A New Focus

What is Truth?

What is truth?

While praying about a direction focus our efforts in, we have really been drawn to the interaction between Pilate and Jesus found in John 18. In fact, if you come out to a Coffee and Conversation sometime you’ll see that the question, “What is truth?” is on our t-shirts. In the following blog post, I, Christiaan, want to look at a culturally popular interpretation of this interaction, and then examine the actual biblical interaction, as I feel they both explain the full story of what TDMI is focusing on and why.

The first interaction is from Jesus Christ Superstar, and I feel it really summarizes the cultural zeitgeist we find ourselves in.

“I look for truth, and find that I get damned.”
“But what is truth? Is truth unchanging law? We both have truths, are mine the same as yours.” – Jesus and Pilate, Jesus Christ Superstar.

Let’s examine the first part of that interaction.

“I look for truth and find that I get damned.” – Jesus, Jesus Christ Superstar.

If you’ve been in church for a long period of time, you have probably experienced that while on the search for truth, if truth is found outside the dogma of the particular denomination you can find yourself an outcast even though it’s a true truth that is found in the bible. But it doesn’t stop there, seekers aren’t exactly accepted by the world either. No matter where the truth is being sought it seems there are always people who are content with the truth they know, the truth that they were taught as a child, or the truth that culture taught them to believe and anyone believing different, or asking questions should be silenced and ostracized.

Why is this? Ignorance? Control? Being sincerely wrong? I don’t have the answer for this, but I feel it’s important to affirm this is something that happens.

That’s one of the reasons I find the exchange in Jesus Christ Superstar so compelling, I think most of us can relate to looking for truth and being condemned for it at some point.

It’s also why it’s so important that when it comes to interactions with TDMI that we celebrate and encourage the search for truth and help where we can in making sure that those involved have the right tools to aid them in their search.

But that’s not the entire interaction, the second comes from Pilate.

“But what is truth? Is truth unchanging law? We both have truths, are mine the same as yours?” – Pilate, Jesus Christ Superstar.

This is the quintessential summation of the argument of relativism which is that there is no true truth. There are some truths that aren’t objectively true, but that doesn’t mean that no truth can be absolute or truly true. But even in Pilates questioning of what truth was he was on to something. True Truth, or Absolute truth has three defining features: It is always true. It never changes. It is objective. Either 2 + 2 = 4 or it doesn’t. Either a god exists or it doesn’t. Either Jesus was the son of God or he wasn’t.

For us at TDMI, we believe in objective truth, but aren’t scared of acknowledging that we don’t have all the answers, and therefore need to keep searching.

Finally, I want to touch on the first-hand account of what actually happened with Jesus. It’s interesting.

Jesus after being asked if he was a king responds to Pilate, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and come into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37 NIV).

“Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” – Jesus (John 18:37 NIV).

This coupled with the other words of Jesus declaring he is the truth, is revolutionary. As Christians, we understand and realize that all true truth is rooted in Jesus, and if we claim to be on the side of truth, we have to pay attention to what he says.

This is where this new focus comes into play. When William was originally formulating what TDMI would do, his refrain was repeatedly, “My heart is for discipleship… I want to help others understand what this Christian life is really all about.” While the rest of the leadership agreed that those were good goals, we struggled with how to actualize those in a specific and intentional way, so we just did what we felt was right in that case.

But with a focus on truth, we are simultaneously narrowing our focus while also broadening it.

What is discipleship except teaching and equipping people to know and teach others about Jesus – teaching them about truth. What is helping others understand what this Christian life is all about if it’s not teaching about who Jesus is and what he said. But it doesn’t stop there.

TDMI is focusing on intentionally equipping and helping others in their search for truth, by providing opportunities to learn about the truth, resources in their search for truth, and to help guide them on their journey while not robbing them of that necessary aspect of the journey of coming to their own conclusions as a result of their own research and asking their own questions.

I hope you’ll join us in celebrating this new focus and be part of it as we explore how best to aid others on their journey and continue on our own.

  • Christiaan Funkhouser, M.Div.

John 21:3

(Editor’s Note: Christiaan here, William has returned home from the hospital, he’s working on an update for everyone, so this will be my last time posting for him for a bit). 

Verse of the Day Devotion: John 21:3 (NLT)

“Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ ‘We’ll come too,’ they all said. So, they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.” – John 21:3 (NLT)

We’ve arrived at the end of our journey in John 21. And with it being my last time writing for a time, I thought it may be good to finish this exploration where it began at the beginning of the chapter. If you’d like to catch up on what we’ve explored so far you can click on the following links. John 21:22 we saw Jesus’s response when Peter was concerned about what other people’s callings were. In John 21:7 we saw how Peter zealously swam towards Jesus upon realizing it was him. John 21:9 we saw the lengths that Jesus went to restore Peter. Lastly, in John 21:11 we saw how God gave Peter strength to do what God called him to do.

