Rock of Rages: Why Peter’s Denial Was a Necessary Trial

Passage: Mark 14:26-31 (ESV); Mark 14:66-72 (ESV)

Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial

26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

Peter Denies Jesus

66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed.69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

It’s a hard scene to process.

Peter. The Rock. Cracking under pressure.

The Cross set before His Master, a sliver in the back of his mind.

Never would he fall astray; never would he run away. That was Peter. Or rather that was going to be Peter.

But before the Shepherd could be battered, the sheep of the flock would soon be scattered. And it’s here where despite our cringes, we must appreciate this sequence: The ultimate Shepherd grooming his undershepherd through a defining moment of weakness. A prophecy centuries in the making (Zechariah 7:13) now an emerging hallmark of humility for the early church to thrive on. The man in the middle?

The Rock. The epitome of moniker though something far greater. You see, ‘The Rock’ was not just a designated nickname but the proof of Christ’s identity realized. One could say the greatest insight received by man came in Mark 8:29 when Peter, the Rock, confessed Jesus as cornerstone – the Son of the Living God.

Still, as keen as this inspiration was, the symmetry of it could not have occurred without an epic fail. For before Peter could sleep on his call to keep active watch at Gethsemane, he had to first confront and fall to a fear of abandonment. Without this fear, Peter’s resolve could not have been tested – a paradox considering a less distracted Peter would have meant more fervent prayer during Jesus’ final hours.

Granted, that’s the beauty of Jesus’ perfect love in this passage. For Jesus knew a humbling of Peter ahead of His death was necessary to calibrate his boasting to the power he’d rightfully appropriated. No matter how much Peter confessed his devotion, he had to first wrestle with the fragility of his hope before he could shepherd a flock with a more mature version. How incredible it is to consider Jesus, the weight of the world on His shoulders, was working all this for good before the good could be known and shared.

As for us, no matter how long we’ve walked with God, we’ve all denied Jesus at one point or another. And while we have the Holy Spirit to act as our rooster in those times, let’s not take for granted the ministry of reconciliation in those instances. The sting of sin may prick our hearts but in a way that’s why Jesus came to die in the first place: To not only liberate us from captivity but awaken and sharpen us to higher faith.

Accordingly, as we enter into God’s gates with thanksgiving this Easter weekend, may our denials become trials intended for glory. You may feel discouraged about your shortcomings, but this doesn’t mean you have to bask in them. Rather repent, receive God’s grace afresh and anew, and feed His sheep. After all, Christ didn’t take the nails to deliver us from disappointment but to free us into intimacy through the growing pains of life.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Christianity.com

3 Ways to ‘Quiet Time’ with God in 2021

Let’s be honest.

At the end of a long day, sometimes the last thing we want to do is read the Bible. As we exchange fatigue for refreshment in labor’s wake, we often chill and defrag on our own terms…

…be it sunset walks. Exercise. Fireplace reads. Hot baths. Netflix. YouTube. I could go on… 

Yet, while these options are appropriate at the proper times, per recent conviction, I’m concerned many of us have detached the Scriptures from this menu of items. And while I’m sure many of us understand the importance of meditation and prayer, as I’ll discuss in this post, we do our faith a disservice when we compartmentalize such sustenance from the rest we crave.

Accordingly, as a fellow bivocational hustler who’s regularly on the go, here are three ways we can engage quiet time with God in 2021. 

1. Refresh Your Gameplan

In seasons of spiritual distancing, consistency in the Word can be a struggle. Knowing where to turn, where to start, where to continue…the lack of compass in general can be enough to deter a Scriptural encounter. Yet, while many resources will tell you how finding a quality Bible reading program will stabilize your faith, truth is: Life is less black and white and far more unpredictable than we think.

Dare I remind us: Overtime. Trainings. Meetings. Zoom calls. Traffic. Extracurricular small groups. Midweek church services. Educational endeavors. Benevolence/outreach opportunities. Family emergencies. Health issues. 

