Woah. That was one crazy, awesome night. I mean the night the sheep ran away and we had to chase them for miles was exciting, but this particular night was exhilarating. What night are we discussing? Let us tell you!
We were out with the sheep just like any other night. Some of us are dozing while others chatted about our lives and dreams. Then BOOM! Bright light. It was as if six Suns lit up the sky. Dude, we were terrified.
When our eyes adjusted somewhat, there were these majestic creatures with swords and wings. Dude, these were not there little cherubim with the arrows that you see on Valentine’s Day cards. These guys had a presence. We covered our eyes and shook in our sandals.
They told us to not be afraid. Okay sure. Big guys in a bright light appear in the dark of night and say don’t be afraid. Yeah, we still shivered even though the night was warm.
The angels went on to tell us that there was a very special baby being born in Bethlehem, and we should go visit. Uh sure! We immediately said, “let’s go” because it’s pretty rare we get invited to see anyone, much less a very special baby.
Boy was that baby special. He was born in a barn, but he turned out to be the son of God. We sure hope you know him personally because he’s a dude to know.
“and behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the such month with her who was called barren…. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:36, 41-42).
I can imagine that when Mary found out about her pregnancy she was scared, not only of being pregnant outside of marriage but simply of having her first child. I wonder if God provided Elizabeth a child not only for the fact that this child would proclaim about Jesus but also because God knew Mary would need a confidant. Mary would need someone who believed her claim about this baby being God and someone to share the pains and joys of having a child.
This passage reminds me that God always provides exactly what we need when we need it. He’s given me friends when I’m lonely, rest when I’m weary, and reassurance when I’m feeling insecure. Notice though God provides what we need not what we want. Mary may have wanted everyone to believe her, but God only gave her one because that’s how his perfect plan worked.
Have you ever felt distanced from God and you’re not sure how to find him again? According to Steven Furtick, you only need to go seven miles.
In his book, Seven-Mile Miracle, Furtick describes the last seven phrases that Jesus spoke before dying as a metaphor for the steps we will take from salvation until eternity in heaven.
Mile One: God’s forgiveness
Mile Two: Salvation
Mile Three: Relationship
Mile Four: The times when we feel abandoned
Mile Five: The times when we feel distressed
Mile Six: The triumph God gives
Mile Seven: A reunion with God
This short book packs a lot of punches as it describes how we all just want more of God. No matter where we are on that journey toward the presence of God, we need more of God to take the next step.
I appreciated that the book was loaded with scripture. Many paragraphs have a scriptural reference. Furtick stays focused on what truly matters rather than delving into long anecdotes.
In the back of the book, a 40 day reading guide is also included. The guide provides the parallel gospel readings of the 40 major events leading to Jesus’s ascension into heaven. I haven’t made it through the 40 days yet, but I look forward to the journey. It would be perfect to do the 40 days before Easter, but I think I’ve already missed that.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
Recently I saw a Facebook post reminiscing about the times in youth group when the youth leader asked for a volunteer to pray and there was dead silence. I can certainly remember those moments, and often I was one of the silent ones. On the off chance that the youth leader called on me or I volunteered, there was a brief moment of panic. If I’m honest, there’s still that moment of panic when I’m asked to pray aloud today. My question is “why?”. Why are we afraid to pray aloud? It’s just talking to God after all. I do that frequently, so what am I afraid of?
After some soul searching, I have come to the conclusion that I think for me it’s a fear of the people listening more than a fear of talking to God. I panic that others will think my prayer isn’t “holy” enough or long enough. Maybe I won’t use the right words, or maybe I won’t have any words at all.
This morning I was reading the passage in Matthew 6 where Jesus teaches the crowds how to pray. If pointing out that pagans pray so that others can hear them wasn’t enough explanation, Jesus follows up with an example prayer of his own. Guess what? Jesus’ prayer isn’t long and drawn out. It uses fairly simple words and has a pretty straightforward message.
This example gives me courage that when I feel like talking to God, I should do so freely whether out loud or in my head. After all, when I’m praying aloud, it’s God’s ear that matters, not the ears of others.
January 1st often brings about resolutions and promises which the pessimistic side of me says are often broken before the end of January. The optimistic side though always looks forward to a new year because it feels like a new opportunity to restart. Maybe I’ve gotten slack on reading my Bible or maybe I’ve become lazy about getting some form of exercise. Maybe I just need a mental swipe to know that it’s an opportunity to make this year better.