Today in our passage, I wanted to look at what happened before all four of our previous verses. Jesus has died. Peter has denied. Jesus has shown up to Peter, individually once, and the disciples all together twice before. Lots of people have argued very different things to account for Peter’s going fishing after seeing the resurrected Jesus. Some argue that it was a move out of frustration, while others believe it was ‘unthinkable’ if not ‘one of complete apostasy’. Some see it as simple as an, ‘even disciples need to eat.’ Some argue that he was told or lead to do this because God wanted them to be ready for Jesus to act. I’m going to go from the point of view of: Peter a fisherman, after all he’s gone through, decides to return to being a fisherman. This is an extremely non-spiritual reaction, but it’s a very human reaction, and illustrates a very real truth.

When we don’t know what to do, we tend to do what we’ve always done.

Peter and the rest of the disciples are have been with Jesus for the last three years, following his lead. They haven’t been worrying about where to go and what to do, because Jesus has always told them. Jesus had told them of all the things they would do, he told them of the Paraclete (Holy Spirit) coming after he (Jesus) left, and they had to wait for it. I don’t necessarily blame them. I think they were operating in, “Let’s just survive until tomorrow” mode. The only problem with that is while you survive, you don’t take the opportunities to thrive. Us Christians today, who may write about this, have never known what it was like to not have Holy Spirit with us, so I think we have to give a special grace to Peter. He didn’t have the spirit to lead him in his next direction.

But what can we do? What should they have done? I think to answer this, we can take a cue from Princess Anna of Arendelle. In Frozen 2, Anna finds herself alone, separated from everyone that she’s known and loved, with no direction of what to do. While Peter and the Disciples weren’t in this position yet. In the song, “The Next Right Thing” she struggles with what to do (you can watch the video by clicking here):

I follow you around, I always have.
But you’ve gone to a place I cannot find.
This grief has a gravity, It pulls me down.
But a tiny voice whisper in my mind
“You are lost, hope is gone, But you must go on
And do the next right thing.”

The Next Right Thing – Frozen 2

More often than not, God gives tells us what we will do, we’ll have a calling on our lives, or something that we’ve pushed for, but he doesn’t tell us how we’ll do it or the steps to accomplish it. We may have people in our lives who can give us wise counsel, but outside of God directly telling us how to get there, we have to make a choice and like Anna, do the next right thing.

I’ve mentioned before about how it took 35 years for me to walk in my calling to be in full time vocational ministry, but until I got to do that, I had been volunteering, serving where I could, taking the advice of others to broaden my horizons. I went to school, prepared myself, and then pursued it. I cannot tell you how often I talked to my parents and lamented to them how I wish that God would just tell me what I should do, because I was pretty sure I was making all sorts of terrible choices, and I made decisions out of fear, or greed of some sort (choosing a high paying job, outside of my field) and it stunted my ability to serve God (required me to work weekends, and made my ability to serve in a church inconsistent). But I’ve seen God redeem those choices.

That may be it. Maybe, I don’t want to jump on the Peter is a heretic for going fishing because I’ve been in his situation. I know Jesus has a calling on me. I know God wants me to do X or Y, but I don’t know how to go about it, so I’m going to go and do something I know how to do and make money so that whatever I end up doing, I’ll be in a better place financially.

It’s also interesting to note that Peter made the statement about himself, that he was going fishing, and the rest of the disciples followed along. We don’t have any indication in the verbiage that Peter was trying to conscript them or anything, just that he was making an individual choice and others followed him. And it’s a good thing, in this case, that they did, because, whether by God calling Peter to go fishing or by Peter just choosing to go fishing himself, all the disciples got to see Jesus again, and witness the reconciliation, restoration, and re-commision of Peter in a way that changed the world.

When you’re stuck with what to do and where to go, remember that as Proverbs 15:22 (ESV) says, “Without counsel, plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” so make sure you ask your trusted friends, relatives, and pastors for their counsel. They may have opportunities or ideas you may not have thought of. Pray about it, ask Holy Spirit what you should do, and listen for the small voice. And when all else fails, follow the example of Princess Anna, and do the next right thing.

To finish out my tenure writing these verses of the day, I hope that through this, you’ve been able to learn some new things about Jesus, Peter, and John. I hope that you’ve been able to see how much depth even some of the seemingly most benign verses could have. And I hope that I’ve accomplished my mission in that I wanted to encourage you all to take heart by John’s account of what happened with Peter. If Jesus would do it for Peter, I have no doubt he can and will do the same things in your life.

God Bless!

John 21:11

(Editor’s note: Christiaan, still, here. William is finishing up his recovery and should be back soon!)

