Back to School

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By Stan Peterson

Psalm 46

Fall is upon us. Trees, flowers, and shrubs are all changing. The smells of autumn are wafting in the air, bringing back a flood of memories both good and bad of heading back to school. New friends, old friends, new shoes, adventures to be had, football to be watched, and homework to be done. All this and more can be overwhelming for parents and for students. It can feel as though the earth is moving, the mountains are being tossed into the sea, and the waters are foaming and lapping at our feet, ready to swallow us alive.

As a parent, I can easily be overwhelmed by all the worry and anxiety of sending our children off to school. I can also remember quite vividly the anxieties and fear I had as a child going back to school. I peer out into the world and know that there is much good and beauty to be reveled in, but there is also much evil and brokenness.

When I am overwhelmed by the latter, I remember one of God’s most precious promises, found in Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear.”

I am reminded of this promise as I send my little ones off to school. I remind them of this same truth, that they can call upon the name of our Lord, that He is present and will help them in their time of trouble, that He hears each one of them, and that He is ready to come to our aid as our Helper and Comforter only can. Therefore we will not fear.

“There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the most high. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be MOVED.

Little children, let us not be moved, for His presence is enough. The Lord of hosts is with us!

 

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Results, I Want Results!

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By Stan Peterson

Disciple-making is a transformational journey. This journey is not the end, but is simply a means to the end, which is to obey the teachings of Jesus and teach others to obey as well, thus giving glory to God. This should be a joy-filled process. We should be full of excitement about what God is doing in the midst of us and full of anticipation about what God is going to do in our lives and in the lives of those we influence.

 I have often found myself focused on the results. I want to see the results—results of transformation in my own life and in the lives of those I am discipling. Yet when I find myself focusing on the results, I lose focus of Jesus; I am no longer following Jesus, but I’m following my own selfish desires while masquerading in a religious robe. I actually miss out on God’s desired outcomes because I am blinded by what I want and when I want it.

 When sowing to the flesh, I become discouraged, disheartened, frustrated, and tired. I tend to spend more time talking about others than praying for them. I quickly become irritated with others and I find myself snapping at my wife or my children. I am no longer a well of refreshment, but I am one of despair. I am no longer loving God, I am loving myself. I am no longer encouraging others, but I’m causing them to stumble. This is not a grace-based life. A false gospel creeps in, and it places emphasis on a performance-based identity rather than a GRACE-based identity.

 But—Ah, yes, there is a BUT!—when I focus on the glorious grace that was lavished upon me through the Son of God, I am forgiven, I am clean, I am adopted, and I have a new nature, for Jesus is with me unto the end of the ages (Mt. 28.20). I become refocused on the one thing that matters most, and that is being preoccupied with the person of JESUS. I am captivated by His teachings and my desires are transformed from the inside out. And I am addicted to JESUS and hanging out with those who he would hang out with.

The command (any of Jesus’ teachings) is no longer a burden, but it is a delight. The results come, but they come in a way I would have never thought or imagined. God always overwhelms me with His love when He surprises me by His ways. I see this most in the cross, and it creates a desire in me to carry my cross and follow Jesus!

 

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Following Jesus

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By Stan Peterson

Following Jesus is simple yet profoundly difficult. To be a disciple we are called to follow Jesus in the example of His life that we see in the Gospels and through His commands to us. The simple part is that it’s very clear how we are to follow Him. But here’s where the difficulty lies: Jesus calls us to repent and believe in the Gospel (Mark 1.15).

We can trust God and all that He calls us to because of the Gospel. The Gospel is the clarion call by and in which we can trust God. God was generous enough to give us His one and only Son as a sacrifice for our sins, once and for all—PERIOD! This knowledge is sufficient enough for us to trust God in and with all of our lives.

