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A Bible Study by Paula Yingst
It’s hard for human minds to comprehend forgiveness. Jesus knew that. So He often used the power of carefully selected word pictures to get His message across. Here is how He SHOWED his unconditional love to the man who had THREE TIMES disowned Him in His hour of greatest need …
[After the resurrection]
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
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 [John] 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. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
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.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The 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.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 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: 4-19, NIV)
Jesus would be a hard act for Peter to follow. But “following” is what Jesus expects His disciples to do.
Even though we WILL fail Him from time to time, Jesus wants us to remember that He offers forgiveness when we fall short. But He challenges us to keep getting up and to KEEP TRYING.
John finished the story and his testimony — the Book of John — this way:
“This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:24-25, NIV)
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: According to historical records, John was the only one of the remaining Eleven disciples who did not experience a martyr’s death.
I have spent a long while this morning looking through posts on the Internet — a rabbit hole of opinions and “prophetic words” that crisscross and contradict each other — and I’m reminded of the journey I’ve traveled over the past 20+ years. Those who regularly read my posts may remember that I’ve said many times that I did not ask for this ministry. I was “assigned” it by the Holy Spirit in January of 1995 in a little Christian book store as I was trying to navigate an episode of disabling depression.
Since that day I have learned more about myself than I ever wanted to know. I’ve met individuals I would never have thought I would connect with. I have shared information with people all over the world, as God has led me to reach out. And I have suffered scorn from loved ones that burned deep into my spirit, but it has not ultimately defined me or my mission.
Today, is one event that I’ve waited for two decades to see. I have no idea what will happen today. I will not speculate on what will happen tomorrow, or this month, or next year. I am simply feeling thankful to my Lord Jesus for standing with me, encouraging me to TRUST when I was (so many times) ready to QUIT, and whispering into my thoughts, “I’m here, Paula.”
So I write this “one more” post for your consideration …
EVENTS OF THE JUBILEE YEAR (http://www.shemitah-blood-moons.net/jubilee.html):
“Jubilee Cycles: Jubilee cycles are based in the Shemitah Years which occur every 7th year. Seven Shemitahs makes a Shemitah of Shemitahs. (7×7 years is the Shemitah of Shemitah cycle period. The year following the 7th Shemitah cycle is the Jubilee year. The Jubilee Year follows the 7th Shemitah Year thus becoming the 50th year. However, if we keep the Shemitah cycle going every 7 years, then the next Jubilee year is also the first year of the next Shemitah cycle, in which case the next Jubilee year follows 49 years after the first. However, if you start the next Shemitah cycle after the Jubilee Year then you have Jubilee years occurring every 50 years, however this breaks the 7-year cycle. Bible scholars are in disagreement to which version is correct. The following is based on the 49-year cycle, which keeps the 7-year cycle intact.”
“The 40th Jubilee since Jesus’ Crucifixion: The number 40 has special meaning in the Bible and is repeated a number of times in the Bible.
— It rained for 40 days and 40 nights as Noah and his family rode out the flood in the ark. The Great Flood was punishment for min’s sinful ways.
— The Israelites wandered 40 years in the desert in repentance for disobeying God.
— Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days and was tempted by Satan.
— After Jesus’ resurrection he remained for 40 days until he ascended to Heaven.
“The period of time of 40 in the Bible is understood as a period of redemption for past sins. So it is of special interest to Christians around the world that this Jubilee Year is the 40th since Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem in 31 A.D. [debated]. Will this 40th Jubilee finalize the end period of repentance and redemption for mankind? Many believers feel something important is about to happen from God.
“The 70th Jubilee, 2015-2016: The numbers 7 and 70 both have special meanings in the Bible.
— God created the earth in six days and rested on the 7th day.
— God had completed his task by the 7th day.
— The Israelites spent 70 years in captivity away from God’s holy city, Jerusalem.
— In Daniel 9:24 we have the following: ‘Seventy weeks [70 x 7 days (one biblical “week”) = 490 years] are determined for your people and your holy city [Jerusalem], to finish transgression, to make an end to sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.’
— In Matthew 18:22 Jesus tells Peter to forgive not just seven times, but seventy times seven.”
