Mark 16: “Including Peter”

If you’ve never failed God, this reflection is not for you. But if you’ve ever promised God something, but not done it; if you’ve ever resolved to overcome some persistent sin, only to mess up repeatedly; if you’re plagued with guilt over sins that have defeated you; then, this reflection is for you.

Although Marks reflection of the resurrection is short by comparison, it’s not without a powerful and profound moment. If you’re not careful in your reading, you could run right past the two most hope filled words in the whole chapter, especially for those who have failed God.

Mark 16:5-7 (NLT) When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”

A question to ask is, why did the angel add, “including Peter?” You better believe that the risen Lord made sure to specifically include these words, knowing they would eventually get back to Peter. Peter, who just a few short days earlier had fallen completely on his face and denied Jesus to his face, was now included in the list of disciples. Now that’s grace!

Can you imagine the scene when the women got back to the disciples? The disciples are sitting in a small room; looking at each other wondering, what now? Suddenly the women barge into the room, out of breath, talking about the angel they met who was sitting inside the open tomb. I’m sure Peter was thinking this can’t be, but then he heard them say, “including Peter!”

What did you say? The angel said, “including Peter,” really? Are you sure that’s what the angel said? Tell me, what were his exact words?

As we’ve already discussed in a previous reflection, scholars agree that Mark’s Gospel was written primarily under Peter’s influence. Picture Mark, quill in hand, writing, “Go, tell His disciples.” There’s Peter looking over his shoulder, saying, “‘including Peter!’ Mark, don’t forget to write, ‘including Peter!’” Remember, this is the same Mark who had failed Paul on the first missionary journey. You can be sure that the words are accurate. Those two short words say to us:

The Resurrected King offers hope to all who have failed God

How have you failed God? What have you done to disappoint Jesus? Now think about this, was it as bad as what Peter did right in front of Jesus the night he betrayed him? You may think so, but Peter would probably disagree.

Now think about not only what Jesus did on the cross, but that today he makes it a point to say…”now go and tell his disciples…” including (insert your name here).

Hebrews 10: “A Hope Built on Nothing Less”

Cursed with Hopelessness

John Maxwell talks of a small town in Maine that stood in the way of a proposed hydroelectric dam. All the residents were told that their town would be submerged by the dam and they would have to pack up all their belongings and relocate.

As construction began on the dam, a curious thing began to happen in the town. All improvements ceased. No one painted their house. Roads and sidewalks were not repaired. Long before the dam was finished, the town looked shabby and abandoned. One resident noted, “Where there is no hope in the future, there is no power in the present.” The town was cursed with hopelessness because it had no future.

Truth About Hopelessness

There are very few things that are more debilitating than hopelessness. A person with a small amount of hope has at least a spark that could ignite a flame. A person without hope not only doesn’t have a spark, but every match they touch is soaking wet.

It’s a sobering thought to consider that there are millions of people right now who, because of a lack of hope in the future, have given up on the present. But the writer of Hebrews is looking to change all of that. Instead of being hopeless, the writer encourages his listeners to “hold tightly” to the very thing they’re not sure they have…HOPE!

Hebrews 10:23 (NLT) 23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 

If we’re honest, it won’t take long to realize that we hold tightly to a lot of things in this world, and typically, hope is not one of them. In fact, we can probably name at least two or three things that can trump hope by far. Think about it, hope isn’t going to pay the bills, money does that. Hope isn’t going to feed your kids, food does that. Lastly, hope isn’t going to load the dishwasher, kids, I mean…

Hope In Scripture

It’s interesting to note that hope in the scripture is a little different then the hope we’re accustomed to. Hope for us is a kind of wishy-washy unsure optimism: Like I alluded to earlier, we tend to think…

  • I hope he/she likes me
  • I hope I get the promotion
  • I hope my car doesn’t run out of gas
  • I hope I shut the garage door this morning when I went to work… (no seriously)

In scripture, and during this time, hope is not wishy washy, hope is defined as a strong and confident expectation. So when we read in scripture about hope, it would have the connotation of expectancy or belief of certainty. On the opposite side, a loss of hope would have as much confidence in the certainty, in this case, of death.

Here’s the great news about Hope: Whether positive or negative, hope in scripture is never passive. Hope is always dynamic and active. What do you need to hope on Jesus for? Not a hope of wishy-washyness, but a hope of certainty that God shows up on time, every time.

Closing

Not only does the writer encourage us to hold unswervingly (NIV) to hope, but he also indicates that God can be trusted to keep his promises. Now this is where the writer of Hebrews begins to drive down his listeners street. The reason I say that is because this is exactly the point the writer’s been making! Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were all promises kept by God dating all the way back to Genesis.