Verse of the Day Devotion: John 21:11 (NLT)

“So, Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.” – John 21:11 (NLT)

We’re in John again! You can check out the previous days by clicking on the verse. We’ve looked at how in John 21:22 how after being restored, reconciled, and ordained, Peter was still concerned about others, and Jesus had to remind him not to compare himself to others. In John 21:7 we see how, in spite of Peter’s past betrayals of Jesus, when he saw Jesus on the shore, he jumped out of the boat and went towards him. In John 21:9 we looked at the lengths that Jesus went to not only reconcile and restore Peter but did it in a way that removed all doubt from Peter, allowing him to commit to his calling without worrying about his past mistakes.

Today, I want to take a less academic approach to the effect that Jesus’ restoration had on Peter. But first, John chooses to mention how many fish the nets had caught. There’s a lot of jibba-jabber about what this could secretly mean, and biblical codes that spell out secret messages… I think the most simple explanation is the most correct. John was a fisherman and catching 153 large fish was a feat that isn’t achieved often.

In John 21:6, Jesus, after asking the disciples whether or not they had caught anything, said, “‘Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!’ so they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.” John realizes it’s Jesus, and Peter jumps out of the boat, heads over to Jesus, the rest of the disciples follow, and after Jesus and Peter have time to chat for a little, Jesus calls for Peter to bring over some of the fish. So he grabbed the net and pulled all the fish ashore.

It’s intriguing to me that prior to being with Jesus the disciples, including Peter, couldn’t haul the net in. Yet, after meeting with Jesus for a little Peter was able to haul in the net by himself. There’s some thoughts that this feat is even more amazing then it comes off. When the disciples have an issue bringing the fish in, they’re in the water, the fish are buoyant, it’s the lightest that the fish will weigh. However, when Jesus tells Peter to bring the fish in, he drags it onto the shore by himself, where the fish loose the buoyancy.

Solomon wrote in Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” (NLT) being able to be welcomed and reconciled with Jesus lifted such a burden off Peter that he had supernatural strength. I believe that Peter showed us a literal example of Isaiah 40:31 (NIV), “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.” I also believe this is a great example of how when God calls you to do something that seems impossible, he’ll give you the ability to do it, even if by your own strength, you’ve failed multiple times before.

To close out this devotion, I wanted to leave you with a few verses to hopefully encourage you in these times, so that like Peter, you’ll have faith and trust that whatever God calls you to do, you’ll be able to do it no matter what.

Psalm 138:3 (NLT), “As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength.”

Joshua 1:9 (NLT), “This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Philippians 4:12-13 (ESV), “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Psalm 18:39 (NLT), “You have armed me with strength for the battle; you have subdued my enemies under my feet.”

Psalm 27:1 (KJV), “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

So, to quote Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, “Now all glory to God, who is able, though his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Thanks for all your prayers and support as we petition God for the fully restoration of William so he can continue his work here and as God calls him!

John 21:9

(Editor’s Note: Christiaan here! William is doing well, still in the hospital but mostly out of danger. We prayerfully hope he’ll be able to return to writing devotions on Tuesday!)

Verse of the Day Devotion – John 21:9 (NLT)

“When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them – fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.” – John 21:9 (NLT)

We’re back in John. For a bit more back story, I definitely recommend you check out my previous two devotions on John 21:22 where I reference Peter’s reaction after the events of today, and John 21:7 where John gives us an account of what happened when Peter realized Jesus was on the shore and I talk about why it’s significant that Peter rushed towards the shore. But, in case, let’s do a quick, long story short.

Peter, the former fisherman turned fisher of men, and arguable leader of the disciples, loved Jesus. So much so that he easily boasted during the last supper that even if everyone else abandoned Jesus, he, Peter, wouldn’t. When Jesus was being arrested, Peter charged forward swinging his sword, missed the head, and hit the guard’s ear cutting if off. Jesus healed the ear, and Peter kept quiet and stayed behind after that. During the arrest and sham trial of Jesus, Peter and John, because of John’s family connections to the high priest, are allowed into the courtyard. It’s a cold night, and John is allowed to go into the house where he witnesses what happened to Jesus. Peter on the other hand is warming himself by the charcoal fire, and is asked about Jesus three times all of which he denies with increasing severity. Jesus is murdered on a cross, rises from the dead, and the account in John 21 is the third time that Jesus met with his disciples.

But, it wasn’t the third time Jesus had seen Peter. In Luke 24, Jesus appears to two unnamed people, who after speaking with him realize it’s Jesus and, as a pair, to tell the disciples that they saw Jesus, but their wording is interesting. “There they found the eleven disciples [therefore Peter was with the disciples] and the others who had gathered with them, who said, ‘The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.'” So, in the timeline, it looks like Jesus waited in the graveyard for Mary Magdalene, then went to see Peter. There is no account at what happened during this meeting!

