Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Do you believe that there is power in the human touch..? When we as children, were ever faced with something that felt far beyond our years.. we’d on impulse run to our mother or father. We’d hold on to them. Remember how, with their touch, every fear of ours would fade..?
With the years passing though, the magic of that touch may weaken. When we stand as adults.. if we can’t deal with that which we face, who else can for us..? But even then, life finds a way to give us a chance to feel the power of that touch.
When you’re faced with the pain of the loss of a beloved.. when words can scarcely provide comfort, the warmth of that simple touch is sometimes all that can keep you breathing. When we feel that before us stands an insurmountable mountain, even if the hand that holds us can do little to lead us through, a touch can let us know.. there is someone here to hold on to, should we fail.
The touch can mean compassion. The touch can mean forgiveness. The touch can mean acceptance. The touch can mean sympathy. Even empathy. The touch can mean so much when it comes from someone filled with love within.
Whether there is a power or not in the human touch, life has lead me through days that has made me understand the value of this means of connection to another soul. The touch that lets you feel the existence of love. Because sometimes, there is no other way left to feel love. And it is with this understanding that I read this verse from the Book of Isaiah:
For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
In a moment of loneliness and faced with fear, when perhaps nothing else could’ve reached my troubled soul, His Word reached me through this verse to comfort me. Reminding me of all those who have held me.. the touches that kept me sane through the miseries of life. Reminding me that there is a touch filled with more comfort than any other.
But more than the comfort, there is this sense of amazement, that when God purposed the revelation of His nature through His Word, He made it a point to let us know how near His love extends toward us. That the Lord of all creation, seeing that we need His love expressed in a way we could grasp even when all seems lost, stretches out His hand to take hold of us. To touch us…
This is but one meaning that we can ascribe to the touch of God. When the Son of God walked among us in the flesh, He touched people with a greater purpose. Think of the leper He touched, for instance. Another man condemned by sin. Separated from contact with his people, and even from the presence of his God in His temple.
But Jesus touched him. The touch healed him. What that touch also would’ve done was fill those in presence with hope that despite the Law that condemns, the heart of God does not delight in separation from sinful man, but His desire is in bringing the sinner into union with Him in holiness, through the healing in Him. The hope He would go on to fulfil on the cross.
The touch can mean so much when it comes from someone filled with love within. The touch can mean even more, when it comes from the God who is love…
I exhort the elders among you: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
1 Peter 5:1-3
[…continuation of, ‘Through The Darkest Night‘]
Have you ever tasted that feeling..? The despair you feel, when one fine day you stand exposed by your actions. When what you have done, belies every good you’ve ever believed yourself to be..? Emptied of all reason to love yourself for who you are..? Emptied of all reason to believe that those who see you for who you are, could ever love you in truth..?
In Peter’s brokenness, there are lessons to take for all of us who have ever tasted such pain. For one, while Peter was unaware of his weakness, God was not. He always knew him for who he is…
When Peter proclaimed, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death,” Jesus had no reason to believe, for He knew him. In fact, He prophesied the failing of His disciple. In the Last Supper, replying to Peter,
Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
When the Christ looked at Peter that night, as he denied Him the third time, there could’ve been a mix of emotions in the expression on Jesus’ face. But if there is one thing He couldn’t have been, He couldn’t have been surprised. For He had known Peter all along, even the ‘Peter,’ that Peter hadn’t yet known.
Your failings can take you by surprise, but you can never do anything that surprises the Lord. Your actions are but a reflection of the condition of your inner being. And He has always seen you, even to the depths of your soul. If your inner strength has limitations, He knows. If your moral fibre is falling apart and you’re hanging by the last thread, He knows. Trust me, He knows.
But is this a good thing that He knows..? Those of us who have lived life with secrets too dark to bare with ease, will know of the dread that takes over at the thought of being exposed to the glances of people. We do long to be known, even despite the scars and gaping wounds. That we may never deny. But there are consequences in letting people in.
What if there are consequences in being known by Him too..? That I’ll leave you to decide, whether Him knowing us, is Good News or not. But before you make that choice, let’s delve deeper into the person that is Simon Peter, and his relationship with the Christ…
The hours passed since the denial, and Peter’s loneliness continued. Put yourself in Peter’s place for a moment. Imagine him in his despair. He had bailed out on his Friend. The purest of souls He was, and Peter had let Him down. Here he is, hearing one news after the other: “Jesus has been sentenced. He has been crucified. Jesus has died. He has been buried.” Peter sinking deeper and deeper into the mire. “Happiness could never again be mine,” he could’ve thought.
