Oh my wonderful Jesus, he knows exactly what to say to make a point and to clarify and solidify what he’s saying to us. While reading the gospel of John the other day the very end of the book Jesus is talking to Peter. In John 21:15 Jesus begins to speak specifically to Peter and he asks him if he loves him, Peter would answer Jesus and then Jesus would ask the same question again. I can almost hear the frustration in Peters voice as he answers the question three times. Jesus was testing Peter’s heart before giving him the calling God had placed on his life. Jesus even went so far as to tell Peter what the end of his life would be like. I’m thinking that was part of the test also. To see if Peter would turn away, but Peter didn’t seem the least bit phased by what Jesus was telling him. There’s a song that comes to mind as I read the last part of what Jesus was telling Peter. The song is titled “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” one of the phrases goes ‘turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his glorious face.” In verse 19 Jesus said to Peter “follow me”. Then in verse 21 Peter was watching another disciple and said to Jesus “ Lord what about this man?” Jesus, full of grace and mercy and at this point I’m thinking much patience said to Peter, If I want him to remain until I come, “ What is that to you?” “ You follow me!” Oh what a wealth of descriptive knowledge we get in these scriptures. How many times do we hear “ keep your eyes on Jesus?” Peter was looking right into the eyes of our Savior and still he pointed to the guy next to him, basically saying to Jesus, “ well what about him, what’s he gonna do?” now that’s my own paraphrase but it fits. I’m sure Jesus gently but firmly made Peter look at him when he said, “ You! follow me!” Jesus points out that what he tells another to do has nothing to do with you, that person is my business not yours. These scriptures reveal how our sin nature is and how easy it is for us to take our eyes off of Jesus and look at someone else or even ourselves. We must turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full in his glorious face to follow him, with all our heart and strength. Jesus had that conversation with Peter and I’m sure he’s had that same conversation with each of us, I know he has me, as we fulfill our calling on our lives to “Follow Him.”
For the past several weeks I have thought much about identity and names. This has me thinking about how important our name is and how much it’s linked to our identity. Proverbs 22:1 says that “ A good name is to be more desired that great riches.” Or in some translations “ a good name is greater than gold.” There are different scenarios in life concerning the name that seems to lead to the same equation of who you are and your identity. One scenario is a blessing for our family but at the same time sadness for another family. One of my sons married a wonderful woman many years ago. In this marriage she brought with her two beautiful young children. We immediately embraced them as our own and now they are grown adults. When our grandson was about to be married he came to my son and asked him to adopt him. This totally took us all by surprise because there is a bio father alive. Without hesitation my son began the process of adoption. It was not difficult because of our grandson being an adult. The adoption went through right before the wedding and we now have a grandson and granddaughter with our name. Soon another adoption went through and it was for our great-grandson who was our grand daughters son when they married. I have often thought about how traumatic of a choice that was for our grandson to relinquish his biological name to bear the name of his step father. All seem to be very happy and thriving in their new identity. Another scenario is a young adult who went through great trauma as a very young child and continued on through their early teens. The two people who gave them their name at birth left this earth when they were still a preschooler and then ended up in a very abusive home until their early teens. I have watched this person struggle in ways that tell they are holding on to the things that they think gives them their identity and security but at the same time they are so insecure and unhappy. These wounds were put on them by others in their young life and now as a young adult they bears the scars. My prayer for them is that they will cry out to the one who can give them true identity and security and that is Jesus. Another is a young teenager who has again been abandoned and neglected all through their formative years. They have an opportunity to be adopted but they aren’t sure about changing their name. They seem to be holding on to the only identity they know. My grandsons decision to change his name was a willful and thought through choice. He isn’t struggling with an identity crisis. The wonderful thing about him is he knows who loves him. The others however are struggling with who they are and they are needing to know they are loved. They don’t’ know what love feels like, looks like and seem to be holding on to a false love. Philippians 2:9 tells us that the name of Jesus is above all names. In him we will have first eternal salvation but peace and security. We will be one with him. In Jesus we will have a name, and know who we are, he tells us we are His. I pray for the walls that have been built up around these hearts, to keep true love out, will begin to crumble. So that they can begin to receive true love, identity and purpose that they were birthed for. To watch an identity crisis play out in one’s life in heartbreaking. It truly takes the love of God in one’s heart to break through the wall and let that person out. 1 Peter 4:8 says“ love covers a multitude of sins.” In these people I see deep wounding and rejection. It’s Gods love that covers sins but it also fills the heart. Opening ones heart to receive love from another human and even God is often a very difficult thing to do when one has been abused. But once we choose to love and be loved and choose forgiveness that love that Peter talks about covers those sins of abuse. Accepting Jesus as your savior is the beginning of eternally knowing Gods love and who we are in Christ and who he is in us. Then we will come to know who we are inside and out.
Life sure has its way of surprises when least expected. Surprises, that change the dynamics of an individual life and affect the whole family. This change was out of the blue but a blessing more than anything. Our fourth son married 17 years ago. With his wife came two adorable children. A boy, two years old and a girl four years old Fast forward to this last week our grandson who is now 19 came to my son and asked him to adopt him so he could carry his name and his children will also carry his name. No one saw this coming but we are all so excited. The process since his son is an adult will be quite simple. To add to the excitement our grandson is engaged to a woman who has a little boy. This little boy has been in our lives since he was five months old, he will be two in a couple of weeks. As soon as they marry he is going to adopt this little boy. It will be quite a celebration for our family. This is a blessing that took us all by surprise. God is so good!