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Worry is Unbelief

The Lent season is over, Easter has come and gone, and we got out of bed this morning to take on a new week.  As you think back over the past 40 days has anything shifted?  Has there been an area of unbelief that is now an area of belief?  Maybe you are wondering if you really have unbelief in your life.  There is a sure fire litmus test WORRY.

Worry is the opposite of belief. It pains me to even type out that reality, but it is true. Jesus’ words on the subject cannot be ignored. Regardless of how much faith I have at times, I must return to Jesus’ teaching on worry as the litmus test on faith. Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.” (Luke 12:22) “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life. Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (25-26)

Jesus’ words in Luke 12 hit a little too close to home. His advice is way too practical! I prefer His more obscure teachings. As I read this section of Luke 12 I have to ask myself if worry is the overarching theme of my thought life. If so, then somewhere along the way I have let unbelief take over. “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” (28)

So what do we do with worry? Especially if we are prone to worry, grew up in an environment where it was normal, or let’s be honest, like to be in control and mask it as worry? Well, the only antidote for worry I have found it Jesus. Seriously! A lot of my journey the past 10 years has been seeing worry and control subside in my life as a result of leaning more into Jesus. I wish there was a quick fix to this, believe me I searched for it, but I came up empty. What I can tell you today is that worry is practically a distant memory compared to what it was for the majority of my life before this intimate growing relationship with Jesus. His words in Luke 12 have become life giving to me.

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Lent Day 40: Being in Love

Most people I know have been in love. It’s amazing what happened when I fell in love with Anna. Time just suddenly appeared! We both thought we were busy before we fell for one another, but we quickly found ourselves spending numerous hours on the phone, sacrificing sleep, and being intentional about getting time with one another.   Fast-forward seventeen years into marriage. While we don’t have the same feeling of butterflies in our stomach when we see each other or talk on the phone, our marriage is exponentially better when we are intentional about one-on-one time together.   I have found the same to be true with Jesus. While I may not have the same emotional high as the season Jesus was “courting me into the Kingdom”, spending one-on-one time alone with Him drastically enhances our relationship.

I am slowly beginning to realize after seventeen years of marriage, and a number of years of consistently getting time with Jesus, that the courting phase was nothing compared to the level of love and intimacy that is experienced when I simply spend time with the one(s) I love.

A few years ago Anna and I attended a couples retreat in Seattle lead by Tina Sellers called, Passion For Life.   The weekend was remarkable, and was very encouraging for our marriage. One of the primary teachings of the weekend is the importance of believing that we are loved by God. This is where it all begins. We really cannot give or receive love properly until we believe that we are loved by our Father. One of the best pictures of this in scripture in John 15. Jesus tells us:

4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

10 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.

The central message of Jesus is to remain in His love. That is really our only part, to remain, to abide. As we allow ourselves to be loved by God and to remain in that love, we can’t help but love others without expectation or attachment. We can freely love, knowing that we are loved by the Father. Since Jesus is love and He is in us, then we too are love. Amazing!

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Lent Day 38: Jesus Believed He was Loved

Jesus believed that He was loved by the Father. I am certainly not the first to reflect on this reality, but there are some things to say about this from my perspective. Jesus’ primary identity was grounded in the truth that He was loved by the Father. Two instances stick out to me.   The first, the Father speaking audibly to Him as He came out of the Jordan. “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11) What had the Father so excited here? After all, Jesus hadn’t even begun his public ministry, he hadn’t done one single thing to “earn” the Father’s love, yet he hears those incredible words directly from Him.

The second instance comes right in the middle of what we now refer to as “Holy Week”. “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.” (Jn 13:3-4) Jesus knew exactly who he was. He knew where he had come from and where he was going.  He was so confident in who He was that he was able to take on the ultimate role as servant. He identified himself primarily as one who was loved by the Father.

It would seem from these two scenes that our journey of becoming like Jesus would be primarily about our coming to know that we too are loved by the Father. For so long I believed that the journey of the faith was about getting to Heaven. “Being saved” is the goal, and Heaven is the reward. I don’t think that’s the case. Maybe that’s part of it, but what if this whole thing is about coming to know that we are loved? If that begins to sink in then everything changes. The goal is no longer to try not to sin, but instead to know a little more today that we am loved by the God who created us. If that becomes central then we have a grounding for my day. If we can roll out of bed and allow 1 John 3:1-2a, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.”, to sink into our being then maybe that is what becoming like Jesus is all about.

You and I were created for intimacy with God and others. This is the key component to living the life God has intended for us. We know that, but do we really believe that, and by believe it, I mean, does our day reflect this reality?

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Lent Day 37:Believing the Truth is Dangerous

Since this intimate relationship with God has been the design from the beginning, it is only fitting that Satan would attempt to prevent man from receiving love from the only true source of love. Satan will stand for almost anything else, before he will lie down and let man sit with the one and only true God. He will tolerate good works, giving, worship, fellowship, education, reading, etc, but the thing he directs the bulk of his effort and attention to is keeping men and women from believing that we are loved.

