Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Divine Appointments

This week has been very interesting. I have come into contact with folks in many different situations in which God was very active in our midst. I had three different opportunities to talk about the Lord in three different settings. As a Christian counselor, there is an expectation that those who profess Christ as Lord share the same faith and outlook on life. However, I also counsel those who do not share my beliefs and most sessions are uneventful. On Monday, one of my clients who has some serious struggles picked up a book from the waiting room of the church where my office is located. It was from the "Left Behind" series. She found it very interesting and asked to borrow it. This opened the door for even more questions and further discussion. Some of the questions were focused on topics that people typically ask. (i.e. Why does God allow suffering?) Other questions were a bit deeper and I was thankful that my seminary education was paying off! As the client left my office, she commented that she would like to have more discussions about Christianity. I was grateful that some seeds were planted and pray for the Spirit to continue to water them. The following day I went to anoint with oil and pray for a young man who drowned last week. He is the boyfriend of one of my husband's nieces. He made a poor choice in the swimming pool after my husband's niece went into the house for a minute. He somehow became submerged in the deep end of the pool for approximately five minutes. He did not know how to swim. As of this writing he is in the ICU at the hospital fighting for his life. When I arrived I met the young man's family. His parents were divorced and his father had come from Pennsylvania to be with his son. After we prayed together, I discovered that the father is a strong Christian. He told me that about 1 month ago, he had shared the Lord with his son and the young man accepted Christ. The Lord knew this event was going to happen and while we pray that this young man will recover, even if he doesn't it is a comfort to know he will be with the Lord. Even more ironic is that one of this young man's relatives was a former client of mine who had dropped out of counseling. On Wednesday I went grocery shopping. As I was checking out, the cashier noticed a necklace I was wearing which has the word, "FAITH" on it. She commented, "Oh, I preached about that last week." When I inquired if she was a pastor she stated that she was a lay preacher and visited various churches of different denominations where ever she was asked to speak. She added that her husband was also involved in ministry leading Bible studies and writing. I happened to look at the name tag of young man who was bagging my groceries and his name was Ezekiel. It is easy for some to dismiss this series of events that occurred three days in a row as merely coincidence. However, just last Sunday the pastor of our home church was preaching about how God is involved in our lives everyday. The Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation speak about "divine appointments." These appointments can be with angelic hosts (i.e. The angel telling Mary of Christ's birth in Luke 1:26-38) or enemies in battle (i.e. Joshua and the battle of Jericho in Joshua 5:13-6:27) or even with everyday people (i.e. Jesus giving directions to Peter and John to make preparations for the Passover and describing the man they would meet and the place he would show them in Luke 22:7-13) The point is that God wants us to be open and available to the movement of His Spirit. We are His ambassadors on earth and he wants to work through us to make Himself known to the world. (2 Corinthians 5:20) Are we willing to be available? If so, stand back and see what God will do!
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Sheree