In John 21 there’s a public meeting. Jesus is on the shore and he has breakfast waiting for them. Peter and Jesus had a conversation alone, and whatever was said had a profound effect on Peter. (One I’ll share why on Monday!) There’s something specific about this fire though, it’s a charcoal fire (greek word Anthrakia) and only the second time one is specified in a narrative as charcoal fires were not commonly made. However, John makes sure to point out that Jesus had made one, why?

Because this is the beginning of a beautiful series of moments of reconciliation, restoration, and ordination for Peter. Jesus recreated the setting of Peter’s denial of Jesus down to the same type of fire. Jesus then served all of the disciples, and after they eat John tells us that Jesus turns to Peter and asks three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon replies yes each time, and Jesus tells Peter to, ‘feed his lambs, take card of his sheep, and then to feed his sheep.’ A lot has been made of the different verbs used for Love and have argued that Peter just wasn’t replying the way Jesus wanted him to. But the recreation of Peter’s denial situation leads me to believe the simpler explanation, that even though not all the disciples weren’t there to see Peter deny Jesus, all of them got to see him AFFIRM his love for Jesus, and Jesus’s restoration of Peter.

Perhaps most importantly, we can look at Jesus’s actions as a point to question our own. If you were Jesus, who would you have entrusted to build your church and look after the following? The headstrong guy you had to keep correcting, who abandoned you in your darkest hour, and who lied, swore, and cursed himself to prove he didn’t know you… or someone like John, who was with you all the time, never rejected you, and you entrusted the care of your widowed mother to? My bet is on John. But Jesus chose Peter, because to Jesus, it wasn’t about what Peter had done in the past. Then, as if to finalize the reconciliation, Jesus tells Peter, to “Follow me” as he did back when they first met.

There’s so much significance, beauty, and intricacies, to be found in this passage, Jesus knows the future, he knows our hearts, he knows our minds. The Old Testament is riddled with instances of God giving commands to his people not for his sake, but for ours. He knows psychologically how we would respond, and he knew in Peter’s case that simply telling people he was forgiven, wouldn’t be enough, in Peter’s heart, to make up for what had happened. I believe that Jesus knew exactly what Peter would need to be able to be free of all doubts and guilt. This freed Peter to lead the first century church without questioning his role. Jesus gave Peter a second chance to be questioned not just about knowing Jesus but about loving Jesus and Peter was able to declare that he did in fact love Jesus. And if that wasn’t enough, Jesus ends that interaction by calling for Peter to follow him, reaffirming, that not only did Jesus forgive Peter, reconcile peter, but he was ordained and restored.

There are no lengths that Jesus won’t go to to reconcile and make all things new with those whom love him, so may you realize it. May you see that Jesus sees all the little things, all the often overlooked things, and whatever it is holding you back and is willing to overcome those things to meet you where you’re at so you can finally embrace him and who God has called you to be – even if it’s appearing on a shore before dawn to feed you and your friends fish and bread so you can make right your biggest and most embarrassing mistake without judgement or condemnation.

John 21:7

(Editor’s Note: William underwent surgery yesterday – a positive outcome – and thus this verse was delayed. We’re excited to have him back, hopefully soon.)

Verse of the Day Devotion – John 21:7 (NLT)

“Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped in the water and headed to shore.” –  John 21:7 (NLT)

John’s gospel is my favorite. He shows the most personality, and includes little Easter eggs throughout the gospel. One of these being a pseudo rivalry with Peter. The most notable of these is that when Jesus was announced to be risen, Peter and John race there John makes sure he mentions that he arrived first (John 20:8). We also get a lot of details surrounding events that are crucial to Peter’s future, and his development as a Christian and leader within the church. As I spoke about last time, when I covered John 21:22, those events happened after Peter’s reconciliation with Jesus. Tomorrow, I’ll be writing directly about that. But as usual, let’s set the stage.

Jesus has died, been raised from the dead, and visited with the disciples and Peter before. The disciples keep not recognizing Jesus (that’s a whole other story). Prior to Jesus’ murder, Peter had argued with Jesus about his devotion to him in Matthew 26:33-35 and even after Jesus told Peter that he would deny Jesus, Peter contradicts Jesus by saying, “No! Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you.” Matthew does point out that the other disciples agreed – John is the only one (that we’re aware of) that doesn’t avoid Jesus in some way.

As fiercely loyal and close to Jesus as Peter was, in Peter’s last few interactions with Jesus Peter failed Jesus repeatedly. When Jesus told them that “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38) and asked them to pray with him, Peter and the other disciples couldn’t stay awake, Jesus says to Peter, “Could you watch with me even one hour?” (Matthew 26:40). When Jesus was captured, Peter chopped off the ear of one of the guards and was chastised by Jesus, “Put away your sword…” (Matthew 26:52-54). After Jesus’s Capture Peter hangs in the back, and eventually denies Jesus three times, Matthew gives the most detailed description of what happens in Matthew 26:69-75 which involves Peter’s escalation in denying knowing Jesus, with just an denial, then denying him with an oath, and finally as the ESV puts it, Peter Invokes a curse on himself and swears, “I do not know the man” Luke tells us that after Peter did this, Jesus from inside the house, “turned and looked at Peter. and Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, “before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” All four accounts of Peter’s denial end with Peter weeping bitterly. Mark’s account (Mark 14:72) mentions that Peter “broke down and wept.” To make matters worse, based on the records we have Peter never gets to speak to or really interact with Jesus until after his death, and those times he doesn’t recognize Jesus at first.

