restoration to the Lord. It had to happen that way or else Peter would never be fully effective for Christ.
There is an important principle at work here. A bone that is broken often becomes stronger after it is healed. Something in the healing process actually makes the break point stronger than it was before. The same is true of a rope that breaks. In the hands of a master splicer, the rope once repaired becomes stronger than it was before.
The same thing is true of our failures. God can touch our broken places and make us stronger than we were before. Though we fall and fall and fall, and though our faces are covered with the muck and grime of bitter defeat, by God's grace we can rise from the field of defeat to march on to new victory.
That's what happened to Peter. His guilt was turned into grace; his shame into sympathy; his failure into faithfulness.
Here is the proof: Peter did much more for Jesus Christ after his fall than he did before. Before his fall, he was loud, boisterous and unreliable; afterward he became a flaming preacher of the gospel. Before, he was a big talker; afterward, he talked only of what Jesus Christ could do for others. He was the same man, but he was different. He was still Peter through and through, but he had been sifted by Satan, and in the sifting the chaff of his life had been blown away.
This is what Peter lost in his failure:
This is what Peter gained after his restoration:
The things he lost he didn't really need; the things he gained couldn't have come any other way. In the same way God redeems our mistakes by removing the things that brought us down and replacing them with the qualities we always wanted but couldn't seem to find.
Hope for the Fallen
There is much in this story to encourage us. It was not the real Peter who denied the Lord; it was the real Peter who followed him into the courtyard. It was not the real Peter who cursed and swore; it was the real Peter who said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." When the Lord looks at you and me, he sees beyond our faults to the loyalty underneath. He sees our pain, our tears, and our earnest desire to please him. He sees us in our faltering attempts to follow him.
To whom does this story apply? First of all, to you who are being tempted, who feel the pull of circumstances conspiring to draw you away from the Lord, take heart! Do you feel weak and confused? Peter felt that way, too. Are you discouraged about your life? Peter felt discouraged, too. Do you feel backed into a corner? So did Peter. This story is for you.
Second, this story is for those who have fallen. Perhaps you gave way under pressure this week. Perhaps you carry a load of guilt from some thoughtless words spoken in haste. Perhaps you denied the Lord by keeping quiet at work when you should have spoken up. Perhaps you have used vile language this week - even if only spoken under your breath. Perhaps you have been where you ought not to have been. Perhaps you have found yourself in a relationship that you know is wrong. Take heart! Peter not only felt like you, he also fell like you.
Third, this story is for those who are coming back to God. Perhaps you know all about weeping bitter tears. Do you feel as if God is far away? Does it seem as if you are trudging across a vast desert all alone? Do you feel embarrassed and humiliated by the things you did and said that got you in the mess you're in? Take heart! Peter felt that way, too.
No story in all the Bible gives us more hope. If Peter can fall, anybody can fall. If Peter can come back, anybody can come back.
The First Law of Spiritual Progress
One final point. Where did this story come from? How did it get in the Bible? Who told this story in the first place? It could only have come from Peter. No one else was there to tell what happened. We wouldn't have done that. We hide our mistakes to make sure no one finds out about them. Not Peter. Once he was restored, he couldn't stop talking about what Jesus had done for him.
Several years ago the Lord gave me a series of simple statements that I call the First Law of Spiritual Progress:
I CAN'T GO BACK
You can't go back to the past - not to relive the good times or to undo the mistakes you made. But you can't stay where you are either. Life is a river that flows endlessly onward. It matters not whether you are happy in your present situation or whether you seek deliverance from it. You can't stay where you are forever. The only way to go is forward. When you are tempted to despair, remember that you can't go back, you can't stay where you are, but by God's grace, you can move forward one step at a time.
Peter still speaks to us today. "If you think you've fallen short, if you feel like you've denied him, look at what happened to me." Do not despair. God still loves you, and He loves you so much that it doesn't matter what you've done. If God can forgive Peter, he can forgive anybody. He loves you, He always has, and He always will.
There is hope for all of us - the best of us, the worst of us, and the rest of us. If you have fallen, he can pick you up again. If you are broken, he can make you whole again. If you have failed, he can make you useful again. If you have lost your courage, he can give it back to you again.
Take heart and believe the good news. If he did it for Peter, he can do it for you.
© Keep Believing Ministries
Editor's Note: The article has been edited.
by Max Lucado
It was small enough to overlook. Only two words. I know I'd read that passage a hundred times. But I'd never seen it.
