Thursday, April 21, 2011

Peter's Perspective - The Passover Lamb (Thursday)

It was the night before Passover.  We were tired; tired of the jostling crowds who came out to hear the words of the Master in the temple and to receive healing, tired of the growing sense of hostility against Jesus, and tired of waiting for the Messiah to take His rightful place as the ruler of Israel.  Nonetheless, all of us were feeling the building anticipation.  Jesus' replies to his critics were stunning in their wisdom, but we knew there were some who sought His death.  Some might have expected an aspiring King to compromise with the temple rulers, but we knew that the Messiah would never form an allegiance with such corrupt pharisees and Herodians.  He was preparing us, His followers, to fill those roles as the new leaders of the coming Kingdom.  Still, the suspense was emotionally and physically draining.  We had been going at night to our camp on the Mount of Olives, which was a peaceful retreat from the tension of Jerusalem, but the disciples looked forward to soon living in a palace - or at least spending the night under a roof again.  John and I had volunteered to be on watch, and it seemed that the land had been sentenced to a long imprisonment under the darkness of that night.  Finally, the horizon began to fade to gray.

As the morning sun slowly dawned, the red light spread over the eastern hill country beyond Jerusalem until it looked like the all the blood of Bethlehem's lambs had been spilled over the landscape.  Being from Galilee, we would commemorate Passover tonight, being Thursday.  We asked Jesus, "Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?"  He told us to go into the city and speak to a man who we would see carrying a pitcher of water.  Just as He foretold, the man met us as we entered the city, and we said, as we had been commanded, "The Teacher says, 'My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.'"  The man left his task and led us to his house, where he gave us the upper room in which to gather that evening.

John and I bought a lamb in the market place and brought it to the temple.  The court was teeming with people who brought their fearfully bleating lambs to the altar.  Many laughed and talked with their neighbors in the long line to the place of sacrifice.  Some stood near stalls that sold the lambs nearest to the temple, haggling over the inflated prices, and disgustedly handing over the sum for the obligatory sacrifice.  As we approached the place of sacrifice, the smell of blood became sickening.  Hundreds were being sacrificed that evening, and hundreds more would be sacrificed tomorrow by the Judeans.  Our lamb having been slain, and its blood sprinkled on the altar, we brought it back with us to be roasted for the Passover meal.
As evening fell, and the aroma of roast lamb filled every street and corridor in the city, Jesus and the other ten disciples arrived at the house where we were staying.  Looking back, I can see that we were so blind then.  During the meal in the upper room, we again brought up the dispute of who would be the greatest in the Kingdom.  I had finally succeeded in drowning out the argument of my opponent when I realized that a hush had fallen over the room.  The Master had removed His robe, and with a towel around His waist, He was stooping to wash John's feet.  We were all in shock, struck by the impropriety of the action; the base humility of it.  This was a servant's job!  John initially pulled his feet away, eyes filled with questioning bewilderment.  Jesus looked up into his face, and something John saw there must have led him to acquiesce.  He next came to me, and set the basin down before my dirty, smelly feet.  As usual, I was the first to find my voice.  "Never shall you wash my feet!" At His next words, I felt the sting of His gentle reproof.  "Peter, if I do not wash you, you have no part with me."  When He had washed all of our feet, we reclined again at the table and He disclosed the purpose of His actions, saying "If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet."
As we ate the bitter herbs, the Lord began to speak of a betrayer in our midst - a thought that was bitter indeed to our ears.  He said to us, with great sadness, "One of you will betray me - one who is eating with Me."  We were all struck with grief, and I was the first to protest, "Surely not I, Lord!"  The others joined in with their denial of the charge.  John was sitting next to Jesus, and I asked him, "Who is He talking about?" He leaned over and asked the Lord, whom I heard to quietly say, "It is the one to whom I give this piece."  He dipped a choice piece of bread into the herbs and gave it to Judas, who was sitting near Him, in a place of honor.  Jesus spoke quietly to Judas, and he quickly left, and we assumed he had been sent on an errand.

