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South Fellowship Church

About Kathleen Petersen

This photo was taken in my hometown of Broken Bow, NE where reading was the way to explore faraway countries and the mysteries of history. Later I found the pages of the Bible were part of that adventure. I love digging around for scriptural nuggets of God’s truth with our devotional team and being amazed how many facets of meaning we discover. Thanks for reading!

CARRYING EXTRA WEIGHT?

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. (John 21:5-9 NIV)

Like the majority of first century men, Peter and other disciples of Jesus were laborers working physical jobs. As did the rest of the culture, they wore both outer and inner tunics. While working, men would often remove the longer outer tunic to allow greater freedom of movement. If a man wore only his knee-length inner tunic, he was said to be “naked”.

This description of Peter wrapping his outer garment around his waist prior to jumping into the water to swim toward Jesus raises my curiosity. Why did John mention it? Strapping on extra encumbrance to swim is counterintuitive.

What could we, two millenia removed from this scene, miss about this detail? Let’s skip to the end of this scene after the disciples’ breakfast with the risen Jesus on the shore of Lake Galilee:

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
….The [second and] third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:15…17-19 NIV)

How can we interpret these references to Peter putting on bulky clothing before a swim in his zeal to greet Jesus, his loving Jesus, and following Jesus? Consider these ideas:

Prior to this breakfast, evidently Peter hadn’t yet felt fully restored to fellowship with Jesus after the shame of denying Him three times. Peter carried the unnecessary burden of this failure. The weight of his water soaked outer garment reflected that impediment. Jesus’ three questions restored Peter’s focus to the love relationship between them.

Jesus also wanted Peter to know the Holy Spirit would provide the kind of energy needed to “feed my lambs”.

Finally, Jesus wanted Peter to be aware of difficulties ahead that would be unique to him. The human strength and freedom Peter enjoyed as a young man would be increasingly met by limitations. Peter would develop more reliance upon the Holy Spirit as that happened.

As you contemplate things that seemingly limit your relationship with Jesus, listen to this familiar song composed by Bill Gaither. He Touched Me

CARRYING EXTRA WEIGHT?2022-05-15T21:08:32-06:00

FoMO & Facts

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

…Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you! ”Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (Mark 20:19-27 NIV)

When reading this passage it’s easy to miss this detail: Thomas, who is often called “Doubting Thomas”, apparently was the only one of the remainder of the Twelve who missed seeing Jesus when He first passed through a locked door to give His disciples encouragement and instruction. 

How could our sovereign leader (Jesus) not make sure everyone in his intimate circle was present when He made His first appearance to the group? Wasn’t FoMO (Fear of Missing Out) a thing – even then? No wonder Thomas declared: 

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  (Mark 20:25 NIV)

After all, hadn’t Jesus already done this for the remainder of the Twelve?

So I’m inclined to wonder if Jesus had a special reason for appearing to ten of the Twelve when Thomas was elsewhere. What did Thomas need to wrestle with as he waited a week for Jesus to grant him the vital experience of being an eyewitness to the resurrection?

This deep need to have a legitimate question answered along with a valid personal experience with the Living God isn’t limited to Thomas. We like to say “I have a personal relationship with Jesus”. We often say “Christianity isn’t just a religion”. So doesn’t it follow that we need something besides Christian ancestors, our imagination, or the testimony of our friends to believe that Jesus has risen from the dead?

I may be wrong, but Thomas may have been one of those personalities who needed straightforward, no nonsense facts to move forward in his faith. As Sergeant Joe Friday of the 1950s TV series Dragnet always said when interviewing a female witness, “Just the facts, Ma’am, just the facts.”

In any event, Jesus generously and graciously accommodated Thomas’ genuine need to see and touch the evidence of His resurrection: 

Stop doubting and believe.”

Reflect on times Jesus has made you wait for confirmation of His presence or His direction, but later accommodated and met you in the way you needed.

FoMO & Facts2022-05-08T20:23:07-06:00

IRREPLACEABLE?

Have you ever felt you can’t quit because no one else can replace you? If you’re a key leader, you may not be wrong. Historical records prove that removal or death of a dominating, charismatic leader often severely damages or snuffs out a movement or an empire.

Consider this disheartened reply given by two disciples of Jesus to a stranger who asked what they were discussing as they walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus after the crushing death of their leader:

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. (Luke 24:19-21 NIV)

As we read the full narrative of this encounter, Jesus reveals himself – not as a stranger, but the Immortal, Irreplaceable One who has always been the center of all Scripture.

