Now What? (A letter from Peter)

Resurrection peter1

 

Dear friend,

Astonishment courses through me as this dawn brings a new wave of hope. I am still Simon, called Peter, but I will never be the same.

You see, I watched Jesus die just two short days ago. From a safe distance I saw His agony and excruciating suffering. I’ve never felt so guilty. So broken. So lost. How could I have abandoned Him in His darkest moment? My pathetic weakness disgusted me, and I loathed the image I saw in the mirror on Saturday morning. What kind of person turns his back on a friend in need?

But yesterday, I found His empty tomb. The women in our group said an angel told them He was alive. Then, crazy as it seems, just as two brothers were telling us how they met Him on the road to Emmaus, Jesus appeared out of nowhere to all of us. “Peace be with you,” He said.

Peace? Seriously? I thought it was His ghost, but it was Him, and He truly is alive! Frankly, the shock of the resurrection still reverberates through my soul. This post-crucifixion encounter with the Teacher has changed everything.

Everything.

Instead of anguish, there is joy.

Instead of fear, there is faith.

Instead of dread, there is hope.

In a matter of twenty-four hours, my ravaged dreams are reborn. The anvil of despair no longer crushes my heart. In fact, it never ceases to amaze me how Jesus continues to alter and renovate my life. Just about the time I’m ready to quit, He encourages me. When I’m ready to throw in the towel, He surprises me. When I want to give up, I realize (again) that He never gives up on me.

Never.

Right now, through humble tears of joy, I pray: “Jesus, forgive me for my faithlessness. Forgive me for not listening and understanding. Forgive me for my betrayal. Oh God, help me to become the man You have destined me to become.”

As the wind wrestles through the leaves of the sycamore tree above me, I hear the Spirit’s gentle whisper, “You have come far. You will go far, for you have now died with Christ and you will forever live by the same power that raised Him from the dead. This is just the beginning.”

Amazing. Unbelievable. What love is this?

Because of Him,

Peter

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Between the Cross and Easter

Jesus crucified 2

The disciples of Jesus had a horrible day the Saturday after the crucifixion. We see it as the period between the cross and Easter, but they didn’t see it that way or understand what we know in hindsight.

The Jewish Sabbath was typically a day of rest, but this Sabbath was a time of gut-wrenching heartache. The disciples’ teacher, Rabbi, Lord, and closest friend was lying dead in a cold tomb. Their dream of a Messianic-led rebirth of Israel was crushed. All hope of a Jewish revival was now completely shattered and abandoned.

The disciples feared for their own lives as they cowered in an upper room somewhere in the city of Jerusalem. Overnight they had become religious outcasts among the very people who once sang the praises of Jesus and his motley crew.

These men and women who loved Jesus experienced a dreadfully dark and demoralizing day. In their minds, he was gone forever.

The Friday of His crucifixion, they ran, they denied, they watched from a distance in horror, and they wept in agony. The next day, they lived in shock, in dread, and in dark corners of deafening silence.

Remember, they did not understand the promise of Easter or the hope of the resurrection.

Not yet.

Not on that Saturday.

It was the second worst day of their lives, and from their limited perspective, they would never have a good day again.

I wonder how many of you are in a similar place?

Something, or maybe even someone, has died. You’ve lost a dream, a relationship, a job or a friend, and you’re exhausted. In fact, you’re an emotional and physical wreck. Numbness covers your heart, mind, and soul like a dense winter fog. You can’t even think about the future. The misery of yesterday and the emptiness of today have stolen from you any joy and hope for a better tomorrow.

If that’s you, please listen to these words: God knows where you’ve been, where you’re at, and where he will take you. He understands the crushing anguish of the cross, but he also knows (far better than you do), Sunday is coming, and it’s a brand new day. A sunrise of hope for your future is on the horizon.

So hold on.

Stay true.

Don’t despair.

Sunday is just around the corner.

empty tomb

“I am the resurrection and the life.

The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;

and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”

John 11:25-26 (NIV)

4 Responses to Between the Cross and Easter

  1. Deanna (Dee) Duguay says:

    How refreshing to read your blog. I thanked my Lord this morning and always do for giving his life for me a sinner. I can rest knowing that I have a place in his Kingdom when I am called home. Just thinking of him on the cross broke my heart and made me cry. I am so thankful that we have a Father who cares, and loves so much that he gave his son for us. Praise God.

