Category Archives: Editorial

Jeremy’z Journey: Of course Jesus can walk on water! But who is Peter?

I’ve always been intrigued by the story of Jesus walking on the water to meet His disciples who had gone ahead of Him to their boat. While amazing and startling to His disciples, I’m not talking about His action of walking on water. Jesus on the water is referenced three times in the New Testament, but I especially like Matthew’s account of that day’s events (Matthew 14:22-33).
I’m not surprised by Jesus walking on water – He is the Son of God. He can turn water into wine, then turn the wine into a beautiful Jell-O mold and walk on that if He really wanted. What amazes me is Peter walking on the water to meet Jesus.
Jesus himself often taught in parables, and Matthew – possibly unknowingly – gave us a parable about ourselves by presenting his version of this miracle, which includes Peter walking on the water.
In all three accounts (the others: Mark 6:45-51 and Jon 6:15-21), Jesus says the same thing when His disciples think He is a ghost. He says, “It is I. Don’t be afraid,” – (New International Version).
In Matthew, Peter replies, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water,” – 14:28.
And Jesus says, “Come.”
Verse 29 continues, “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’”
Often, I have known that God wants me to use the gifts He has given me to bring people closer to Him. However, I also hear my voice in my head saying, “Who am I?” And, “Who am I to tell people about God? Who am I to speak to God’s people?” And of course, my favorite, “Who am I to attempt to step out of a seemingly safe boat to tread the water for Christ?”
The answer to all of those questions is the same: I am a saved, sealed and soon to be delivered child of the Great ‘I Am!”
I trust Him as my savior! I trust that He has cleansed and forgotten my sins! But it’s a scary thing to step out of our personal safety zones to tell others about how He saved us. Scared to tell them that He has cleansed our sins, and can do the same for whomever we are talking to in that moment.
As Christians, we often go to church, sit in our safe pews, and jingle our keys when it’s close to noon or even during the Invitation.
What is an “Invitation?” It’s the time of our worship services in which the speaker gives us – as individuals – the opportunity to come up front, pray and allow God to get closer to us, individually. More importantly, it’s the time to accept that we need to be closer to Him. We need Him.
Sometimes, and to some of us, it’s just the next cue that lets us know we’re a little closer to lunchtime at Shoney’s, KFC, or any one of the many after-church hotspot eateries.
But spiritually, it is much more than that. It is an opportunity to submit to God’s will and spirit. It is our opportunity to become Peter. Why would you step out from a seemingly safe pew, putting it all out there for the rest of the church to see?
Simple! Because Jesus says, “Come!”
It is difficult for us, as imperfect humans, to step out onto something that we are told cannot hold us up – faith – uh, I mean water. Our mind and its knowledge of things on Earth keep many of us from truly giving ourselves to God, myself included sometimes. And those of us, who do dare to take that first step onto the water, or out of the pew, are amazed when He does exactly what He says He will do – keep us afloat.
Sometimes, just as Peter did, we take our eyes off of Jesus, we look down and see the choppy water and realize how far from the clearly safe boat, or seemingly safe world, we have come. Fear and doubt, tools of evil, come back into our mind, and just as Peter did, we start sinking.
I believe in Matthew’s unbeknownst parable, the water represents the safety we think we have in the world. Walking along safely in the world seems easy enough for all of us until that very water becomes unsteady – when the wind picks up and the water we are treading becomes violent. The wind, and again the water, represents just how unstable our world, and its vessels – or boats – are. Jesus on the water, to me, represents His Supreme ability to stand over the choppiness and insecurity of our world. It’s His desire to show us that safety in Him is far stronger than the safety we find in our manmade “boats.” When He says, “Come,” that simply shows God’s desire for all of us to come to Him. He wants all of us to be near to His side, all of the time. But our sin, and love of sin, gets in the way of that.
My favorite part of this chronicle comes after Peter cried out, “Lord, Save Me!”
Verse 31 reads, “Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him.”
It doesn’t say, “After five minutes of Peter flailing his arms trying to swim on his own.”
It doesn’t read, “When Peter grabbed Jesus’ leg and pulled himself up.”
And it certainly doesn’t say, “Eventually, Jesus….”
The verse recounts what many sinners have experienced when they have sought God’s forgiveness. “Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him,” the Bible states. “You of little faith,” He said. “Why did you doubt?”
So why did Peter doubt? Peter, a disciple of Jesus, an eyewitness of many miracles, has doubts? And again — as I have written about him in the last several writings — Peter, one who had left everything to follow Jesus during His ministry here on Earth. He doubted?
Who is Peter to call himself a follower of Jesus, a disciple of Christ, to doubt Him? Again, who am I to help someone to know God when I have had doubts myself? The answer was staring me in the face. The final conundrum of Matthew’s riddle of a parable:
I am Peter!
Peter is me. Peter is you. Peter is all of us who have stepped out on faith – on the unsure, unstable, wavy, choppy, violent waters of faith. It isn’t unsure or unstable to Jesus. The water isn’t choppy or violent to God. He is still standing there with His hand stretched out to us. He is still standing at the altar waiting for us to step out of the safety of our wooden and padded pews.
Maybe some of you reading aren’t in a padded pew regularly, or ever. Maybe you’re sitting at a restaurant booth or your living room couch. Maybe you’re in front of a computer or glancing over someone’s shoulder at their newspaper.
Wherever you are sitting, no matter where you are in your life, Jesus is in the same place. He is standing there, on the water saying, “Come!”
And if we answer His call and keep our eyes, our minds and our hearts focused on Him, we will never even notice the harsh waves beneath our feet.
It’s not that any of us should doubt after experiencing Him changing our own lives and after seeing Him change the lives of others around us. But should we falter, He’s waiting at the altar. And when we call out to Him, “Lord, Save Me,” He is there,