Proceeding with the meal, Jesus broke bread and passed it to us, saying that it was His broken body.  After supper, He took the cup, saying that it was His blood of the New Covenant.  At that time, we still did not fully understand these things, but I was beginning to feel, for the first time, the sense that there were great and terrible things to come of Jesus' words.  I felt a thrill of the glory and the sorrow of something in the Teacher's voice that I could not yet imagine.  After the meal, He taught us, addressing each one with love and exhortation.  When He turned to me, He said, "Simon, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:31-32)

Together, when the time had come to sing the last Hallel, we lifted up our voices, singing the words of the Passover Psalm,

The stone which the builders rejected
         Has become the chief corner stone.
 This is the LORD'S doing
It is marvelous in our eyes.
    This is the day which the LORD has made;
         Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
    O LORD, do save, we beseech You;
         O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity!
    Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD;
         We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.
  The LORD is God, and He has given us light.
(Psalm 118)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Some Encouragement for Pursuing Modesty

I have been so encouraged by Melanie's blog, Forever His Servant, since I stumbled across it about a month ago.  God has really spoken to my heart through her evident passion for the Lord, and the things she has shared.  Modesty is an issue that is so important for Christian young women, and I feel that it is often dismissed or taken lightly.  In the past, I did not always hold modesty highly.  I had certain standards, but it wasn't a deep heart desire to love God and love my brothers in Christ by truly pursuing modesty.  As God has drawn my heart closer to Him, I have been convicted of my tendency to compare myself to others in order to justify my clothing choices.  Sometimes even my choices to dress modestly have been the result of peer pressure rather than a true heart desire.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3,13 says, "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing... 13But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love."

Modesty profits us little if it is not done in a spirit of love for our Lord and our brothers.  On the other hand, it is of little use to say that modesty is an issue of the heart and fail to apply it to our dress and conduct, as Melanie states in the following videos.  I hope you will take the time to watch them and be challenged.

Monday, April 11, 2011


I've gotta say, this was such an exciting weekend for me!  Not only was there the joy of following the Lord in obedience and being baptized, but I watched 7 dear sisters and brother also take that step.  All day, I couldn't stop thanking God for His marvelous gifts.  His grace in salvation was forefront on my mind, but after the baptism, I was so overwhelmed by the love of Christ as shown by my church family.  There must have been almost 200 who overran the pool area at the Best Western.  As we prayed and sang together afterward, it felt as if I had been given a small foretaste of heaven. 
Giving my testimony
Sorry for the bad picture quality, but I'll share a few here... :)  If you want to read my testimony, I have copied it into this post - if not, just scroll down to the pictures. :)  There was so much I felt I could have said, but I trust that God is able to use even my poor words to encourage someones life.
When I was younger, I would witness baptisms and think to myself how boring my own testimony was. Having been raised in a wonderful Christian home and coming to Christ at the age of six, I may not have had a dramatic conversion experience, but over the past few years God has been opening my eyes to see just how much I do need His salvation. God has blessed me so much with many Christian friends and family members and I want to thank everyone here for coming to support those of us who are being baptized today, as we “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Although I grew up in the church, it was not until I was 14 that I truly began to seek the Lord personally with my whole heart. It was at this time that I came to a more full understanding of just how much I needed a Savior. Because God is good, and I am a sinner, I cannot stand in His presence. God's goodness demands justice, and that means that He should rightly turn His face from me in eternal condemnation. As Ephesians 2:3 says, we “were by nature children of wrath.” Through the Bible I can see my own sinfulness and depravity. The gospel has become so much more real to me as I realize that it was my sin - my pride and rebellion and deceit - that Christ died for. It is truly humbling and infinitely wonderful, to see just how much I don't deserve God's grace. The love of Christ meant nothing when I depended on self-righteousness and lived in my sins, but in mourning and repentance for sin, His love is an ocean that makes me clean. There have been so many precious times, when I have come to Christ broken and with repentance, and have been so lovingly forgiven and held by the one who died for me. I marvel that I have been chosen as an object of His mercy. Truly, His grace abounds to me, and that grace continually grows as I understand the depth of my need of it. Christ set aside his heavenly glory to inherit the curse of death that was upon me - how could I ever reject the gift of his life to me? All He asked is that I gave up my filthy rags of sin and self-righteousness, so that I could be clothed in His blood-washed robe of true righteousness.

God has been so faithful in my life, to grow and preserve my faith even through times of difficulty, doubt, and uncertainty. Two years ago, He led my family to Valley Heights, and through the teaching here I have grown much deeper in my understanding of and hunger for scripture.

