The Petersen Page

Little Faith
March 6, 2008, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Devotional


 Little Faith by Jason Gray Jason Gray: “There are still those who will maintain that faith is less a gift than it is a discipline, who will tell the rest of us to believe harder to get the job done.” Suddenly there was an angel at his side and light flooding the room. The angel shook Peter and got him up: “Hurry!” The handcuffs fell off his wrists. The angel said, “Get dressed. Put on your shoes.” Peter did it. Then, “Grab your coat and let’s get out of here.” Peter followed him, but didn’t believe it was really an angel—he thought he was dreaming. — Acts 12:7-9 I remember in the third grade after hearing a faith preacher on T.V. I boldly threw my glasses in the garbage and went to bed believing this act of faith would certainly move God to give me 20/20 vision. Imagine my disappointment when I had to go digging through the garbage the next morning to retrieve my glasses for school. The fact that I could barely see as I scoured through the rubbish only added insult to injury. It was my first attempt at faith healing, but not my last. As a guy with a speech handicap (I’m a stutterer), I was told countless times that if I believed hard enough, if I had enough faith, I would be healed. And so from time to time throughout my life I determined that I would do my best to muster up the requisite amount of faith to get the job done and finally be delivered of my ridiculous tongue. But it never happened, which could be on account of the sin in my life, which is the other thing I was told countless times… I was under a lot of pressure to say the least. I mean, the ball was clearly in my court and I believed my healing was up to me. The fact that it never came was disappointing on multiple levels – I was letting both God and myself down by my lack of faith. The verse where Jesus says to Peter, “O ye of little faith” stung me every time I heard it. As I got older, I was blessed to discover God’s grace and was disabused of a lot what I see now as destructive theology that threatened to thwart a loving and transformational relationship with Jesus. Still, those old ideas die hard, and there are plenty of scriptures that could be quoted in defense of having more faith. But there are other stories, too, that reveal a loving and powerful God who acts according to his own will rather than waiting for us to get our act together. One of my favorites is the story of Peter (of little faith, remember) sitting in a jail cell in Acts 12. With Peter in custody, Herod plans to lynch him in the morning. The church, still reeling from the execution of James, organizes a prayer meeting. And then God saves the day – the angel comes and leads Peter out past the guards and he goes on to crash the prayer meeting held in his honor. It is, without a doubt, a rousing and amazing story of God’s faithfulness, but what is most amazing to me is that no one was more surprised than Peter and those who prayed for him. The text says that Peter assumed he was dreaming the whole time and it wasn’t until he was well past the guards that the reality of his situation occurred to him. In other words, this is not the story of an expectant believer waiting to be delivered. And those who were praying for him were not much better – when Peter shows up at their door, they don’t believe it’s him! In fact, they assume it’s his ghost. In other words, they were unwilling to believe their own prayers had been answered. So maybe faith isn’t always a pre-requisite for God to act. It may be a little uncharitable to speak this way about Peter and his friends, however. The fact that they were gathered there on that cold night to pray so soon after the terrible blow of James’s execution is evidence of at least a modest faith – a quiet faith without bravado; a faith that isn’t dependent on favorable outcomes; a faith that trusts to the loving kindness of a merciful God even in the face of the worst this world can deal us including death, disease, injustice, and even speech handicaps. There are still those who will maintain that faith is less a gift than it is a discipline, who will tell the rest of us to believe harder to get the job done. But take heart. The good news is that if there is indeed faith that we are asked to muster up, it need be no bigger than a mustard seed. Jesus said this, and I have to believe him. “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”


Prayer From Underneath The Cross During Lent
February 27, 2008, 8:21 am
Filed under: Devotional

st121.jpgSt. Francis of Assisi”Look down upon me, good and gently Jesus, while before Thy face I humbly kneel; and with burning soul pray and beseech Thee to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope and charity, true contrition for my sins and a firm purpose of amendment. While with great love and tender pity I contemplate Thy five wounds, pondering over them within me, calling to mind the words which David, Thy prophet, said of Thee, my Jesus: “They have pierced My hands and My feet; they have numbered all My bones.”