Aunt Hester’s General : Surround yourself with beauty not ugliness

Darlings, I’ve just put away all my Easter things and this afternoon, I and a few of my friends managed to eat the last of the Chocolate Easter Eggs I made. It’s been a beautiful Spring so far and everything is so green because of all the rain.

Isn’t it such a puzzlement that with all the beauty surrounding us, there just seems to be no end to the ugliness that keeps happening? Yes, there’s ugly politics, ugly drugs, and folks turned ugly by their meanness.

I’m not so foolish that I don’t know that most of the ugliness in this world is created by folks that would turn a sweet and delicate homemade apple pie, into a burnt pile of mush because they can’t seem to help themselves. What really is my vexation, is the fact that people, who have every opportunity to do the right thing, will work so hard to do the wrong thing.

You know the folks I’m speaking about: the ones that have opportunity and trust handed to them and they just can’t be satisfied with all of that, they have to have more. They can’t be satisfied with a full pan of cornbread, they just have to try to get a pan of cornbread that belongs to someone else.

They will reach out to take more than they can use and you’ll not see a bit of shame on their faces. And when I think about these things, I’m reminded of something that holds a lot of water and that is: We are who we really are, when no one is watching.

The strangest thing I’ve noticed, is that these folks really believe they’re fooling everyone. Yes, it’s another fact that you can fool people for a long time or a short time. It all depends on how well you can lie about things. But time, has a way of making the truth known, doesn’t it?

You really can’t blame some of these clever deceivers for one fact: It’s that too many of us are too willing to believe what we see and hear, and not what we feel about someone. Is that because we’re always willing to believe that we can’t trust ourselves?

Just sitting out here on the front porch of the General Store I watch people go by and when they stop to talk, I really enjoying sharing with them. I see the hope in their eyes, I hear the honesty in their voices, I know I don’t have to hide who I am and they don’t have to hide who they are from me. That’s pure and simple living at its best.

I’ve come to believe that in most cases, we write the story of our own lives. Yes, there are some things we can’t control. But for the most part, except for some mental illness, I think most of us, know exactly what we are doing, most of the time. It must be a sad thing to spend your whole life being someone you’re not, except when you’re alone.

Folks will say to you, “Just keep faking it till you make it.” No, cause if you keep doing that, you will never make it! It’s not easy to walk in the truth of yourself, but if you do, you will, more than not, see the truth about others. When you trust yourself to do that, then you are living.

Who are you, when you’re alone and no one is watching?

It’s just a matter of learning . . . unlearning . . . and . . . relearning.