  2. Shanna Rubin says:

    Thank you for your posts Pastor Kurt I so value them and also the sermons that I can listen to online they have helped me through some sleepless nights and are so appreciated. We are fortunate to see hinesight. The darkness before the light. My greatest character changes and life changes have come through hanging in on that seemingly stale Saturday. I’m not a lover this day but have come to cherish it because the next day is Sunday!! Light peace energy and renewal. God is forever good ! And Jesus is continually revered for he was the only worthy to take the cup and he willingly chose. My heart is humbled and my life eternally His.

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Does God Like to Mess with Us?

coffee-cup-and-computer

I woke up early this morning and powered up my computer. Before I pray, I like to see if there’s anything critical in my mailbox while I’m nursing my java and waiting for the caffeine to kick in.

The first thing I noticed was a PR report from my publisher. I was encouraged to see how much they did in the first four months after the release of Epic Grace. However, this made me curious about how my book is currently doing in the marketplace. I have my Amazon Authors link saved in my bookmarks, so I popped over to take a look.

Hmmm . . . not so good . . . not a lot of sales this past week, and I’ve reached my lowest ranking so far. Guess I should go back to reading my email before I get discouraged.

Just then, I received a blog notice from Mark Batterson (the guy who wrote the forward for my book). I love the way he writes, I love his heart, and I always look forward to his postings. The blog title was intriguing, “One Million Praises.”

In the blog, Mark wrote, “Before The Circle Maker released, I had a holy hunch that it had a unique anointing on it. Like every book before it, we prayed that it would get into the right hands at the right time. A few weeks ago, I found out that God has answered that prayer more than a million times. And that means He deserves a million praises!”

Batterson is one of the humblest men I’ve ever met. In no way was he bragging about selling a million books. All his praise was directed toward God and in awe of Him. He wasn’t promoting himself; he was promoting Jesus.

But imagine how I felt.

Hmmm . . . seriously, God? He sells a million books and I’m barely in the top million on Amazon! What’s up with that?

Now, before you go all spiritual on me, I know all of the nice religious things Christians tend to say right here . . .

“You shouldn’t compare yourself to others.”

“It’s God who gives the increase; blessing is in the hand of the Lord!”

“You ought to rejoice over a brother’s success and not worry about yours.”

“Perhaps there’s sin or pride in your heart?”

For the record, I agree with all of the above (including the part about sin in my heart). But before you start throwing stones my way, here’s a little insight that might help you have some grace for me. Writing a book is a lot like having a child. It is conceived in passion, delivered through pain, born with great hope, nurtured through care, and always loved regardless of performance. The book is a part of you regardless of whether you sell one copy or a million copies.

When you pour your heart and soul into a book and believe in its message, your prayer is like Batterson’s, “God, please get this book into the right hands at the right time.”

Prayer

The godly part of me is fine and wise; it’s the human part of me that’s a problem.

My prayers (and yours too I suspect) frequently have strings attached. We know the right spiritual things to say to God, but we’re pretty convinced we know precisely how, when, and where God should answer our most pious of prayers.

We have expectations. God, I really need a spouse . . . a bigger home . . . a better car . . . a job!

We have a plan. God, getting it today would be perfect!

We have our definition of answered prayer. God, if you don’t do something soon (now) we’re going to have a problem!

And we can get pretty grumpy when things don’t go the way we think they should go. In fact, maybe you’ve wondered, God are you messing with me? I know what I need! Why don’t you seem to be listening?

In a span of time that seemed like hours but lasted only minutes, I realized (again) how silly I am at times. Staring at my computer screen, it hit me: I am not God, and I cannot control Him, what He does, or when He does it. (And that’s a good thing.)

Frankly, God is messing with me.

He’s messing with the mess that is in me and making my mind and heart more like Jesus. (Tweet this.) Is it always fun? No. Is it typically easy? Nope. Will it be worth it in the end? Absolutely.

One of my most frequent prayers is, “God, have your way in my life. Make me into a man, son, brother, husband, father, and pastor who honors you in everything.” I guess I shouldn’t be frustrated with the process he’s taking me through to help me become that man.

What about you?

Is God messing with your mess to make you more like Jesus?

God messes

“What’s the difference between you and God?