Then comes our verse in John 21. After spending some time hiding behind locked doors, Peter decides to go fishing and the disciples follow him. After fishing all night, Jesus (though they don’t realize it’s him) appears at dawn standing on the shore. Jesus asks them if they’ve caught anything, they say no, and Jesus in a throwback to when he called them to be disciples tells them to cast to the right side, and just like in that time, they catch so many fish they can’t hold them all. It’s at this moment that John connects the dots at what is happening, and identifies the stranger on the shore as Jesus. As soon as Peter hears this he wraps himself in his cloak and swimps the hundred yards from the boat to shore, leaving behind everything else.

Without any hesitation. Without a second guess. Without thinking through how additional clothes could hinder his ability to swim. and perhaps most importantly, without judging himself based on his past and using that as something to hinder his pursuit of Jesus.

Peter puts on his tunic (as a form of respect to Jesus), and rushes to Jesus. He doesn’t shyly hide in the boat, or avoid the situation by focusing on the fish that were just caught. Peter doesn’t let his shame, bitterness, or fear prevent him from running (swimming) to Jesus. And the experience is transformative to Peter. He rushes towards Jesus with a greater zeal than Peter had demonstrated before his repeated betrayal of Jesus. Peter in this place, chooses to embrace a truth he may not have even realized in his rush to see Jesus that Paul articulated in Romans 8:1, “There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”

It can be argued that Peter knew that Jesus had forgiven him. It can be argued that Peter knew this or that… if you’re anything like me, even when you know that on paper everything is straightened out, I still don’t rush out to see someone I’ve had issues with more excitement and zeal than before my betrayal. How many times when we’ve wronged someone, especially with God, we’ll impose a sort of punishment on ourselves. We don’t pray (talk to them). We definitely won’t ask them for anything. Once we’ve done enough penance, we’ll finally ease ourselves back into relationship with them.

Peter, more so than any of the other disciples at that time, had a lot to be forgiven of, But Jesus, consistent and teaching lessons through his love and compassion, demonstrated to Peter the same grace he showed in Luke 7:47, that he who is forgiven much loves much.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at how Jesus uniquely chose to reconcile Peter.

So, May you realize that as a Christian, Jesus has already forgiven you. May you embrace the lack of condemnation you have within Christ and not let it hinder you. May you understand at your core that they that are forgiven much love much, and may we begin to have a zeal for God greater than we’ve had in the past, in spite of our screw ups.



John 21:22

(Editor’s note: Christiaan here, realistically William will be in the hospital until the weekend, I’m covering until then, and I’ll probably spend the rest of the week somewhere in this chapter, I hope you enjoy the Gospel of John as much as I do!)

Verse of the Day Devotion: John 21:22 (NLT)

Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” – John 21:22 (NLT)

This is one of the few times where Jesus had a sharp reply to one of his disciples. Normally Jesus would respond like this to someone who was disingenuously trying to trap him, or in the case of something that was objectively evil. (You can read about one of those times where Jesus had a flash of anger. I wrote about it earlier in the year on May 29th and you can read about it here.) So, let’s get a little bit of context. Jesus has been resurrected, he had appeared to the disciples who keep not recognizing him, he had just had a private conversation with Peter, and then eaten with the disciples. Peter and Jesus go for a walk and John begins to follow them.

Peter, who had just been reconciled as a disciple (it’s kind of a convoluted series of events and the basis for my next two verse of the days) and been given a commission of his own, hears John following him and according to verse 20 turns around and sees John, he then asks jesus, “What about him, Lord?” to which Jesus replies with our focus verse, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You follow me.”

“What about him, Lord?

Whataboutism, is beyond crippling to our daily lives. I remember when my mom used to discipline my sister and I, whenever I got in trouble, I would seem to point out the fact that either it wasn’t my fault because someone did something that I was only responding to and my response was thus justified… OR, I would ask to make sure that the other party (often times my sister) was punished appropriately. It was mildly infuriating, but as my mom would always wisely respond to my protests, “You’re responsible for your actions. It doesn’t matter what anyone else does, or how wrong, they were. By responding in that way, you’re guilty of doing wrong in the same way.”