Monday, June 11, 2012

At The Table

At our Bible study last Wednesday, we continued our look at Peter and his relationship with Jesus. It was clear that prior to going down to Jerusalem, Peter and Jesus had begun to grow closer and the bond of an intimate friendship were being strengthened. However, upon arriving in Jerusalem, things began to change. Peter and John were given the task in Luke 22:7-16 of making preparations for the Passover meal, what we have come to know as the Lord's Supper. The disciples had no idea that this would be their last time together with Jesus. The famous painting of Leonardo DaVinci capturing the Last Supper is an inaccurate reflection of the actual set up. Jesus and the disciples would have been reclining at the table known as a triclinium. "Tri" indicating three sides and "clinium" meaning to recline. The place to the right of Jesus was referred to as the seat of the "honored guest." The place to the left of Jesus was referred to as the seat of the "intimate friend." On the far side of the table opposite these two special places is where the servant normally sat. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, (John 13:23) occupied the place of the honored guest. Judas Iscariot, Jesus' betrayer, occupied the place of the intimate friend. This comes as a surprise since intimate friends are typically those we trust and with whom we have a close relationship like Jesus and Peter had begun to establish in Capernaum. So, where was Peter? Surprisingly, he was at the far side of the table occupying the place where the servant sat. What was Peter feeling? Perhaps confusion and a sense of personal betrayal and insult. I can imagine him thinking to himself,"I don't get it! I thought Jesus and I were friends! Jesus even stayed at my home in Capernaum after leaving His home in Nazareth." Perhaps this prompted some of Peter's resistance in allowing Jesus to wash his feet, aside from the fact that such a menial task was the work of slaves. Disciples would perform all sorts of tasks for their Rabbis, but loosing sandal thongs was expressly forbidden. And a Rabbi would never do such a thing for his disciples! However, then comes the final shocker in Luke 22:31-34 when Jesus predicts Peter's coming denial. The interesting point is that although Jesus remarks that Satan had asked to sift all of the disciples like wheat (22:31), He turns to Peter and specifically tells him, "But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." (22:32) Peter's place at the table in some ways foreshadowed just how much Jesus truly valued him. Jesus told His disciples when they were arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom, "..Who ever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and who ever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:43-45)  Upon discussing these passages in our study group, one of the ladies asked the question,"Where would you be at the table?" It was a question that has challenged me and gives all followers of Christ something upon which to reflect. If we are honest, we would probably prefer to be sitting next to Jesus as the "honored guest" or "intimate friend." Would we really be content sitting on the other side of the table as the servant? Although John was the beloved disciple, Peter's friend Jesus specifically prayed for him. And indeed Jesus' intercession gave Peter the power to strengthen his brothers and take the lead in Acts 2:14-41 at the birth of the church and subsequent spread of the gospel. So remember, as servants of the Most High God, we don't bear a mantle of shame but of power and grace because our Lord intercedes for us. (Romans 8:34)
Praise the Lord!
Pastor Sheree

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Fragile Stone

I am currently hosting a Bible study at my home with some ladies from our congregation. We are studying the relationship between Peter and Jesus. The title of the study material is called, "A Fragile Stone." The title points to the paradox of Peter as "Cephas" or the "rock" while looking at his somewhat fragile faith. One of the passages we looked at was Matthew 14 where Jesus walks on the water. In this familiar passage after Jesus has just fed the 5,000 He sends the disciples ahead of Him to the other side of the lake. The disciples are some distance from the shore when the waves start to buffet the boat making it difficult for them to row against the strong winds. Jesus comes out to them walking on the waves. They are terrified and Jesus reassures them not to be afraid and identifies Himself. Peter asks Jesus' permission to come out to Him to prove that it really is the Lord. The rest of the story is usually the focal point of many a sermon in that Peter was fine until he took his eyes off of Jesus and then began to sink. The Lord questions Peter's faith. Many sermons make the application that we should keep our eyes fixed on the Lord in times of trouble. The point is a good one, but the Lord ministered to my heart through that same story with an additional perspective. In my devotional, "Our Daily Bread" the passage of the day was Isaiah 43:1-4, "But now, this is what the Lord says---He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers I will be with you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious  and honored in my sight, and because I love you."  The devotional thought for the day was,"Never forget in the darkness what you know to be true in the light." In my other devotional, "Jesus Calling", a similar encouragement was given. The idea was similar to the message of Matthew 14, to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus no matter what is going on around me. When Jesus is central to my thinking, I am able to view circumstances from His perspective. I was then struck by the similarity to the message I received and Peter's situation. The lesson for Peter was not solely about keeping his eyes focused on Jesus but also seeing the situation from Jesus' perspective. Peter failed to see how Jesus had given him the ability to conquer the wind and waves. For Peter to have majesty over creation just like Jesus. Why? Because of Isaiah 43. Jesus had redeemed Peter and called him by name. He belonged to Jesus. When Peter passed through the waters, Jesus would be with him and when he passed through the rivers, Jesus would be there, because Peter was precious and honored in Jesus' sight, and because He loved him. It is easy to get focused on what is or is not happening around us. All of us can be "fragile stones." But like Peter, we have been given the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome and rise above our circumstances. Yes, keeping my eyes fixed on the Lord is one of my growing edges. But just as the Lord bid Peter to come to Him because He loved Peter and called him by name, so Jesus bids me to do likewise because that's how much He loves you and me.
Blessings in the name of Yeshua,
Pastor Sheree