Monthly Archives: March 2023

Good Intentions Unfulfilled

“Peter said, ‘Master, why can’t I follow you now?  I will lay down my life for you.”  (John 13:37)

We may be familiar with the story.  Jesus is trying to tell the disciples what will soon take place; that he will be with them only a little longer and where he is going they cannot follow.  Peter protests, pledging his loyalty and that he will follow Jesus anywhere, even if it means laying down his life. 

Peter was no doubt sincere in his intention.  Then the unexpected happened.  Temple guards came in the dark of night with torches, clubs and swords to arrest Jesus.   In the chaos of the moment, the disciples flee and Peter “follows from a distance.”   Later in the courtyard of the high priest, Peter denies that he knows Jesus three separate times. 

How often have our good intentions been laid aside when faced with challenging circumstances or just due to procrastination from our own sloth?   We tell God or someone we are going to do something and then we fail to do it.  The examples are numerous.

Our greatest failure with good intentions may manifest itself with the sin in our life.  Many of our sins are recurring.  We confess them or commit not to do them again, and then we do.  Good intentions are also negated when we fail to keep our word.  We commit to our family that we will be home for the family evening meal, and then we let a work demand get in the way, not just once in a while, but on a regular basis.   We say to a friend we have not seen for a while, “Let’s have lunch.”  Then, we never follow-up to schedule it.  We commit to attend one of our children’s or grandchildren’s sporting events, and then let an intervening circumstance take precedence.  We commit to have a prayer time before breakfast, and then fail to get out of bed in time. 

Good intentions, like love, require action to be fulfilled.  As we know, Peter later became a bold spokesman for the early church.  Tradition tells us that he was martyred by being crucified upside down.  What made the difference?  The Holy Spirit!  After his resurrection, Jesus told the disciples not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the gift God had promised: “In a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:4, 8)    

The Good News is that this same Holy Spirit is available to us just as it was to Peter and the disciples.  With the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s grace, we too, can see our good intentions become a reality.

Are you sitting on any good intentions that need to be fulfilled?

“Listen to Him!”

At the transfiguration, Peter responded to seeing Jesus transfigured and the appearance of Elijah and Moses by offering to build three shelters, one for each of them.  A cloud then enveloped them, and God said, “This is my Son whom I love.  Listen to him!” (Mark 9:2-8)  It was almost as if God was rebuking Peter to get serious.  Quit thinking about building shelters.  It is my son you are with.  “Listen to him!”

Like Peter, it is easy for us to get caught up with the circumstances in front of us.  We forget that Jesus is with us.  We fail to remember all that he has said about the most important things of life.  We forget to ask him for guidance.  Yet he has so much to say:

  • “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust in me.” John 14:1
  • “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Mark 12:30-31
  • “I am the way and the truth and the life.” John 14:6
  • “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23
  • “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  Matthew 25:40
  • “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged.” Matthew 7:2
  • “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” John 3:3
  • “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  Apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4, 5
  • “Anyone who has faith in me, he will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these.”  John 14:12
  • “In the world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
  • “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

So much truth!  So much wisdom in what Jesus has to say to us! 

Over the last couple of decades we have seen the effects of people not listening to Jesus: the devaluing and decline of the two parent family, the continuous erosion of sexual morality, and the increasing lapses of integrity among people in authority.  We have seen a crisis in opioid and other addictions, and increasing acts of violence and mass shootings in schools and public places.

Unlike Peter, James and John, we are not covered by a cloud from God, but the haze of a culture increasingly focused on self and moving away from its creator.  But through the haze, God still says, “Here is my Son, whom I love.  Listen to him!”

How do you listen to Jesus?

Imprisoning God

“Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Mt. 7:21) 

Jesus expects more from us than just to worship him on Sundays; he expects us to carry his presence into all aspects of our lives.  He certainly expects us to bring his love to those closest to us, including our family and friends.  But he also expects us bring his presence into other areas of our lives such as our work and social lives. 

The idea that faith should be separated from living out the rest of our daily lives has become conventional wisdom for much of our culture.  We hear the phrase, “separation of church and state” and see it be applied to other venues such as the workplace and the public square.  We are told that that our faith should be private, not to be shared with others or manifested in our words or deeds, particularly in the workplace. 

This perspective is 180 degrees from God’s intention as indicated by the words of Jesus and scripture.  Jesus tells us that he is “the way, the truth and the life.”  He says, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14: 6, 23)  With Jesus and the Father living in us, he calls us to be and bring his presence to the people and circumstances in our lives.  In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, he says that those who reflect his presence by bringing food, drink, clothing, shelter, medical care and prison visitation to those in need will be welcomed into his kingdom. 

Even the workplace is not excluded from the Father’s call.  In Genesis 2:15, God reminds us that after creating us in his image and likeness he places us in the garden of his creation “to work and take care of it.”  Civilization is an extension of God’s creation, and he expects us to be good stewards of it and carry it forward through our work. 

There have been times in my life when I have put God in a box by compartmentalizing my life, separating my faith from my work and other areas of my life.  The unfortunate thing when this happens is that his presence may not then be available to the people in my life who would otherwise be blessed by him through me. 

Do we imprison God, only to be released on Sunday, or do we let him be manifested in every aspect of our lives?

Following Jesus at a Distance

Peter followed him at a distance into the high priest’s courtyard, and was seated with the guards, warming himself at the fire.” (Mark 14:54)

Like Peter, we may profess our allegiance to Jesus that “even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be.” (Mark 14:29) We may recite the creed every Sunday declaring that we believe in “God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.”

Yet, like Peter, there may be times when we keep our distance from Jesus.  We may fail to show up for the daily prayer time we have set for ourselves.  After a busy week of work, and a Saturday filled with our kid’s sports activities, we may let a round of golf or some other activity take precedence over our attending mass on Sunday.  We may fail to respond to a friend’s request for help because it is not convenient.  We may put a higher priority on our comfort as Peter did when he warmed himself by the fire.

Like Peter, we may be thrust into circumstances where we are reluctant to be identified with Jesus.  In Peter’s case, it was the guards, the elders and the mob.  For us, it may be a boss who has disdain for God, or social friends who consider any reference to Jesus as foolishness.

Early in my career when I attended company meetings followed by cocktails and dinner, the conduct could sometimes get a bit macho and boisterous. It was not unusual for the conversation to involve exaggerated exploits, the building up of self and the putting down of others, off-color jokes, gossip, and the fawning over whoever might be the most senior person present. At some point I began to realize that when I went along with this kind of conduct I was distancing myself from Jesus. It was so easy to go with the flow and tempting to want to be a part of the group. It required a decision on my part not to participate.

Just as Peter’s faith was tested, so is our faith tested in numerous ways, some obvious and significant, others subtle and small.  From a faith perspective, the subtle can cause as much harm as the obvious because of its corrosive effect.

The world inclines us to keep our distance from Jesus, while Jesus bids us to draw near.  He says come to me all who are burdened from the cares of this world and I will give you rest.  Come to me all who are thirsty for meaning in life and I will give you understanding.  He says step across the distance that separates us, and you will experience my love, my strength and my peace.  He warns us that in the world we will have trouble, but assures us that he has overcome the world.

Are there times when you follow Jesus at a distance?