Now that I’m older, I appreciate that advice, and it’s guided me through multiple interactions that could have gone worse if I didn’t remember that. I think the world would be a more peaceful place especially in the year 2020 with all the self justified rioting, looting, and wanton destruction of property due do to injustices, both actual and perceived if everyone’s mom’s had been like mine in this and many other respects. “Group X did bad thing, therefore I’m ok to do this other, potentially worse thing!” or “Yes, I did X action, but that was only to bring light to Y injustice” based on this verse how can we assume Jesus would respond? I would argue he would say, “What is that to you? Follow me.”

Outside of a justice/punishment perspective, “What about him, Lord?” is crippling to our walk with God. Whether it be the envies or lusts of the things of others, “We’re both Christians, how come she has that good job and that nice car?” or “Wait, I’m a Christian, and my life is complete crap, yet this guy is perhaps the worst of all sinners I know, and him life couldn’t be better.” But it doesn’t stop there. In Peter’s case, his potential envy wasn’t over material or other things, it was of something good, mayhaps even Godly. I mean, I’ve had to focus on this, and remember this lesson.

I mean look at it. Peter is walking with the resurrected messiah, he had spent his life waiting for. He had just had a private meal with him, was reconciled with God himself in a really special way. And then PERSONALLY given a commission and his calling in life. And what’s his first response after this. “What about John, Lord?” I mean, if I had been Jesus, I feel like I would have wanted to grab Peter by the shoulders and be like, “Dude, listen.” *snap snap* “Focus. Look at me. Look at me. What did we just talk about? You. Follow me.”

It should be noted that while Jesus’s words’ and tone based on the tenses of the greek is sharp, Jesus isn’t belittling or elevating one disciple over another, but instead telling Peter to not worry about what John’s calling is, because John’s calling is not Peter’s calling. And Peter’s calling isn’t my calling. God’s timing isn’t my timing. It took John until he was in his 90’s before he finished the work God had prepared for him; Peter had 66 years, and Jesus only 33 – Jesus was much more efficient.

I mean, in my own life, I was 35 before I got my first full time vocational ministry job. I had been called and prophecies had been given since before I was a year old. I had dutifully served and volunteered in church most of my life, went to school, got my masters, and did nothing with it because I was at a secular job. I remember confiding in one of my groups, that I was really struggling with the fact that kids I had discipled had gotten full time jobs as pastors without near the training, or experience I had. I was again reminded of this verse by a friend of mine. Little did I know at the time, however, that God was preparing me. At my current job, I’ve pulled on past experiences in every job I’ve held. I see now how God is using everything for his glory. BUT, if I had let my whataboutisms fester, and I had become bitter, angry with God, or worse with his people. I may not have been ready for the opportunity I had been given.

Anyway. When you’re walking with Jesus, may you not stop, turn around, and focus on others. May you not let what God is doing in others’ lives affect you. May you not justify your actions by others. May you choose to not ask “What about them, Lord?” and most importantly, may you follow him.

Micah 7:8

(Editor’s Note: This devotion is also written by Christiaan as William is still hospitalized, but stable and doing well.)

Verse of the Day Devotion – Micah 7:8 (ESV)

Rejoice not over me, O my Enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. – Micah 7:8 (ESV)

Times always seem to be tough for God’s chosen people – typically because they had a propensity to abandon God and worship false idols. Micah is writing to the separated from Israel country of Judah at around 750 BC. Micah is calling out the wealthy who actively oppressed the poor and called for them to change their ways. But in between the famous verses about doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with your God and throwing our sins into the depths of the ocean sits this gem about sitting in darkness.

It’s been a rough number of years for my family, and the concept of hope has been intriguing. So, when I was reading in a devotional and I saw this verse was associated with the idea of concept it really resonated with me. I think Hope is something we often overlook. Much like breathing, we don’t think about it, or associate our feelings or actions with it, until it’s hampered or we lose it. But hope can be something tangible, after all, according to Jyn Erso, in the movie Rogue One “Rebellions are built on hope!”.

In 2013, just before things started going really crazy. I went to a concert of my favorite band, Five Iron Frenzy and I saw a shirt there that had a picture of a bird on it and it said, Hope Still Flies! it’s a line from their song, ‘A Dark and Stormy Night’ “I’ve been waiting, in half hearted sleep… just for hoping that hope still flies…” another line in that song is “I know that Hope has not forgotten me.”

Micah ends his series of messages in chapter 7 speaking a message of tempered hope (kinda like Théoden eh?) . Depending on the translator, the tenses of the writing could be closer to, “Our enemies have no reason to gloat over us…” It’s like he realizes he’s been hard on the people of Judah and doesn’t want them to become despondent. He’s reminding them that, much like in the past when they’ve fallen, they’ve gotten back up.

Much like with David (I previously wrote on Psalms 3:3 and 3:4), one of the things that I find so inspiring is the surety to which they speak. Micah acknowledges two big things. First, that there will be a falling. Something, someone, or someone’s (I don’t think that’s a real term) will fall. And that there will be times where we are in darkness – spiritual, financial, health wise… or maybe just actual darkness.