But I won't miss it again. It's highlighted in yellow and underlined in red. You might want to do the same. Look in Mark, chapter 16. Get your pencil ready and enjoy this jewel in the seventh verse (here it comes). The verse reads like this: "But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee.
Did you see it? Read it again. (This time I italicized the words.)
"But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee."
Now tell me if that's not a hidden treasure.
If I might paraphrase the words, "Don't stay here, go tell the disciples," a pause, then a smile, "and especially tell Peter, that he is going before you to Galilee."
What a line. It's as if all of heaven had watched Peter fall - and it's as if all of heaven wanted to help him back up again. "Be sure and tell Peter that he's not left out. Tell him that one failure doesn't make a flop."
No wonder they call it the gospel of the second chance.
Those who know these types of things say that the Gospel of Mark is really the transcribed notes and dictated thoughts of Peter. If this is true, then it was Peter himself who included these two words! And if these really are his words, I can't help but imagine that the old fisherman had to brush away a tear and swallow a lump when he got to this point in the story.
No Wonder They Call Him the Savior. It's not every day that you get a second chance. Peter must have known that. The next time he saw Jesus, he got so excited that he barely got his britches on before he jumped into the cold water of the Sea of Galilee. It was also enough, so they say, to cause this backwoods Galilean to carry the gospel of the second chance all the way to Rome where they killed him. If you've ever wondered what would cause a man to be willing to be crucified upside down, maybe now you know.
It's not every day that you find someone who will give you a second chance - much less someone who will give you a second chance every day.
But in Jesus, Peter found both.
Source: UpWords with Max Lucado
by Oswald Chambers
Have you ever felt the pain, inflicted by the Lord, at the very center of your being, deep down in the most sensitive area of your life? The devil never inflicts pain there, and neither can sin nor human emotions. Nothing can cut through to that part of our being but the Word of God.
"Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, 'Do you love Me?' " Yet he was awakened to the fact that at the center of his personal life he was devoted to Jesus. And then he began to see what Jesus' patient questioning meant. There was not the slightest bit of doubt left in Peter's mind; he could never be deceived again. And there was no need for an impassioned response; no need for immediate action or an emotional display. It was a revelation to him to realize how much he did love the Lord, and with amazement he simply said, "Lord, You know all things . . . ."
Peter began to see how very much he did love Jesus, and there was no need to say, "Look at this or that as proof of my love." Peter was beginning to discover within himself just how much he really did love the Lord. He discovered that his eyes were so fixed on Jesus Christ that he saw no one else in heaven above or on the earth below. But he did not know it until the probing, hurting questions of the Lord were asked. The Lord's questions always reveal the true me to myself.
Oh, the wonder of the patient directness and skill of Jesus Christ with Peter! Our Lord never asks questions until the perfect time. Rarely, but probably once in each of our lives, He will back us into a corner where He will hurt us with His piercing questions. Then we will realize that we do love Him far more deeply than our words can ever say.
Source: My Utmost for His Highest (The Golden Book of Oswald Chambers)
by Oswald Chambers
This is love in the making. The love of God is not created - it is His nature. When we receive the life of Christ through the Holy Spirit, He unites us with God so that His love is demonstrated in us. The goal of the indwelling Holy Spirit is not just to unite us with God, but to do it in such a way that we will be one with the Father in exactly the same way Jesus was. And what kind of oneness did Jesus Christ have with the Father? He had such a oneness with the Father that He was obedient when His Father sent Him down here to be poured out for us. And He says to us, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21).
Peter now realizes that he does love Him, due to the revelation that came with the Lord's piercing question. The Lord's next point is - "Pour yourself out. Don't testify about how much you love Me and don't talk about the wonderful revelation you have had, just 'Feed My sheep.' "
Jesus has some extraordinarily peculiar sheep: some that are unkempt and dirty, some that are awkward or pushy, and some that have gone astray! But it is impossible to exhaust God's love, and it is impossible to exhaust my love if it flows from the Spirit of God within me. The love of God pays no attention to my prejudices caused by my natural individuality.
If I love my Lord, I have no business being guided by natural emotions - I have to feed His sheep. We will not be delivered or released from His commission to us. Beware of counterfeiting the love of God by following your own natural human emotions, sympathies, or understandings. That will only serve to revile and abuse the true love of God.
I was an 8th grade teacher at Floyd Middle School in Atlanta, Georgia. A group of teachers were waiting in a room to play the students in a basketball game. I remarked to my principal, "You know what I have discovered about teaching? 50% of teaching is repeating directions." My principal shot right back, "What did you say?" I said, "50% of teaching is repeating directions."
The laughter of other teachers helped me to get the joke, and I laughed with them.
