The Hope of Renewal

Warm sunshine beckoned to me today, after what seems like weeks and weeks of chilly, rainy weather. I picked up my camera—a DSLR Canon Rebel T5 that I need to teach my amateur photographer self more about using—and enjoyed a short hike along a river’s edge.

moss on a tree trunk

river seen through a hole in a log

forested riverbanks

When I hike, I like to look around me, try to really see what I’m passing by. I always marvel at what God has made, at what beauty this creation has—and what we see is creation in bondage. God’s word tells us that

creation was subjected to frustration … in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:20-22, NIV).

Can you imagine what creation will look like when it is free from the bondage of sin?

bud on a tree

blossoms on a treemossy tree trunk in front of a river

As I looked at the trees today—especially those that towered above the rest and reached high into the sky—two fanciful thoughts came to me. (I’m not normally prone to fanciful thoughts, so indulge me for a moment.) First, the leaves at the top branches looked like feathers from where I was, feathers caressing the sky. Second—and my favorite thought—I wondered if, perhaps, trees grow tall into the sky hoping to reach back into heaven, to grow a bit closer to their creator. There is nothing biblical about that thought, but the great thing is that our creator has also given us imaginations. I don’t think he minds when we imagine trees reaching out to their creator when he himself told us that if we don’t praise him, the rocks will do it (Luke 19:40).

graffiti on a sanitation cover in a foresta bruised reed he will not breakdandelion puff-ball

The beauty of God’s creation, even in its state of decay and bondage, is that it can still testify to us about him, about who our creator is (Romans 1:20). I saw the reeds* depicted above and the following verse came to mind:

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. (Isaiah 42:3-4, NIV)

The creator establishes beauty, cares for it tenderly, and will restore it in the end. All we need to do is look around us to see the evidence of this hope. I am so grateful for this world we live in, broken though it is.

*Forgive me if this isn’t a reed—I’m no botanist, but I do see beauty in even the broken things!

A Way Forward

Earlier this week, my son was using YouVersion’s Bible App for Kids on my phone. As he was watching the Bible stories and playing with the interactive animation and quizzes they offer in the app, I was listening. The story was that of Jesus in the upper room with his disciples, telling them that he would be leaving them soon, telling Peter that no, you will not follow me anywhere, and you will not die for me—not immediately. Not tonight.

Tonight, you will deny that you even know me. Not once, but three times.

Still, Jesus led his disciples out of the upper room and went to the cross.

It must have hurt Jesus, this betrayal. The betrayal by Judas should have been enough; one of the people he had taken in, shared his heart with, was about to hand him over to be killed and Jesus knew it. But I think the betrayal by Peter had to hurt just as much, if not more. Peter was the passionate, impulsive, outspoken one who was always quick, eager, and earnest in his responses to Jesus’ queries. Peter didn’t hesitate to profess his love and loyalty to Jesus, yet that is exactly what he would do in the moments when Jesus was facing the hardest moments of his life. “I don’t know the man!” Not once, but three times.

What struck me the most, though, knowing the story well, was not the betrayal itself. It was the knowledge that, knowing what was to come, Jesus still offered his love and life for Peter, still provided restoration for him so he could move forward and be effective in the kingdom of God. Jesus knew what Peter would need—not only to believe, but to be able to forgive himself—and so, when it was all over, he offered that, too. Jesus allowed Peter to profess his love for him three times, to “erase” the three denials with more emphatic, painstakingly heartfelt professions of love.

What amazed me was realizing that, knowing all I would do and say in this life that would hurt him, Jesus still offered his love and life for me. And he planned, even then, to restore me, to make it possible for me to move forward and bear fruit, more fruit, much fruit (John 15:4-8).

Echoes of this message rang throughout my weekend, from a verse in a worship song* to a powerful reading of Jesus’ last words to his disciples at church—so many echoes that I knew this message must not be for only me, but was one I had to share. Jesus knows you better than you know yourself. He knows everything you have done, everything you will do, and still he chose to love you enough to lay down his life for you. He loves you enough to provide whatever you need to restore your relationship with him, your fellowship with him, and help you move forward so you can serve him, love him, and glorify him.

He loves me like that, too.

*The worship song that most spoke to me was Who Can Compare To You by Bethel, especially this verse:

I am undone
For you see all there was and all that will be
Yet you’ve set your vast affection upon me
By your voice the world was made
And still you called my name