But he with complete surety mentions that when he falls, he will rise. And when in darkness, the LORD will be his light. It’s not a well-intentioned, mostly true, but pseudo humble, “For though I fall, I may, if God is willing, and I choose to walk in his grace which I don’t deserve as a wretched sinner who God could and should smite with the holy fires of purification, rise again.” or “Though I sit in darkness, spiritually the Lord will help me keep a smile on my face.”

No, when we fall we WILL rise. When we’re in darkness God WILL be our light. Too often Christians give the world and other Christians confusing and often conflicting messages. Some people walk away from some popular TV preachers thinking that God wants what is best for us, and therefore won’t let us suffer, or that when we become a Christian, our lives will be happy sunshine and rainbows unless we sin, in which case God will make us suffer.

There is a reason why Samwise Gamgee, in Lord of the Rings, is one of the most universally beloved characters in all of literature, and I think it’s because he remains hopeful regardless of the situations. Frodo even remarks, “Nothing ever dampens your spirits, does it, Sam?”

It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened.

But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.

– Samwise Gamgee to Frodo Baggins, The Two Towers.

One of the reasons I chose to write this Hope trilogy, the two verses from Psalms and this one, is because they’re something that I’m going through and I’m sharing with you what I’m learning. As I’m sure many of ya’ll know our founder William is my dad. He’s in the hospital for an unknown amount of time, for something pretty scary. So I’ll end taking a cue from micah.

May we have the surety that David, Micah, and Samwise have that darkness must pass and in the case of David and Micah that God will be our light and rescue. May we have surety that no matter what we go through, that we can have hope in God’s unchangeable character and if he did it for David, he can do it for us. But perhaps most importantly, may we understand that it’s ok if we don’t have that surety but, thankfully, it has no effect on the reality that we can have it.


Psalms 3:3

(Editor’s Note: Christiaan is writing the devotions for today and tomorrow. Hopefully, William will be able to return to writing on Wednesday from the hospital. We’re bringing him his laptop tomorrow, and we should have an update published soon).

Verse of the Day Devotion – Psalms 3:3 (ESV)

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. – Psalms 3:3 (ESV

If you missed last weeks study on Psalm 3:4 please check it out, you’ll learn a lot about the historical and contextual setting for this chapter. In short, David is in hiding from his Absalom (his son who murdered his other son, took the throne, and is hunting David down to murder him). The net is closing around him. As he’s hiding he hears people telling him that no god (neither God or any other deity) will come to rescue him.

Think about it.

David is the King of Israel. He’s been elevated from farm boy to king.. He’s lead the armies of the Lord to fulfill the promise given to Moses. This is the heyday of Israel. It has never been better than it was now and (honestly, probably never will be again until Jesus returns). David has thousands of servants, concubines, and armies so large that by the end of this current situation over twenty thousand people died in a single battle between the armies of israel lead by Absalom and David’s resistance fighters.

But where do we find David?


In a cave.

So reviled and with such little authority that at one point he was recognized and an individual who openly cursed him… like old school “a pox upon you and your family” style cursing.

When I think about where David is at this point versus where he was, I think about that line from A Christmas Story when Ralphie has “soap poisoning” and his dad asks him, “What has brought you to this lowly state?” The answer is that we live in a fallen world. It was completely outside of David’s control. It wasn’t punishment for Bathsheba. It wasn’t because God ceased to have David in his favor. It was because there were people doing evil things.

I think that a lot of times we get put in situations completely outside of our control and it’s up to us to decide how we respond to it. In a previous verse of the day I did I looked at the verse about how there’s a season for everything from Ecclesiastes 3:1 (I seem to like the third chapter in books!) Last time we looked at how David cried out to God and God answered him. But today, we look at what he KNEW about God.

God is his shield around David. But Christiaan, you may ask. How is God a shield around David, if God allowed Absalom to murder his brother, pull of a successful military coop-d’etat, and force God’s chosen king into a cave hiding away from the world? The answer is that we live in a fallen world. But David doesn’t lose faith. He doesn’t lose Hope. He knows that God hears the cries of his people. He knows that God is ultimately in control over the situation. He knows that whatever is happening it’s going through God first.

Maybe that medical condition that brought you into the hospital that you thought was the worst thing that could happen, really ended up saving your life. Because they discovered something infinitely worse than anything you could have imagined.

Maybe that job loss that had you eat through your savings, and put you in what seemed to be a hopelessly impossible financial situation leads you to finding your dream job, that may not fully get you out of the financial straits you found yourself in, but you’re in a significantly better place, and you never realized how toxic and draining your other job was.

Who knows, and most of the time we don’t see the positives until they’ve happened to us. We know that as Paul told us in Romans 8:28 that “God causes everything to work together for the Good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (NLT) and David’s words reinforce that.