Hopelessness all around. No thought could lend him solace. Peter could have remembered the time when Jesus taught the disciples that He, the Messiah, must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. Even if Peter could’ve found the strength to believe Him, could that thought erase his pain..? Even if Jesus did come back to life, would their relationship still be the same..?
“But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him.”
With the dawn of a new week though, the darkness began to recede, and the Light began to shine. The women who had gone to Jesus’ tomb, to anoint His body as per Jewish custom, returned in excitement with a message. Jesus Christ was no longer dead but risen, they said. They had seen the empty tomb. They had seen an angel, who told them that Jesus is heading toward Galilee. The angel urged them to tell the message to Jesus’ disciples.. and peculiarly, to Peter in particular.
“…tell Peter.” The other disciples could have wondered why those words were there, but imagine what those two words would’ve done to Peter. The questions that lingered in Peter’s head. The doubts that weighed like lead in his chest. Imagine, when the women brought in this message, what those two words would have done to all those doubts and questions..?
With those words, Jesus made sure that Peter was called by name. He made sure that Peter felt reassured that he still belonged. The Lord who knew Peter’s brokenness to the intimate details, cared for him with a love as intimate. As soon as Peter heard the message, the Bible says he ran to the tomb. Not a hesitant walk. He ran. Whether the others understood the depth within those words or not, I believe that Peter couldn’t have missed them.
Again, through the Christ, we get to gaze into the heart of God. Through His love for Peter, we know that He is a God of compassion. We know that the Lord forgives the worst of sinners. He forgave the man who denied Him to His face. He has forgiven even worse in me. And through Peter’s [and my own] experience with Him, we know that He doesn’t stop with forgiveness, but the broken heart of the sinner, He yearns to comfort.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
And there is more… The Lord knows our weakness, and He understands. He loves us despite our failures. That is Good News in itself, isn’t it..? But.. do you know where the Good News, becomes even better..? He doesn’t cease with comforting the broken hearted, but as we draw closer to Him, He heals all that is broken in us.
That hope, is the final learning from me from Peter’s night of brokenness. Peter’s life provides hope to all of us who have had the [mis]fortune of having seen our broken selves. Because all that Peter found missing within him on that fateful night, would later be found to abound in him.
The man who faltered when faced with the suspicion of a servant, would go on to become someone who would be bold to stand up for the Truth, in all circumstances. In prison. In persecutions. Even in death. Though he be weak, Peter found strength in abundance for through Christ Jesus, the Spirit of God worked in him. And Peter in the end truly became Peter, or as the name means in Greek, the ‘Rock.’
How dark are the nights that you are facing in your life..? Are they as dark as the night that Peter endured..? Perhaps they’re darker still..? Take heart. Morning will come. The Light will shine. Through the Christ there is reason to hope. The Lord who knows you by name. The Lord who has seen your tears. He is the Lord who calls to be Saints, the broken things of this world…
God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.
1 Corinthians 1:28
God comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:4
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The Christ was born to die. He knew how He would die. He prophesied the manner of His death. He knew He would be forsaken. He knew the pain that He was to endure. Knowing all this, He refused to turn away. Instead, He walked on to face His death. Love lead Him there. Love for His bride. Love for His unfaithful bride.
The joy of Christmas. The victory at Easter. They can never be complete without the love that flowed from the cross, in the form of His blood, on that day nearly 2000 years ago. The Good Friday. The day when God displayed the depths of His goodness. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We wandered far. We loved sin more than we loved Him. But still.. He chose to die for us, so that in Him we may live.
And Jesus, having finished His work, must have seen us wayward sinners, and the brokenness that lay within us. As He hung on the cross, broken for our sins, He must have seen the sin inflicted wounds and the scars in our souls that only His blood could heal. And on that day – that Good Friday – even as He had lost all His beauty through the brutality of the crucifixion, He must have longed for the day to come, when He would set His loving gaze upon us – His broken bride, made whole by His blood – and say,
You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.
The Song of Solomon 4:7
The Bible, from the Book of Genesis to the Apocalypse of John is.. quite diverse. But ultimately, if you could condense the purpose, you could say that the Bible is an invitation. An invitation firstly, to enjoy an intimate fellowship with God, despite our sins, through Christ Jesus, now and forever. Secondly, an invitation to walk in His Way. An invitation to trace His footsteps, as we walk through the days of our life.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
In His final message, mere hours before His arrest and crucifixion, and knowing fully well all that was awaiting Him, the Lord leaves those who follow Him with a ‘commandment.’ Jesus commands, “love one another as I have loved you.” We’re commanded to live like Jesus. We’re commanded to love like Jesus. And most of us in Christ, know this.