Anyone working or living with children knows that messages, directions, orders, everything has to be repeated multiple times before anything seems to register. Has anyone ever taken out the garbage after being asked only once? How many of you children clean your rooms after one invitation? How many of you write thank-you notes after only one entry in the "Things to Do" list you make up every day?
But instructions aren't the only things we need to hear more than once in order to take them to heart. In order to survive and thrive, we all need to hear someone say to us, "I love you." And it needs to happen more than once a year. For some of us who have weathered the hurts of broken relationships, saying, "I love you," for the first time again is one of the most frightening things we will ever do.
David Beckett, Just Say, 'I Love You'
by Oswald Chambers
Peter's response to this piercing question is considerably different from the bold defiance he exhibited only a few days before when he declared, "Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!" (Matthew 26:35 ; also see Matthew 26:33-34). Our natural individuality, or our natural self, boldly speaks out and declares its feelings. But the true love within our inner spiritual self can be discovered only by experiencing the hurt of this question of Jesus Christ.
Peter loved Jesus in the way any natural man loves a good person. Yet that is nothing but emotional love. It may re self, but it never penetrates to the spirit of a person. True love never simply declares itself. Jesus said, "Whoever confesses Me before men [that is, confesses his love by everything he does, not merely by his words], him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God" (Luke 12:8).
Unless we are experiencing the hurt of facing every deception about ourselves, we have hindered the work of the Word of God in our lives. The Word of God inflicts hurt on us more than sin ever could, because sin dulls our senses. But this question of the Lord intensifies our sensitivities to the point that this hurt produced by Jesus is the most exquisite pain conceivable. It hurts not only on the natural level, but also on the deeper spiritual level. "For the Word of God is living and powerful . . . , piercing even to the division of soul and spirit . . ."- to the point that no deception can remain (Hebrews 4:12).
When the Lord asks us this question, it is impossible to think and respond properly, because when the Lord speaks directly to us, the pain is too intense. It causes such a tremendous hurt that any part of our life which may be out of line with His will can feel the pain. There is never any mistaking the pain of the Lord's Word by His children, but the moment that pain is felt is the very moment at which God reveals His truth to us.
Move It or Lose It: 5 Moves to Put Seniors Back in the Game
For Americans 65 and older, falling down can be the worst thing to happen to them, according to statistics from the National Council on Aging:
• One in three seniors experiences a significant fall each year
• Every 18 seconds, a senior is admitted into an emergency room after losing balance and hitting the ground
• Every 35 minutes, an elderly person dies from a fall -- the leading cause of death for seniors
"The projected cost in health-care expenses for 2020 due to fall-related injuries in the United States is $55 billion," says Karen Peterson, a therapist with multiple certifications, and author of "Move With Balance: Healthy Aging Activities for Brain and Body," (www.MoveWithBalance.org). She's also the founder and director of Giving Back, a nonprofit organization that grows and spreads programs that support senior health.
"It's important for seniors to keep moving and learning, that's what helps improve balance and coordination, and even helps build new neural pathways," says Peterson, who emphasizes the cognitive importance to her workout programs. "But if you're rather frail, or just very fearful of falling, you're less likely to get up and move around." These activities benefit all seniors, from 55 to 105.
Peterson says a fun, social program of games and activities that include exercises specifically designed for seniors helps them address multiple issues, including those that tend to keep seniors sedentary - which only lessens their strength and balance.
Last year, her program was independently evaluated from Hawaii's Department of Heath, which found a statistically significant reduction in falls from seniors - 38 percent. It also won the MindAlert Award from the American Society on Aging.
"Seniors of all ages need to continually work on improving their balance, coordination, strength, vision and cognitive skills. When they do, they're less likely to fall - and more able to enjoy life."
Peterson suggests these moves, which address many different areas of the body:
• The cross-crawl:
After various light warm-ups, begin with the basic cross-crawl, which focuses on the fundamentals of balance. March in place, lifting the knees high. At the same time, reach across and touch the lifted knee with the opposite hand or elbow; alternate and keep going. This can be done sitting, standing or lying down. Once any of these exercises are mastered, Peterson says, participants should continue to challenge themselves. For even greater balance work, and to exercise the vestibular system, close your eyes and count backwards from 100 by threes. "It's not fun if you're not conquering a challenge," she says. Her book includes several challenges for each exercise.