Therefore, at the heart of the matter, we are to be a people who walk in faith in this life (Ephesians 2.8-9; Gal. 2.20). Faith in what? Is it a blind faith that we are to walk in and by? “Just believe and your life will be better, Jesus will take care of all your problems.” No, Jesus does not take away our problems, He does not meet us on the other side of our problems (“clean yourself up before you come to Him”); instead, He communes with us in the midst of our problems. That is the good news—God is present with us. He rewards us with Himself! He is our reward, He is our treasure, He is the One Pearl of great price. Our faith is in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. It is impossible to please God without faith, for He who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11.6). By faith we enter into being a disciple, and by faith we continue being a disciple. This faith is in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

We will all come face to face with great difficulties in this life. It could be forgiving a friend who has betrayed us; loving and doing good to those who hate us; giving to a friend who continually asks of us; going the extra mile when we are emotionally out of gas; or even, to him who sues the pants off of us, giving him our jacket as well. When these difficulties come, they should take us back to Jesus’ command to repent and believe in the Gospel, for He is wholly sufficient for us. He is our reward, He is our treasure, and He is with us! Repent and believe in the Gospel.

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The Winds of Doubt

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By Stan Peterson

The sky was dark. Pitch black clouds loomed over the ocean and at any moment would let loose the rage of a squall. Winds had broken the main mast, sails were torn from their riggings and shredded from the gale force. Waves rolled in over the sides, crushing everything under their immense weight and showing no mercy where they landed. The ship plummeted hundreds of feet from tip of wave to bottom, and then back to tip, causing anything that was not lashed down to be hurled overboard. The waves were the size of small mountains. All caused by the wind.

Just like the ship in this description, we can become overwhelmed by life and circumstances. We can lose sight of the horizon and lose our bearings altogether.The Bible speaks of us being like a wave tossed about by the wind when we doubt.

We are reminded that the Israelites went into the wilderness not because they were lost, but because they doubted (Hebrews 3.19). Are you in the wilderness? Are you tired? Are you weary? Do you feel as though you cannot take one step further? Have you stopped asking God because the pain is too much?

When we doubt God’s character and His Word, we have allowed our flesh to rule our minds. “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Romans 8.7). These are dangerous waters to sail in. I know, I’ve been there recently and have seen the results start to show up in my life and in my children’s lives. These thoughts are destructive for us and those all around us.

Remember what God has told us in His Word. We as God’s children are admonished to be diligent in taking every thought captive to the lordship of Christ Jesus. We are reminded that we have put off the old and put on the new man who is renewed in the knowledge according to the image of Him who created him. If indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Take courage beloved, for you are not alone! God is with you, He is in you, and your doubt has not caught Him by surprise. Humble yourself before Him and be set free today! Right now! Do not put off until tomorrow that which you can do today.

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The Nations in America

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By Stan Peterson

Recently I’ve been working in the UW district of Seattle on Brooklyn Avenue at an old apartment complex named Campus Apartments. I’m a fire sprinkler fitter installing a new system in the basement. As I work from unit to unit I get a thorough vista of all around the site. From that view last Wednesday I saw a young man walking down the alley with a friend smoking a cigarette, when all of a sudden I got an impression or unction to go to this young man and share the Gospel. I hesitated and uttered a quick prayer, something like, “Do You really want me to go to him?” I dropped my tool bags, ran up the stairs and out into the alleyway, and looked hard into the direction he was traveling, but it was way too late. I asked forgiveness for my slothfulness and asked God if this young man really needs to hear the message that He would bring him back to me.

Friday came and right around my usual break I was working in a different unit, in the front not the back. I happened to be working right at the window, and I caught a movement and looked — it was the same young man! In shock, I hesitated for a second (literally), then dropped my tool bags and ran out the front after this young man. What do I say? I thought. What do I do? I was in my grungy work clothes, and I just ran, blurting out “Excuse me, I am working in this building and I saw you pass the other day in the alley, you were smoking a cigarette and talking to your friend, was that you?” I confirmed that it indeed was the young man I saw the other day. I started in with saying that God has a message and it is urgent for him to hear this. His eyes got real big and his countenance changed and he leaned closer to understand what I was saying.