WWJD..? What would Jesus do..? That’s a question we often find that we ask ourselves in situations that confront us. And that perhaps is a good start, but.. how many times do we find that we know what Jesus would’ve done, yet find ourselves unable to do the same..?
Love the unlovable, He said and He did. Forgive the unforgivable, He said and He did. We know that Jesus loved, and that He forgave. But how many times, do we fall short of His standards..? At times, knowing what we are to do, and at times even desiring to do, but still.. unable to find the strength within to be like Him. While our minds know all we are to do, the strength to live like Jesus, comes not from the mind, but from our hearts…
..for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Is the joy of the LORD reigning in your heart..? Striving to be like Christ, is a noble pursuit, but.. we will only weary ourselves undertaking the impossible, without the strength of His joy. We may strive to keep ourselves pure and free from sin as He is, only to end up in frustration. We may desperately will ourselves to be more loving people, and maybe, just maybe.. we can turn our ways around to the eyes of those around us. But when we haven’t truly changed in places where the eyes of people cannot see.. in our hearts, it’ll only remain a sapping yet vain endeavour.
Joy though, does something that our meticulous efforts could never do. When we abide in His joy, the command to live like the Christ, no longer has to be seen as something that needs to be worked on, but instead as something that flows from within…
Have you ever noticed how in our moments of mirth, all that the Bible commands us becomes a little easier..? When we’re in a mood to celebrate, loving one another seems like the logical thing to do, doesn’t it..? We’re quick to give. We’re even quick to forgive. We’ve all had such moments in life, haven’t we..? Now joy is similar to mirth, except.. it is ever in our reach, even when the lights of our life have seemingly gone out, and all we could see around is darkness. Even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death…
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
There is fullness of joy in His presence. And to all who desire to enter, in search of that ever available joy, the Holy One says, “Do not be afraid.” He says, “Come As You Are.” Through His work on the cross, the Lord has made a Way, where even the worst of sinners can enter into His presence and delight in His joy, taking away the yoke that was upon us. The unrighteous are freely welcome into His presence, for only His joy can lead us into a life of righteousness. And this is where the ‘command’ to live like Jesus, becomes an ‘invitation’ to live like Him. Nowhere is this message more apparent than in the tale of the Christ and a man named Zacchaeus, from Luke 19:1-10…
Zacchaeus – the man who is remembered for climbing a sycamore tree to get a glimpse of Jesus – was a tax collector. To most of us, the term would hardly ring a bell. But to people in the New Testament times, those words spoke too much about the moral standing of a person. People held a tax collector in the same regard as a prostitute. They were commonly referred to as sinners…
When Jesus saw Zacchaeus perched on a branch, He calls him by name and tells him that He will be staying at his house. People around Jesus expected the righteous to avoid the presence of sinners. They grumbled among themselves, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner,” as though the Lord who can look into our hearts, hadn’t a clue. But Jesus was here with one purpose. To seek out a man lost in sin…
So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.
..and Zacchaeus received Him joyfully. The crowd could only see his past. They had no clue as to the heart of this man. Within him there was something new. Within him there was a heart filled with joy. Like the people in the crowd Zacchaeus must have expected Jesus to seek out the righteous, but to his surprise, he realised, “The Lord has come in search of a sinner like me…”
And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”
And the joy that flooded his heart, produced something so beyond the belief of the people who branded him a sinner. Zacchaeus, who until now had extorted money from his people, no longer desired unrighteous wealth. He not only ventured to repay those whom he had defrauded, but even that which was rightfully his, he chose to share with the poor…
The message, “Come As You Are,” once again repeats itself over here, doesn’t it..? The Christ did not wait for Zacchaeus to make atonement for his sins before He welcomed him into His presence. Zacchaeus was welcomed as a sinner. But more importantly, this sinner no longer remained a slave to his sin. And how did that happen..? Was it the fear of the fire of hell to lead him into righteousness..? Nay, it was joy that did what fear could never do. Joy in Christ set Zacchaeus free from his sin…
Are you filled with the desire to be righteous..? Does the pursuit leave you feeling worn out, without the strength to take another step..? Remember, this was never something to be done in our own strength. Remember Zacchaeus. Remember the Lord who comes in search of those lost in sin, to welcome them into His presence. Remember the joy in His presence. Remember the strength to be changed that that joy does produce. Look to Him. His arms are open wide…
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
“The friend of sinners,” we call our Lord. But do we really believe that He is..? I mean, of course, as Casting Crowns would have us reminded, we do tend to forget that in dealing with others who we would be quick to label as a ‘sinner.’ Like we are any better..? That is a common failing, I agree. And we, in humility, need to seek His grace to help us be wiser to our faults, and compassionate toward those of others. But I wonder, are we quick enough to believe that He is a friend of sinners, when it is us who happen to fall into sin..?
