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November Newsletter-Hood’s Studio

When I was a kid, there were two popular photography studios in town. One was Dunning Studio and the other Hood’s studio. Dunning had the contracts to take the school pictures that, as students, we passed around to one another so you knew who your friends were. Hood’s studio was on the South edge of town, located on farm land. Today most of that area is subdivision.

For some reason, ‘studio’ pictures taken in our family always ended up being at Hood’s. I remember them like yesterday because they seemed to make us uncomfortable. We sat in a sterile room, one with no personality, waiting for the ‘lights’ to flash and catch that perfect smile. I specifically remember when my mother dressed me in a pink and black polo shirt and slipped a leather and silver string tie under the collar. Ties apparently for some reason were big deals in photography studios. I remember a brown and red (paisley) bow tie I had worn during one of my Hood experiences. Not real, never wore a tie any other time in my life other than at Hoods.

I got to thinking about those photographs the other day and how they were so very far away from the truth. Not one of those pictures showed how my family really lived, not one expressed who we were or what we did. They were pictures of ‘society’s’ expectations for the most part. They were fake, done for correct and appropriate reasons, but still fake. I remember going to Hood’s with my little brother and sister, twins, and them standing in front of, what I think were, boxes covered with carpet to give them a nice ‘warmy’ image– my brother and sister that were rug-rats at home.

As I thought about those pictures, it reminded me of our lives. In fact, it seems we’re spending more and more time giving images of what society expects, or especially today, what society demands. We dress up, step into personalities and environments that look nothing like who we really are. We get all dressed up in our finest and off to the world’s Hood’s studio we go.

The Gospel provides a home for us to be who we really are in Christ Jesus. Just like those Hood’s pictures, who we are ‘in Christ’ is not very well represented by the mask we wear daily. It can be, but does not have to be an evil mask you wear; it can be just a cover hiding the identity that Christ gives. Sadly, the current social definitions of human life don’t recognize heart or spirit. (I just read the other day that the new AI bible being written is leaving out the ‘in Christ’ parts and simply providing a scholarly interpretation of Bible teaching, abandoning the spiritual interpretations: mind superior, no reference to Spirit.) Mind and body, emotions and physical response, Yes; the third part of life (spirit) as the Father created it, No! It’s possible that our religious community can become similar to the Supreme Court, creating its own ‘current’ interpretation of the law rather than enforcing the original intent of the law. Much of the gospel today is a ‘what we think it should be,’ (hope it to be thing), rather than a ‘what He originally said’ thing.

The biblical ‘I am’ teachings of Jesus in Scripture are dismissed; simplified, that’s apostasy. That has a future danger for humanity. Current culture would be very happy if you understood that you are simply a highly intelligent animal, not a creature created by God. They are happy if you major on reason and logic, happy if you believe your life patterns are simply evolutionary instincts. Happy to pass laws that they deem superior to God’s law, happy to have you feast on the Tree of good and evil but you’re not permitted to approach the Tree of Life. Sounds familiar! What we’re seeing today is not new stuff, it’s the same old stuff dressed up in modern clothing.

One of my favorite people to write about is the Apostle Peter. Peter often reminds me of all of us. He was actually Simon Peter. He wasn’t called/commissioned by Jesus because of his firmness of character. In fact, Simon was just the opposite of firmness. He was probably the most failing apostle with the exception of Judas. Simon Peter was like a rolling stone in his human nature; in one place today and the next day in another place. In spite of that, in Christ he was apostle and an elder according to Scripture.

It’s interesting that only two times does Jesus directly address him and call him Peter (the name Jesus placed on him). In the original language ‘Peter’ can take on a couple references. One petra, a firm, immovable rock. Secondly, petros meaning a stone fragment of petra, a small stone that one could simply kick out of the way or throw as far as you could pitch it. In John 1:42, Jesus refers to Simon Peter, son of John, as Peter: Jesus looked upon him, and said, Thou art Simon the son of John: thou shall be called Cephas (Peter). Only one other time in Luke 22:31-34 does Jesus refer to him as Peter. Jesus addressed the disciple as Simon when referring to Simon’s human nature, Simon’s weaknesses, and then called him Peter when Jesus was identifying him as a Christ-inspired apostle. ‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not… And he said unto him, Lord, with thee I am ready to go both to prison and to death. And he (Jesus) said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, until thou shall thrice deny that thou know me.’ As Simon, Jesus is reminding Peter, referring to him, as the fisherman before his calling. Then again calling him Peter to establish Jesus’ call and name change. (Simon also addressed in Mark 14:37, John 4:17)

An interesting conversation takes place between Jesus and Peter in Matthew 16:15-18. Jesus asked Simon, ‘But, who do you say I am?’ Simon’s answer to that question changed Simon forever. In Matthew 16:17-18, Jesus addressed him as Simon Bar-Jonah (man), blessing him: ‘Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.’ What Jesus had heard Simon say caused Jesus to re-reference Simon Bar-Jonah as Peter. What was the statement by Simon that caused Jesus to do that?–‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ In some sense, what changed Simon to Peter, into who he was in Christ, can also create who you and I are into who we are in Christ. When we say and believe the same thing that Peter said, we become a new person in Christ. We walk in the knowledge of a new identity, which reveals to us what Jesus believes about us.

That’s where we’re at today. What are we going to say to that simple question by Jesus? What are we about to say in the middle of the stress and uncertainty of today? The Gospel is Jesus Christ; Jesus is the Truth/Way. The Gospel wants to change our minds from what the culture’s vision of us is to one that Jesus prescribes. Simply, the world is okay with you being evil or good but opposed to you being like Jesus.

I had a conversation with a friend the other day who had been asked a question that was a very serious, very sincere question. No need to go into the details but it was a question that required the total understanding of the God of Abraham. She was asking me what my response might have been to that question. My first statement was I really don’t think we can get to the point of understanding all about God, His creation, His purposes or have complete knowledge of all the whys. Isaiah 55:8 states that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; His ways are not our ways. Thoughts there refer to God’s plans and His ways is referencing the road we travel. I’m not sure that that’s what we’re called do-to understand all things. I don’t think the motto on Heaven’s ‘coin’ will say: I understand, now I can believe. More likely it would read: I believe even if I don’t understand. We’re scripturally described as only knowing in part, with God knowing all. Do you think when Simon Peter made the quote above that he completely understood what was going to be happening in the next few moments and days? To me it’s more likely that he simply knew Jesus, never completely understanding Jesus or what was about to happen to Jesus. One of my favorite Jesus quotes is found in Mark 16:7. There a risen Jesus specifically mentioned Peter by name (the one who had denied him three times) to be told of His resurrection. That was compassion for Simon Peter’s weaknesses.

In Acts 3:14-15, Acts 5:31, Hebrews 2:9 and Hebrews 12:2, one Greek word is translated four different ways: Prince of Life, Prince and Savior, Captain, and Author and Finisher; bottom line in all four references: leader. Jesus leads us to Life, Victory and Triumph. We have to remember that fact whether we understand all things or not. Is Faith and Believing based on proof or based on embracing trust? The world we live in is tough, unjust and swarming with evil hearts. However, the Gospel (the good news about Jesus Christ) came to provide comfort and peace in the middle of all those things. I like the words given in Isaiah 33:12-13: ‘For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing; and all the trees of the fields shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree; and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle-tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.’ That scripture doesn’t say there will be no thorns or briars; it simply states that, by the Lord, trouble can be turned around.

Historically, all the disciples died without changing their confession. With all the issues we deal with today, will we say what Peter said: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Just as with Peter, it has the potential to change our lives.

Posted on by Laura Posted in Uncategorized

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