No question each day is full of life as well as nuisance and troubleshooting. Still, within the snowflake tapestry of each day are rhythmic stretches where we can find silence and rest. They may not be long; heck, they may be fifteen minutes or less. Regardless of duration, dare to pray not only about the Bible reading plans God has for you, but also what tactical gameplans He wants to refresh as well.

As I learned last year, often God will refresh His intimacy with a new chapter as opposed to restarting it with a blank slate. Granted, it doesn’t have to be one or the other; sometimes a blank slate is a necessary predecessor to the ‘next’ God has for us. That said, don’t assume the answer to your quiet time strategy is something new and don’t strive for a Bible reading plan because it’s conventional. Rather seek the Lord and draw near. Inquire His plans and purposes concerning your engagement and understand God is after your heart more than your time. Remember while a sacrifice of praise is often a sacrifice of time for us, in God’s eyes, refreshing our gameplan can be the jumpstart we need to know we don’t have to carve out what He’s already gifted. 

Bottom line: Before you prematurely dive into research, press into God’s heart and allow Him to reveal the pathways of discernment you’re to walk. 

For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.

Luke 21:15 (ESV)

2. Bookend Your Day

They say each day is a journey, a quest for orientation amidst a jungle of chaos. As we all know, the ride can be turbulent, testing, sometimes downright fierce.

But again, no matter no how busy the calendar, how intense the load, there’s always room for God. And while the world says you have no room, you have no time, consider the fact this is how Jesus entered our humanity.

As John 1:14 declares, Christ is the Word become flesh. He lived among us so we could experience His glory as God’s Son full of grace, truth, wisdom, and understanding.

This tells me two things:

  1. Jesus not only came to save us as a one-time ticket to heaven but to continually draw us as ambassadors for heaven. As co-heirs with Christ, we were made for consistent fellowship with Him – a perpetual reality we should never take lightly.
  2. Just as we were formed by God’s words, so are we fashioned by His daily Word. As sons with a promise, we were made to discover joy through justification (restoration) and sanctification (refinement); however, one must wonder if the process of the latter can mature without consistent quiet time with God.

Whatever the case, may we be a people united in fixing our minds on what is right, our hearts on what is godly, and our discipline on what is everlasting. While God’s instruction may seem repetitive, understand the application is always unique to your calling and situation. Even when the days are dull, there’s never a dull moment in God’s presence given His sovereignty and encouragement are endless and always near.

Consider this: If our aim is to become more like Jesus, we must value exposure to His promises and purposes. Since His ways are perfect and infinitely higher than our own, it makes no sense to reach in God’s direction if our desperation isn’t rooted in intentionality. As long as we approach the Lord with humility, we can rest assured He will provide the blueprints for sustained Spirit-filled and Spirit-controlled life (see Ephesians 5; more on this in a future post).

Bottom line: For Jesus to be our daily bread, the Word must also be daily read. All the more reason to bookend each day in the truth of who God is. 

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” ~ Matthew 6:33 (ESV)

I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.” ~ Psalm 77:12 (ESV)

The [Word] shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” ~ Joshua 1:8 (ESV)

3. Bookmark Your Inspiration

As simple as it sounds, one of the best ways to reference God is to set altars of gratitude at our places of influence. By altars I not only mean emblems with Scriptural citations but any physical prompt directing you to worship. For instance, you could have a picture frame, a poster, a small shelf of books at your desk…honestly the possibilities are endless. Whatever methods you employ, the point is not the system you facilitate but the heart of worship you propitiate. 

Consider the reason you work:

As Kingdom agents, your occupations and vocations are your appointed mission fields. While the hustle can be exhausting, remember your goals are subsets of your purpose: To reflect heaven and earth and to shine God’s countenance wherever you go.

Hence, why we should bookmark our inspiration and prepare our hearts to recall and call on God’s faithfulness as we effort for His glory. After all, who knows what kind of innovation and illumination awaits as we rely on Jesus who by His Spirit has given everything we need for goodness and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). 

