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

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

The Silver Linings of 2021

I’ll be honest: There’s a lot on my mind and chest right now.

Where to start, where to begin…

To be fair, I’m sure the same could be said about you. After the last year’s whirlwind, it makes sense to hope 2020 is true to its name: In focus and further distanced in the rear-view mirror.

Yet, as we embark on a fresh journey in this brave, new world, there’s one step we must take before the next. One step to fuel them all.  That step…is to stop.

That’s right. Before we step into 2021, we must first stop and consider where we’ve been and where we’re…God is taking us. However, to do this in full, not only must we surrender our desire to change on our terms but be willing to pray for what we press into.

For instance, we can pray for wisdom and strength to be different, to be better…but unless we posture our hearts to receive from God, our expectations will not calibrate to His nature.

As such, I submit we enter into the hope of 2021 with the following three points in mind. Granted, there will be more we discuss in the coming months. For now, let’s start with this trio and see where our dialogue takes us.

Ready, set, let’s go…

  1. Remember Your Aim

We are a people who tend to bite off more than we can chew. Our hearts may desire change but this doesn’t mean they desire what’s best and/or know the proper portions. Left to our own devices, we often crave the quickest road to recovery, reward, and large-scale transformation; however, as the Word attests, progress isn’t achieved by overcommitting to paths we plan but is accomplished through small steps we take with God each day (see Psalms 37:23, Proverbs 16:9; more on this in a moment).

As the Spirit confirmed in my heart last week, God’s best can’t always be measured by magnitude but can always be maximized by attitude. Accordingly, if you reframe your perspective to view change through this mindset, not only will you better scale your goals upfront but seize the strength to scale them when you confront.

Bottom line: Small and steady wins the race. Remember your aim is Jesus, not winning the world to Him. Consider your goals and invite the Lord to help you scale them. After all, you cannot grow if you do not yield and aim for purity in your maturity. As you pray into 2021, understand the road forward and onward is always one step at a time.

2. Delight in the Journey

In recent weeks, I’ve been reminded how central joy is to following Jesus. If we long to live as Christ, then we will take pleasure in what tethers us to His perfect will. In Scripture, we find several phrases that capture this reality…

“I know also, my God, that You test the heart and delight in uprightness and integrity. In the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things. So now with joy I have seen Your people who are present here, make their offerings willingly and freely to You.” ~ 1 Chronicles 29:17 (AMP)

“Finally, my fellow believers, continue to rejoice and delight in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble for me, and it is a safeguard for you. Therefore, my fellow believers, whom I love and long for, my delight and crown [my wreath of victory], in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” ~ Philippians 3:1; 4:1 (AMP)

“…nevertheless I am with you in spirit, delighted to see your good discipline [as you stand shoulder to shoulder and form a solid front] and to see the stability of your faith in Christ [your steadfast reliance on Him and your unwavering confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness].” ~ Colossians 2:5 (AMP)

…but perhaps the one that strikes me most candidly is: Delight in God’s journey.

Again, I go back to Psalms 37:23: “The steps of a man are ordered by the Lord who takes delight in His journey” which fittingly aligns with Proverbs 16:9: “The heart of man plans his way but the LORD establishes his steps.”

This tells me two things:

  1. How God directs is meant to prompt us to His presence.
  2. What God establishes is meant to be a source of contagious joy and awe.

Consider this flashback from two years ago…

Written January 13, 2019

So today I’m walkin’ to work basking in the joy of winter feeling like winter when out of the corner of my ear, I hear ‘Joy to the World’ playing from a nearby corner street music station. At first, I’m like, ‘December is over. No more Christmas music!’ But almost instantly I hear that still, small voice whispering, ‘But Cam. Why not repeat the sounding joy?’

Of course, what can I say to that? Notes and lyrics that seem out of place by cultural timelines should always be in place by daily surrender. Better put, there’s a reason why certain Christmas songs like, ‘Deck the Halls’ and ‘Joy to the World’ are the only ones that can cure Everly’s nocturnal cries. Seriously, Caeden will start singing his ‘Fa, la, la, la’s’…and even if it’s a few minutes, all is calm and bright in the world.

As you walk with God, receive the practical, prudent reminders of His goodness, peace, and joy even they momentarily disagree with the senses.

Now, I know this may seem frivolous against the backdrop of recent political/social tension; however, we must not downplay delighting in the simple and spontaneous. For in this day, we may feel like we’re walking on eggshells more than sunshine…like we’re sinking in the decay around us. But this doesn’t mean we can’t take pleasure and hold of God’s best or stand in awe of what He has and continually gives.

Especially in seasons of turmoil and transition, our call is to participate in the divine and inspire likewise. While it’s okay to desire change, individually and corporately, don’t let this distract you from pointing people to Jesus as you work, as you wait, and as you champion appointed causes for such a time as this.

Bottom line: As you consider your 2021 riskolutions, make sure to take joy in God’s purposes and declare thanksgiving into places of doubt and uncertainty. Even in difficult situations, remember God only allows us to encounter what He allows (Hebrews 2:18, Hebrews 4:15, 1 Corinthians 10:11-13). Whatever we face this year, know it doesn’t surprise God (Jeremiah 33:3) and He will provide a way before, for, and through us.

3. Persevere with Patience

No question, 2020 compelled many to higher levels of dependence with endurance and perseverance atop of the list. Yet, before we contrast 2020 to 2021, we should note endurance and perseverance are not the same things.

For example, endurance is staying the course when you’re tempted to give up; perseverance is leveling up when you’re tempted to get down. As I told LEGACYouth back in the day, endurance says ‘yes’; perseverance says ‘more’, but it all comes back to who we adore.