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27 NIV)

After they recognized Jesus was the stranger, what was their response when they realized their irreplaceable, powerful leader was still alive?

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”…They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. (Luke 24:25-27 NIV)

Even though evening had fallen, they hurried the seven miles back to Jerusalem to join Jesus’ other disciples and discovered the resurrected Jesus had begun to appear to more and more of them.

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-8)

How about me, how about you? Do our hearts burn within us so we, in a sense, “travel back to Jerusalem at night, along dangerous roads” to gather with other disciples after being strengthened by the risen Jesus? Are we convinced the Holy Spirit inside us is enough to change lives as we proclaim His message?

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (I Corinthians 15:17-19 NIV)

We are not to be pitied. It’s been two millennia since the risen, irreplaceable Jesus outlined His glorious redemption plan for mankind. Here’s a time lapse map showing what He’s accomplished through seemingly weak, but somehow irreplaceable, Jesus followers like us:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jwp7oDLEFf8

Today, an amazing 30% of the world’s population identify as followers of Christ. (Yes, some are “nominal” or “suspect” Christians, but He’s in charge of sorting that out.) Marvel at the amazing progress of the Gospel. Notice how Chrisitian fervor seems to morph over time.

Then consider that presently 40% of the world has never heard of Him…the need to advance His message of redemption remains. Ask the Irreplaceable One to give you today’s assignment (however small) along with today’s power to further His kingdom.

IRREPLACEABLE?2022-05-02T10:10:13-06:00

HOW DO YOU KNOW IT’S JESUS?

In the late 1970s a respected judge told me about his youthful, near-death experience (NDE) during surgery. He described a booming voice proclaiming “No, not yet!” as an iron door to the entrance of a fiery furnace slammed shut. It impressed me because his story contrasted with those recounted by a celebrated author who interviewed people who had only ecstatic, heavenly NDEs regardless of spiritual orientation.

Experiences like NDEs seem to most often happen in crisis situations. These encounters can make us aware of unseen spiritual realities, with potential to bring us closer to Jesus or draw us into a web of deceit.

The scripture passage we’ve been exploring this week, John 20:11-18, describes Mary Magdeline’s encounter with Jesus after His resurrection. Even though she conversed with two angels in His tomb who assured her Jesus was risen, Mary remained in a state of intense grief and shock. After all, she witnessed some details of the unfair trials and the excruciatingly cruel execution of her beloved Rabbi. She also observed His lifeless body being placed in that tomb. Her life was in a chaotic crisis.

So it’s understandable that Mary mistook the risen Jesus for a gardener. In the words of Isaiah, the last time she saw him

…many were appalled at him—
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness— (Isaiah 52:14 NIV)

So what made her realize the “gardener” was her beloved Rabbi? When He called her by name, the lights went on.

I am the good shepherd and I know My own, and My own know Me. (John 10:14 NASB)

She shifted from being in a confused, emotional state to lucid recognition of the One she knew.

In order to see Jesus clearly, to understand it’s Him in any supernatural encounter, it’s necessary to either know Him intimately like Mary already did or to confirm the experience rings true to His character by comparing it to reliable eyewitness accounts of His life and words – namely New Testament scripture.

Here’s a warning from the apostle John:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (I John 4:1 NASB)

Don’t dismiss the notion that tangible, Holy Spirit originated experiences with the risen Jesus have happened and will happen. Welcome them like Mary, but test them as did the apostle John.

Have you been confused after a supernatural experience of your own or after hearing a testimony of someone who has recounted theirs? Search the scriptures for yourself or ask a discerning Christian friend to help you sort out if it‘s Jesus or a spirit masquerading as an angel of light.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IT’S JESUS?2022-04-24T20:20:42-06:00

LOOKING FOR THE CATACLYSMIC?

Haven’t you sometimes wished, hoped, and prayed God would do something unmistakably earth-shaking to bring people to Himself…especially loved ones who seem so deaf to His voice? Let’s look here:

Now from noon until three, darkness came over all the land. At about three o’clock Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the rest said, “Leave him alone! Let’s see if Elijah will come to save him.” Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit. Just then the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split apart. And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised. (They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.) Now when the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were extremely terrified and said, “Truly this one was God’s Son!” (Matthew 27:45-54 NET)

Let’s unpack this passage. Total darkness covered the whole land for three hours, there were two loud cries by Jesus who was in the last stages of crucifixion (crucifixion suffocated the entire body), an earthquake shook the entire region including the temple (earthquakes happen around Jerusalem about once in 125 years), rocks split apart and the thick temple curtain was torn in two…as the religious leaders watched, tombs opened, and, after Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus’ followers who had died appeared fully alive and talking with friends who knew they had been dead. Even the Roman centurion and his soldiers were shaken to the core. Those are just a few mind blowing details that emerged around this scene…the hor d’oeuvres and main course of the world Christian movement.

