The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. Luke 22:61-62


If you’re over twenty, you’ve probably had occasion to be betrayed—or you may have betrayed someone close to you. That sense of injustice, of deception, of disloyalty can hardly be matched be any other wound. How can someone who identified as a friend cause so much grief?

When we think of Jesus’ betrayal, we typically look at Judas, but I believe the actions of Peter inflicted greater suffering on our Lord. Jesus knew from the beginning that he would be betrayed—prophecy had revealed this long before his birth. He well knew Judas’ character and failings. But Peter, the one who had acknowledged his divinity (Matt. 16:16); who, in all four gospels had sworn he would go with Jesus to death; Peter, his dear friend and part of the inner circle, was least expected to deny his Friend.

The pain was inflicted, not just once, but three times. Obviously, Peter was thinking of his own wellbeing, knowing that Jesus was already facing execution. But I doubt that he was thinking of Jesus at all – this one who said repeatedly that he’d die with his Friend. And then we see Peter, stunned out of his own self-interest, as he glances up and notices that Jesus has heard and seen his betrayal (Luke 22:61, 62). And he went out and wept bitterly.

I hate injustice—especially when I’m the target. Betrayal hurts. We expect those we care about or with whom we’re associated to treat us with kindness and deference, and then life surprises us with betrayal. BETRAYAL IS A PART OF LIFE in this human, unredeemed world, but Jesus showed us how to deal with the pain and rise above it.

• ADDRESS THE PROBLEM. After his resurrection, Jesus appeared on the sea shore and called Peter aside. Three times—equal to the number of Peter’s betrayals—Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. Jesus, knowing all things, knew the answer, but he wanted Peter to reaffirm those commitments that he had made before the time of testing. Peter needed to search his heart to rediscover his deep and eternal love for his Lord. Yes, his flesh had been weak, but his spirit was given to Jesus forever. Peter needed to see what Jesus already knew.
• BE HONEST. Jesus didn’t gloss over Peter’s failure nor did his rub his face in it. He knew the fear that Peter had experienced in his time of testing, his time of failure. He wanted Peter to know that his disloyalty was not hidden, but it was not unforgiveable.
• RENEW THE TRUST. “Feed my lambs; feed my sheep; take care of my sheep.” Three times Peter had betrayed Jesus; three times Jesus asked Peter to search his heart; and then three times Jesus restored Peter’s commission to ministry.
• RESTORE THE RELATIONSHIP. “Follow me,” Jesus started back at the point where he had first met Peter, but his redemption changed Peter’s life forever.

People who have been disloyal, who have betrayed or wounded us or who have been unjust may not want or be willing to restore the relationship. I once heard Desmond Tutu say, “As Christians, we are obligated to forgive, but those who are forgiven cannot access that forgiveness unless they repent.”

Father, injuries seem to be part of living in an unredeemed world. Help us, as much as lies within us, to forgive and to redeem. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”  Luke 7:47


I had an encounter with Jesus. It was some time ago when he was in town, and I’m almost ashamed to talk about it—but it changed my life.

I’ve not always been a good person. You could say I’ve made a number of mistakes, and my decisions haven’t always been the best. But I’ve done what I had to do. My husband had always taken us regularly to temple. He was a good provider, and he’d always paid his tithe and his offerings at all the set occasions. But after years of faithfulness, when he got sick, and when we had no food for the baby, the elders and the priests were nowhere to be found. And when my husband and baby slowly declined and when everything that was precious to me was buried in the grave, where were those religious leaders?

So I did what I had to do. There was no one there for me, and the elders, when they did notice, just pointed their fingers. I did what I had to do. And then, one day they found me with a man who wasn’t my husband, and they grabbed me. They said they were taking me to the temple. (What about that man? Why didn’t they bring him?) They dragged me over the cobbled streets scraping my legs and cutting my feet, jeering at me. I tried not to cry, but as their torment increased, angry tears mixed with the dust from the street.

And they brought me to the temple. These men who had visited me night after night. They brought me to the strange, young rabbi who was teaching in the porchway. They brought me to the man who said he was the Son of God. They brought me to Jesus. And they threw me at his feet. “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?”

Tears of hatred and anger coursed down my cheeks as I waited.

Silence thick as death filled the porch and held me to the marble floor. No one spoke. The Son of God didn’t say a word. I raised my head and saw that the Teacher was writing in the dust. There were words I couldn’t make out, but he just kept writing. They kept badgering him. Finally, he straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, cast the first stone.” And then he went back to writing.