The first verse of the great Hymn, “My Hope is Built On Nothing Less,” says it all:

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame (my own merit),
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Hebrews 6: “HOPE… As an Anchor For Our Souls”

Dropping Anchor…Literally

Growing up I had the opportunity to go fishing with my neighbor Bruce. To this day I still can’t figure out why he would take me, especially considering that it seemed like I always did something to mess up our trip. Well, this trip for Blues and Catfish under the Commodore Barry Bridge in Philadelphia would be no different. As we pull up to the bridge, Bruce is coaching me through how to release the anchor on the boat:

  • Wait for me
  • Wait till I’m in neutral
  • Watch the waves
  • Don’t put out too much line at first
  • Don’t throw the anchor, just drop it off to the side.

Suddenly he yells, now, now, now… What do I do? Well, I was so surprised and excited I threw the anchor out in front of the boat, to which Bruce says, “I told you not to the throw the anchor, and especially off the front of the boat. Well as he was putting the boat in reverse and watching his prop, I watched the anchor line uncoil and slip right over the edge of the boat and sink over 40’ to the bottom of the river. Bruce turns around and says, “Go ahead and tie off the line to the bow cleat…awkward”

You know, anchors don’t work very well unless they’re attached to something.

Hebrews 6:19 (NLT) 19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. But the question is, what exactly is “this hope?” In order to answer that question you have to go back to verses 13-20

Hebrews 6:13-20 (NLT)

The scripture here is pointing to the fact that we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. But the question remains for us, why would the writer talk about God’s Promise to Abram as a form of hope? To answer that question we have to look back at the covenant between God and Abram in the desert.

Genesis 15:7-12, 17-20 (NLT) 

Blood Path

To walk the blood path was a huge deal, it meant that your life was indebted to the person you walked with through the path. That night Abram realized God was “cutting a covenant”, and as the scripture says, Abram became paralyzed by fear. God’s covenant terms were clear. He would bless the world through Abraham… as long as Abraham lived in perfect harmony with God’s ways. But there was one problem; Abraham knew that he couldn’t be perfect and that his sins were like spitting in the face of God. So while he looked at the gruesome blood path, Abraham recognized the high price for breaking the covenant terms. Walking that path would be like signing his own death sentence. Remember, if you break the covenant it will cost you your life. That’s when God did something extraordinary. What God did is the hope that’s an anchor for my soul!

If we’re not careful we’ll miss the hope, but when you stop and reflect, you see it in Genesis 15:17 (NLT) After the sun went down and darkness fell, Abram saw a smoking fire-pot AND a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses.

THIS IS THE ANCHOR OF HOPE! God wants us to be in a covenant relationship with Him, but He says to us, I’m going to walk the path for myself and for you! And in that amazing moment, God took Abraham’s place to die if he couldn’t keep his end of the bargain. You have to remember that this wasn’t just a covenant between Abraham and God, but like God said in Genesis 15:18 (NLT), this is a covenant between Abraham and ALL of his descendants, which includes us.

He walked it for you…he walked it for me. In fact, He still walks it for you…for me. Could you imagine the excitement of these early Hebrew Christians? To know the forerunner, Jesus, has entered on there behalf.

Jesus is an anchor of hope for our soul.

Romans 9: “God Can vs. God Does”

And here we are, Romans 9. If you thought Romans 7 was hard, read 8, if you thought 8 was hard, don’t even start reading 9! This means 10 and 11 are right out! I’m obviously saying this tongue-in-cheek, because the reality is, if we only read the “easy” parts of the bible, we would be done reading in a day or two. This isn’t a shocking fact, but some parts of the bible are hard to read! There, I said it!

The truth about Romans 9 is that it can’t be read without 10 and 11. It’s only when you read Romans 9, 10, and 11 together that you begin to get a broader context of what exactly Paul is saying in Romans 9. At first glance, God comes off as a tyrannical jerk who does what He pleases and you better get used to it. Now to be fair, God can do whatever He pleases, but the question isn’t whether or not God “can,” the question is whether or not God “does.” It’s not a challenge to believe or understand that God knows all thing, but it is a challenge to understand how his knowing fits into our choice. I want to be very clear up front, I will be reading a sharing on Chapter 9 from a Wesleyan/Arminian theological view.

Foreknowledge

Longtime Asbury Professor, Ben Witherington, asks a challenge question that’s really at the heart of Romans 9: “What is the relationship between what God knows, and what happens?” 