Right now I'm at a chapter in my life where the future is open and unknown to me. There have been times where I have given in to anxiety, and I have been convicted of my lack of trust. God knows the end from the beginning, and He will never leave me. I do not know what the future holds, but I know the goal to which I run, and I know that God will use every step and mis-step in between for my good and His glory. A few verses that really encouraged me are in Colossians 1:9-14, where Paul writes regarding the will and empowerment of God for the believer:

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

God has been impressing on my heart that His ultimate will for my life is for me to glory in Him alone- to spend so much time thinking about him and worshiping him that he is fully and totally ENOUGH. I know that there are many things that I will never completely understand, but I rejoice that He has granted me faith. I once was a slave of sin, warring against God, but my soul is now His, because He gave His life to set me free. Whereas I was once a captive to sin, I now have the power and authority in Christ to fight against it and be victorious. Although I sometimes fall, the battle has already been won and the outcome is secure. God is my Master, and it is my desire to obey Him by being baptized today.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ramblings... on trust and surrender

God has been teaching me so much lately.  To be honest, I have gone through some times of discouragement and confusion - and I know that I am still battling with those feelings.  Yet, through it all, God is faithful.  It is so encouraging to look back and see where He has brought me.  I'm preparing to be baptized next Sunday, and I have spent some time looking at God's faithfulness throughout my journey so far.  He is so worthy of praise!  Baptism is something I have wanted to do for several years, but partly due to circumstances, and partly due to my own fear and lack of trust, I have delayed it until this year.  A few months ago, God brought up baptism in my heart again, and convicted me that if I truly claimed to want to surrender everything to Him, I must obey Him in this as well.  My friends are asking if I'm nervous about it.... I am a little, but really, I'm more excited than nervous.  There is a certain peace that comes with obedience to the Father.  That's not to say I won't be nervous about sharing my testimony with my church family (public speaking is not my forte) but I do truly want to do this, and I am feeling so much joy.  Even if my voice starts shaking or I mess something up, it doesn't truly matter, because I know that God will use my weakness to accomplish His good purposes.  I think there will be 7 other people being baptized on Sunday, which is so exciting seeing as we are a congregation of a little over 100!

In other news... I've still been struggling with making decisions about post-secondary next year.  There are times when I can escape from the stress and I feel fine, but there are other times when the uncertainty and anxiety floods in on me, and I feel trapped by it.  I've been accepted for the Fall Semester at a local University to take courses in the Arts program towards getting my Bachelor of Arts, but I'm not sure that it's the wisest thing to do.  An old desire has been resurfacing to do short or long-term medical missions, as I've been looking into Prairie Bible Institute's Practical Nursing program.  I've been trying to seek out counsel and evaluate things objectively, but it really is hard.  I want to make a wise decision, but nothing is clear yet.  There are so many voices - there are times when I try to drown them out, and other times when I feel like I need to please them all.  I found myself getting really anxious about these things yesterday, and God so blessedly reminded me of the gospel.  What use is it to worry about things as mundane as this when He has transcended Earth and Heaven to rescue me?  He had all my days numbered before one of them came to be.  I have to be constantly living in the truth of the gospel, not just my fickle emotions.

Trust.  It's what I have been called to.  It's one of those easy-hard things that Jesus commands...  As Christians, we are commanded to get rid of our own self-righteous striving and do everything in the power of the Holy Spirit.  This can be a difficult thing to understand and practice, and without salvation resulting in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we would be unable to live this out.  The more I learn, the greater the unknown becomes.  The more I know of Christ, the more I understand that I will never fully comprehend His greatness.  The more I see His greatness, the more I marvel at His mercy on me.

Oh how I long to be like my Lord!  I am so far from that goal, and I'm feeling it keenly.  Yet how marvelous that through Christ I have already been granted perfect righteousness!  Nonetheless, there are so many times when I fall utterly short of God's will for me - I so often walk through my day as if God is some far-off cosmic object.  Father, forgive me!  I sometimes catch myself giving a "Christian" response that comes from knowledge and rote, but not truly from my heart.  I so often hide my identity in Christ and go on auto-pilot, never truly engaging the depth of life and love that Christ has set within me.

He is truly faithful, but I am sensing more and more my own failures and inadequacy.  Oh how I need Him!  I need Him to unravel me, because I so easily get wrapped up in myself.  I need to be shaken, to get rid of my prideful inhibitions and fears about what others think about me.  I long to be truly honest and open, so that I can truly manifest God's glory.  There is a light within me, but I so often hide it under a bowl.  I need to let go of myself, but I feel so helpless to do this on my own.  I cannot even convey the depth of this plea - but even when I'm crying out for God to take away my disguise, I clutch it closer to myself in terror.  Oh God! Create in me the "perfect love [that] casts out fear" that 1 John 4 talks about.