But Now . . . (An Easter Poem)

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But Now . . .   by Ryan M. Roberts

Where Jesus walked, the disciples followed;

But not all the way.

“Where I go now, you can’t.  But later . . . ”

Was all that He would say.

 

After midday prayers, Peter’s words rang out,

“No matter what or where or who;

You are mine, and I am yours,

I will die with you!”

 

Amid friends, huddled ‘round the fire that night;

“Hosanna in the highest!” a bright memory.

With hope high and resolve low,

The glow faded into Gethsemane.

 

Watching ends in darkness,

Prayers turn to sleep,

And Peter’s vow, though earnest,

Was more than he could keep.

 

He followed Jesus at a distance;

Keeping warm by the fire of his foe.

When asked, “You’re with Jesus, yes?”

Three times his response was, “No.”

 

Then came the loss, despair . . . the death.

A look, the whip, a crown, the hill,

A cross, the cry, a spear thrust forth;

The King of Kings to kill.

 

Three days passed, Peter sat alone;

With guilt and regret—his choice.

Now what? Now where? Now who?

“He’s gone!”

Peter leapt at Mary’s voice.

 

He ran to the tomb, bent low, went inside,

Echoes, predictions, rags filled the space.

“Tear down this temple and in three days it will rise.”

Peter left, wonder full on his face.

 

There were sightings and sayings that, “He is alive!”

Stories no book could contain.

Yet ashamed, Peter watched the Christ from afar;

He should laud, but his failures remained.

 

Peter said to his friends, “Let’s fish,” and they went,

To row and to cast was no chore.

The fish, they were few, but the company good;

Then they heard a voice from the shore.

 

Jesus was there, by the fire, cooking fish.

He said, “Come my friends, let’s eat.”

Peter pledged all his love—heart, mind and soul,

Jesus smiled and said, “Feed my sheep.”

 

“Your own efforts and failures, left you lost and in chains,

But through my wounds and my death you are free.

Where I went, you could not go on your own,

But now . . . in my power, Follow Me.”

 

 

 

 

 


peering into the fog

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I suppose it's like the ticking crocodile, isn't it? Time is chasing after all of us.

     ― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

 

These are difficult days. Life as we have known it has changed. Plans, dreams, financial portfolios, and aspirations have all been replaced by disappointment and concern. Stores, restaurants, coffee shops, cinemas, churches and schools are empty, the roadways deserted, hope abandoned.

It seems like time has stopped. But it hasn’t.

The clock still ticks, the calendar pages still turn, and life happens. These are not the moments we planned on. This isn’t what we hoped for.  There is no clear picture of when or how this will end. We see through a glass darkly.

What are we to do?

Today, I'm looking to Jesus and taking my cues from a couple of my spiritual heroes, Elisabeth Elliot and Billy Graham.

Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now. Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart

 

 


All I know . . . (morning devotions)

IMG_6304I have no idea what kind of man he is. All I know is that I was blind and now I can see for the first time in my life! (John 9:25, TPT)

This morning in my Bible study and devotional time I saw a picture of myself—and my former self.

In John 9 (TPT) there is an account of Jesus healing a blind man and it really messed people up! The man was healed and he immediately ran off in joy to tell his friends, family, and the world, his good news.

The onlookers, the Pharisees, the doubters, and the skeptics were buzzing with questions. Who did it? What happened? Was the man really blind? Is this for real?

The people that witnessed the healing say, “Yep, I’ve seen that blind beggar here every day for years and now he can see.”

His parents say, “Yes, that is our son. No, he doesn’t have an identical twin. He was born blind and has been blind his whole life. But don’t ask us, ask him, he’s an adult.”

The (former) blind man said, “A man anointed by eyes with clay, then I washed, and now I can see for the first time in my life!”

The Pharisees, doubters and skeptics asked, “Who did this? Who was this man that opened your blind eyes?”

The (former) blind man replied, “For all I know, he’s a prophet of God!”

Round and round, the grilling continued . . . Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

Finally, the man who was blind, who lived his entire life in darkness, in isolation, in constant need, who had no hope, no future, and a life of unanswerable questions, spoke up.

He said, “Listen, I’ve already told you multiple times, I don’t know who the man was that healed me. I don’t know what kind of person he is. All I know is this—I was blind and now I can see for the first time in my life!”

Later, Jesus went and found the healed man and they talked. Jesus asked, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”

The man whose blind eyes were healed answered, “Who is he, Master? Tell me so that I can place all my faith in him.”

Jesus replied, “You’re looking right at him. He’s speaking with you. It’s me, the one in front of you now.”

Then the man threw himself at his feet and worshiped Jesus and said, “Lord, I believe in you!”

And that’s when I saw a picture of myself—and my former self.

I once was blind, my life was full of darkness, isolation, constant need. I had no hope, no future, and a life of unanswerable questions. And then Jesus came into my heart and life.