From these biblical facts we can see that — despite debate and speculation — this Jubilee event has been and IS a big deal.
I encourage you to handle this day — Elul 29, 5776 — with prayer …
“The true perfection of man
lies not in what man has,
but in what man is.”
— Oscar Wilde
“Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” the evil King Ahab said to the prophet Elijah.
“I’m not the problem.” Elijah replied. “It’s you and your ancestors who have messed things up!”
Elijah set forth a challenge to evil King Ahab and his countrymen. They had a choice to make. “How long will you waver between two opinions?” Elijah asked. “Will you follow the Lord God of Israel or will you continue to worship false gods? Call all of the people together and let’s perform an experiment.” Ahab did as he was told, figuring that he would make Elijah seem like a fool in the eyes of his countrymen.
But in the end, the Lord God did what He does best. He supernaturally showed up at the event and made Ahab look very foolish, indeed. So Ahab sought out his wife – the even more wicked Queen Jezabel – and told her his version of what had happened between himself and the prophet Elijah. Then he added, “And by the way, dear, I decided to have all the prophets in the land killed!”
Somehow, Elijah got wind of Ahab’s boasting and believed that he was the only one of his kind left. Even after his stunning performance before the community of Israelites – where he had actually called down fire from heaven that licked up a pile of stones, soil and logs that was completely saturated with water – Elijah melted with fear when he heard the part about all of the prophets being killed. “OMG!” he commiserated. “I’m the only one left! I must run for my life!” That of course sapped his energy. So as well as feeling absolutely terrified, he was also burdened with exhaustion. That of course, can make a person feel hopeless and – for some – suicidal.
Elijah threw in the towel and prayed: “Lord, I’ve had enough! Take my life!”
But instead of killing Elijah, the Lord sent an angel (twice) to feed, strengthen, and encourage the pitiful, scared-out-of-his-wits, man of God. And when Elijah was feeling better, he picked himself up and charged back to face the enemy? … NOT. He kept right on going, another forty days and forty nights distance, to a mountain called Horeb … and he hid in a cave.
Of course, God (being God) knew exactly where Elijah was, how he got there, and all the emotions that had motivated the journey. The word of the Lord came to Elijah and asked a very simple question: “What are you doing here?”
The tired, grumpy, totally stressed human laid out his case with all the emotional excuses he could come up with. Then he capped it off with, “I’m the only left, and now they’re gonna kill me, too!”
Very calmly, the Creator instructed, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
What follows, in my humble opinion, are some of the most profound verses set forth in Scripture …
“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountain apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” (1 Kings 19:11-13)
God didn’t scold Elijah. He didn’t even raise His voice. He simply repeated the question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Then like a Father instructing His child, the Lord said, “Go back the way you came …”
It turned out that Elijah wasn’t the “only one” left. The Lord God had preserved the lives of others who had remained faithful in the face of adversity and the threat of death. And He wanted Elijah to persevere – to tell his story to a few, who would then tell their story to others. So that down through history the truth would be told about a frail and frightened individual – not much different in his mortal makeup that you and I – and about the God who loved him through a tough, very scary situation.
Would you agree that our world is becoming more and more frightening? Perhaps not so much for some individuals who still are enjoying financial prosperity, who have never experienced a violent crime or unexpectedly lost someone dear to them, and who enjoy good health.
But for each of us, the question remains: “What are you doing here?” … How are you making a difference in the lives of others from the vantage point of where you currently stand in your personal journey? Is your heart aligned with God’s heart? Do you trust Him to get you through whatever is going to happen in your world – and on the global stage – from this moment on?
More often than not, the voice of God will instruct you to suck up the drama and put on the spiritual armor that He has made available. Then He’ll say: “Go back the way you came, trust me, and we will move forward from there.”
“If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for all —
how will he not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?
“Those who do not know history
are forever condemned to repeat it.”
— Will Durant
“The sycamores have been cut down, but we will plant cedars in their place.”…
Chuck and I stared at the sorry-looking palm tree that had previously been standing, proud and lofty, with a full head of fronds blowing gracefully with the breeze. Now it looked like it had received a very bad Marine haircut.
A tree trimming service had come along on behalf of the County. We weren’t home at the time, so they took the liberty of whacking it off about midway down the trunk. Chuck had been actively protecting the palm from just such an event for a couple of years, so seeing it in such a sorry state was painful.