Bottom line: To worship as you work is to anchor your devotion. Therefore, posture your heart and its surroundings to give pleasure to God. 

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Colossians 3:16 (ESV)

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Mike Turner

A Brewed Awakening

Written 11/6/14; revised 3/13/21

We’ve all been there.

  • The crave for caffeinated fulfillment…
  • The mid-afternoon coffee rush…
  • The anticipation of steeped goodness igniting the day’s doldrums…

When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing how a demitasse of brewed bliss with its steamed satisfaction can affect a day’s course. Unfortunately, as this story will prove, not every pitstop can be so rewarding.

Let’s set the scene: It’s a chilly November afternoon when some colleagues and I decide to mosey down to a local Starbucks to take advantage of a ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ holiday drink special. As we approach the main entrance, we notice the coffeeshop is highly congested with a line extending outside into the brutal cold. Having experienced this location’s awkward floor plan, I guide my group to the store’s second entrance¹ and recalibrate the line as a courtesy for our fellow coffee connoisseurs.

That’s when our move is misinterpreted by an older, alternative version of “mean girls”.   

PshWe were here first,” cried the alpha.
Yeah, we were definitely here before you guys,” said another.
Oh, yeahI know. It’s just the line usually starts back here in the mornings
,” I replied. “I wasn’t…”
Well, it starts right here today! So…move aside.”

At this point, my inner Madea is activated.

These cranks are going to brew the day, I think to myself. Whoever these catty Katie’s are, they’re gonna regret bating this bulldog. A few snarky pelts later and I’m internal inches from summoning Seal Team Six, which on this day, is inspired by this modified scene from Disney’s Brink:

After all, it’s not like I’m the one spewing assumptions accusing a complete stranger as if his character could be so easily appraised. *Sigh*

But it’s at this point when something surreal begins to happen. While my flesh desperately wants to bless these women with a brick, somehow, someway I begin to cool off. Call it the frigid air offsetting my red-hot interior. Call it the still, stunned silence working its charm. Whatever the case, I realize the best foot forward is to…

Suddenly, my inner Taylor Swift starts jiving with the Spirit in the moment…

… knowing though these haters gonna hate, hate, hate and berate, berate, berate, I don’t have to deflate, deflate, deflate. Rather Christ in me, I can shake, shake, shake it off! Shake it off! And from there, perceive the situation for what it’s worth and the people around me for what they’re worth.

Consider the following verses and how they relate to this song:

“…as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:18 (ESV)

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” ~ Romans 8:18 (ESV)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” ~ Romans 8:37 (ESV)

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)

While we can’t control the cheats of the world or the biases of our accusers, we can turn the other cheek in faith knowing our dignity, security, and identity are in Christ. Accordingly, we don’t need to prove our intentions through self-seeking agenda when we can rest in the Father’s arms (holiday expresso in hand) knowing He’s our solution and resolution in times of distress.

Think of it this way: If our dependence is aligned, not only can we trust God in confronting our humanity but also in subduing our thirst for revenge. Even when others spit in the mud in our direction, God can still use it to open our eyes to His purposes and perspectives.

Hence, why this post exists: To remind us how the slights of man can lead to sights of God we never thought possible (more on this in a future post).

As for the moral of this story, regardless if Taylor Swift had Matthew 5:39 in mind when she wrote her acclaimed hit, don’t underestimate the value of the left cheek. Especially when you feel your values are violated, keep your heart pure, ears attuned, and hands free. In this way, you can hold onto your coffee and pour out a cup of the life you have inside you simultaneously.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Signature of a downtown Starbucks

Cover photos creds: HD Wallpapers

Cries and Shine: Why God’s Joy Comes in the Mourning

So lately, I’ve been thinking…

In seasons of sadness, processing emotions can be complicated. As we declutter the soul, we sometimes stumble upon excess baggage, unmet expectations, even hidden motives we didn’t know where there; however, I also think part of the struggle concerns how we compartmentalize grief from its holy accompaniments.