So why wouldn’t everyone who witnessed these events simply fall on their knees to worship Jesus? Further insight comes from a future and even more imposing scene that Jesus showed to the Apostle John.

And I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became as black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the eminent people, and the commanders and the wealthy and the strong, and every slave and free person hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the sight of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of Their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:12-17)

These people will have hardened their hearts to God. Even though they will have front row seats, they won’t want anything to do with Him. Not even catastrophic convulsions will push them into His loving, protective arms. If you know Jesus, this is hard to fathom. But Jesus is honest with us – not everyone wants to cozy up to Him.

Let’s return to the three event focus of the Church’s yearly calendar; the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This disarmingly simple depiction of humanity’s salvation is surrounded by a rich setting of cataclysmic events. Those who cannot be impressed by the sheer weight of amazing happenings God orchestrated around this central juncture of human history show a hardened heart.

Allow Jesus to keep your heart soft as you imagine yourself in Jerusalem experiencing the overwhelming events around His death, burial and resurrection – signs He’s provided to draw our attention to His sacrifice for us. Soak in those signs of His powerful love.

LOOKING FOR THE CATACLYSMIC?2022-04-17T20:32:17-06:00

UGH! HE’S BARELY HUMAN

You’ve saved up for that cruise to the destination of your dreams…the one where everyone but the crew is on holiday, indulging in luxuries and dressed in great outfits. You stroll up the ramp with family and best friends to have the time of your life. The ship arrives at your exotic first stop and you disembark with the rest of the passengers. All of a sudden a disheveled, dirty man rushes at you and your group, screaming, with face contorted and arms gyrating wildly – like an alien from a bad movie. The encounter threatens your utopian experience. Ugh! Later, you’re reminded of this story:

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” (Mark 5:1-8 ESV)

If you’ve been in a situation with a mentally ill, unpredictable person such as the Gerasene man, you wish for the insight and power of Jesus. But what can you do in such a volatile situation? Should you:

  1. Speak calmly to the person and redirect their animosity?
  2. Address the demon directly (assuming you know it’s a demon)?
  3. Call the police?
  4. Find the nearest social worker or psychiatrist?
  5. Distance yourself as much as possible from this weirdness?

My initial emotional reaction in similar situations has too often been disgust and fear of the person who is so terribly disordered. But, if I’m tuned to the Holy Spirit, God has allowed me to see that person as someone created in God’s image…but in distress.

In the Mark 5 incident above, Jesus’ stern rebuke of the demons exhibited true compassion toward the man. Not surprisingly, after the demons had been vanquished, the man responded this way:

As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. (Mark 5:18-20 ESV)

From a modern therapeutic perspective, it’s perplexing that Jesus refused to welcome this man as a disciple so he could fully “fix” him. It appears that Jesus knew the man’s wholeness would include mending of broken relationships that might have played a part in his demonic oppression.

In Luke 11:24-26, Jesus teaches hasty casting out of demons may worsen the condition of a person not ready for such a housecleaning. So our compassion for those who are spiritually and mentally distressed must be combined with Biblical wisdom and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

When you’ve been confronted by an unusually perplexing person, have you scrolled through amateur versions of DSM-5TR in search of a tidy, popular diagnosis to distance yourself from that individual rather than being God’s representative? Reflect on ways God has and is preparing you for compassionate, Spirit-led encounters with those who have bewildering appearance and/or behavior.

UGH! HE’S BARELY HUMAN2022-04-08T09:53:01-06:00

No Fear of God in This Place?

Are you afraid the truth of Scripture is respected only by those who acknowledge Jesus as their Lord? Do you believe cultures different from yours, philosophically, geographically, and historically, are alien to God’s influence? Do those fears affect your interactions with those who seem hostile to God?

You’re not the first person of faith to let this kind of fear influence your thoughts and actions. Abraham exhibited fear when he and his wife Sarah traveled in countries where it seemed unlikely the people and their rulers would recognize or respect the God they worshiped. 