To begin, in order to wrestle with God’s foreknowledge (Predestination), you have to wrestle with a just and holy God choosing, on purpose, that some of the people of his creation would not, and frankly should not, be saved. This means that before time began, God would intentionally create disposable people. People who’s lives ultimately are meaningless, don’t matter to God, and are without hope. Now this doesn’t make sense to me. Multiple times throughout scripture we see a just and holy God indicating that he would desire that none would perish. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

It doesn’t mean that some won’t perish, but that’s not God’s choice. So if it’s not God’s choice, then who’s choice is it? Well, that the beauty of free will.

Article 7, Prevenient Grace (Nazarene Manual 2013-2017). We believe that the human race’s creation in Godlikeness included the ability to choose between right and wrong, and that thus human beings were made morally responsible; that through the fall of Adam they became depraved so that they cannot now turn and prepare themselves by their own natural strength and works to faith and calling upon God. But we also believe that the grace of God through Jesus Christ is freely bestowed upon all people, enabling all who will to turn from sin to righteousness, believe on Jesus Christ for pardon and cleansing from sin, and follow good works pleasing and acceptable in His sight.

 

Election

Foreknowledge is one things, election is another, and salvation is yet another from that! Paul even shares here that you can be a part of an elect group, like the Israelites, but in the end still not be saved. Paul communicates clearly to his Jewish brothers and sisters that, just because you’re Jewish, doesn’t mean you’re saved. In fact, Chapter 9 isn’t about individual believers at all. Instead Chapter 9 is in reference, just like the consistent theme of Paul’s letter, to the people of Israel.

We have to be careful when we associate “election” with “salvation.” Election is about God calling a specific group of people to a specific task on earth. God chose Israel, and here in Chapter 9, Paul is dumbfounded how Israel could have gotten it wrong. Here me, election does not have eternal purposes associate with it. Again, look at what Paul indicates in Romans 9. Who was the “elected” person in Romans 9? verse 17 reads, 17 For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, “I have appointed (elected) you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.” So when we read in Romans 9 that God “foreknew,” it doesn’t mean he chose for them, but that ultimately it points to is God’s supremacy and sovereignty.

Again, the key takeaway from Chapter 9 is not whether or not God “can,” the question is whether or not God “does.”

 

 

Romans 4: “Don’t Lose Hope”

Don’t Lose Hope

On an early morning during a torrential downpour in Tuscaloosa, AL Patrice Carter found herself driving in a raging river that had quickly covered the road ahead of her. Trying to reverse and drive the other direction, her small car was quickly picked up and pinned against the large center median of the road. The water rushed so quickly and violently all Patrice could do is climb to the top of her car and scream for help.

Luckily, off duty police officer and veteran search and rescue member Mike Stanton happen to look down from an overpass to find Patrice standing on her car screaming for help. Mike immediately rushed into action as he noticed the water level getting higher and higher. He can remember thinking to himself, “If I don’t get to her soon, the water’s going to sweep her off that roof and away!”

In the process of making his way to the river bank, Officer Stanton called for the local fire department to his location and notified them of Patrice’s situation. Patrice was frantically yelling for Officer Stanton to help her, but Mike knew the best thing at this point was to try and keep Patrice calm and tell her help is on the way.

As the firefighters and paramedics showed up, the water level was dangerously high now and about to swallow the car. Because of the noise of the rushing water, Officer Santon had to keep yelling for Patrice to hear his instructions. Just as they were making their first attempt to get a line across the street, Patrice slipped and was now lying on top of the roof of her car holding on for dear life. Officer Stanton kept yelling for Patrice to get up at least to her knees because he knew she wouldn’t be able to hold herself for long against the waves.

Reverting back to his training, Mike Stanton knew he had to give Patrice the one thing that could save her life, hope. Mike began to yell to Patrice, “Don’t lose hope!” “Don’t lose hope! He could see from Patrice’s reaction that the motivation of not loosing hope was helping Patrice, so he kept yelling it, “Don’t lose hope!” At one point, Patrice was able to get back up on her knees to give her arms a much needed break from holding on. It didn’t last long as Patrice then was quickly knocked back down by the violent waters.

The line was secured and the rescue workers, including Officer Mike Stanton, were in position, now all they needed was for Patrice to let go of the car and float into the rescue line that was meant to catch her. After much convincing, Officer Stanton convinced Patrice to let go of the only thing keeping her alive and float into the rescue line. The last thing Officer Santon said to Patrice as she let go of the car was simply, “Don’t lose hope, they got you.”