God never thinks he’s you.”

Anne Lamont

14 Responses to Does God Like to Mess with Us?

  1. Amy Young says:

    Kurt, thanks for sharing a bit of your journey with writing.

    When you wrote: “It is conceived in passion, delivered through pain, born with great hope, nurtured through care, and always loved regardless of performance. The book is a part of you regardless of whether you sell one copy or a million copies.” Tears came to my eyes. You tapped into something there :)

  2. Mary Sayler says:

    Well-said, Kurt, and yes, I identify :) I suspect other communicators for Christ will too, so I’m highlighting the post on the Christian Poets & Writers blog – http://christianpoetsandwriters.blogspot.com . May God bless the work we’ve been given to do in Jesus’ Name.

  3. Saundra Dalton-Smith says:

    You post always make me want to give you a call just to chat about “the journey”. You are always so open and real. Love and blessings to you Kurt.

  4. Always. :) He is good at doing it in the same ways I do it with my adopted kids: keep me just outside my comfort zone so I stay alert and attentive and watch His love. It’s great messing around. Not that I always love it! Like you, I have a book out recently (my first) and I just told a friend yesterday that I’m on an indefinite fast from looking at the Amazon stats… since that was just me messing with me. lol

  5. Kurt, I love your line that says, “He’s messing with the mess that is in me and making my mind and heart more like Jesus.” That is SO true for me too. I’ve watched both my books soar to under 25,000 on Amazon and drop to under 2 million…and everywhere in between. Like Laurie, I’ve long since just ignored the numbers – chalking my desire to see them up to my personal pride.

    What I finally decided is that if God uses either of my books to positively impact even one person (and in the case of The Soul Repair Manual, if it brings even one person to know God personally and accept Christ), then all my hours writing were spent gladly.

    And just so you know, YOUR book DID impact me positively! Thank you for sharing of yourself with the rest of us – no matter how many or how few. Your time was worth MY while.

    (Laurie, I suspect your time will be worth my while too. I should get your book just in time to take it with me on vacation!)

    God’s Blessings to you both!

    • KurtBubna says:

      Grateful for your encouragement, Randy. Goes does measure things differently . . . one changed life at a time is all that really matters. Blessings!

      • Not to mention, we’ll never know the “ripple effect” in this lifetime. If you or I did all that work writing and impacted just one life…what God could do as a multiplier effect from THAT life could be truly astounding.

        By the way, I’m just about finished reading a book called “Your First 1,000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book” by Tim Grahl. If you have a Kindle (or similar), you can get it on Amazon for $3.99. The book isn’t addressed to Christians, but the suggestions for marketing are worth much more than the price if you are interested in reading on that topic.

        • KurtBubna says:

          I love the picture of a “ripple effect” in this lifetime. Well said! Thanks for the tip on the Grahl book.

  6. Bob Moore says:

    Pastor Kurt; I love tantalizing questions such as the one you’ve posted. Of course God loves to mess with me. Just relapace the word discipline with the word mess in Hebrews 12:6. No matter if Father God is disciplining, messing, teaching or is flat out showing His humor in any situation throughout my journey on this Earth; His love never fails.
    In case anyone doesn’t think God has a sense of humor, I suggest viewing Planet Earth the Ocean and observe the many different species God created in the depths of the ocean

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A Birthday Letter from an Old Geezer

Old GrampsNote: This is a fictional, futuristic letter written on my 100th birthday for the purpose of passing along some wisdom to the generations after me.

To my dearest children, grandchildren and great-grandkids,

Today, March 13, 2057, I turn the ripe old age of one hundred. The year 1957 was a good year for Chevys. It’s hard to believe Chevy has gone the way of Studebaker and Saturn. So much has changed since I took my first breath, and yet so much is still the same.

I know my body is old and tattered, or as my precious Abigail used to say, “Grandpa is wrinkly!” I know my mind is not what it once was, and I tend to ramble on about life in the twentieth century.

I know . . .

But the technological changes I’ve seen are truly astounding. When I was born, back in the dark ages, the average American family had only one TV and it was black and white with very limited channel options. Our landline telephones were often party lines shared with the neighbors down the street. Cars were powerful and big, and gas was cheap (we paid about twenty-five cents a gallon, not twenty-five dollars!). There were no cell phones, let alone telecommunication audio implants and interactive 4-D movies weren’t even around.

