Friday, September 13, 2019

Please keep reminding me!

I continually forget how radical God’s grace is. It’s like the thick haze of my own regrets makes it difficult to see clearly as I squint amidst the clutter of my own bad attitudes and blunders. God’s grace just doesn’t compute in such circumstances. That’s why I need regular reminders of how amazing it is!

So consider this… When writing to the believers in Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul prayed that Jesus would establish their hearts as “blameless in holiness before our God and Father” (1 Thessalonians 3:13). Literally “blameless in holiness”! Remember, Paul is writing about the human species here – about people much like you and I, who fail daily, or even hourly, or even… I actually have no idea how prevalent some of my most stubborn sinful thought-patterns are! The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). But Paul wrote that when we come before God, he wants us to be assured that because of what the Lord Jesus has done for us on the cross, an infinitely Pure and Holy God will see us as blameless rather than as sinful – and as holy (meaning, set apart for Him) rather than as tainted by this world!

And because I’ve accepted by faith what Jesus did for me on the cross, when God now looks at me, He isn’t staring at my sin, because He literally took away my sin, and the righteousness of Jesus is now credited to me (check out Romans 4:22-25)! He’s not frowning at my flaws, but is smiling at my sinlessness after having nailed to the cross that “certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us” (Colossians 2:14). Paul takes his terminology even further in his letter to the Colossians as he explains how Jesus presents us before God as “holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (Colossians 1:22). Imagine that... Whatever we’re struggling with in our walk with God, we should consider ourselves totally out of reach from the clutching claws of reproach (which includes self-reproach!).

Thank you, Lord Jesus! That is what I continually need reminding of, and is why we have reason to be confident and joyful every time we approach God’s Glorious Throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16)!

© 2019 by Ken Peters

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Enjoy the View!

As I began reading Psalm 125 this morning, the first verse gave me the impression that my life is only as stable as my capacity to trust in the Lord. In other words, it sounds like it’s all up to me: “Those who trust in the Lord are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever.” (verse 1). If my security is based on my capacity to trust God, then — knowing my fickle heart — I'm definitely not going to feel like I cannot be moved.

But then — suddenly — it’s like an awe-inspiring panoramic view opens up before me as I continue reading — “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever!”

The psalmist isn’t saying that my stability depends on my capacity to trust the Lord, but rather, on the One who forever surrounds me, in whom I’m invited to put my trust!

He’s saying look up — look around — the Lord is like a mountain range all around you! Mountains that cannot be moved, and that will not be moved — and THAT is why you can trust Him so much that you’ll feel like a mountain in His midst that cannot be moved. To move you means an enemy would need to move the Lord who surrounds you with immovable strength.

So it turns out that my stability depends on God’s ability to surround me today, and forever! And as I consider such a panoramic view, I imagine that an impressive Himalayan mountain range must be quite small in comparison!

© 2019 by Ken Peters

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Hope that defies the storm

Imagine this with me... 
A great galleon has battened down and stowed its sails amidst the tearing winds and driving rain of a raging storm. As the winds roar and the ship rises and falls upon the heavy seas, a stout chain of impressive length glimmers in the spray as it vanishes beneath the angry waves. Deep below, in the dark and muted waters, at the other end of that massive chain is an ancient sea anchor, a mass of tempered steel, that firmly grips the ocean floor. Back at the tumultuous surface of the sea, the boat’s crew is safely below deck, eager for the abatement of the storm, though confident that their anchor in the depths below will keep them safely parted from where the rushing waves loudly crash upon a rocky shore.

It’s a scene of great noise and upheaval. Furious winds, heaving waves, and creaking masts. But in the depths beneath the waves, amidst a reassuring stillness, that long slowly swaying chain of steel leads to an immense unflinching hook, steadfast in its tireless hold despite the storm above. This immovable anchor represents the life-sustaining hope that we can have in a covenant-keeping God who has shown us through Jesus how far He will go to keep His promises to a rebellious human race. It is a hope “both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19a).

But look back with me again to that great galleon in the storm. Every sailor on that ship, however certain they may be of their trusty anchor, will still be feeling rattled and storm-tossed by the heaving waves (and maybe even a little sea-sick). So I’m thankful that the writer of Hebrews provides an additional metaphor of the hope we have in God.

Imagine being aboard that ship amidst such stormy winds and rain, enduring the constant turbulence and tumult, and then suddenly!... All the noise and motion abruptly cease even as the storm outside continues to roar. It’s as if all disruption aboard the ship has suddenly been forcefully evicted from your cabin by an overpowering Presence of peace and awe while at that same moment, you sense you’re not alone. Someone Great but quite unseen feels very near. You also see that you’re now standing inside a curtain that stretches from floor to roof creating a small private chamber with just enough room for you and the wonderful Presence that has suddenly given you complete peace and stability amidst the storm.