Could we..? Should we..? At the end of it, I’ll leave it to you to decide. But there are certain things from the Bible that I feel lead to share. About us. About the nature of sin. With tales of guilt and shame. And with tales of love and grace.
There is something about sin, that the Bible finds is common among those who have fallen under its weight. The first to fall under sin in the Garden of Eden felt the same, so did people in the times of the Christ and so do people in our times.
When God created Adam and Eve, even though they had the will to choose, they were sinless. All they had to avoid to remain sinless and choose God over sin, was to abide by the one restriction He placed on them, saying “..of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.” But even then, they sinned. And once sin ensnared them, something changed…
..and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
The couple who enjoyed fellowship with God in Eden, could no longer dare to be in His presence. According to the Bible, they hid from His presence, even before God could confront them. They hid, being confronted by their own conscience.
At another point in time.. when the Lord began His earthly ministry, He went about to gather His disciples. And one of them was Simon Peter, a fisherman. After speaking to a crowd that was gathered on the shore to hear Him, Jesus lead Peter to fish in the deep. Peter and his companions had toiled all night, and found nothing in those waters. Even if he weren’t too eager, Peter decided to follow, where Jesus lead.
That decision transformed the life of this fisherman. But before the transformation, there is something that happened in the boat, that once again brings to light the nature of sin. When Peter hauled in a large catch of fish, which by all logic should not have been there, he could see that the One who was with him was more than a mere man. And at that realisation, the familiar feeling returned…
But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
Sin that made Adam and Eve hide from the Holy One in the Garden of Eden, made Simon Peter, plead for the Lord who’s presence he believed he did not deserve, to leave him. There is one thing in common between these tales from both Testaments: God comes in search of people lost in sin. Sin makes people turn away from God…
How often do we find that we, like Peter or the couple from Eden, shy away from God, because of our sins..? Even though we have access to the knowledge of the Good News that Christ Jesus brought into this world, when we fall into sin, how easy is it to fall into the same spiral of guilt and shame..?
Even if we know that our God is love, the memories that we carry remind us of how undeserving we are of His love. We’re reminded of the last time we had a fall. Maybe, the dozens of times we’ve fallen before then too. We’re reminded of His loving embrace that took us in despite our sins. But here we are again…
“Surely, my Lord deserves better. How many times will I disappoint Him..? If I come to Him now, He will forgive me and take me in, but what if I fall into sin once again..? Let me not trouble Him. I have to make myself better before I return to Him. I will deal with my sin, and then I will come to Him with some good deeds in hand, to show for the love and faith He has shown in me,” we may find ourselves saying. An appreciable desire perhaps, but we know where that pursuit takes us, don’t we..?
Further away from God we go, as we refuse to turn to Him. Either persisting in the same sin, or finding our condition worsen. All the while forgetting, that our Lord, He is a friend of sinners. All the while forgetting that He isn’t looking for good deeds of ours in return for His mercy. All God desires from us, is all Peter had within him in that boat with Jesus…
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
When God sees us, His children, broken in spirit and our hearts crushed by guilt and shame, He yearns to embrace us. And to embrace the sinner, the Holy One came in the form of a man, lived a sinless life, and died on the cross. The blood that He shed, He shed to cleanse us from our sin. Sin that once had the power to turn us away from the love of God. Power that sin has no more…
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Are you troubled by your sin..? Are you unsure if you’re to turn to Him or not..? Are you afraid of God..? Are you afraid of being a disappointment once again..? Remember the words that the Lord spoke in reply to sinful Peter’s guilt filled admission:
And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid;”
In the end, knowledge defines our relationship with God. The knowledge of good and evil, causes us to turn away from God, knowing that by ourselves, we fall short of His holiness. The knowledge of Christ Jesus though, helps us turn to Him, knowing that in Him, we are made holy, as He is. Know Him: Jesus, the friend of sinners. Come to Him as you are. He will make you, what you are meant to be…
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.