I’m still baffled by the sociological changes I’ve seen in our culture. Once upon a time, marriage was between one man and one woman and expected to last a lifetime. However, once society entered the slippery slope of redefining the biblical definition of marriage, it was only a matter of time before we ended up where we are now.

I can imagine what some of you are thinking, “Gramps, things change, and it’s no big deal!” I probably said the same thing to my grandparents. Granted, the only thing that doesn’t change is something that’s dead!

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m grateful for all of the medical advances made in my lifetime. I would have passed away a long time ago without my new cloned heart. My old eyes see better now with my ocular implants than they did in my forties with trifocals.

Certainly, some changes are good, but some are not, and that’s why I want to leave you with some things to ponder.

To begin with, although the world has changed dramatically, much has and always will be the same. For example, people are lost without Jesus. True before. True now.

I can’t precisely remember when it became politically incorrect to call lost people “lost,” but somewhere along the way, Christians became less offensive and more endearing to society because we compromised one essential truth after another. In our effort to reach people, our message became fuzzy and the lines blurred.

It has become trendy to say, “People aren’t ‘lost’ or ‘sinners,’ but wayward souls simply in need of self-direction.”

We hear from the supposedly enlightened, “Sinful life choices are no longer a matter of right versus wrong, but unavoidable results of one’s environment or genetic makeup. It’s not their fault, so there is no fault.”

In our society, absolutes are absolutely intolerable (despite the projected value of tolerance for all).

The problem with this line of thought is it removes mankind of its responsibility for sin (the new “S” word), or it’s need for a Savior. They say, “It is what it is, and everything is relative.”

Is it?

Why then did Jesus say he came to “seek and to save the lost”? Why did God send his son to die for our sins if sin isn’t that big of deal? Why did the apostle, Paul, describe our condition as “disobedience, deception, and enslavery to sin” if everything is truly okay and relative?

For thousands of years, the message of the cross has been simple: We are all sinners in need of God’s mercy and grace. Our root problem isn’t a bad environment or an unavoidable genetic disposition; our root problem is sin. We are indeed lost without the Savior Jesus.

Some of you know my lifelong friend, Randy. He was brought up Lutheran and once considered himself a man of faith. However, his years in college changed him. His doubts about God, Christianity, sin and salvation led him to the Universalist path that proclaims, “All roads lead to God.”

This view of spirituality has become increasing popular in our culture. Why wouldn’t it? If everybody is right and nobody is wrong then everybody is happy! Unfortunately, some brothers and sisters of the faith have embraced this heresy.

The truth is everybody can’t be right, and somebody is wrong. It’s illogical to assume opposing truths are all correct. Jesus boldly declared he was “the way, the truth, and the life” and the only way to true relationship with the Father. He was extremely clear on this issue.

No one can accept Jesus as God while denying there is a God! It’s horribly inconsistent to claim we are saved by grace (i.e. God’s underserved mercy and favor) and then believe that reincarnation gives you another shot at getting good enough for heaven!

When there are vastly different views of God, salvation, heaven and hell, somebody’s got it right and everybody else is in error. A five-year-old can tell you there’s a right and wrong.

No matter how someone attempts to dance around it, Jesus was clear and exclusive, not inclusive. By the way, that’s not intolerance, that’s truth, and it’s truth that sets us free! Just because a truth is unpopular does not make it any less a truth.

A thousand times I have prayed for you, my dear family, “Father, show them the depth of their depravity and sin, and the depth of your mercy and grace. Remove from my kids and grandkids the cultural blinders that try to convince them of their worth apart from Christ. Lead them to the cross.”

I am what I am because of who I belong to, not because of what I am or what I’ve done.
The epic adventure your grandfather has experienced is not because I’m special, but because Jesus is special to me.

Forgive me for rambling, so I’ll move to something else forgotten by many: It will cost you everything to follow Jesus.

You’ve heard me say it thousands of times, “Grace is free for the taking, but it will cost you everything.” We could never earn our own righteousness. We could never be good enough to be good enough for heaven. Every good thing in me is the result of the goodness of God toward me. And every good thing I do for God is in response to his grace and kindness, not in some foolish attempt to acquire something I already have through him.

Some of you will roll your eyes right now as you read these words I have spoken time and time again, “There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more or any less than he already does!”