The tree had been planted too close to the power lines, which was considered a fire hazard. But while the County wanted to cut it down because the fronds “would eventually touch the wires,” the power company was telling us that they would be taking the lines out … “eventually.” (As of April 20017, that has not happened.)
I can imagine what it may have been like for the Israelites who remained in the northern kingdom — Judah remained in the south — as they surveyed the damage to their capitol city after the brutal Assyrians had ravaged their land! The clay bricks had fallen … the beautiful sycamores had been cut down. I envision women weeping, children picking through the rubble, and men shaking their fists in frustration and anger, vowing: “We won’t allow our enemies to get the best of us! We’ll rebuild with Gazit Stone and plant strong cedars where the sycamores once stood. We will return, even stronger than before!”
The sycamore tree was common in the Middle East. It was feeble in comparison to the cedar, or erez tree. So the nation vowed that rather than replanting sycamores, they would plant an evergreen conifer as a symbol of renewed strength and defiance.
On the morning of 9/11, as the Twin Towers were in the process of crumbling, St. Peter’s Chapel stood at the very edge of the chaos. As I mentioned earlier, the little stone church was the only building unharmed on the rectangular plot of real estate that’s now known as Ground Zero. A miracle? Of course, but there’s much more to the story.
The sycamore specifically named in Isaiah 9:10 is foreign to the American Northeast. But a version of the tree does exist in New York City, called the English sycamore. And one of those English sycamores was planted, around 65 years ago, next to the little stone church where President George Washington and the first American Congress gathered to pray for God’s protection over our nation.
When the dust cleared after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, it was discovered that the sycamore tree next to St. Peter’s Chapel had been felled by debris and wreckage that had been hurled through the air as the towers fell. It had protected the little church during the entire horrific event! The tree was called “the Sycamore of Ground Zero” and its stump and roots were placed on display as a tourist attraction, along with the small object found entwined in its roots – a brick.
No one had any idea of its connection to the Isaiah 9:10 prophecy. Nor did they have any clue about the unfathomable “coincidence” that would occur two years after the sycamore fell.
In November 2003, a tree transported by a crane appeared in the sky at the corner of Ground Zero. It was carefully lowered into the exact spot where the ancient sycamore tree had stood, next to St. Peter’s Chapel. The tree was a pinacea, sister tree to the Cedar of Lebanon, and just like the Gazit Stone, a public ceremony of dedication followed. It was labeled “The Tree of Hope.”
I’m thinking that maybe we should gather family and friends for a dedication of our decapitated palm tree and label it “The Tree of Hopelessness.”
Note: In August 2014, the Tree of Hope died. Rabbi Jonathan Cahn speculated that its death could be yet another sign that America was still in deep trouble with the Lord God for turning back to its old ways in the years following America’s 9/11 tragedy.
“’Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the teacher.
‘Everything is meaningless!'”
— Solomon (Ecclesiastes 12:8)
A RUST REMOVER …
Judging from the personal observations recorded in the book of Ecclesiastes, I’m wondering if King Solomon suffered from undiagnosed clinical depression? It’s a good idea to beware of “bumper sticker Christianity” where verses are often taken out of context and applied to random situations … and coffee mugs.
is God spelling Himself out
in language that man can understand.”
— S.D. Gordon
For some people, believing in heaven is a no-brainer and doesn’t take any conscious effort. For others – especially those deeply ensnared in the material world – it’s just as easy not to believe in life after death, and there is little or no way to convince them otherwise.
When I read about heaven in the book of Revelation, I can envision it as a real place where I will one day reside for eternity. But, I had no convincing proof that what I believe is not just a personal fantasy. That was before I heard about Colton Burpo and Akiane Kramaric – two children whose incredible stories are told by their parents in Akiane by Foreli Kramarik and Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo (with Lynn Vincent). These two kids, who had not met each other at the time of this revelation, have a connection that is … well, heavenly!
I don’t remember when I first became aware of Akiane’s supernatural gift for painting and poetry. But I do recall looking her up on the Internet to view the creations that I’d heard about. I wanted to see them with my own eyes, because the story I’d heard seemed quite hard to fathom.