For instance, many published works will tell you there’s joy to be found after sorrow, godly remorse, death, you name it. But filtered through the Scriptures, we find a different picture. More specifically, we don’t grieve to find joy but grieve with joy to find God and what He’s saying.

On the surface, this can seem like a paradox: How can a heart be at peace and rest in the midst of great pain?

Well, it depends on how your faith intersects its prepositions. If you believe you persevere to something good, be it a better outcome, a finish line, etc., chances are you’ll rush, perhaps force the virtue through coping mechanisms. Conversely, if you believe you persevere through something good, be it courage, humility, thanksgiving, and joy, chances are you’ll discover and uncover profound wisdoms once foreign.

Consider Psalm 30:11:

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness…”

When the Psalmist says “you have turned my mourning into dancing“, he’s not implying a complete substitution but embracing the two as co-existent. Per his next line – “You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness” – the implication is not an eradication of suffering but a reorientation to the Spirit of God upon Him. Accordingly, the man once burdened by his surroundings can now take delight amidst a lifting load given his focus in more vertical than horizontal.

This tells me two things:

  1. Finding joy in grief starts by experiencing God on the road to recalibration.
  2. Finding joy in grief allows us to walk in freedom and share what God is doing simultaneously.

Can grief be turned into joy (John 16:20)? Absolutely! However, rather than itemizing the two, consider the bridge of comfort in between as a path to the glory that is His and the victory that is yours. From there, keep the oil of jubilation (Isaiah 61:1-3) handy and distribute as needed. After all, even in death and turmoil, there’s a favorable year of the Lord to proclaim. Might as well keep dancing.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Pinterest

Pressed But Not Crushed: A Study on 2 Chronicles 20

If you know me, you know I’m not into politics. 

I don’t emotionally invest in global events. I don’t turn on the news unless I have to. 

And for good reason: Growing up, not only did the evening news proceed family dinners but often added stress to the dog days of school. Like most, I could appreciate the voice of Peter Jennings or Tom Brokaw on a Taco Tuesday. But given the choice, younger me would rather comb through a newspaper by a fireplace than channel-flip through the five stages of grief. 

Fast-forward to today and the bombardment of information is at a fever pitch. Precipitating our lives is a paradox full of silent scrolls, constant noise, and souls desperate to press ‘mute’ on what they can’t resist: The world at their fingertips. I know I’ve been there and am still there in some ways. After all, the quest for a distraction-less life will always be an uphill battle.

But I suppose that’s why I writing this: To remind us how in all things, there’s a right way to stand, a right way to contend, and a right way to honor.

Even when the news is disturbing, there are ways to walk in our priestly identity as messengers with purposed mouthpieces. The million-dollar question is: What are the ways and how do we walk them when the world around us is falling apart?

To find out, let’s turn to 2 Chronicles 20 and dive right in…

1) The Way to Stand

Imagine waking up to two powerful armies raging war against you. The future of a reformed country, not to mention your life, hanging in the balance. I don’t care what side of the bed you rise from. There’s no coffee in the world strong enough to offset that brutal awakening. 

Yet, for our protagonist, Jehoshaphat – a devout, God-fearing king, that’s exactly where he finds himself. Contending with a stirred Judean ecosystem (thanks to his efforts in ch. 19*), the foreign foundation is fragile. The Moabites are ticked. The Ammonites are incensed. And the result is v. 2

Then it was reported to Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude has come against you from beyond the [Dead] Sea, out of Aram (Syria); and behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is, Engedi).”

Hearing this news, Jehoshaphat could have easily yielded to fear and doubt. After all, when you learn a nation’s fate is at stake, staying calm can seem like a tall order.

However, it’s here where Jehoshaphat makes a critical decision: Rather than panic into premature prayer, he seeks the Lord with determination, proclaims a fast and a gathering for His people to do the same (v. 4), and inspires unity ahead of the victory to come. 