Jeremy’z Journey: He rose from death and even His followers were skeptical

When I started this series, the first column published asked the question, “Who else do you know who is celebrating their 2,000th birthday?” Today, many countries still celebrate Christmas, even if many of those have changed it from ‘a celebration of God’s greatest gift to the world’ into ‘a celebration of how much money we can spend in 46 days.’
We also celebrate Easter, which is apparently the day a waskiwy-wabbit breaks into the henhouse only to steal and then boil baby chicken eggs. He colors them and then litters the countryside with them for little children to find. I guess Bugs was jacked-up on chocolate at the time, because somehow candy fits into the tradition of this celebration also. Did you know that Easter is America’s second biggest candy-consuming holiday next to Halloween? And according to the empty shelves at Wal-Mart, we all did our part to carry on that tradition. Seriously, we’re lucky our kids have teeth at all.
Oh, and there’s Good Friday. You remember, it’s the day we get out of work and school to prepare for Ea(gg)ster.
Of course I’m kidding! These are not the real meanings of these days, but in our modern world of mentioning God’s son Jesus Christ as few times as possible, the real reason for these days must be hidden and shoved aside as quickly as possible. Thus, for Easter and Christmas we get ‘Bugs and the Fat Man.’
Good Friday was originally a day that Roman soldiers and hecklers did not take off from their jobs. Instead, they crucified Jesus Christ. The leaders of the day, Herod and Pilate, did not want to be responsible for this and had swapped responsibility for it back-and-forth. It was kind of similar to politicos today. But as often happens in modern-day government, the hecklers got their wish.
“Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” – Luke 23:20, 21 (New International Version).
And Jesus, the Son of God, died on the first Good Friday. He was tortured, beaten and a wreath of thorns was forced upon his forehead as the hecklers jeered his kingdom, using this as His crown.
“The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let Him save himself if He is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” – Luke 23:35
But Jesus knew it was His time – time for us humans to receive a way for forgiveness and salvation, and of course, the only way to come back to the side of God and His kingdom in Heaven.
“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” – Luke 24:1.
The first day of the week is Sunday for those not standing next to a calendar and that one in particular was the first Easter. (I hope my writing style isn’t condescending to anyone, but the Bible can speak for itself. However, I will choose to leave Luke and give Matthew’s account.)
“There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.’ Now I have told you.” – Matthew 28:2, 7.
I’m not skipping around to make my point, but these are all Biblical accounts of the same event from different personal perspectives. So let’s go back to Luke’s account.
“When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.”—Luke 24:9.
“But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.”—Luke 24:11- 12.
Again, Peter. One of the disciples, who had left everything to follow Jesus during His ministry here on Earth, stood and scratched his head in disbelief. Peter, much like many people today, couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that Jesus had risen and returned to life. He had seen the torture. He had witnessed the brutal treatment unjustly given to our Lord, but most importantly he had been there when Jesus released His last breath upon the cross. Because of that, Peter couldn’t fathom how Jesus could now be alive.
I imagine Peter thought someone had stolen the body of Jesus. In fact, I will return to Matthew’s account.
“While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ‘You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole Him away while we were asleep.” – Matthew 28:11, 14.
The chief priests, those who wanted Jesus dead more than anyone, devised a plan to blame the disciples in an effort to squash the thought that Jesus had risen to life. But it wasn’t the disciples! After all of the time they followed Jesus, believing Him to be the Son of God, now they also were scratching their head in disbelief. Now they were becoming convinced that it was all for nothing. At best Jesus was a prophet, they briefly thought.
“While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself!” – Luke 24:36, 39.
Luke 24:41 goes on to say, “And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement…”
“He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” — Luke 24:46, 48.
At all this, they still were unbelieving. At all this, His disciples still had doubts. At all this, today there are those who still don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God and can forgive them of all their wrongdoings. At all this, they don’t believe He arose from the dead and can light their path to the kingdom of God. At all this, they deny Him in their lives.
“When He had led them out of the vicinity of Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into Heaven. Then they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” – Luke 24:50, 53.
Some, even disciples sometimes, doubt. That’s because we try to dissect the mind-blowing life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ with our human minds and it doesn’t make sense. But if you open your soul – open the eyes and ears of your heart, not your brain – then, and only then, you can truly understand what Good Friday and Easter are really all about.
God, I pray that You will open our hearts and help us to understand and remember the love that was given in those days, the love that You showed us, and that You continue to offer us all. Help us all to know that love, to see that love in the world around us and to project that love to others. Amen!