You can ask me all kinds of questions about morality, suffering, politics, theology, the economy, the coronavirus and even death. And all I can say for sure is that once I was blind, but now I can see.

How's your vision this morning? Do you see yourself in the John 9 account? 

In John 9: 39 & 41, TPT Jesus says, "I have come to judge those who think they see and make them blind. And for those who are blind, I have come to make them see. ... If you would acknowledge your blindness, then your sin would be removed."

Today I live by faith in the One who loved me and gave His life for me. He is light in the darkness, He gives sight to the blind and he is Faithful, always and ever Faithful. Sometimes in my morning devotional time I sing. Here’s a little song by Sara Groves about God's faithfulness.

 

 


growing faith in the midst of "shelter in place"

IMG_7649How’s your faith these days? Mine needs some work.

But what does that look like in these days of “shelter in place?” I don’t know about you, but my faith isn’t growing much in the midst of my questions, grieving, stir-craziness, depression, Netflix binges and my endless scrolling through the barrage of “helpful” posts, quips and quotes on social media (. . . like this one).

I need God’s help, and the best way to grow in faith is through God’s Word.

“. . . faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17, NKJV)

Deep reading and Bible study may not be your thing, and even if they are, you may find that type of focus difficult in these days of confining chaos.

Recently, I came across an idea from the life of Billy Graham that is helping me during these trying times. It is strengthening me in my faith by getting me into the Word of God.

The idea comes from an article by Jerry Jenkins titled, “Precious Memories: Billy Graham.” In the article, Jenkins tells about a time when he was meeting with Billy Graham to gather information for the biography that he was writing about Dr. Graham. At one point he asks Graham about how he maintains his own spiritual disciplines (how he grows in his faith) and therein is the gold.

Below is the portion of the article that I found helpful. I pray you find it helpful too.

For our last session, we sat knee to knee across from each other in his modest office. My goal was to see what readers could glean not from all the experiences he had enjoyed as a worldwide Christian leader, but rather from his own personal devotional life.

But, as usual, I broached the subject the wrong way. I began, “People look to you as a spiritual leader, a model, almost like the Protestant pope—”

“Oh, no, they shouldn’t do that…”

“But they do. Many see you as the Christian leader of our time—”

Mr. Graham said, “They really mustn’t do that. When I think of the number of times I’ve failed the Lord, I feel this low,” and he reached and placed his hand flat on the floor.

And I thought, Billy Graham has failed the Lord?

I kept trying to ask the question, basing it on how he was so revered. He would have none of it.

I said, “Well, just tell me how you maintain your own spiritual disciplines.”

Finally, I had hit on something he was eager to talk about. He leaned forward, boring in on me with those piercing blue eyes. “The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing and to search the Scriptures. And I do that.”

I was stunned. “You pray without ceasing?”

“I do,” he said, “and I have every waking moment since I received Christ at age 16. I’m praying right now as I’m talking to you that everything I say will glorify Christ.”

I could barely speak, yet still I wondered if there was takeaway value here. Had he set the bar so high no one could emulate him? When I found my voice, I said, “What form does your searching the Scriptures take?”

Mr. Graham said, “Wherever I am in the world, in someone’s home, my home, a hotel room, here in my office, anywhere, I leave my Bible open where I’ll notice it during the day. Every time I see it, I stop and read a verse or two, or a chapter or two, or for an hour or two. And this is not for sermon preparation; it’s just for my own spiritual nourishment.”

Now we were getting somewhere. Everyone wants a daily devotional life, even if they can’t pray without ceasing. I said, “How do you get back into it if you miss a day or two?”

He cocked his head and squinted. “I don’t think I’ve ever done that.”

“You never miss?”

“No, I said it’s nourishment for my spiritual life, and I don’t want to miss a meal.”

Over his shoulder, on the corner of his desk, lay his open Bible, just as he said.

Did you catch that?

“Wherever I am in the world, in someone’s home, my home, a hotel room, here in my office, anywhere, I leave my Bible open where I’ll notice it during the day."

Wherever we are, even in the midst of "shelter in place," there is a way to grow in faith 


light enough for my next step

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Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding . . .       

(Prov. 3:5, NIV)

These days are unprecedented. There is no personal or experiential understanding to lean on. So, where do I turn? I trust in the Lord. I start the day with Jesus. I need help. To find light enough for my next step on this unknown path I look to His Word, and to words from His saints who have gone before. And then I pray. I call upon the Lord for guidance, strength and the Holy Spirit’s help to live, serve and love like Jesus.

My gleanings from this morning touched on not fretting about tomorrow, being responsible with today, realizing treasure in tribulation and drawing closer to Jesus. God is using these passages to help me today. I share them with you.