God saw that the Israelites needed this sort of clean swipe. The Israelites weren’t living the life God intended for them to live, and Jeremiah spends his book mourning their behavior and pleading for change. In Jeremiah 25, God allows the Israelites to go into captivity by the Babylonians. I’m sure some of the Israelites were upset with God at this point, but God had a plan. This is exactly the sort of opportunity God was presenting to the Israelites in Jeremiah 29, but he didn’t just present the opportunity. God presented the opportunity with a promise.
In Jeremiah 29, Jeremiah sends a letter to the exiles in Babylon who were following God. He relays the words of God that basically tell them to keep heart. In the well-quoted verse eleven, God says, I have “plans to proper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.” Later he adds that the people will seek him and find him when they seek him with all of their heart (vs. 13). In this, God is saying that he is giving the people a chance to restart. He allowed them to go into captivity as an opportunity to seek him with their full heart. Some of the Israelites needed that.
This set of verses gave me hope in a world and country that seems to be going topsy-turvy. Sometimes I wonder why Jesus hasn’t returned yet, but then I remember that he has promised that he will return. The Israelites probably wondered why he didn’t rescue them sooner, but he promised them 70 years in captivity. God hasn’t given us a specific time frame to be on this earth, but he has promised that he will return and that he has plan that is good. In the meantime, we must continue living out the commands he has given us. If you’ve gotten slack in keeping the commands or even in your relationship with God, take this fresh year as an opportunity to restart. God forgives any time of the year.
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40
Once I got started with The Protector, I devoured it. This was one of the many books I have bought recently at library book sales. Kudos to my public libraries for hosting two sales this summer!
In this novel, Dee Henderson continues the story of the O’Malley siblings focusing on Jack in this story. He’s a firefighter in a department where an arsonist keeps acting. There is a strong belief that Jack or those close to him are a common link to the arsonist’s actions, which seem to be saying something about the recent departmental cuts. Mingled in the arson mystery is a budding romance between Jack and another firefighter with a horrific past of her own. At the heart of the story is the question “Who is Jesus?”
I probably shouldn’t have jumped into this story mid-series. While I don’t know if the plot follows the other books in the series, but the book is written as if you already know the characters. Thankfully there are a few clues throughout the book that fill in details about how the characters connect. It did leave me wanting to read the others so I could learn more of the backstory.
While I did appreciate the fact that Jack came to believe in Jesus and accepted him for who he was, I felt that part was cheapened a bit by the romance. There was one moment where she seemed to care about his eternal destination, but it felt that the female character was mostly waiting for Jack to believe the same as she so that they could be together. The topic of unequally yoked dating is messier than I might like it to be though. I am appreciative that Henderson included this internal debate for the female character.
I’d recommend this book to pretty much anyone. It may be more appealing to female adults, but c’mon guys, it has a firefighter as a main character. The story has bits of romance, mystery, and action.
54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.
It was so easy for Peter to deny knowing Christ. He didn’t plan to do it, and I wonder if he even realized what he was doing in each of the three circumstances. He was acting out of fear for his life. For just a moment, his eyes were focused on his fears instead of focused on Jesus. Our fears reveal where we trust God the least and where we don’t understand God’s character. Peter’s fear showed that he didn’t trust God to take care of him and he didn’t understand that God had a plan for good in his life. Lately many of my fears have centered around being alone in the future, physically or emotionally. Those fears show me that I need to lean more on God and learn to trust that God will always be with me.
The Moment of Realization
Verse 61 says the Lord turned and looked at Peter, but it doesn’t say that Jesus said anything. It doesn’t even give any indication how close Peter was to Jesus. Words weren’t necessary, though. Because Peter had spent time with Jesus, Peter knew what that glance meant. He realized where he had gone wrong, and it caused him much sorrow to know what he had done. Hebrews 12:11 reminds us that “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” I didn’t enjoy the moment when I looked at my life and realized I was letting my fear of the future hinder me from trusting God. My fear of being lonely led to lashing out mentally at others for “abandoning me”, but God reminded me that I shouldn’t look to other people to satisfy my loneliness. God is the only one that can fill that need within me; He gives me friends and family as an addition to the joy He supplies not a substitute.
The Lesson Learned
Peter learns his lesson about being bold about his faith in Jesus and God. Instead of staying mired down in his failure, accounts in Acts show Peter speaking boldly. In Acts 4:8-12, Peter speaks to the officials about the power of Christ to heal. He put aside all of his fears and openly gave all credit to Jesus and fully claimed to know Christ. Later when he writes his first letter to the churches, he tells them to “always be ready to give a defense” (1 Peter 3:15). Reading this in the context of the earlier passage shows that Peter was speaking from experience. Be ready to defend your faith and to claim your faith because the discipline when you don’t is painful. Whatever lesson God is trying to reveal to you, be ready to learn it.