• Forward toe-touch dancer:
To improve motor skills, physical coordination and cognition, there are many dance exercises that are appropriate for seniors. If needed, use a chair for assistance. Place your feet shoulder-width apart. Now, simultaneously extend your left foot and your right arm forward. Keep your left toes pointed down, touching the floor; or for more difficulty, maintain the toes a few inches off the floor. Repeat this move with your left arm and right foot. Hold each pose for several seconds, and increase holding time.
• Sensory integration - the arrow chart:
Look at an arrow chart and call out the direction indicated by each individual symbol. Then, thrust your arms in that direction; in other words, say and do what the arrow indicates. For an additional challenge, do the opposite of what the arrow indicates.
• Side-step walk:
Walk sidestepping - bring your right foot across the left and step down three to five inches away from the left foot, ankles crossed. The closer the feet, the harder it is to balance. Alternate crossing the foot in front and then behind the other foot as you move along; repeat several times, then do the same with opposite feet. As a bonus challenge, try a reading exercise from a vision card, designed for stimulating the brain/visual system, while sidestepping.
• The cat jump:
This activity is practice in case of a fall; the muscle memory of the movement will be etched in your body. Bend your knees in a squat. Jump a little off the ground with both feet, and land softly, like a cat, without jarring your body. Repeat until you are confident in your ability to prevent a spill.
"Research shows that most falls are preventable," Peterson says. "These and other exercises, performed regularly, are a great way to achieve safety and a revitalized lifestyle."
About Karen Peterson
Karen Peterson is founder and director of Giving Back, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of elders through intergenerational mentoring. She has multiple certifications, including as a Brain Gym® instructor, educational kinesiologist, natural vision improvement instructor, Touch for Health instructor and a massage therapist.
1/2 pound sweet Italian pork sausage, casing removed
Shape the sausage firmly into 1/2-inch meatballs. Didn’t do this!
Heat the oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook until they’re well browned on all sides. Remove the meatballs from the saucepan. Pour off any fat.
Stir the broth, tomatoes, picante sauce and garlic powder in the saucepan and heat to a boil. Stir in the pasta. Return the meatballs to the saucepan. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.
Stir in the green beans and kidney beans. Cook for 10 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through and the pasta is tender, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with the cheese before serving, if desired.
Easy Substitution: Substitute 1 can (about 16 ounces) cut green beans, drained, for the frozen.
Time-Saving: For quicker preparation, omit the first step and cook the sausage over medium-high heat until it’s well browned, stirring often to separate meat. Leave the sausage in the skillet and pour off any fat. Proceed with the remainder of the recipe as directed.
Source: Magnolia from Internet
By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.
The subject of roles within a marriage can be a topic for strong debate. However, God has a clear design for us to follow. There are specific roles for a husband and a wife.
The reason many couples struggle with their marriages is because they fail to apply God's principles to their lives and to their relationships. When they do this, they miss a blessing.
The word submission has become a very emotional word for many people. Often we resist submitting our lives to one another because we fear we will be hurt.
However, when we follow God's plan for submission, the result is not a low self-esteem, as some would have us believe. Instead, it is an increased sense of love for our partner and for the Lord.
Without a doubt, Jesus Christ is our model for godly submission. He submitted His life to God's plan to the point of enduring death on the cross. When we obey God's commands and base our plan for marriage on His Word, our lives are changed and our marriages are strengthened. We learn to love one another the way Jesus loves us. Submission no longer is an issue to be debated; it is the natural thing to do. Paul writes:
As God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:12-13).
Do you honor your spouse above yourself? Is your desire to give love and support rather than tear down? When you honor one another with your love, you really are honoring the Lord.
Lord, please forgive me for tearing down my spouse when they do not fulfill my expectations or meet my needs the way I prefer. Thank you for your forgiveness, grace and mercy that are new every morning for me-may I share the same with my spouse. Will you help me to love and care for my spouse the way You have designed? I pray I will see my spouse through Your eyes and will help him/her become the person you desire them to be in Christ. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
© 2013 Leading The Way
by Dan Miller
When we talk about change, here's a good starting point: This is an inscription on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop in Westminster Abbey:
"When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits,
As I grew older and wiser I discovered the world would not change -
As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt,
And now I realize as I lie on my deathbed, if I had only changed myself first,
Source: Live It Devotional; This article appeared originally on 48days.com. Used with permission.
About The Author:
Dan Miller, President of 48 Days LLC, specializes in creative thinking for increased personal and business success. He is the author of '48 Days to The Work You Love' and 'No More Mondays'. He writes regularly for many popular magazines and web portals, including CBN.com, Crosswalk.com, In Touch, AARP and Success magazines and the Zig Ziglar newsletter. Visit his website at www.48days.com/wisdommeetspassion.
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