Almost fifty years ago, a friend locked these words in my heart, “God’s not mad at you, he’s mad about you!” Once we understand God’s grace and love, it deeply changes our hearts, but it also profoundly changes the way we live.

I don’t do what I do to earn God’s favor. I don’t avoid some things in terror of his wrath. But everything in my life is measured by this powerful axiom: I live to honor what Jesus has done for me.

Grandma and I have stood in the face of trial after trial without bitterness because we know the great trials Jesus faced for us. We have faithfully served others and sacrificed countless hours not to make God smile, but because we already have his smile. We have given much because we are loved much. We have accomplished a lot for the Kingdom not because we had to, but because we wanted to do so.

One of my greatest concerns for the current generation is their lack of understanding regarding selfless sacrifice. They grew up with an entitlement mentality and a false belief that they deserve an easy life of material abundance.

I thought we might experience a spiritual awakening after the great depression of 2020. I had hoped our nation would finally turn to God in desperation when the paper tiger of debt imploded in our country and around the globe.

I was sure that the great war of 2041 would break our stubborn pride and reconnect our country to the Christian values upon which we were founded. Tragically, the loss of so many people only scarred our souls with a deeper, “What’s in it for me?” philosophy of life.

Let me remind you, the way of the cross is radically different.

Jesus said, “. . . those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” He said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Grace is free, but it cost Jesus everything. The gift of salvation is free, but it will cost us everything to follow Jesus. Of course, we can’t earn it, but the response of any heart truly changed by grace is to willingly take up our cross to follow the path of Christ toward selflessness and sacrifice. It’s what love does.

I hope by now you know the secret to living the “abundant life” Jesus promised is not found in the pursuit of abundance! It is found on that narrow path and the hard road of dying to ourselves. It is discovered as we take up the towel of a servant and humbly wash the stench of this world from the feet of those whom we love more than we love ourselves.

Death to life. Slavery to freedom. This is our call and challenge as followers of the Way, and it will cost you.

Someday very soon, I will join that great cloud of witnesses and I’ll be cheering you on from the sidelines of heaven. It’s okay to weep for your loss, but remember my great gain. I’ll be with Jesus and waiting for you, so don’t disappoint me by not showing up!

If you’ve learned anything from my past, if you’ve ever been encouraged by my faith, and if you’ve ever wondered, “What does God have in store for me?” then make my joy complete by living on purpose for something and Someone greater than yourself. Life in Christ is epic!

I have always believed in you and you are always loved,

Gramps

P.S. Tell my boys not to leave my ashes on a shelf in the garage for twelve years like I did to their grandfather. :-)

 

Even when I am old and gray,

do not forsake me, my God,

till I declare your power to the next generation,

your mighty acts to all who are to come.  Psalm 71:18

Blue Sky

 

 

8 Responses to A Birthday Letter from an Old Geezer

  1. Linda Thistle says:

    Thank you Kurt!
    My prayer is that every child and grandchild would receive such a letter as this!
    God bless you, you are such an inspiration to everyone around you.

  2. Kerri says:

    Kurt, you always make me smile and you really make me think whenever I read something you have written! Thank you over and over for helping me understand Gods word through your words!

  3. Phyllis says:

    What a beautiful and inspiring letter. How I would love to be able to express myself in the same way and leave something so precious to my loved ones! Love that the Lord uses you to teach us!

  4. Tom Mahugh says:

    Thanks for the reminder that there are some things that never change…the Word and the Ways of God. Reading your blog prompted me to realize that my grandkids could have grandkids by the time I reach one hundred! May they experience, and pass on, the things that never change.

    …a fellow Geezer

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Now What? (A letter from Peter)
  Dear friend, Astonishment courses through me as this dawn brings a new wave of hope. [more]
Between the Cross and Easter
The disciples of Jesus had a horrible day the Saturday after the crucifixion. We see it as the p [more]
Does God Like to Mess with Us?
I woke up early this morning and powered up my computer. Before I pray, I like to see if there [more]
A Birthday Letter from an Old Geezer
Note: This is a fictional, futuristic letter written on my 100th birthday for the purpose of passin [more]
Sometimes Life
Life the mystery Sometimes heartache Sometimes pain Sometimes struggle Sometimes r [more]
What kind of friend are you?
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