The Empty Chair
February 22, 2008, 2:46 am
Filed under: Articles, Devotional


A true story from Brennan Manning in the book, “Abba’s Child” Once a woman asked me to come and pray with her father, who was dying of cancer. When I arrived, I found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows and an empty chair beside his bed. I assumed the old fellow had been informed of my visit. “I guess you were expecting me,” I said. “No, who are you?” “I’m the new associate at your parish,” I replied. “When I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up.” “Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bed-ridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?” Puzzled, I shut the door. “I’ve never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man, “but all my life I have never known how to pray. At the Sunday Mass I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it always went right over my head. “I abandoned any attempt at prayer,” he continued, “until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, ‘Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here’s what I suggest. Sit down on a chair, place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky because He promised, “I’ll be with you all days.” Then just speak to Him and listen in the same way you’re doing with me right now.’ “So, Padre, I tried it, and I like it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d send me off to the funny farm.” I was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old guy to continue on the journey. Then I prayed with him, anointed him with oil, and returned to the rectory. Two nights later the daughter called to tell me that her daddy had died that afternoon. “Did he seem to die in peace?” I asked. “Yes. But there was something strange. In fact, beyond strange—kinda weird. Apparently just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on a chair beside his bed.”

An Undying Affection
October 18, 2007, 3:06 am
Filed under: Devotional


“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
-Philippians 4:19

Man hungers for food, and God sends the sun and rain upon the golden fields of grain. The grain is made into flour, and flour into bread, and man’s physical hunger is satisfied. Man hungers for love; and God ignites the fire of affection in another heart, and two hearts are made complete in the bonds of holy matrimony.

Man hungers for knowledge, and God raises up institutions of learning, calls men to be instructors, puts it into the hearts of the rich to endow them; and men are satisfied in their thirst for knowledge. Man hungers for fellowship; and God allows him to build cities where men can share their industry, and their knowledge, and their skills.

Don’t tell me that God can supply man with an abundance of everything material and yet will let him starve spiritually! . . . God will satisfy the hunger and thirst of those who desire His righteousness because He loves the world with an undying affection.

-Billy Graham

Are You Ready To Be Offered?
October 15, 2007, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Devotional


“Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all.” Philippians 2:17

Are you willing to be offered for the work of the faithful – to pour out your life blood as a libation on the sacrifice of the faith of others? Or do you say – “I am not going to be offered up just yet, I do not want God to choose my work. I want to choose the scenery of my own sacrifice; I want to have the right kind of people watching and saying, ‘Well done.’

It is one thing to go on the lonely way with dignified heroism, but quite another thing if the line mapped out for you by God means being a door-mat under other people’s feet. Suppose God wants to teach you to say, “I know how to be abased” – are you ready to be offered up like that? Are you ready to be not so much as a drop in a bucket – to be so hopelessly insignificant that you are never thought of again in connection with the life you served? Are you willing to spend and be spent; not seeking to be ministered unto, but to minister? Some saints cannot do menial work and remain saints because it is beneath their dignity.-Oswald Chambers

The Cut Makes Me Whole
October 11, 2007, 1:54 am
Filed under: Devotional


One of the best things about my line of work is the amazing people I get to meet on the road and the faith stories I’m blessed to hear. I remember a few years back meeting a man who I’ll call Robert. Robert picked me up at the airport and during the two hour drive to the church, we shared a little of our stories with each other. I learned that He had done well for himself a few years earlier and had become independently wealthy, with all the comforts and accoutrements of affluence that one could hope for: nice cars, a beautiful home, and a luxuriant lifestyle.

As a Christian, he saw his wealth as a blessing from God and was sure to give back. He helped plant a number of churches and was generous in his support of many ministries. He did good things with his money and was passionate about building the kingdom. But then he lost it all – every penny. He told me his awful story of riches to rags, with visible sores all over his arms and legs that were brought on by stress, his relationship with his wife and kids strained nearly to the breaking point, his voice was hoarse and faltered as he related his journey.

“There have been so many people around me who have told me that this is the work of the devil, a spiritual attack. I thought it was, too, at first. But now I’m not so sure. I think it might be the Lord. I see now that I had become arrogant and even my generosity to the church came with strings attached. We may have loved our things like our cars, our house, and our lifestyle too much. This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through, and sometimes it doesn’t feel like I’m going to make it. But there are moments of clarity where I’m aware that it’s doing something good in me. It may sound strange, but it feels like God’s love…”

Here was a man who was the closest thing to Job that I’d ever personally met, yet he proposed that it was God’s love that had brought him low! Such faith is humbling and must certainly be a gift from God. I’ve often met people who have a seemingly supernatural faith in the face of great crisis, and am always aware that even when our world feels like it’s spinning out of control, the presence of God is still apparent in our lives if only in the super human faith that He seems to give us in the midst of the storm. It’s almost as if he rises in our hearts and believes for us in those times.