Consequently, while 2020 may have been a year of endurance and exposure for the church, I submit the pathway for 2021 is as follows: Perseverance, patience, perspective, and presence.

In other words, as we patiently await for the seas to calm, let’s persevere into God’s presence to gain His perspective on matters of culture, politics, and benevolence without yielding to churchspeak and hearsay. As the doxology of Jude reminds us…

But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

Jude 1:17-25 (ESV)

Bottom line: As you endure with expectation and persevere in joy, cultivate intimacy. Don’t just engage the ways of God; engage God! Reference Him in what you can and can’t understand…when the waves of doubt cloud your mind. Embrace discovery through seeking and pondering. And dare to seek His footsteps and follow them to clarity.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Construction Executive

Year in Review: A Look Back at 2020

Written on 12/31/2020

Well, folks. We’ve made it. 

The last day of 2020. What a ride, what a roller coaster. 

Earlier this week, I posted the following on my Facebook page after some healthy reflections over the Christmas break…

As I consider 2021, two words come to mind: “Get up.”

In Scripture, we find good things happen when things that need to be put to rest…are put to rest. We see the phrase in Joshua 7 when God calls Joshua to consecrate His people to purge their idolatry and recalibrate their devotion. We see it during Paul’s conversion when God appoints him to serve as a minister (with authority) and leave his shame/deceptions behind. And we see it during healing testimonies like Mark 10:49 when a blind man takes heart, receives sight, and leaves his discouraging past behind. Even when Jesus is in Gethsemane, He charges His disciples with these words to help them pray and not fall into temptation. 🤔

In each case, a call to surrender, a call to faith, a call to action. Like the 12, you carry life-altering, disciple-making potential with the capacity to inspire change. But before you write off 2020 like a bad dream, dare to ask yourself, ‘Why am I sleeping?’ It may be uncomfortable (preaching to the choir here), but if freedom is an open door, repentance and faith-based endurance are the keys. All the more reason to seek God, lean into Jesus, and embrace movement¹ as you anticipate better things to come.

Selah.

However, as I continue to ponder what’s ahead, I keep coming back to the same question: If we treat 2020 like a piñata (i.e. “I’m so glad this year is over”, “Worst year of my life”, “What a year to forget”, etc.), are we really setting ourselves to ‘level up’ in 2021?

Not to suggest people didn’t have it hard this past year. Surely some, if not most, of us lost loved ones, colleagues, jobs, even dreams once held dear.

My thought is: As we contend for ‘heaven on earth’ in 2021, let’s not discount the good of 2020 at the cost of confronting the bad (and ugly); rather, in our quests to move on, in our counters to revisionist history, let’s make sure we don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. After all, it’s hard to be thankful for something you’re desperate to forget…

which leads me to my key question for today: What’s your bottom line?

With respect to how you view 2020, how will you choose to remember it? 

Exhausting, Chaotic. Disorienting?

If so, you’re not alone.

I know as a local Nashvillian, times have been particular rough the past ten months. From a devastating tornado ravaging our downtown to the COVID-19 pandemic to the Christmas Day bombing, 2020 has been a textbook year for social unrest and political unease.

No one in their right mind would draw up a year like this. 

And yet…it happened. Whatever we say, whatever we do, we can’t erase the year’s narrative. As Rollo in Juno once said, This ain’t no Etch-a-SketchThis is one doodle that can’t be undid.”

So what then? Do we continue hiding behind our false securities? Cursing to the wind how unholy our inconveniences are?

Heck…no.

I mean…yes, there’s a right way to vent. As EMDR therapy has taught me this year, it’s wise to acknowledge raw emotions as opposed to instantly resisting them; however, what we do with them after we’ve come to terms makes all the difference. And I suppose that’s why I’m writing this: To make sure we are on the same page in our aerial processing of a year worthy of gratitude in how it’s made us corporately stronger. 

Take it from a guy who onboards non-profits in their journey towards incorporation and IRS approval. As turbulent as this year has been, there’s been a rise in the versatility of charitable mission and benevolence such as the world has never seen. Can we just pause to thank God for blessing us with creativity, determination and the opportunity to work them through adversity in ways we never thought possible?

For as the Word says…

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him (James 1:12). After [he has] suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called him to his eternal glory in Christ, will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish [him] (1 Peter 5:10).” Therefore, “Count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

As for my bottom line, my aim is to step into 2021 the same way I’m leaving 2020: Thankful, humble, faithful, and aware that despite the setbacks, we are a people reset, a body united, and a collection of diverse perspectives working together for greater goods. 

No rose-colored lens. No wishful thinking. Simply hopeful expectations in my heart. Simply Jesus.

That’s all we can be and hope for as we press on in His name…together. Now and forever.

As for what tomorrow brings, all I know is for all the chaos and false doctrines, “…greater is He that is in me than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). I may not agree with you or even the leaders I voted for two months ago. But you better believe, these hands are going reach further next year than they ever have before. How that looks, I can’t say. But I do know if we do this together, the unity in community we crave will happen. One way or another. Why not dare to dream big and be faithful in the small in the days, weeks, and months ahead? 

Even if the despair is stubborn, even if your sky is falling, know we’ll be here rooting for you every step of the way.

As always,

~ Cameron & Lyssah Fry

Footnotes

  1. For many this will be in the form of discovery/recovery shaking. While there may be some aftershocks in 2021, eyes on the prize I believe the gains of strength through reconciliation and restoration will far outweigh (if not, accommodate) the pains. 

Cover photo creds: Pinterest