Following his prayer in v. 5-12, we see the evidence of Jehoshaphat’s faith through the response of his people (v. 13-14). Not only do they stand and receive from the Lord but discern God’s battleplan through worship and thanksgiving. With corporate praise an official banner, Jehoshaphat’s army charges into war with confidence and is delivered from the men of Ammon and Moab – a thorough breakthrough epitomized in v. 21:

Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Sound familiar? I didn’t think so.

Bottom line: In a few verses, Jehoshaphat provides a template on how we can blend courage with community and perceive conflict without overreacting. Especially in trials and tribulations, the way to stand is never an individual exercise. If you want to lead, you must first learn to lean, dependently with God first, interdependently with people second. 

2) The Way to Contend 

Going back to Jehoshaphat’s prayer

And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying,  ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’  And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy— behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

…the structure is notable for a couple reasons. 

  1. Before Jehoshaphat requests of God, He acknowledges who God is. More specifically, Jehoshaphat declares God’s sovereignty and strength into his situation (v. 5-6) and in humility recognizes God’s dominion as infinitely greater than his.  
  2. While Jehoshaphat believes God will be faithful, He praises God for having been faithful (v. 7). This flavor of hope not only allows Jehoshaphat to contend through worship and prayer but anchors his trust in God’s character as opposed to his track record. 
  3. Jehoshaphat pleads in meekness and transparency. He knows God is aware of what’s going on but is still explicit in conveying his concern. To the extent Jehoshaphat resists fear, to that extent he spells it out knowing he has nothing to lose being honest with God.
  4. Jehoshaphat concludes his prayer with a timeless mic-drop: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” With past victories in tact, Jehoshaphat could have easily relied on winning formulas, proven communication skills, even ally relationships. Instead, he boldly professes his weakness and seals his petition in a spirit of expectancy knowing this prayer was key to helping his people stand firm. 

Bottom line: In a few verses, Jehoshaphat provides a template on how we can surrender to God ahead of evil’s surrender to Christ in us. When you feel overwhelmed by clients, colleagues, and/or workload, don’t deny your helplessness but rejoice in the fact you can call on God to go before you.

3) The Way to Honor

While much attention is given to Jehoshaphat’s prayer and victory in 2 Chronicles 20, the epilogue is also worth noting. For starters, Jehoshaphat’s prioritization of consecration over celebration (v. 26) is indicative of a leader who cited his honor correctly. Had Jehoshaphat’s pride surfaced, he could have fallen victim to the same vice he was rebuked for in chapter 19. Yet, as we find, rather than fall into idolatry, Jehoshaphat maintains holy reference by blessing the Lord with his troops. The spoils of war now altars of gratitude with legacy ties to this day. 

After exalting God on site, Jehoshaphat and his men return to Jerusalem to commemorate their freedom (v. 27-30):

Then they returned to Jerusalem with joy, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, led by Jehoshaphat, for the Lord had made them rejoice over their enemies. They came to Jerusalem with harps, lyres, and trumpets to the house (temple) of the Lord. And the fear of God came on all the kingdoms of those countries when they heard that the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. So the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest on all sides.”

This conclusion tells me two things: 

  1. As an appointed leader, Jehoshaphat accepted conflict with courage, went into battle with assurance, and conquered his enemies with humility.
  2. As an anointed leader, Jehoshaphat accomplished these things in the joy and fear of the Lord.  

Essentially, whatever Jehoshaphat set his mind to, it prospered because he cared more about what God said than anything else. Like today, the man encountered much in terms of noise and despair; however, as a man of valor, he kept his eye on the prize at all times – never wavering to ego, consensus or past strongholds. As such, it’s no surprise the rest of Jehoshaphat’s reign was marked by peace, tranquility, and rest. 

Bottom line: In a few verses, Jehoshaphat provides a template on how we can honor God through victory and achievement. While celebrations have their place, remember gratitude must dictate your gladness not the other way around. If you desire to serve the Lord in holy fear, start with joy rooted in thanksgiving.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Fortifying cities from idolatry towards holy reverence

Cover photo creds: Pinterest