Genesis 12:10-20 records Abraham asking his wife to pose as just his sister, because he thought Egyptians had little respect for marriage and might kill him to steal her. When Pharaoh’s servants then claimed her for the royal harem, consequently Pharaoh’s entire household suffered a powerful intervention by the God of the Universe and Abraham saw Pharaoh respond in an unexpected way.

Genesis 20 records Abraham capitulating to the same fear, yet again. This time he and Sarah were in Gerar where Abimelech was king. Again, this king claimed Sarah as his wife. Again, God intervened supernaturally, but this time in Abimelech’s dreams. God saved Sarah twice, not only to preserve her as the mother of the son of God’s Promise but also from being violated.

Here’s a truth of Scripture illustrated by these two narratives: 

He (Jesus) said to them, “Have you not read that He Who made them in the first place made them man and woman? It says, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will live with his wife. The two will become one.’ So they are no longer two but one. Let no man divide what God has put together.” (Matthew 19:4-6 NLV)

Do you believe Jesus’ words are unshakable truth? Do you believe those who might never acknowledge Jesus as Lord are haunted by this truth and other truths of Scripture? Have you allowed your mind to minimize God’s tremendous power because of fear?

Abraham and Sarah found God was not only King of their tiny, tribal encampment in the midst of hostile environments, but King of all cultures. There is no land or culture where the God of Scripture isn’t sovereign. Practice acknowledging that God reigns over cultural threats you fear as you listen to this song: This is My Father’s World.

No Fear of God in This Place?2022-04-03T20:52:28-06:00

Dream Big or… Not

As a young woman who finished college in the late 1960s, my big dreams were marriage to the guy I was dating and a storied career churning out marvelous paintings that would enrapture sophisticated patrons. After my relationship with that guy unexpectedly ended and I became entrenched in a creative impasse, I found myself entertaining suicidal thoughts every other day. I hated my life.

I hung onto whatever hope I could for at least two years as I made my way from one unsatisfying job after another. I should also note my sadness was due to more disappointments than the failure of two dreams. 

But I’m alive today and I want to explain why the suicidal ideation I experienced failed to take me down. An unconventional evangelist (who carried his 100 pound cross across the U.S and later into every country of the world) led me in a prayer to ask Jesus into my life. Observing his life made me aware that following Jesus could be amazing. 

I started devouring scripture as it suddenly became alive to me. I also must credit further rootedness and spiritual growth to many dedicated, mature Christians – some who invited me to live in their homes, some who made me part of the fabric and leadership of several parachurch ministries, and many in traditional church settings who encouraged me to thrive.  

Before my commitment to Jesus, I had not come to the point of a suicide attempt. After my conversion, suicidal ideation didn’t instantly disappear. The best way to describe my condition is that two years of intense depression and sadness formed deep grooves in my mind. Moving out of that state took not only time, but acceptance from those I admired. Also, critical to recovery was finding meaning in helping others who needed what the Holy Spirit had empowered me to give.

I haven’t been bothered by suicidal ideation for many years now. But I can remember the last time Satan zipped one of those thoughts into my mind. What countered it was my awareness that ending my life would negatively impact my then 13 year old niece in Kansas.

Before my conversion, I tried to slog through the book of Job and saw his massive losses at the hand of Satan. Almost worse than the losses was the counsel of those who normally supported him. Job and his wife (who suffered the same losses) had this exchange:

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 29-10 ESV) 

Job’s faith seemed strong as he wrestled with their insurmountable devastation. But for some of us, sadness and depression leads to despairing, even suicidal thoughts. Are you or someone you know experiencing such attacks from Satan? In my case, God provided many resources through other Christian brothers and sisters. One of South Fellowship’s Life Groups, Support Groups or Serving Opportunities could be a good start. If the need is immediate, here is the national site for urgent cases and mental health resources https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

 

Dream Big or… Not2022-03-29T07:53:18-06:00

Anger From A Pure Heart

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17 NIV)

The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” (John 8:29 NIV)

Some find it unbelievable that the Son of God expressed anger. Is it legitimate to think that Jesus, because he had a truly pure heart that always pleased his Heavenly Father, lacked that unpleasant, but valuable core emotion?

It helps to know anger can give energy for action while fear and anxiety most often compel retreat. Of course, immediate action isn’t always advisable and retreat may be the best path under certain circumstances. Here are the words of David: Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. (Psalm 4:4 ESV)

John’s gospel records a really scary, seemingly impromptu expression of anger by Jesus. This event happens very close to the beginning of his public ministry.

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:13-17)

Jesus replicates this action three years later – again at Passover – just prior to his trial and crucifixion.

