And the Rooster Crowed…

All four gospels record the three-fold denial of Christ by Peter. Mark claims that the rooster crowed twice, while Matthew, Luke, and John imply once. When you deny the Lord Jesus, who really cares how many times the stupid rooster crows, just as long as it crows!

Lord, what is the purpose of all this horrible evil taking place in your world? Why don’t you step in and stop it? The Jews asked the same question during the Holocaust? What was your answer then? I don’t remember. I know that Satan is the prince of this world and that he comes to plunder, steal, and destroy. But you, Lord Jesus, have come to give us life—life more abundant. But why are you allowing all of this death? Are people really turning to you or are they learning to trust in science?

Even your church is struggling with this, along with all the other hardships connected with this pandemic. Our family members have gotten sick from the virus; some of them have died and we are grieving; some are locked away in nursing homes or hospitals and we can’t even visit them; some have personal and emotional issues and are without personal support; some have lost their jobs and can’t pay for the mortgage or rent. Some of us are among the most vulnerable and may not have long to live; we cannot even hug our children and grandchildren. The future is so uncertain. Will we ever see the light of day?

I know there are no answers for these complaints, Lord—I’m just venting and lamenting. But I do know this: you want us to trust you. I remember (not that I was there) when you heard that your friend Lazarus was sick and you stayed where you were 2 more days. It looked like you actually waited for him to die before you went him. After all, you told your disciples “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (John 11:15) That is hard to understand and your delay sure must have been tough on Mary and Martha, not to mention Lazarus. But looking back on it, you knew that raising your friend from the dead would have more impact on building the faith of your followers than (merely) healing him—they had seen that before.

And so, I guess you are doing the same thing with us— desiring to increase our faith in all that is happening around us which we have never before seen. But Lord, please, you have to help us in this. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed by things that our faith fails us, like it did our brother Peter. We move away from you instead of toward you; we act in ways that cast doubt on whether we even know you. Then the rooster crows once or twice and we are abruptly reminded of our frailty and brokenness; of our empty boasting about how faithful we have been in following you. And at that moment, when we’ve let you down, we see you looking at us, as you looked at Peter. That look which sends us running into the night to be alone and to weep bitterly.

Perhaps the rooster (and the look) is the Holy Spirit calling us back to you and your mercy; preventing us from becoming like Judas who was filled with suicidal remorse, but did not repent. No, Lord, in spite of the evil that is so invasive in the word today and the overwhelming nature of related situations which cause me to act so erratic and squirrely, I will not run away from you into the night! I will cling to you in the middle of what I do not understand, and I will hope in you even though the mountains seem to be sliding into the midst of the sea. I really have no one else to turn to, Lord—you alone have the words of eternal life. Please help me—please help your Church—please help our world! Amen.

Thoughts on Faith…

I am sitting here drinking barium and waiting in the doctor’s office to get a CT scan that will reveal what impact 12 treatments of chemotherapy have had on my pancreatic cancer. As I was praying, I was reminded of Jesus’ Gethsemane prayer in Matthew 26… “nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” If Jesus were to pray this prayer today as a member of the “hyper-faith” movement, he would probably say, “Father, by the authority given to me as your Beloved Son, I claim the victory in advance over this coming Crucifixion! In your Name, I command that the forces of evil be defeated and that this cup of suffering be taken away from me! Vindicate me according to my faith.” 

Instead, what we hear from the lips of our Lord is an agonizing prayer that would not cut it in a more charismatic gathering. “My Father, if it is possible (Matthew), everything is possible for you (Mark), if you are willing (Luke)… take this cup from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will.” The bottom line for Jesus was to do the will of God, not to escape his pain. It is faintly reminiscent of the faith-statement of Daniel’s three friends who were threatened with death in the fiery furnace if they did not bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image. “Our God, whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O King. But even if He doesn’t (if He is not willing), we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image you have set up.” (Dan 3:17, 18)

Do you honestly think that such a prayer made by Jesus and the confessional by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego demonstrate a lack of faith? There are some who would claim so—that praying for God’s will to be done is a default position that shows a shallow faith. I once heard a TV evangelist say, “For those who do not have the faith to boldly ask God for something, they always tend to meekly ask him for his will to be done.” Really? 

I believe that such a perspective shows how Satan can twist the Scripture (example of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness) in order to sow seeds of confusion and disagreement among God’s people—all under the guise of super-spirituality. It reminds me of the teaching of the Pharisees whose twisted interpretation of the Law kept God’s people in bondage.

What has been helpful for me to think through this issue of faith and God’s will is the analogy that Jesus drew between the good gifts our Father desires to give us as his children and those we wish to bestow on our own children.  “If you then, who are evil (not a perfect parent like God), know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” (Matt 7:11) The context is where Jesus encouraged his followers to continue to ask, seek, and knock for things they desire from God. 

Let’s say your older child comes to you and presents a request in this way: “Dad (Mom), on the basis of the authority you have given me as your beloved child, I claim in advance the right to be given $250 of my future inheritance in order to pay for the repairs on my car!” Do you have any initial reactions to this scenario?

However, let’s say your child comes to you in this way: “Dad (Mom), I know that it is possible and completely within your ability to take away the burden that I have of not being able to pay my car repair bill. I also know that you love me and know what is best for me, so I trust you to do what is according to your will because what you want for me is more important than what I want for myself.” After you picked yourself up from off the floor, how would you respond to this request? Which request demonstrates the greatest amount of trust in you? 

How much more your Heavenly Father…