I discovered that the Lithuanian-American Akiane began sharing visions of heaven with her parents when she was four years old. One morning she whispered to her mother, “Today I met God.” Since her mother and father knew nothing at all about God, Foreli Kramarik wasn’t sure how to respond to her daughter’s pronouncement, so she asked, “What is God?”
Akiane replied, “God is light – warm and good. It knows everything and talks with me. It is my parent.” In complete disbelief, Foreli continued groping for answers.
“Why did you think it was God?”
Akiane confidently answered, “Just like I know you are my mommy, and you know I am Akiane.”
“Who even taught you such a word God?”
Akiane replied, “You won’t understand.”
And she was right. Her mother and father could not understand. But they kept talking with their little girl and trying to remain open to the incomprehensible information that she was willing to share about God and heaven.
The entire story of their journey from spiritual ignorance to acceptance of Christianity is well documented, so I won’t try to retell it here. What I need you to know is that Akiane began drawing portraits when she was four. Her drawings were so professional looking by the time she was five that people refused to believe she had drawn them. When she was eight, she painted a portrait of Jesus as she had seen Him in heaven. And that is where Colton Burpo’s journey intersects with Akiane’s.
Colton was three years and ten months old when he lay on an operating table while surgeons struggled to repair his ruptured appendix and save the little boy’s life. He was officially four and still recovering from the surgery when he began talking about Jesus and the angels that he had seen while he was in heaven. This came as a huge surprise to his father, Pastor Todd, because there was no evidence that Colton had died for even a moment during the operation.
When Colton was seven, his mother, Sonja, saw a CNN report about Akiane that had aired in December 2006 when she was twelve years old. Sonja realized that Akiane’s descriptions of heaven were remarkably similar to Colton’s. Akiane described Jesus as pure and very masculine. “He’s really strong and big. And His eyes are just beautiful.”
At that time, Sonja and Todd had been playing a game with their son for several years. Whenever they came across a portrait of Jesus that an artist had rendered, they would ask, “Does that look like Him?” Colton would study the picture then patiently explain why the likeness was just not right. And he would comment, “His eyes are so pretty!” So when Todd saw the portrait that Akiane had painted, he called Colton to look at it and asked, “What’s wrong with this one?”
After a long, hypnotic moment, Colton studied the picture then said, “Dad, that one’s right.”
When I heard that phenomenal story, it became mine as well. And now that you’re aware of it, it has become ours – Colton’s, Akiane’s, mine, and yours.
I don’t know about you, but these accounts by two very young, innocent children have in many ways confirmed what I believe about heaven. I will read their testimonies again and again when I need comforting and reassurance. And I will study Akiane’s portrait of Jesus when I need to be reminded of what He actually looks like.
“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him,
nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.”
A RUST REMOVER …
Internet search for Colton Burpo and Akiane. Both are older now, so their stories are even more fascinating to learn about. How do you feel about heaven? Are you ready to meet Jesus face-to-face?
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven,
with a loud command,
with the voice of the archangel,
and with the trumpet call of God,
and the dead in Christ will rise first.
After that, we who are still alive and are left
will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
And so we will be with the Lord forever.”
(1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
“You are never at any time nearer to God
than when under tribulation,
which He permits for the purification
of your soul.”
— Miguel De Molinos
June 8, 2012 (Timothy Williams, New York Times): “The suicide rate among the nation’s active-duty military personnel has spiked this year, eclipsing the number of troops dying in battle and on pace to set a record annual high since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan more than a decade ago, the Pentagon said Friday.”
Other news reports have claimed that the following month, another 38 were added to the numbers of those who took their own lives while on active duty. It’s a grim number that’s being dealt with on the highest levels. Those at the top of the authority pyramid have added counselors and chaplains. They’ve set aside September as “Suicide Prevention Month.” But what can they really do to stop soldiers from choosing to take a permanent leave of absence?
I understand the emotions behind all of that, because I’ve experienced a similar deep sadness and desperation. Of course, my situation wasn’t anything at all like that of a soldier in combat. But I do know that the Holy Spirit can strengthen a person’s will to survive, and He can make use of desperate situations in the most profound and unexpected ways.