NT Wright in his Lent for Everyone daily devotional reflects further on this idea: “The real enemy is the power of darkness, the insidious, sub-personal force of death, deceit and destruction that goes in scripture by the name of ‘the Satan’, which means ‘the accuser’.” In reflecting on Matthew 12 NT Wright continues with this comment from the perspective of Jesus talking, “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you’ (verse 28). God’s sovereign power is at work — through Jesus; and he has won the right to put it into practice because he has first ‘tied up the strong man’ (verse 29), which presumably refers back to his initial victory over the dark enemy in his own solitary wilderness temptations (4.1—11). As is so often the case, the initial struggle that an individual has with temptation will, if successful, clear the way for fruitful work in the days and years to come. In fact, one might suggest that precisely the reason for the fierce temptation early on in someone’s life, or ministry, is because the enemy knows precisely how important that later work will be, and how vital it is — from that hostile viewpoint! — to sabotage it as quickly and thoroughly as possible.”

Whether or not we believe Jesus’ opening statement in John 10 about the thief really shapes how we approach today.  Is Satan a declawed lion or is he truly a thief who is attempting to kill our spirit, steal our joy and destroy our lives and relationships?

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Lent Day 36: The battle today

It all started when Satan decided he wanted to be God, left his post as an angel and declared war on God, trying to take his place as ruler of all things. Satan’s biggest blow was his attack on Eve and Adam. God allowed it because he didn’t want his creation to be summoned to love him, but instead wanted his creation to choose him. Satan saw this as a prime opportunity, tempted Eve who invited Adam into the temptation, and they chose to believe the lie and not the truth that they were loved, that God’s love was enough. This deeply grieved God, because he longed to be in relationship with his creation, and it greatly pained Eve and Adam because they were created to be in an intimate relationship with God.

God, of course, knew that the story would play out like this, and also knew that he would pull off the greatest rescue mission in history, God’s rescue of man. He became a man (Phil 2) and came to the earth, not only to show man how to live, but ultimately to die. The interesting thing here is that the Western belief brought in the idea that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penance to his wrathful Father for all of man sins. That was not the understanding of the Early Church. The Early Church believed that the cross was primarily how God defeated Satan, once and for all. Jesus became sin, he became it! (2 Cor 5:21) He didn’t just take on our sin, he literally embraced his humanity to such an extent that he became sin and through that voluntary process he defeated sin’s power. The result of that defeat was man’s opportunity to be rescued by a God that loves him, and to provide a way for man to be in an intimate relationship to God once again.

So the question then becomes, what is the battle now? In light of this great battle and God’s ultimate rescue mission, the battle is now against an ongoing intimate relationship between individual man and God. Yes, that’s it, Satan’s primary concern is to keep men and women from believing that we are loved! And it turns out that he is pretty good at it…

 

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Lent Day 35: Life to the Fullest

Having been primarily focused on outreach ministry with teenagers for a lot of years, I have become very comfortable quoting John 10:10: “…I came that you may have life and have it to the fullest.”

That is actually not John 10:10? Ok, it’s part of the verse, but only the good part. Jesus gave a warning in this same breath that he offered hope. “The thief comes to kill, steal and destroy; I came that you may have life…” Wow! It was only a few years ago that I gave the first half of this verse any consideration. I was more than happy to communicate the hope of real life to high school kids and others, but I missed the reality of the thief. What I have come to realize from the Scriptures and my own experience is that Satan is a real force seeking to steal our joy, kill our spirit and destroy our lives.

But I thought the warfare of Satan ended at the Cross??? Does the first half of John 10:10 still apply? If Jesus’ statement isn’t a valid warning, then why the words from Peter after the Cross? “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil, He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. .” (1 Pet 5:8)   Maybe the warning is because the thief is still permitted to carry out his work in some capacity. So the question then becomes, what is the battle now…?

 

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Lent Day 33: The Long Road toward belief

A little about these prayers. Many of the words or statements have specific meaning to me. I list my middle name because my granddad, Raymond Petree, is still my greatest hero. He loved Jesus, loved people and loved me. His life inspires me each day. Beloved: most days I write in my journal, and 9 years ago I started signing Beloved at the end of each entry as a reminder of who I am. A prince: I am a son of the King therefore making me a prince. A saint: I believe the scriptures affirm that I am a saint who sins and not a sinner at my core. I chose joy today: I believe that joy is a choice and I remind myself each day that I can choose joy today. Each of the descriptive words that I use is specifically speaking against a lie I used to believe about myself. For instance, for many years I believed I was weak. I specifically speak against that lie with the proclamation that I am strong. Husband to a beautiful Godly wife: This reminds me of the truth about my sweet bride. She is beautiful and she is Godly. Father to three provided children: this reminds me each day that our kids are a provision and that being a father is a core role in my life. Friend to many: The Lord has called me to be a friend to many.