David doesn’t just testify that God is his shield, but also that God is his glory. This word in a transliterated hebrew is kabodi which means, reputation, honor, splendor, distinction – in short, his identity all the things that make him who he is and special. David knows that regardless of what happens to him and what people say about him that ultimately his identity is in God. And regardless if he’s a brilliant military commander (as they say of him in 2nd Samuel – in fact they say he’s worth ten thousand men in battle) if he’s the king of Israel, or if he’s a beleaguered man in a cave hiding from his murderous son… his identity is given to him by God.

The verse finishes at a crescendo of David’s affirmation of God’s role in his life, that God is “the lifter of my head” or in the NLT it says, “the one who holds my head high.” David doesn’t have to be ashamed of these situations that happened. He doesn’t have to sulk in the darkness afraid to be who God created him to be and the role God called him to walk in. The two translations beside each other paint a beautiful picture of our God who lifts our face from being downcast, and then holds it up.

So, may you come to realize that no matter what happens in your life, how scary it is, or how unexpected it is God is your shield, protecting you in some way. May you search for the good things in the midst of the trauma and focus on them. May you find your identity in Christ and not let that shake your confidence in who you were made to be. And finally, may you not struggle against the God whose lifts your head, and helps you to hold you head high!

Psalms 3:4

(Editor’s Note: Christiaan here still, William is in the hospital still, and your continued prayers for his speedy and complete recovery are appreciated).

Verse of the Day Devotion – Psalms 3:4 (Alter)

“With my voice I cry out to the Lord, and He answers me from His holy mountain. (Selah) – Psalms 3:4 (Alter)

The third psalm holds a unique place in biblical literature. It’s the first psalm with a title, and one of only a few that gives us a setting for the psalm. While we will, more than likely, never be in his exact situation, we can learn a lot from David’s response in his unique situation. The title of the psalm is, A David psalm, when he fled from Absalom his son. Absalom murdered his brother (David’s other son), rallied the armies of Israel against David, so much so that David had to flee the palace with his servants and his personal bodyguard. An emissary from the nation of Gath had a group of six hundred men that accompanied David. Absalom wasn’t content with the throne, he wanted his father, David, dead and to those ends he mobilized the entire army of Israel to hunt David down.

On the run David cries out to God, telling him of the sheer number of enemies he has (in the final battle between David and Absalom twenty thousand soldiers died) and how they taunt him telling him that “God will never rescue him” And David affirms the truth of our verses of the day. In Robert Alter’s translation and commentary, he paints the picture, “The palpable strength of this psalm resides in its sheer simplicity and directness. The speaker, a man beleaguered by bitter foes, is first mocked by them when they tell him no god will rescue him. Ignoring the mockery, he cries out to the Lord for help sure he will be answered. Surrounded by enemies, he can sleep undisturbed.”

We will probably never have our children murder their sibling and then hunt us down to murder us. But there are times in our lives where we will feel overwhelmed with what’s going on in our lives. People will tell us that God can’t help us, or we’ll think that our problem is too small or not important enough for God to help us. Health issues, job issues, family issues, whatever issues pop up, David is testifying that when he cried out to God, God moved.

Kinda like with my But God verse of the day eight months ago, I want to look at how God responds to our cries.

God moves when we cry out to him.
He proved it throughout the old testament.

When the Israelites cried out to God:
He gave them Moses and liberated them.
He raised judges to liberate them.
He turned the tide in battle for them.

Throughout the psalms David continually reminds us that when we cry out, God acts here are just two examples:

In Psalm 61, David cries out to God, again, for help. He tells God that his heart is overwhelmed, this could also be translated to become weak or sickly. His prayer is that God will, “lead me to the rock that is higher than I” and mentions that God is a strong tower and refuge to him.

In Psalm 34, David tells those who are helpless (the Hebrew word Anaw means to be suffering, oppressed, emaciated or tormented) to “take heart… let us exalt his name together [for when] I prayed to the Lord… he freed me from all my fears… in my desperation (same Anaw word) he saved me from all my troubles.” He continues later on in the psalm, “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the broken hearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.”

God is unique to every other deity in all of time and space.
At his core is the fact that God always hears the cries of his people.

Often times however we don’t know how to pray. We don’t know what to ask for. Sometimes we may not even know that we’re oppressed or in need, but as believers we have Holy Spirit living inside us. Paul writes in Romans 8, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness…. the spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words… the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

While Holy Spirit does pray on our behalf, it’s important for us to continue to cry out to God ourselves as and when we’re able. In Luke 18, Jesus tells the Parable of the Persistent Widow, she keeps asking an unjust judge for justice eventually because of her persistence the unjust judge grants her cries for justice. Jesus ends the parable by saying, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”

So, may you not feel ashamed or concerned in crying out to God. May you be attentive to Holy Spirit’s intercessions, and may you find freedom from your fears, and rescue from your troubles that only God can give.