He knew he had messed up as soon as he heard the rooster crow. As he turned his head, he saw Jesus look at him.  The look said it all.  Jesus had told him that he would do it.  And he had vehemently denied that he would ever.  But he did it.  He denied his Lord.  Not once.   Not twice.  But three times.  Before the rooster crowed.  Just as Jesus said he would.

Jesus had been arrested.  Peter had followed.  Keeping tabs on his Lord that night.  Waiting to see what would happen after the arrest.  The girl noticed him.  She called him out.  You were with the man.  No. I. Wasn’t.  That’s what Peter said three times.  Each time he was noticed, he said it.  I never knew Him.

After he heard the rooster, he left and wept bitterly.  He had just denied his Lord.  What was he to do now?  Was he worthy of forgiveness?  Did he even dare ask?

Then I remember.  I too denied Him.  It wasn’t my intention.  But I did it without hesitation.  Why?  Fear of being ridiculed.  Fear of new expectations.  Wanting to fit in.  Wanting to be liked.  But what was I willing to give up for that denial?  What was worth it?

After all, the timing was so wrong when Peter denied Jesus.  Jesus had just told the disciples that he was days away from dying.  Did they not realize that he was dying for them?  I knew he had died for me when I denied him.  I had already pledged my life to him.  But I still didn’t hesitate.  What was I really afraid of?  What relationship was more important to me?  My relationship with my friends?  Or my relationship with him?  None of my friends had offered their life for me.  In fact, the new boy was probably planning to ridicule anyone who had said they were a follower of Jesus.  So I knew he wouldn’t die for me.  And no one else in the group offered.

I remember my denial.  Seventh grade.  Walking with a group of classmates.  The new boy asked the question.  Is anybody here religious?  Everybody pointed to me.  No.  I’m not.  I said.  Oh.  I get it.  People don’t know the difference between being religious and being a Christian.  But I knew what he was asking.  I denied it.  I wanted to fit in.  I didn’t want people calling me names or treating me differently.  And with that response everyone kept walking.  The conversation was over.  But I knew.  I knew in my heart that I should have stood up for what I believed.  I shouldn’t have been afraid to share my young faith.   I’ve never forgotten that conversation.  And I wonder how things would have turned out if I had been bold.

I wonder what the other kids saw in me that made them point me out.  Was it because they knew my family went to church?  What was it they saw that was different?  Was it the clothes I wore?  Was it my actions?  Was it words I said?  Or didn’t say?

Oh Peter.  How could you.  How could you deny your Savior.  Your Lord.  Your Master.  He knew you would and you told him never.  Never would you deny him.  But he knew you would.  And when the deed was done.  Not once.  But three times.  Three times in the matter of a few hours.  You were heartsick.   You were broken.  How was it so easy to deny at the moment when someone noticed you.

Oh.  Yes.  People notice.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”  Matthew 26:34

Jesus could have said.  I told you so.  Instead, he just turned and looked at Peter. The look said enough.  Sorrow.  Betrayal.  Did Peter also see the love and forgiveness? Perhaps not in that moment.

He had heard those words just hours earlier.  You will betray me.  As soon as they were said, they were forgotten.

Peter was too caught up in the moment.  He witnessed Jesus’ arrest.  His beating.  His trial.  Oh.  He watched Jesus that night.  From a distance.  He watched with caution.  Not wanting others to notice him.  But they did notice.

I’m a fair weather fan of a certain football team.  If they’re winning, I’m all in.  If they’re not playing well, well I’m not watching.  I can’t bear to see them fall apart and lose.  I wouldn’t dare attend a game.  After all, I’d hate to show my true colors if my team isn’t winning.  I wouldn’t want others to see me turn away in despair.

That’s how I see Peter.  Oh.  He loves Jesus.  He’s a follower.  He said he was willing to die for him.  When the ministry is going well.  But when the opposition shows up, he supports from the sidelines.  He doesn’t want to appear to be in the game.  Now it’s a spectator sport.

