Posts Tagged ‘the apostle Peter’

One morning recently, I decided to take a particular route through our village to the main road. Just before I entered an area bordering on bushland, I noticed a nearby sign. I read what it said—it was very clear:

IMG_20171013_120522229 (2)Even as one part of my brain took these words in, however, another part thought: ‘This will never happen to me! Those magpies won’t bother me! They’re probably not close by at all—it may not even be the right season for them.’

How wrong I was! I had taken only a few steps before—whoosh! Something came at me from behind and off to my right, swooping down at breakneck speed and narrowly missing my head.  Needless to say, I scuttled off, no doubt looking more than a little undignified in the process! Why I thought I was immune to those attacking magpies, I have no idea. Put it down to ignorance or arrogance—or both.

Later, I told my husband about my perilous adventure. Yet the next day, he too chose to walk through that same area and did not even notice the sign. This time, that pesky magpie dive-bombed a little more accurately and, while no damage was done, my husband did get quite a fright. Was he forewarned? Yep. Did he remember what I had said? Nope!

What silly creatures we can be! I know in other areas of my life as well, I have not heeded warnings on occasions from those much wiser than I—gentle suggestions to take time off, to be kinder to myself, to rest and relax. Instead, I have kept going and become exhausted in the process. I did not think it would happen to me. I thought I was invincible.

Years ago, I remember singing a particular song in church in which we all passionately declared we would follow Jesus forever and never fall away. I have forgotten the exact words, but I remember holding my breath at how fervently we all sang them. I hoped and prayed we would be able to stand firm, whatever happened in our lives, but I sensed even then how desperately I would need God’s help to do so. And sadly, as time went by, many who sang those words did cease following the Lord.

I think too of the Apostle Peter’s fervent declaration of faithfulness just prior to Jesus’ death and of Jesus’ heartrending response, predicting what would actually happen:

Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” Matthew 26:33-34

How easy it is to make promises to God, yet not keep them!  How tempting it can be to forget how much we need God and to think, ‘It couldn’t happen to me’! How quickly we can become just that little bit too complacent and cease to care about living in a way that honours God!

May we all continue to walk humbly each day in the strength and power that God gives. And may we always be ready to listen with all our hearts to that Voice behind us, saying , “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21b)


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Jo 17I love Easter. Apart from anything else, I enjoy this time of the year, as autumn leaves begin to appear everywhere and there is a promise of cooler days to come. I love witnessing the pleasure on the faces of children as they receive Easter eggs. I love seeing relatives or friends who take the time to visit. But, above all, I love the opportunity it brings to stop and reflect once again on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

This year, I read the account of the last weeks of Jesus’ life on earth in Matthew’s Gospel and, as often happens, it was as if I had never read some parts before. Yet I have—many times. And maybe these particular verses have even impacted me deeply before. But I am good at forgetting—and no, it has nothing to do with age! We all need this constant reminding, I believe, of what it cost God to send Jesus to die for us. We all need to allow those words written so long ago and the words Jesus himself spoke to pierce our hearts again and to spur us on to be and to do all God has for us to be and do.

I came to Matthew 26:34-35 and began to read how Jesus predicted Peter’s denial.

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

Now I know I have read these verses before—there is a big pen mark in my old Bible beside the last sentence there which shows me it impacted me on at least one other occasion. Yet this time, the sadness of those final, few words almost overwhelmed me. I had remembered Peter’s assertion that he would never disown Jesus. But I had forgotten how all the other disciples had joined in as well. How difficult it must have been for Jesus to listen to their promises, knowing they would not be kept—at least not immediately anyway.

I read on and came to the scene in Gethsemane where Jesus asks Peter, James and John to keep watch with him while he prays.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Mt 26:38

The disciples knew exactly how Jesus was feeling—yet three times when he returns from praying, he finds them asleep. Surely he felt utterly forsaken and devastated enough, without being so let down by those closest to him? Again, I felt deep sadness on his behalf—yet also compassion for those three disciples. After all, I may not have been faithful enough to be anywhere near the Garden of Gethsemane that night.

Yes, these verses might have made for sad reading–but what a privilege to enter fully into Easter with Jesus and to realise once again his incredible love for you and me. Easter 2015 has left me feeling so grateful, as well as strengthened and somehow enriched.

May you too have experienced something of that same strengthening and enriching as you identified with our Saviour in your own way this Easter.

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For years I drove my family crazy. At regular intervals, I would come out with statements such as the following:

‘I’d like to write a book one day.’

‘Oh, I could write my Great Australian Novel in that beautiful spot!’

‘You’ll see. One day I’ll write my own novel.’

Eventually, our older daughter got tired of hearing me talk like this. For my birthday, she gave me a pile of books on how to write, plus a bookmark she had made herself, with a picture of a steaming cup of tea on it and a little sticker that said ‘Write your own!’

So I did—although it took me over twenty years to get around to it! I still have that little, handmade bookmark and often take it with me when I speak somewhere. I use it to encourage others not to ignore the dreams God has put in their hearts and to step out with courage and do whatever it is they have longed to do.

Recently, I met someone who wants to write and has even planned out her first novel. But as for actually starting on the writing itself—well, that’s another matter. Somehow it’s all just too scary for her. What if she finds she can’t do it? What if she discovers, after months of effort, that she has been wasting her time?