It could seem from reading this that I have conquered all of my fears and the lies that kept me down. Yes and no. Yes, I now believe the truth about myself and not the lies, but I am still tempted, at times, to believe the lies. That is why praying this prayer each morning for the past ten years has become so important for me. In reflecting about his own daily time with Jesus, one man said, “I come here each morning to remember who I am.” That is what this prayer is all about, remembering the truth about who I am and what God says about me.

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Lent Day 32: Breaking the Lies

As theses lies came to the surface I knew that something had to be done about it there in the San Juan Islands that weekend. Sunday morning of the trip Ryan and I crept over a bluff, journal in hand. I shared with him the lies that the Father had revealed, and asked him to pray through each lie with me in order to break my cycle of fear and unbelief. We put a stake in the ground that morning on Saddlebag Island. The lies were broken and the hard work of replacing those lies with truth was awaiting me back home. Thankfully, before our trip ended the Lord walked me through an amazing experience of writing down His truth about me. I used the famous “What is your name” scene from the movie Gladiator as a template, and this is what I wrote:

(I have read this statement each morning for the past 10 years. It has become a daily prayer for me. As Jesus has continued to reveal new truths about myself I have tweaked the prayer. In fact, the prayer in my journal today looks quite a bit different):

My name is Shawn Raymond Petree, Beloved, I am loved.

I am Your chosen son. I am family.  Your Spirit is in me. Christ is formed (and is forming) in me. I am an heir of Your Kingdom, a prince, a saint.

I choose joy and gratitude today!

I am a strong, confident, warm, generous, assertive, courageous, creative man, a writer, a warrior

Husband to a beautiful Godly wife. Father to three provided children

Friend to many.  I am loved.

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Lent Day 31: Believing the Truth About Yourself

A month after the realization that I was paralyzed by fear and unbelief (First mentioned here) I went into a dark time. Thankfully the Lord pulled me away for a few days to get perspective. I headed to the San Juan islands to kayak with my buddy Ryan.  On Friday, August 24, 2006 this was my journal entry:

Here we are on Saddlebag Island. Yesterday was the typical craziness of trying to get out of town. We made it though, hit the water at 7:45PM and set up camp in the dark. We had cheap wine and Hawaiian cigars (which I do not recommend) after supper, and talked about the happenings of the past week. We talked about the stresses of Ryan’s job, me considering going on depression medication, and if Jesus was busy. Lord show me the answer to that question this week.

It’s been cloudy all week, yet the sunshine came out today. What a beautiful morning! I’m excited for the adventures of the day.

This trip wasn’t so much a reprieve as it was a chance for the Lord to reveal to me the depth of my fear and unbelief. Slowly over the three days that we were away, the Father revealed to me core lies I had believed as truth for many years. Here are a few of my journal entries from the weekend:

“I have a very deep fear that at some point everyone will leave and I will be left all alone. I have a fear of rejection.”

“Lord I invite you into this fear. I believe that you can heal me. Jesus, I want my whole heart back.” As the weekend went on, the Lord reveal more specific lies that I had believed for a long time:

“I am a boy and not a man. At some point everyone is going to leave. God can’t heal the deepest hurts of my heart.”

(to be continued)

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Lent Day 27: Where else would we go?

John 6 is the big decision time for his followers. By this point, Jesus has been around for a while and it’s time to figure out who believes and who does not. “Amen, Amen I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.” (Jn 6:47). The question is, can we accept and not believe? To accept Jesus’ teachings is to simply look at the facts and acknowledge that what He is saying it true. To believe, however, is to closely observe the lifestyle and behavior of Jesus and his followers, and do the best we can to emulate that way of living. For instance, Jesus model was solitude, then community, then ministry. He spent time with the Father first and often, then he invested in a few, then together they went out to minister to others, and finally they participated in Sabbath rest. That model does not compute today. What seems to make more sense is to work long and hard all day every day, get ahead, not waste time in relationship, and get a little time with God when time allows. If we do that are we believing or just accepting the teaching of Jesus?

Jesus’ teaching on belief in John 6 comes to a head with many of his followers, “This is difficult teaching, who can listen to it?” (v. 60) Jesus kept pressing in with his words on belief. “There are some of you who do not believe” (v 64). And at the end of this lengthy, meaty discussion in John 6 we see that many of his followers withdrew and were not walking with him anymore. (v. 66) From this we get a good picture of lack of belief. To not believe is to not walk with Jesus any longer, to do life on our terms instead of his own.

My favorite question of Jesus rounds out this teaching in John 6. As many of his followers are walking away, he looks at his twelve “recruits” and says, “You do not want to go away also do you?”(v.67) Silence, the air grows thick, I’m sure some of the guys were considering it. They must have been thinking how simple their lives were before they met Jesus. But they knew deep down that walking with Jesus was the only way to experience real life. One of the spokesmen for this little band speaks, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (v.68-69) At the end of the day these guys believed and continued walking with Jesus.