Until he’s caught.  Someone recognizes him and calls him out.  Without even thinking about it, he denies everything he once held so dear  In a split second, when he could stand for something he falls in defeat.  Three times.

I have faced tests since that moment in my youth.  Some I passed.  Others I failed.  I don’t know.  I will face another test some day.  I’m sure of it.  If so, my prayer is that my faith will be strong and my courage unwavering .

Take Every Thought Captive

I had had negative thoughts all day.  Feelings of inadequacy.  Feelings of discontent.  Just not happy with the way anything went that day.  I was driving home and it suddenly dawned on me.  I had a choice.  I could choose to remain negative.  Or.  I could choose joy.  So I had a conversation with someone.  The initiator of all negativity.  The distorter of all truth.  So I spoke the words aloud.  I wanted him to hear me.  Loud.  And.  Clear.

In Jesus name, get behind me, Satan.  Stop filling my mind with negative thoughts.

Immediately my mind cleared.  Then the words of a song appeared.

Jesus is the joy of living.  He’s the king of life to me.  Unto him my all I’m giving. His forevermore to be. I will do what he commands me.  Anywhere he leads, I’ll go.  Jesus is the joy of living.  He’s the dearest friend I know.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

Is it possible to capture every rebellious thought and turn it into a Christ honoring thought?  Is it possible to stop Satan’s twisting of truth and manipulation of thoughts and feelings?  Not in my own power.  Because there will be that driver who pulls out in front of me at the last minute.  There will be that coworker who never uses her indoor voice.  There will be that neighbor who doesn’t keep their lawn mowed.  There will be that food server who doesn’t refill my water glass when I desperately need more water.  There will be that controlling boss who has to have his way.  There will be that unbeliever who challenges your beliefs.

It’s so easy to get distracted by life.  The tight budget that keeps getting tighter.  The deadly flu virus that’s sweeping the nation.  The organizational changes at work.  The looming tax filing deadline.  The deadly school shootings.  The community devastated by 2 fallen police officers.  The list could go on endlessly.

Negativity is everywhere.  Submission to the gospel of Jesus Christ is crowded out by pride.  Obedience to Christ is trampled by rebelliousness.  Peace is shadowed by fear.

The thing is.  This isn’t a physical battle we’re fighting.  Oh. We’re fighting a battle all right. But it’s a spiritual battle.

Satan is working to keep people from believing in Christ.  He’s also working to keep Christians from growing and maturing in Christ.  Oh.  Satan isn’t God’s equal.  But there are demonic forces working to distort truth, to deceive and to disrupt God’s work in our lives.

This Christian life is a battle.  We must fight this battle to the death. We can resist temptation.  We can push Satan away.   We have a stronghold.  God is the Victor.

Another old hymn comes to mind to help remove the negative thoughts.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim.  In the light of His glory and grace.

Day Labor

They were day laborers.  They weren’t looking for a handout.  They were looking for work.   And they worked hard that day.  That one day of work was all they were promised.  They didn’t know what tomorrow would bring.  Would they get the call?  Would they work tomorrow?

They both had a story.  One with four kids.  The other lost his job as his wife was diagnosed with cancer.  Both trying to provide.  Both trying to make ends meet.  And the ends were far from meeting.  Both doing the best they could with what they were given.  Oh.  It wasn’t easy.  And that was only the part of the story they told that day.  There are always chapters of stories that are left out.  Most people don’t want to share their entire story.  It’s too painful or humbling.  Some just can’t get the words out.  There are many words that are left unsaid.

The work that day wasn’t easy, either.  Moving furniture.  Big heavy office furniture.  But they worked.  They moved the furniture.  They earned their pay that day.  They didn’t complain.

They came unprepared for lunch.  No money.  No snacks.  And they did heavy labor.  Back breaking labor.  Lunch was provided for them.  They ate the Wendy’s burgers as if it was their last meal.  They profusely gave thanks.  Even a handful of peanuts was appreciated.

