This Bible study I wrote last year, Hope Rising, was meant to help people create space for God to speak intimately and personally to them. It is meant to foster an experience with God. It is not meant to be followed rigidly or academically. But I have found approaching scripture through observation and probing questions has opened up the floodgates between God and myself. These prompts are meant to help foster a deep, love relationship with God. See it as such. Ask God to meet you through gazing at the stories preserved for us to see him and know him. Use these reflections and prompts in ways that feel helpful to you. Explore, try things out. Be free. Be expectant. I believe God wants to be known, even if it is not all at once, but little by little.
Here is another excerpt:
Week 2~The Unpredictably Hard Road to Surrender
DAY FIVE “Devotion to Unimagined Denial”
SETTING THE SCENE
Over the next two days we focus on Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples. You gotta love good ole’ Pete! He is impulsive, dramatic and passionate. Chosen as one of the 12 men Jesus poured into and taught for three years, he developed a close relationship with Jesus. He witnessed miracle after miracle. Over time his love and admiration for Jesus grew. When many people stopped following Jesus because his teaching challenged the status quo and ruffled quite a few feathers, Pete was the one who spoke up, “to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” He didn’t even seem to hesitate. His words of affirmation and belief rolled off his tongue.
Peter was the one who walked on water, even if it was only for a few steps. Essentially he boldly requested, as Jesus is walking on the water, “If it’s you let me join you, Lord.” And Jesus says yes!
Peter’s voice and words did not fail him again when he affirmatively proclaimed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus responds with positive affirmation pronouncing Peter as the one on whom Jesus is going to build his church. He calls him a rock! But not long after, Jesus has to honestly confront Peter’s focus on the things of men instead of the things of God.
Peter the excitable, dramatic, strong one who is not afraid of saying what he believes until…
Read Matthew 26:31-35, Mark 14:27-31, and Luke 22:31-34. Also read Matthew 26:69-75, Mark 14:66-72, and Luke 22:54-62 , taking it in slowly. (If you do not have time to read all three versions, pick either Matthew, Mark, or Luke and read both passages of the one book.)
I thought it was important to see the two related scenes together today. So you will have to go back and forth a little between the two parts. Remember the purpose of observing the scene is not so you can get better at English, like you are back in middle school! This process is more like taking in a sunset or staring at a masterpiece of art. There are beautiful pictures of our God in the pages of the Bible. This process slows us down and helps us truly see. This process is meant to take God in. All of the questions and prompts are meant to be tools to help you be with God in scripture. Keep it up, he loves to be with you.
OBSERVE THE SCENE
When and where did the scene take place? Who is in the scene? What did each person do? Observe and describe what you see and hear. Notice. Pay attention. Write down any parts that jump out to you.
DEEPER INTO DEFINITIONS
Remember, Greek words from the original text have been translated into the English words in our bibles. Sometimes the words are difficult to translate, or the meaning of the Greek word isn’t fully explained by the English word. Sometimes a look at the original Greek definitions can shed new light on the meaning of the text for us. Here are a few from today’s scene:
“Insisted emphatically/vehemently” (Mark 14:31) ~perissos The original Greek word perissos used with another Greek word ek here means: beyond measure, vehemently. Vehemently means: in a forceful, passionate, or intense manner, with great feeling.
“deny” (Mark 14:31; Matthew 26:34, 35; Luke 22:34, 61) ~aparneomai The original Greek word aparneomai means: to abnegate, deny. (Abnegate means: to renounce or reject something desired or valuable.)
“denied” (Mark 14:68,70; Matthew 26:70,72; Luke 22:57) ~arneomai The original Greek word arneomai here means: falsely to deny, disown. It includes the idea of falsehood or contradiction. It is the opposite of another Greek word, homologeo: to confess or say together.
“turned back (Luke 22:32) ~epistrepho The original Greek word epistrepho means: to turn upon, toward. Here it is metaphorically spoken of a return to good, to return, be converted.
Considering the meaning of the original Greek words above, what new insights do you have about what happened in the scene?
Read John 6:60-71 and Matthew 14:22-31 . What light do these scriptures shed on the scene?
As you go about your day or night, consider a phrase from the story that strikes you and ask God to give you insight into the meaning.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” [Colossians 3:16]
Our scene ends in tears, bitter tears. It is our natural, human desire to want to move on from brokenness and difficulty. Where is the happy ending? But there is wisdom and growth in learning how to sit in grief for the needed amount of time. In the last week of our study we will come back to Peter and where God takes him, but for now stay with his pain. Allow this part of his story to resonate with you. I hope I am not the only one who can relate to disappointing and rejecting Jesus in some way. This type of rejection is not total denial that Jesus exists. It is the same kind of rejection we put forth or receive from people who we love and who love us. Rejection of this kind is, unfortunately, a typical, broken part of human relationships. Peter certainly did not desire to do this to Jesus, do you think? I would venture to say we also do not usually desire to reject someone we love.
Read the scene from yesterday again slowly. Try reading it out loud especially if you have not ever done this before.
GOD AND HUMANITY REVEALED IN THE STORY
Who is God? (Father, Son or Holy Spirit) What does this scene reveal about who God is? What’s true about Jesus here? What is he like?
Ask yourself, “Who am I?” What does the scene reveal about us, as humans? What is true about you? What are we like?
Who can you relate to in the story? Why?
HOW THE STORY TRANSFORMS YOU
Ask God to reveal to you your beliefs. Not the ones you know or think you are supposed to believe but what you are believing beneath the surface, maybe even subconsciously.
What do you believe about God right now? What do you believe about yourself right now? What do you believe in relation to the text?
Ask God, “What are the lies I believe about you, God? What are the lies I believe about myself? Is there a truth you are revealing to me through this story about you or me?
Sit and listen to God. Wait. Write down any thoughts coming to mind. (This process may continue on throughout the week or longer)
WHERE THE SCENE TAKES YOU
“Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” [Colossians 3:9-10]
Lies and truth, two things we must confront if we are to grow spiritually into all God created us to be. Part of this process involves talking with others. Whether you have lifelong friends or you don’t have anyone close enough to have spiritual conversations, I pray these questions and this process will help foster deep, spiritual relationships in your life. This takes time, but it is oh, so worth it! Others can provide the safe place needed for honesty and transparency. As we develop relationships with others, God continually works in and through to renovate, renew, and shape us. Freedom can flourish because we are depending on our Creator for this work. Is there anyone currently in your life right now you can go further in conversation with? Who can you ask to coffee or tea this week?
Write out a prayer to God in response to what the Spirit is revealing to you. Ask God to do what you cannot, to transform you and make you new…
Is there one thing God is highlighting for you? Is the Spirit leading you to take any action steps or make any changes in your daily life?
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