Tomorrow makes today’s whole head sick, its whole heart faint. When we should be still, sleeping or dreaming, we are fretting about an hour that lies half a sun’s journey away! — George MacDonald, p. 40

Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now . . .  — Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart

Without tribulation some of life’s noblest treasures would never be found. Tribulation is the flail which releases the grain from the imprisoning sheaf and gives us the bread of life. — J.H. Jowett, Come Ye Apart, p. 57

The world, the flesh and the devil will put imaginary grief in your way just when Jesus Christ is wanting you to enter into fellowship with His sufferings. — Oswald Chambers, Run Today’s Race, p. 24

God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that. (1 Corinthians 3:8-9, MSG)


praise, at a time like this?

Screen Shot 2020-03-14 at 8.13.53 AMThrough Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise . . . Hebrews 13:15, NIV

Praise? At a time like this?

A sacrifice of praise is a choice; it is not automatic, it does not come easy and it comes at a cost. At times like these, praise is not our first thought or response. Rather, worry, fear, concern and questions fill our minds. Where is the hope?

The Word of God gives me counsel. Its pages are filled with people in need, facing trouble, navigating unknowns, mired in struggle, dealing with disappointments and asking questions. In the very middle of God’s Word we find the Psalms. Interestingly, seventy-percent of the Psalms are laments. Lament is the deep feeling and expression of sorrow and grief.

Surely a time of questions, concerns and lament are upon us.

So, where is the hope in the midst of all this trouble? In short, it’s in Jesus, the one who said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NIV). Our inclination is to depend on our own efforts, scramble for safety and turn every which way for help, but currently all our “help” is crumbling around us.

“But take heart,” even “though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” Jesus is our help and hope. Look to Him. Call upon His name! (John 16:33 & Ps. 46:2)

Yes, a time of struggle and lament is upon us, but on the other end of lament is praise. The Psalms, of which seventy-percent are lament, are punctuated with an exclamation of praise. The final word (Ps. 150, NIV) in the Psalms says this:

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;

    praise him in his mighty heavens.

Praise him for his acts of power;

    praise him for his surpassing greatness.

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,

    praise him with the harp and lyre,

    praise him with timbrel and dancing,

    praise him with the strings and pipe,

    praise him with the clash of cymbals,

    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

In the midst of our struggle, we need help and hope. We need a savior. We need Jesus. Call upon His name and trust in Him, for therein is faith. A good place to start is in praise and worship, even when it doesn’t come easy. Even when it's a sacrifice.

God helped me with this today through the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s singing of “Psalm 150.” Just like you and me, many of the people in the video are in the midst of “trouble,” but they are lifting up a sacrifice of praise to the Lord and therein is joy and hope.

Play this video on the biggest screen you can find and at the loudest volume you can handle! Our hope is in Jesus!

 


the fourth man

Screen Shot 2020-03-07 at 7.26.17 AM“. . . be sure of this: I am with you always”

(The words of the fourth man in Matthew 28:20, NLT)

I just came across a cool song by the 3 Heath Brothers called, "Smell of Smoke." It is based on the third chapter of the book of Daniel in the Bible. Give it a read and keep your eyes peeled for the fourth man. And then check out the song below!

There’s a fourth man in your flame;

everybody watching, they’ll be amazed,

. . . You’ll come out of that fire,

And you won’t even smell of smoke.

 


by inches and minutes

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There is no greater blunder than that of ignoring or despising little things. —Philip S. Moxom

The little things—inches, minutes, moments and decisions—matter. This is evident in Proverbs 6:6-11, where King Solomon contrasts the life of an ant with the life of a sluggard. The ant lives well; the sluggard doesn’t. In both cases, the results are realized in the little things.

In Proverbs 6 we find that little old ant to be a self-starter and a diligent worker that makes a big difference for good. It moves the sand grain by grain, builds a home, gathers food, stores-up supplies and makes a life. The ant is the epitome of discipline and responsibility, and the writer of Proverbs implores us to, “consider its ways and be wise.”

The sluggard’s story is just the opposite—it is a sad tale—a life where nothing gets done. His home is covered with weeds, overgrown with thistles and surrounded by broken down walls (Prov. 24:30-31). It is interesting to note that the sluggard doesn’t decide in one grandiose moment to be lazy, sleep-in, procrastinate, and slug around. It happens gradually, a little bit at a time (or in the case of Netflix—episode by episode).

In Prov. 6:10 (NIV) it says, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,” . . . and the result is tragic! Left unaddressed, little things morph into big problems. The choice to do nothing (which is a choice) leaves the sluggard dirt poor and in dire want and need. And the reality of it all sneaks up on him like a burglary—robbing him of home, health and ultimately his life. That’s the way of the enemy. 

The subtlety of the sluggard’s demise is unnerving. He didn’t want to end up where he did. He didn’t say, “I’m done, I quit, I’m going to take it easy and let the chips fall where they may.” He didn’t choose a life of ruin, loss and regret, but in the midst of a little sleep, slumber and rest, it happened.