I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.  Matthew 25:36

But it wasn’t their story that was so remarkable.  It was their questions.  They had, by chance, been hired by a faith-based organization.  Just for the day.  The man who hired them talked of his life.  And his faith.  They were curious.  How do you have peace when you have nothing?  How do you make a difference in your child’s life?  He shared.  He encouraged.  Let’s hope and pray that their hearts were open to hear the truth.  To seek the truth.  To live the truth.

This man was faithful to his calling.  He has the gift of helps.  He enjoys giving back.  Helping those who can’t help themselves.  He does it daily.  Oh.  It isn’t easy work.  But it’s fulfilling.

He offered work.  He bought lunch. He listened to their stories.  He answered their questions.  He made them feel valued.  He shared faith.  Oh.  He had expectations of a full day’s work.  He provided the example and was rewarded with hard work.

His day labor looks much different from those he hired.  He must be faithful to the One who called him.  He must choose every day to be faithful to the one who is faithful to him.  His calling is sure.  His work is to serve the underserved.  The less privileged.  The disenfranchised.  He looks for opportunities to give back when others aren’t looking.  He also is a day laborer.  For this day is all he has.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Oh.  May all who come behind us find us faithful.

Flu Season

Have you heard?  It’s flu season.  And this year.  This year the flu is bad.  People are dying.  Children.  Moms.  Old people.  It can strike anyone at any time.  Oh.  There are warnings.  Wash your hands.  Get the flu shot.  Stay home if you’re sick.  But not everyone heeds the warnings.

This is the worst flu season in almost a decade.  It’s not an epidemic.  But almost. That’s what they say.  Oh.  There have been other illnesses and plagues that have been worse.  Much worse.  But it seems when the dying season is upon us it feels worse than ever.  And it’s not even peak flu season yet.   Medical experts are predicting this to be the worst flu season in history.  It’s being compared to a plague of locusts devastating crops from coast to coast.  This flu is called H3N2.

Swine Flu.  Polio.  AIDS.  Smallpox.  Bubonic Plague.  Spanish Flu.  Tuberculosis.  Malaria.  Cholera.  Ebola.

Some of these diseases have been eradicated.  Some are now treatable.  All are to be avoided.  Each one has wreaked havoc across many nations and homes.  There have been casualties.  There have been survivors.  All have a story to tell.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Romans 6:23

There is another disease that’s wreaking havoc all over the world.  Oh.  I dare to call it an epidemic.  Some don’t want to give it a name.  Others call the name to its face.  This disease has many and various symptoms.  It can seem to be in remission and then return.  It can be eradicated once and for all.  If treated properly.

The thing is.  Everyone is born with this disease.  It shows its face early in life.  One never knows when it will become full blown.  It’s different for everyone.  But it will erupt.  It will cause death.  It must be treated.

Some have symptoms of rebellion.  Others are prone to lying.  Or stealing.  Or cheating.  Stubbornness.  Gluttony.  Unfaithfulness.  Murder.  Worshiping false gods.  Disobedience.  The list goes on.

Here’s the thing.  Each symptom has the same underlying cause.  And each symptom has the same cure.  There are differences in every case.  It depends on how long and how deeply rooted the disease has been working.  It’s an internal disease with both internal and external consequences.  Some consequences come at a huge cost.  Others aren’t so public.  They both lead to the same death.  If the cure isn’t applied.

Some take to the cure more easily than others.  Some fight it.  And they fight it hard.  Sometimes their entire life.  Until it’s too late.  And they miss out on the cure of a lifetime.  Those who accept the cure must be diligent about the continual battle.  The disease can recur.  If it does, it can be even harder to eliminate.  But it’s always possible to beat this disease.  Always.

The cure.  It’s very personal.  It’s free. And it’s immediate.  It’s always available.  This pharmacy is never closed.  It isn’t to be taken lightly.  It’s a private act.  Once the cure is applied, the patient is encouraged to share it with others who have the disease.  It’s that treatable.

The disease.  Sin.  The cure.  Salvation.