Welcome to the “inner place behind the curtain” (Hebrews 6:19b, ESV) — the holiest place of all the holy places in the Old Testament tabernacle — where only the high priest could enter, and only after great sacrifice and ceremony. It was the place of God’s presence — a place of intimate communion with the living God, but also a place of fear and dread as sinner-priests drew near to a holy God. But with Jesus having taken the penalty for all our sins upon Himself, God now invites us to find a reassuring hope in our loving communion with Him behind that veil, whatever storms may rage all around it.

So anchor your soul in what Jesus did for us on the cross, and then pass through the curtain to fellowship with Jesus in the Holy of Holies, where waves and wind cease; and where we find hope amidst the upheaval of this world.

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil” 
Hebrews 6:19

© 2019 by Ken Peters

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Lacking in Nothing

What would it be like to lack nothing at all? I’m not talking about possessions you can buy, but about what’s on the inside – our character. What would it be like to lack absolutely nothing in terms of character and maturity? It sounds like a ridiculous question, but the Apostle James actually points us in that exact direction. Simply put, he appears to say that if we want to lack nothing, we have to be willing to give up everything!

He begins by saying, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials...” (James 1:2). Trials. By that, he means troubles – difficulties and dangers – hard times. He’s talking about having JOY in the face of BIG problems. Seriously. Remember, the people he was writing to were experiencing a measure of persecution for their faith. The trials they were going through may have included prison and the loss of property such as what the writer of Hebrews describes in Hebrews chapter 10. And James suggests that they “consider it all joy” to go through such trials, just as the writer of Hebrews says that his readers “joyfully accepted the plundering of [their] property” (Hebrews 10:34)! Wow. There’s an picture of a people prepared to give up everything.

In our 21st century North American lives, trials are more likely to be a health issue, a fractured relationship, or crisis situation at work, which can leave us feeling like we’re giving up a sense of security or stability or certainty.

James then goes on to write “…knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Here we begin to see the connection between giving things up and yet lacking nothing. James reminds us that external troubles can actually strengthen us internally. When our physical muscles are tested with the resistance of heavy weights, we get stronger. And when our faith is tested by heavy trials, we grow in character – endurance being an expression of our character. And that’s the reason to “consider it all joy.” Trials may result in a loss of things – such as security, stability, or certainty, or even property – but they can also result in the development of character – such as, growth in endurance.

James continues: “And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:3-4). That last phrase gets my attention every time! What would it be like to truly be “lacking in nothing” in terms of my character development? It seems so lofty to even aim for that I find it jarring to see James suggesting it. But I think it’s the very same thing that the Apostle Peter was talking about when he wrote, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). Yes, trials can lead to the loss of earthly things, but trials can also produce spiritual formation in us that leave us with a faith that’s more precious than any of those things – a faith that allows us to praise and glorify and honour Jesus even as we endure significant trials!

And when our faith in God, our hearts being fully assured of His love and faithfulness, we’re expressing what I think James meant when he said we’d be lacking “nothing.” If I know God is truly for me, I will endure – and not with gritted teeth, but with an abundance of the hope, joy, and peace that all come from believing God (Romans 15:13). Though it’s never easy, the challenges of trials don’t need to feel a threat – because the losses we incur can be far surpassed by the work God wants to do in us, causing a growth in us to believe God for so much more!

© 2019 by Ken Peters

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Never too messy for Him

Genesis chapter 4 is such a mess. Cain murdered Abel, and then he's exiled, the First Family of Creation so soon divided — fractured — followed by Cain’s offspring, Lamech, murdering a man and a boy, and then boasting of it to his wives. We're told that Eve found some solace in the birth of Seth, but the mess had been made, beginning with Adam and Eve’s initial disobedience in the Garden, all so very quickly after God had previously called His spotless creation “very good." Three chapters and a few generations later, all I can see is very messy.

Then, surprisingly amidst the prolonged focus on the growing mess of mankind, Genesis, chapter four, ends with, “Then men began to call upon the name of the LORD.” So that too had been part of the mess — God’s creation had forgotten Him and had stopped calling out to Him. But amidst all that, we're told that God drew them back to Himself once again, to call out to Him. God drew near to them, amidst the mess. 

And the same is true today. Today's world is a mass reflection of Genesis chapter four, and yet God is continually drawing near to people in every dark corner and on every lonely road. No matter how messy it gets, and no matter how far a person has drifted away, God is truly among us. He is Emmanuel, God with us  even amidst the mess. And He wants to save us from our messes. 

Maybe you're praying for someone who has gotten lost in the messiness of this world. Or maybe you feel that you've contributed a little to the mess that began in Genesis. Whatever the case, whatever pigpen that anyone is in, we can be certain that God is still causing sin-stained people today to "call upon the name of the LORD." Praise God for His infinite grace!

© 2019 by Ken Peters