Derek Kidner tells us how:

“He [the sluggard] does not commit himself to a refusal, but deceives himself by the smallness of his surrenders. So, by inches and minutes, his opportunity slips away.” (Proverbs, p. 39)

Did you catch that? The sluggard, “deceives himself by the smallness of his surrenders.” The problem with small surrenders is that they seem harmless, but in reality they are deadly. It’s the little things:  the tap of the snooze button, an extra scoop of ice cream, just one more episode, a bit more on the credit card, the careless word, that peek, lapse, laze, loiter, and suddenly—you’re lost—on a path, and in a place, that you never wanted to be.

Small surrenders make you vulnerable. They leave the windows and doors of your home and life wide open, and that gives the thief access to your heart and mind—and consequently, the opportunity of life, real life, slips away.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (The words of Jesus in John 10:10, NIV)

Jesus makes quite a contrast between the thief (enemy) and Himself in John 10:10—much like the difference between the sluggard and the ant—one represents death and the other life.

We need not fall victim to the smallness of our surrenders. There is another gradual, “little by little” process of “becoming,” and it is in our journey with Jesus—it is called holiness. Holiness is immense. It characterizes God and it is what God wants to bring about in our hearts and lives. God offers it, we choose it.

Choose holiness. In the hundreds of little decisions each day, choose holiness.  —John Eldredge

Jesus is our model and our resource for holiness. He says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Growth is never complete in this life—we don’t just “arrive." It starts with just a little bit of faith, time in His Word, and prayer, and it continues and grows as we trust in Jesus and seek Him first. And as we do this, God is faithful. He is always making, conforming and transforming us into the likeness of Christ.

Much like the ant, we are to do the “little by little” that ultimately leads to a life well-lived and thankfully, we don’t do it alone. Jesus bought our salvation with His blood upon the cross and He calls us to life to the full in Him. He never forces, but He beckons, helps, empowers and woos us unto Himself—by inches and minutes—all the way Home.

The little things matter.


you and I are anything but irrelevant

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You and I are anything but irrelevant. Don't let the Enemy tell you any different. We holy fools all bear God's image. We're walking temples of the Spirit, the bashful bride of Christ, living stones in what is going to be grand house, as holy and precious as anything else in the universe, if not more so. God is making us into a Kingdom, a lovely, peaceful one, lit by his love for us flowing toward one another. That's the best gift you have to give.

                                    —Andrew Peterson, Adorning the Dark, p. 16


it really is that simple

IMG_7502Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8, NKJV)

This morning I rushed out the door to meet a friend for coffee, but was stopped because I couldn’t get into my car. I put the key in the handle to unlock the door and I tried to turn it, but it wouldn’t budge. The lock was frozen. I had no way to get into my car. Needless to say, I was late for my coffee appointment.

I have a key fob that opens all four car doors at once with a push of a button, but it had stopped working a couple of years ago, so I went “old school” and resorted to using the key. I didn’t look into the fact that the fob was not working because I thought it was too complex to fix and surely too expensive. I assumed I needed an entirely new key fob, and who knows what else. So, I just got by and used the key to unlock the car.

However, the frozen lock and my nearly missed appointment motivated me to take action. I was ready to pay the price, put in the time and deal with the hassle. Later in the day I called the dealership, told them my story and asked if they had any new key fobs available. The person on the phone said yes, but then he asked, “Did you check the battery?”

Huh? Is it really that simple?

Sure enough, five dollars and five minutes later, my key fob was working again.

This experience reminded me of a conversation I had the other day with a friend that I hadn’t seen in a long time. We unexpectedly ran into each other at a social function and had about five minutes to chat. We briefly talked of work, life, sports . . . and eventually the topic of faith in God came up. My friend said that his faith and relationship with God had become a bit cold and distant of late. He seemed forlorn and disheartened.

I’ve been there. That is a tough, discouraging and lonely place to be. You feel like a failure, and the way back to God seems too complex and too costly.

I wanted to help my friend and my mind immediately went to James 4:8,

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

I shared the verse with him and he paused a moment and asked, “Is it really that simple?”

Our five minutes were up. I could have shared with him about the loving Father that is standing on the road waiting and watching for the prodigal’s return (Luke 15). I longed to tell him that Jesus doesn’t give up on us; He is ever knocking at our heart’s door (Rev. 3:20). I yearned to remind him that God is faithful, even when we aren’t (2 Tim. 2:13). And I wanted to talk with my friend about God’s mercy and grace, which is ours for free because of the extravagant price paid for us by Jesus on the cross.

But I didn’t. That is all for another time, . . . maybe over coffee.

In response to my friend’s question I said,

“Yep, start there. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

It really is that simple.