I understand how she feels—as would many writers, I believe. Even now, with seven books published, I find myself a little reluctant to launch into writing that eight book. I want to write it, with all my heart. I believe I have something worthwhile to say in this book. I fully intend to write it and have even begun, but it’s amazing how many other tasks I decide I have to do first! Yet I know from past experience how wonderfully fulfilling it is to give myself over to writing and allow those words to flow out onto that screen, to see those characters and storyline develop or to be carried along as a non-fiction book takes shape.

So what’s to be done?  You may not intend to write a book in 2014. Perhaps it’s the last thing you could imagine yourself doing! But we all have things in our minds that we would like to do—some day.  Sometimes we even know in our hearts it is what God wants us to do, yet still we are reluctant to rise to the challenge and respond to that call on our lives. Maybe we all need to take to heart more Paul’s words in Colossians 3:23-24 during the coming year:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Will 2014 be the year for you, like Peter in Matthew 14, to step out of that boat that represents safety and familiarity and instead walk on the water towards Jesus? Will you listen when Jesus looks straight at you with such love and speaks that one strong, encouraging word, as he did to Peter—‘Come!’?

I hope you do. I hope I do. God is faithful. May we be equally so.

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If it wasn’t so serious, it would be funny how often what I say when speaking at the various groups or churches where I am invited applies first and foremost to me. There I am, merrily encouraging others to take heed of the things God is saying when a gentle voice somewhere inside me pulls me up short and says, ‘So Jo-Anne, where are you on this matter? What are you going to do about this?’

Last week was an almost too perfect example of one such time, to my shame. I had been invited by a particular group of women to share something of how God has guided and encouraged me in my writing journey. As I prepared my input, I kept coming back to a story from the gospels I have often spoken on in the past—the account from Matthew 14 of Peter walking on water. I love so many things about this story. First off, I love Jesus’ words in verse 27, where, as soon as he notes how terrified his disciples are when they see him walking on the water, he says to them, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ Many times in my writing journey, I have drawn on these words of Jesus in order to keep going.

I love it how Peter then finds the courage to suggest that Jesus actually should invite him to walk on that water too. And as soon as he hears that little word ‘Come’, he takes the risk of stepping out of that boat—and off he trots towards Jesus (29)! But when he notices how the wind is buffeting the waves and begins to sink, Jesus is immediately there, reaching out his hand to rescue him. Yet it is what Jesus says to Peter next that spoke to me the most this past week.

You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt? (31)

You see, I was sharing how, given the fact that I now have five novels published and one non-fiction work, there was no need for me ever to have doubted God’s call to write and the fact that God would bring it about. Likewise, I was urging these women to do all God was calling and had gifted them to do and to trust God in the process. Yet, that very day, I myself had doubted. Not believing I would sell many books at this particular venue, I had brought with me only a small number of my earlier novels in particular. Imagine my surprise then when, before my eyes, every available copy of my first two novels speedily disappeared from my book table—along with a large number of my later books! All up, I sold more than double what I had expected.

It was time to eat my words. I had doubted God big-time. I knew God had given me this speaking engagement—yet that did not translate into having the faith to pack a good number of books in the car to sell afterwards. When it came to showing my trust in a concrete way, I was definitely found wanting on this occasion.

How humbling it was to hear God’s gentle question ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ yet again in my life! Is this a question God often seems to have to ask you too?

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‘We all have to go through change—that’s what life’s about,’ a friend told me this week. Her comment arose from dealing with someone who complained when things were done differently in a certain area of their church life. Yes, change can be hard—but it is inevitable. And right now, many people are experiencing it. For some, it is loss of a job while for others it’s the end of a period of study and the necessity of finding employment.

I reflected on my friend’s words later that same day, as I removed an old lavender bush from our front yard. It had well and truly had its day, yet I had been reluctant to pull it out for sentimental reasons. It was the first gift I received for speaking to a group outside our own church a very long time ago now. But with deliberation, I reached down and pulled that old thing out of the ground. It was time for a change.

I reflected further as I prepared for two speaking engagements this week. One is at a community group where I am speaking about my writing journey and the challenges and rewards of the writing life. I plan to talk about how I had always wanted to write and how a change in my job situation, not to mention that huge tug in my heart, caused me to take that step of beginning my first novel. My other talk will be given to a women’s group in a large church. There I’ll be speaking more overtly about God’s leading in my writing journey and about learning to trust, just as the apostle Peter had to when he walked on the water towards Jesus (Matt 14).

Both these talks have reminded me of the changes in my own life over the years and the widely different roles God has given me. I can remember leaving some jobs with reluctance to move onto the next. I remember not wanting to put aside my editing role that I took up after teaching. Here was a job where, as I told my boss one day, I could not believe I was being paid to do something I loved so much! Later, I remember leaving my office job at our church with mixed feelings, including excitement at my theological studies ahead. But above all, I remember the sadness with which I left my ministry role on our church staff, still sure God had wanted me there but equally certain God was saying it was time to move on. Now, after almost nine years of writing and seven books later, I am horrified at the thought that I might have missed out on such a wonderful privilege, had I insisted on staying where I was.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven’, the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us (Ecc 3:1). Times change—and we change too. I have seen how God taught me many things in one season of my life, then gave me a role where those skills and the experience gained were so much needed. And as we continue to listen and to trust, our God walks with us through each twist and turn of our lives, constant and faithful. ‘I the Lord do not change’ is the simple, unequivocal statement we find in Malachi 3:6—and I find that so reassuring.

Are you in the midst of a time of change? May you find your strength and comfort in our God who sees everything, who with faithfully lead you and who is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8).

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