Aunt Hester’s General Store: People Don’t Stop to Think

For months, even years, I can’t help but listen to what people are saying as they sit in the General Store enjoying the coffee and the sweet delectables I prepare. I’ve noticed that more and more, folks are not paying attention to what is really going on around them.

They seem far more interested in what is happening in areas to which they really are not connected. Some women will sit and gab about what some movie star was wearing on the Red Carpet. What the name of the designer was, whose dress they were wearing. Who cares?! Others will gab about what they heard that someone else’s child was caught doing and I don’t hear a word about their concern about how education in this country is falling behind the rest of the world.

Men are just as bad. They go on and on about sports. Most of them don’t even remember who won the last Super Bowl and they don’t seem to care about the mess that was uncovered about how bounties were being paid to some players on a team to only concentrate on hurting another player and the greater the hurt, the bigger the bounty. I wonder if any of them realize that all major sports have become corrupted with nothing but greed? It’s not about the Sport anymore. It’s just about how much can be made from television coverage, endorsements, and paying for those multimillion dollar contracts.

It’s a fact that most of these Sports Nuts, don’t realize that their children and grandchildren, have almost stopped collecting Baseball Cards

I wonder if any of these folks are aware of the fact that this county is borrowing up to 3.5 billion dollars a month just to keep going? And where is the money being borrowed from? A while back, folks were mentioning the fact that the mounting debt in this country could rob their children and grandchildren of a good future. I wonder if they even realize, that this debt, is going to rob them, as well as their children and grandchildren, of a good future if something isn’t done?

Folks talk about Entitlements. But when I hear what they’re talking about, they don’t even know what is or isn’t an entitlement. Do you know? Is it something that is due to you? Social Security is not an entitlement if you have worked for years and paid into the system. But, getting SSI when you’re only around twenty years old because some doctor is willing to verify that your back is not right, is an entitlement especially when this twenty year old, smokes, drives a car, and is making babies! Entitlements have become one thing: I’m alive, I’m entitled!

Because I’m not a perfect person, I’ve got a list of faults. One of them, is paying too much attention to what is going on around me. Just the other day, I gave a ride to an elderly couple, that for the most part, get by on their Social Security. Sometimes, they need a bit of help just before the check comes in. So they will come into the store and ask if I’ll take them to a food bank. The other week, I took them there and as I was waiting, I noticed a woman, who pulled up in a fairly new car, she was smoking and talking on her cell phone. When she got out of the car, she dropped her unfinished cigarette on the ground, kept talking on the phone, and I noticed that she was sporting a handbag, that was pretty pricey, I say around two hundred dollars. How did I know the price? I know, because a few of my friends have the same handbag.

As we left, I had to stop and get gas. When I went in to pay for the gas, this same woman walked in and I watched as she bought $40 dollars worth of TN Lottery Tickets. I took the elderly couple home and had to stop at the Food Lion and pick up a few things. And you guessed it, this same woman was in the store and she was buying this and that. She was ahead of me in the Check Out line and she used a Food Stamp Card to pay for her purchases. I wondered, what was she doing with five cases of soda and three cases of water? Seemed a bit too much for someone who needed to put food on the table, instead of a can of Mountain Dew with a water chaser. What do you think she was going to do with all that soda and water? Of course it wouldn’t possibly end up in someone’s vending machine, would it?

It seems to me that if you need to go to a food bank that you would be able to cut down on the smoking, the cell phone use, and buying lottery tickets, wouldn’t you? Yes, I’m being a tad judgmental, but how long do some people believe that the misuse of something that is not really due to them (entitlements) will last? Yes, Darlings, people don’t stop to think, do they?

It’s just a matter of learning . . . unlearning . . . and . . . relearning.