I found out that this young man is from Saudi Arabia and is here studying at UW. He is a Muslim who had never heard of Jesus Christ before that day! I explained to Him God is Creator, Man is fallen and in great need, and the gospel of Jesus Christ and the sacrificial atonement in layman’s terms, making sure that he understood what I was saying. He asked me if he could get my phone number, and, shocked, I gave it to him. As he pulled out his iPhone it was all in Arabic, and I watched him type my info into his phone. He said that he wanted to hear more and would call me. His name is Anas; please pray for God to continue to move in his life and for salvation for him and his family. (I have not heard from him yet.)

The next morning as I was walking into work I contemplated a frightening thought. Matthew 25.32 says that God will one day separate the people who are saved from the people who are not saved. Will I see the numbers of people I knew but did not share the Gospel with as we are being separated?

Do I mourn for my sin? Do I mourn for the sin of my brothers and sisters in Christ? Do I mourn for the sin of the lost, for the sin of those who if not confronted with grace and truth will be led to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment? These thoughts sobered me and awakened me to all I have seen in the week prior, whom I had passed by without a thought toward their eternal destiny. The students hurrying off to class; the parking police busy writing tickets; the alcoholic who sleeps just outside the alley; a lady who has lost her bird and frantically comes up to me while I am waiting one morning to be let inside of the locked complex; the apartment manager who asks me nicely to be sure to clean up after I am done; not to mention the very people working beside me, such as the two plumbers who are from England, two electricians from Ukraine and Bulgaria, the general contractor, and two carpenters. God has laid the nations before us right here in the United States of America.

May we be a people who intercede for ourselves, our brothers and sisters, and the nations.

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Mission Scrubbed Becomes Mission Accomplished!

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By Stan Peterson

I have been traveling down a long, winding road to becoming a U.S. Army Chaplain.  I applied back in June of 2012 and have been awaiting a green light for my medical exam, which is the last portion of my Chaplain Packet. I need to complete my Chaplain Packet prior to going before an Accession Board where a team of high ranking chaplains will determine whether or not I will be accepted into the regular Army as a Chaplain.

Last week I was notified that I was approved to fly to Los Angeles to take my medical exam. On Wednesday my family drove me to the airport, dropped me off in love, and returned to the house. I checked the departure monitor, found my flight number, and saw the words “on schedule.” I proceeded to the TSA checkpoint, where I was x-ray’d and allowed through to my gate. I found a comfortable chair and nestled in, preparing to spend my hour and a half wait listening to an Old Testament lecture and taking notes on my MacBook.

About 45 minutes into the wait I got a call from the north Los Angeles area; I knew this was my recruiter. I did not think he’d be calling me to wish me a good flight, so I assumed he was giving me pick-up instructions for after my arrival at LAX. His voice tipped it off — I knew it was not good news. The processing station would not take me because of a lack of paperwork.

He apologized profusely and I forgave him. He said that he would reschedule me for the end of this month, and our conversation ended after he apologized again and said that he would take me out to dinner after my medical exam.

We laughed together and I said goodbye. I hung up the phone, took a deep breath, and called my beautiful wife, who’d just arrived safely at home 15 minutes earlier. This was an “uncomfortable grace.”  I have been rescheduled for this medical exam three times since this last October. At this moment, how was I to react? I could react out of my feelings. What was I feeling? Frustration, anger, disappointment. But did my feelings justify my thoughts and actions? Who was I to get upset with the recruiter, let alone his commanding officer? What good would it do to spew out my long list of sacrifices and entitlements?

No, this was a grace from God!  An “uncomfortable grace.” As Paul Tripp puts it, “God will take you where you haven’t intended to go in order to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own.” I was weak and wanting, wanting in so many different ways; but His grace is sufficient, and in my weakness His power is perfected.  I say this not to boast in me or my response to this circumstance but to boast in the cross of Christ and what God does to test and grow us. God has done this with the saints from the beginning. We see it in the life of Abraham when God calls him to sacrifice Isaac. We see it in Gideon when God asks him to tear down his father’s idols. We see it in Esther going before King Ahasuerus to plead for Israel.

Whether you are a man, woman, or child, “God will take you where you haven’t intended to go in order to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own.”  Be encouraged!  This testing is a sign of God’s purpose in our lives. God loves you and He does not withhold from those He loves. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

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