I was frozen to the floor as I readied myself for the pain that was to come. I waited. And I waited. Softly, I began to hear shuffling of sandals, one pair and then another, as feet were moving across the pavement. And then he spoke to me, “Ma’am, where are your accusers?” My eyes had been fixed on him, but I turned and looked around.

“Sir, there’s no one.”

“Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

That was my encounter with Jesus, the Son of God. I went back home; I took a few coins from my clay vessel and bought seeds for a garden. It’s been two harvests since I met Jesus, and I’ve heard that he’s returned to Jerusalem and is dining tonight with Nicodemus, a ruler of the synagogue. I am taking all the coins I’ve saved and will buy a jar of fragrant ointment to pour over his head in thanksgiving. I know it’s not much, but it’s all I have. I want him to know how he’s changed my life, how I’m a different person than the one he saved in the temple. I want him to know I love him.

I wonder if he will remember me?


Sweet Jesus, each of us has a story to tell of your redemption. Give us time in heaven to share the miracles you have done in our lives. And provide us opportunities here on earth to demonstrate our great love for you. AMEN.



He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 137:3


One of my favorite Advent traditions is to play Messiah as I prepare my house and myself for Christmas. After the orchestra’s overture, Handel immediately assigns the task of setting the scene to the tenor who sings,

“Comfort ye,
comfort ye My people,
saith your God.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem,
and cry unto her,
that her warfare is accomplished,
that her iniquity is pardoned.

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness
Prepare ye the way of the Lord.
Make straight in the desert a highway
For our God.” (Isaiah 40:1-3)


The Children of Israel had experienced a long history of disobedience that finally resulted in exile away from the land of Promise. They were broken-hearted and could no longer sing the songs of Zion. Their sin had cut them off from God. But God in his love and compassion forgave and spoke hope and renewal to them. Their warfare was accomplished, and their iniquity was pardoned. And Messiah will come.


Our nation has been suffering greatly this year with unexpected deaths, suicides of young people, the opioid crisis, fires, anguish on our border, disunity, and foreign perils. Like Israel, we desperately need the comfort that only God can bring. We need forgiveness; we need healing; and we need renewal.


Messiah stirs us with the suffering that was inflicted on the Lamb of God. As we listen, we are drawn into the anguish that brought about our peace and salvation while there is always the reminder that redemption is near. The underlying motif continues to remind us that God’s salvation plan has been in place from time’s beginning, and Part 2 ends with the glorious Hallelujah Chorus. As we listen reverently to Part 3, the triumphant notes remind us that our Redeemer lives, death has been conquered, and he who is worthy reigns.


If you haven’t yet sat down in your easy chair by the fireside and listened to Messiah for this season, stop now and prepare yourself for a fresh encounter with the King of Kings. Hallelujah.

Father, thank you for the comfort we have with the coming of our Lord. May we rejoice and be glad in him. AMEN.



And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Genesis 2:9


Do you ever wonder what you would have done if you’d been Adam, enjoying the beautiful Garden, dominating animals and creation, having a soul-mate for a companion, and living with just one rule?  All of this in the context of daily fellowship with his God and Creator…

Just one rule.  Eat all the fruit from the trees that are pleasant to the sight and good for food, but don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Life was good in Eden; there was total freedom; and there was no sin.  It would be the only time in human history where we lived in a perfect environment.  With just one rule.

And then the snake appeared.  It deceived Eve, but Adam succumbed, apparently, with no resistance at all.  Eve took a bite of the forbidden fruit, handed it to Adam, and he ate.  Immediately, they felt the need to hide – their bodies and themselves.  God appeared and asked one of the most acute questions of all time, “Where are you?”  God knew where they were; it was Adam and Eve who were lost.

You know the rest of the story:  the expulsion, the consequences, the lost fellowship.  IF ONLY Adam and Eve had been obedient, as if God were surprised at their rebellion.  But God had a plan all along (Gen. 3:15) to redeem mankind and all creation and to restore that which was lost in the Fall.

Fast forward to Revelation 22:1, 2:  Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

At the beginning of time we saw sinless perfection in the Garden of Eden.  Along with the forbidden fruit was the Tree of Life that could have sustained Man forever.  IF ONLY Adam and Eve hadn’t forfeited that relationship with God through their sin…  But God had a plan that culminates in sinless perfection.  And in the eternal Garden, once again, the Tree of Life is offered.

Father, your omniscience is breathtaking.  Your forethought is staggering to the human mind.  Thank you for your redemptive power and your grace that reaches each of us wherever we are.  Thank you that, because of Jesus, we don’t have to live with IF ONLY.  AMEN.