Shortly after my time with Robert, my friend David told me of a recent tour he took of a vineyard. The proprietor told him of how they harvest the grapes: going out when the vines are first beginning to bear fruit, then cutting off the first fruits and throwing them away. David was floored by this, and asked if it didn’t seem wasteful. He was told that by doing this, the grapes that follow will grow back heartier and more flavorful. That was how they got to the good stuff, and – make no mistake – he wants the best for his wine.

It was a terrifying story to me in light of John chapter 15:

1″I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

I understand the concept of God cutting away whatever doesn’t bear fruit in my life, and I’ve more or less made peace with it. But the thought that He may even come after fruit-bearing areas of my life is more than a little distressing. I thought my fruit was safe and that as long as I was bearing fruit, I would be safe from the pruning blades. It makes me wonder: how many of the “good” things I do – giving to the poor, ministry, etc. – do I do in hopes that God will leave me alone?

And yet I have to trust, like Robert, that any time the pruning blade is put to my life, it is to make room for new growth, to get to the good stuff. Though a good pruning can be painful, we are asked to trust that God wields the blade precisely and in love, and that whatever is cut away does not diminish us, but makes more of us – makes us even more fruitful.
Sometimes this trust is the only thing we have to anaesthetize ourselves against the pain of the cut, the wound that is making us whole.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help us to yield to your pruning blade, trusting that you are carving out your image in us, with the hope that your cut makes us whole and your wounds heal.

Living Like Jesus
October 10, 2007, 2:59 pm
Filed under: Devotional


John 14:10, 24

Reading through the Gospels, over and over again we see Jesus talking about how He only does the will of the Father who sent Him. But we can’t imagine what that’s like. He can’t see God, so He must hear God, right? So, maybe God talks to Jesus, and Jesus does what He says. But then scripture says that in order to follow Christ, we must live like Christ! But didn’t Jesus have God right there all the time telling him what to do? So how can we be expected to live like Jesus?

This is a problem that we cannot solve on our own, but we try anyway. We doom ourselves to lives of frustration – knowing that peace is supposed to be within our grasp but unable to find it for long. We try to love unconditionally but fall short and end up thinking of ourselves instead – the very thing we didn’t want to do. We try to be patient, but we lose our patience. We try not to worry, but we worry anyway because if we don’t, who will? And so we come finally to the realization that this crazy, peaceless journey is the Christian Life. It’s just going to be hard because of the Fall and the fact that we are sinners. There’s nothing we can do about our sinful nature, so PRAISE GOD for Jesus who came so that we might be forgiven and join Him in heaven one day.

But doesn’t this make a mockery of the message of Christ? Jesus said “Do not worry,” “Do not fear,” and “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Can we have it both ways? Can we follow Jesus and also fret about what we can’t control? The real question is, “why would we want to?”

When the heart of Jesus was troubled, he sought His Father and was comforted. John 12:27, 28. He was in the Father and the Father was in Him. In John 10 He says “I and the Father are one.” And then in John 15 He says
“remain in me and I will remain in you… for without me you can do nothing.”

Let’s not miss that verse from John 15. I missed it for 20 years. “I will remain in you. Without me you can do nothing.” One chapter earlier, Jesus says “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

“Don’t you know that your body is the temple of God?”

The truth is, we can live like Jesus because He is inside us waiting for us to let Him live. We have been given “every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph 1:3) through the presence of the Holy Spirit. But to live like Jesus, we must give up ourselves—not just once for salvation, but every moment of every day, just as Jesus did. Jesus knew that to submit to the will of the Father was no sacrifice, it was Life itself!

If anyone loves me, He will obey my teaching (Obedience is the proof of the love. Obedience does not equal love). This is worth truly pondering. Just because you obey His teaching does not mean you love Him! In order for you to love Jesus, you must give yourself up for Him. Your life must diminish into nothing, and His life must grow in influence until He reigns supreme.

In order to follow Jesus, we must acknowledge God as Lord over every aspect of our lives, submitting the will of our spirit to His Spirit. Then, and only then, can the Holy Spirit reign supreme in our lives. Luke 14:33 says we must give up all we have. If that was just about giving away all our possessions it would be much easier. We must now live without regard to our desires, our plans, our hopes and dreams for the future, even for the present moment. Only then, can we begin to live like Jesus. We can only claim to be His disciple if we live in submission to His Spirit.

-Randall Goodgame