Patrice let go and was caught by the rescue line and led back to safety by a rescue swimmer. The first thing she wanted to do was thank the man who helped keep her alive. Officer Stanton rushed over to see that Patrice was okay and the two of them hugged in exhaustion. While Patrice was being checked over by the Paramedics on the scene she talked with Mike.

“You kept yelling to me, ‘Don’t lose hope!'”

To which Mike responded, “Well, hope is a powerful thing.”

Just at that point, after her mom didn’t come home from her night shift job, Patrice’s daughter ran over and gave her mom a huge hug thanking her and God that she was alright. Patrice said to her daughter, “I want you to meet someone who helped keep me alive today.”

“Officer Stanton I want you to meet my daughter, Hope.”

Hope is a Powerful Thing

Because Paul was still fighting the battle between the Way of Faith verses the Way of the Law, it was important for Paul to give an example of a Jewish believer who was saved by faith. The summary statement of Chapter 4 is found in verse 3 (NLT) For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

Then Paul goes into detail regarding the faith that Abraham showed even in the midst of desperation. There’s a line in verse 18 that I want us to conclude with today. Romans 4:18 (NLT) 18 Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping. I put a note in my bible when I read this before that puts it this way.

Even when there was no reason for hope, (insert name here) kept hoping.

I want you to finish today by reading verses 20-22 but I want you to replace Abraham’s name with yours. You can make him/her interchangeable as well.

 

1 Thess. 4: “Show Me The Way”

Verse 4 of “It is Well”

4. And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul.

Verse 4 of “How Great Thou Art”

4. When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home- what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, my God, how great thou art!


Maybe you’re like me and you too grew up in church singing these great hymns. I will always remember the worship leader, Mr. Roland, saying, “Now let’s lift the rafters of the church.” For a second I thought we had a rafting team I didn’t know about, but instead everyone knew what he meant; “Sing it, shout it, loud and long…”

Either way, these songs were not just to sing, shout, or be loud, they were also meant to teach and educate the congregation on matters of theological importance. Historically in most hymns, verse 4 is where we learn about the return of Christ. So if we were to take this principle and look just at these two hymns, what do we learn about the Second Coming?

The Second Coming, According to Verse 4

Continue reading 1 Thess. 4: “Show Me The Way”

1 Thess. 1: “Ringing Out from You”

Introduction

Welcome to 1 Thessalonians! The year is A.D. 51. Writing from Corinth, Paul sits down with both Silas and Timothy to write a note of encouragement and explanation to the people of Thessalonica. The encouragement part was to spur on the church and the Thessalonian Christians to keep being the Godly example their reputation suggested. The explanation portion of the letter is to address the many questions brought up by the young believers in the church.

So you have some context, it was in Thessalonica that Paul and Silas found refuge after their experience in Philippi… you know, the place where they were beaten and thrown in prison? Again, to help with context, the first eleven verses of Acts 17 take place while they were in Thessalonica.

Because Paul didn’t spend a ton of time with the Thessalonians he was fearful they didn’t understand how to teach the next generation. Paul was partially correct, but also pleasantly surprised when Timothy came back reporting all the church had accomplished since his departure.

Faith, Hope, and Love

You can learn a lot about a church from the opening of Paul’s letters. He typically brings greeting, thanking God for the believers, and a word of encouragement. In 1 Thessalonians 1 we find out what Paul thinks about the church while he prays for them: Continue reading 1 Thess. 1: “Ringing Out from You”

Acts 23: “Hope in the Resurrection”

What Do You Hope For?

Hope is a word that get’s thrown around pretty willy-nilly these days. Shoot, I do it myself when I say things like, “I hope Michigan beats Ohio State this year!” Or, “I hope that light stays green!” These aren’t bad uses of the word “hope,” but they just don’t really mean anything in the end. As we begin today, ask yourself this question: What do you hope for in the end? I mean, really hope for? You have to know that what we hope for determines a lot about how we live. It’s been scientifically proven that mentality helps shapes your future.

Hopeful

A man approached a little league baseball game on afternoon. He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was. The boy responded, “Eighteen to nothing-we’re behind.”

“Boy,” said the spectator, “I’ll bet you’re discouraged.”

“Why should I be discouraged?” replied the little boy. “We haven’t even gotten up to bat yet!”

Hope in the Resurrection

Hope: “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” Let me be clear, what we hope for determines a lot about how we live. Paul in Acts 23 makes a bold declaration both philosophically and theologically. Continue reading Acts 23: “Hope in the Resurrection”