I have a friend who can attest to that. His name is Frank Gamillo, and he and I have discovered that we have a number of life experiences in common. In 2011, we realized that we went through elementary school together and were actually in the same fourth grade class. We graduated from the same high school and stayed close to home after that.
In 1994, both of us experienced health issues that changed life as we knew it. For me it was the onset of fibromyalgia. For Frank, it was a serious, construction-related injury that irreparably damaged his spine.
Each of us, unbeknownst to the other, had to learn how to cope with physical, emotional, and psychological pain. We have both dealt with severe depression … and have contemplated suicide. And we’ve petitioned our God with requests for healing and haunting questions, like “why me?” and “what will the future look like?”
In 2003, in the midst of continuous physical pain, I had to restructure my life for the sake of loved ones. At that time, Frank was still hopping from one specialist to another and enduring surgeries to try and repair torn disks and disintegrating bone in his spine. And when it seemed as though there was not much to live for, each of us withdrew from fellowship with people who wanted to understand and offer support.
The two of us ended up moving into different houses at the insistence of our spouses. It took several years to adjust and eventually make personal discoveries that God had placed us in those homes for specific reasons. It took some time, but we finally figured out that He had been listening all along to our pleas for help.
For me, that help came in the form of a letter from a cousin I had grown up with, but who I had not seen in many years. Pam sent me an article she had cut out of her local newspaper in Fayetteville, Arkansas about a new drug that seemed to be helping victims of a mysterious illness called fibromyalgia. I began taking Lyrica shortly after that and, despite a few annoying side effects, I started feeling as though I had been given my life back.
Frank told me about a moment that he remembers when he felt the Holy Spirit take away the depression that Satan had used as leverage against him. And then, in 2008, something amazing happened. His wife, Maggie, suddenly had an idea to help her husband restore relationships that had been lost over time. She planned a gathering at their home, with the assistance of their friend Marcia, and invited people who might like to come together and help distract Frank from dwelling on his physical pain. To her surprise, over 60 people showed up! And as everyone was leaving, they expressed a desire to “do it again next year!”
In spring of 2009, Maggie and Frank planned a high school reunion party. Marcia offered to have it at her house, and she recruited a couple of live bands to play music from the 1960’s and ‘70’s. Frank pulled together the guest list and decided they should celebrate the 40th anniversary of “Woodstock” – the famous, pop culture music event that took place on a New York farm in 1969. After the reunion, word got out and more alumni wanted to know when the next event was going to be.
A long-time friend named Steph suggested that Frank join Facebook to get out information about a future event. And in spring 2010, Woodstock II took place in a large grassy area with an entertainment stage, on property owned by a local steam engine museum. Over 600 people attended!
Around the same when time Steph signed Frank up for Facebook, my daughter Lisa opened a Facebook account in my name. And since I’d started taking Lyrica and was feeling more energetic, I quickly became addicted to finding and communicating with friends from my past, acquiring new ones along the way. As Frank was establishing his site for “Woodstock Summer Jam,” I decided to set up a site to contact friends from my high school drill team days. And over the course of a few months, Frank and I somehow met in the middle!
In 2011, I planned a drill team (my passion during high school) reunion at my house for the day after Frank’s Woodstock III event. Emails started pouring in from folks who lived in various states across the nation. Some wanted to come out for BOTH events!
Even more amazing was the fact that our Lord provided both Frank and myself with strength and loads of adrenaline to accomplish something we would have sworn – just a few years earlier – that we would never be able to do.
Maybe the military should rethink their “Suicide Prevention Month.” Replacing it with something like “Survivor Celebration Week” might encourage gatherings across the country to promote desire in weary warriors to keep on living and striving, in spite of – and in the midst of – physical, emotional and psychological pain.
“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me….
You are familiar with all my ways.”
A RUST REMOVER …
The apostle Paul wrote about a mystery of enduring hope for everyone who believes that Jesus Christ died and rose again as He promised. Paul spoke of a moment in time when we will be caught up together “in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will be with Him forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). He closed with this admonition: “Encourage each other with these words.”
Pray that the Spirit will remind you of someone who could use encouragement. Give that person a call, send them an email or a hand-written note to let them know they are not alone. And there is hope.