Jeremy’z Journey: The three hardest words to say

If you’ve been reading this writing series, then you know the last few have been geared toward those who don’t know Christ Jesus as their personal savior. The words have been written for those who have never accepted that he stretched out His arms and gave His life to offer us all the free gift of forgiveness of our sins. And also to those who have long forgotten God’s warm and forgiving and loving embrace. That’s because there are many people who are near and dear to me that fit one of the above listed descriptions.
As I have drawn nearer to God over the past year, I have been burdened with the desire to see my friends and family come closer to God as well. After all, it is my desire to one day share Heaven with them all. That is a burden that all of us Christians should have for our fellow Earth-mates.
I can’t “beat the Jesus” into those people, as some have suggested. Like any gift, if I offer some of God’s words to them, they must be willing to reach out and receive the gift of those words. So this time I will write to my fellow Christian brothers and sisters. Although, I pray this writing will be of benefit to non-believers also.
So to those in the fold, we all know – or should know – that Jesus has already paid the price for our sins to be forgiven. Unfortunately, as human beings with a sinful nature, we undoubtedly need His forgiveness on a regular basis. The “fortunate” part for us sinners is that He will forgive us again.
Hebrews 7:25 says this about Jesus, “Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” (New International Version).
First of all, thank God for that statement. I thank Him for always living to intercede on my behalf. To me – and I’m not a certified theologian, just someone trying to follow God’s Word and apply it to my life as I am reading it – that verse and many others are a reminder that no matter how I mess up, Jesus will “intercede” for me, forgive me of my new sin, just like He has forgiven me of my old sin, and help me get back on the path He wants me to be on.
That is a wonderful thing!
But it doesn’t give me, you, or any other Christian a monopoly-game-style “Get out of sin free” card. That verse doesn’t mean, “Do whatever,” and then get forgiven. If Jesus is your savior, you will strive to not sin against Him. That’s how you make Him your Lord. Sometimes we say He is “Our Lord and Savior,” but those aren’t just words. He is our savior; we have to put Him first for Him to be our Lord.
Jesus, knowing all things, knows that we will sin again and again. One Biblical example of this is when Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed (John 13:31-38).
Peter…. A disciple….. Peter was one of the original twelve who loved and followed Christ everywhere. Peter, like the other disciples had dropped everything he had going on and left his family to follow Jesus, but he continued to sin.
“’You are not one of His disciples, are you?’ the girl at the door asked Peter. He replied, ‘I am not.” – John 18:17. John 18:25-26 continues to fulfill Jesus’ earlier prediction, “As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, ‘You are not one of His disciples, are you?’ He denied it, saying, ‘I am not.’ One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, ‘Didn’t I see you with Him in the olive garden?’ Again, Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.”
I know that I’ve never been put in a situation like Peter was that day. People were coming to kill and imprison Jesus’ followers. Jesus himself had already been arrested. After all they had been through together; things were getting “out of (human) hands.” Even the disciples were getting scared.
Scared to stand up for Jesus!
They didn’t yet understand what all Jesus was to go through. Scared of what might happen to him, Peter was afraid to proclaim to be one of the Disciples of Christ.
When we today commit blatant sins in front of, or even along side of non-believers, we commit the same type of denial of Christ. Not only are we guilty of sin, again, but in that situation we are guilty of spreading the darkness of sin in front of those who are near and dear to us, but do not believe in Jesus. We show them our sin, or take part in theirs, and they already know we are supposed to be Christians. We are showing them that we are no different as a Christian that the rest of the world.
I know the feelings Peter had when he heard that rooster crow – the sound Jesus predicted would follow Peter’s betrayal of his closeness to Jesus. I’ve felt those feelings many times myself: shame, embarrassment, failure, that mental, “Oh man, what have I done?”
I usually don’t hear a rooster crowing after I have sinned, but I don get that, “Oh man,” feeling. That feeling when you realize you’ve just let something bad happen that is already driving a wedge between you and God.
On the other hand, it is a wonderful feeling, knowing that Christ will forgive me. But what definitely isn’t wonderful is repeatedly needing to ask for His forgiveness.
It was hard for me as a teenager to admit that I was wrong, that I couldn’t do it all myself and that I needed to say three difficult words, “Jesus, forgive me!”
But Hebrews again tells us that even though we repeatedly sin, we must stay true to the course.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” Hebrews 12:1.
It was hard for me, a know-it-all-teenager, to fall to my knees and ask for His forgiveness. But I’ve found that after repeatedly falling short of what God wants for me – again and again sinning against Him – the three hardest words to say are the ones I find myself needing to say most often:
“Forgive me…… Again!”