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. (Mark 11:15-18 – also see Matthew 21 & Luke 19).

Jesus celebrated the Passover for many years prior to that first incident. It’s not hard to imagine him becoming angry, pondering, and repeatedly asking his Father why the esteemed priestly class had turned the Court of the Gentiles in the magnificent Temple into a dirty marketplace. He must have had a righteous aching to challenge these officials and clear the space for its intended purpose. But he waited for his Father’s approval for action.

Several things are worth more thought. In both cases, Jesus acted alone rather than seeking support. Also, teaching regarding his body being the true Temple accompanied both actions. Here’s what Jesus taught after the first episode.

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. (John 2:18-21 ESV)

Also reflect that Jesus cleansed the Temple a second time two or three Passovers later. So why didn’t he address the problem yearly? On one of those intervening Passovers it appears he remained in Galilee highlighting his teaching about the true manna from heaven rather than further irritating religious leaders in Jerusalem. Did his heavenly Father anticipate Jesus would jeopardize further ministry by escalating an already volatile situation?

There are no ten step formulas outlining how our Father wants us to process anger from a pure heart. The phrase “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (Psalm 69:9 ESV) seems to place anger in a realistic setting. Reflect on the surrounding emotions of the Psalmist as you read Psalm 69 and his appeal to the Lord to act on his behalf.

Anger From A Pure Heart2022-03-21T07:49:42-06:00

SHAME OR GUILT?

You’re driving home after midnight and the light at a major intersection is interminable. You look around to see no police car or camera and run the red light. You boast on Facebook about making healthy food choices but keep a stash of Peeps for emergencies. More seriously, if you committed a high impact misdeed such as taking financial advantage of a vulnerable person, would you feel shame for your behavior, or would you feel guilt?

If you were a psychopath you’d feel neither — you’d have a cauterized conscience (I Timothy 4:1-2). But for the rest of us, guilt stems from what we have or haven’t done, while shame penetrates who we are. Guilt is the result of action or neglect that is more easily isolated. Shame worms its way into our very existence.

As we studied the Lord’s Prayer, we also observed Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant and found it absurd we could pay back debts owed to God (Matthew 18:21-35). So claiming forgiveness that Jesus has provided on the cross relieves us not only from the wrongdoings or omissions He rightly brings to our attention, but also from digging around for endless minutiae.

Shame goes deeper. Shame invades the essence of our core identity, irrespective of our actions. Shame can also be produced from evil another has perpetrated. One Biblical example, 2 Samuel 13, is the excruciating account of the rape of Tamar, the gorgeous daughter of King David, by her stepbrother Amnon. After he raped her, Amnon (a possible psychopath?) rejected her:

And Amnon said to her, “Get up! Go!” But she said to him, “No, my brother, for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other (the rape) that you did to me.” But he would not listen to her. He called the young man who served him and said, “Put this woman out of my presence and bolt the door after her.” (2 Samuel 13:15-17 ESV)

The narrative continues:

“Her brother Absalom said to her, ‘Has Amnon your brother been with you? Sister, be quiet; he is your brother; do not take the matter to heart!’ Tamar, however, went back to her brother Absalom’s house inconsolable. When King David heard the whole story, he was very angry; but he had no wish to harm his son Amnon, whom he loved because he was his first-born. Absalom, however, would not so much as speak to Amnon, since he hated Amnon for having raped his sister Tamar.” (2 Samuel 13:20-22 NJB)

The mark of shame on the once desirable Tamar became indelible. Her condition in verse 20 has been translated several ways – inconsolable (NJB), desolate (ESV), isolated (NASB), and secluded (AMP). Shame drove Tamar to hide herself – committing a suicide of sorts – wandering like a ghost in Absolom’s home until the end of her life.

As the story progresses through 2 Samuel Chapters 13-18, A “royal mess” ensued. Tamar’s male family members did nothing to help her retrieve wholeness but instead spent their energies on vengeance-murder, deportation, usurpation, humiliation, and mourning what might have been.

Addressing the emotion of shame should be high on our list of spiritual priorities. The devil is primed to take advantage of untended wounds such as Tamar’s. Our enemy can thwart God’s desire to heal and generate ever expanding messes.

Has shame been festering in your life or in the life of someone close? Take a step this week to tackle or continue to address the cause of that shame. To help your thought process, here’s a short perspective on the subject. 10 Things You Should Know about Shame | Crossway Articles

SHAME OR GUILT?2022-03-14T08:27:56-06:00
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