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Review: “The Gospel According to Larry”

Well, the local library remains closed, so today we’re raiding my husband’s books again! This time, we’re analyzing a Young Adult Fiction book he had to read in high school. I stumbled across the curiously titled The Gospel According to Larry and had to figure out why a private Christian school would assign this book. Let’s look at faith and philosophy in The Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian.

“The Gospel According to Larry” by Janet Tashjian

First and foremost, I really liked Tashjian’s structure for the book. She wrote it as if the main character, Josh, had authored the book, and she merely published it. As part of Josh’s highly intellectual character, the book follows Chicago style formatting with footnotes and designated “parts” rather than numbered chapters. Honestly, the footnotes create some of the funniest moments in this book. (The Princess Bride uses this same author/note structure for humor, and it’s one of my favorites.) Because Josh excels in academics, the first person perspective still reflects Tashjian’s knowledge of writing craft. Every detail matters, words aren’t wasted, and tension ratchets higher than I ever expected.

Unfortunately, that’s about where my love of The Gospel According to Larry ends. I’ll be honest, this book reminded me why I don’t like the Young Adult genre. (Must all YA books reference sex every couple of chapters?) However, I’ll chalk that up to hormones and not fault Tashjian for including the subject that occupies the minds of many high schoolers. (Note: many, not all.) I had several friends in high school who, if they didn’t entirely match Josh’s description, definitely leaned that direction. So, Tashjian very accurately reflected how many students with high IQs responded to high school society.

Faith and Philosophy

Perhaps philosophy influenced why I felt so many mixed emotions reading The Gospel According to Larry. I just don’t hold as strictly anti-consumerist views as Josh perpetuated. Admittedly, Tashjian shows Josh learn how fighting against advertising destroyed the livelihoods of hard-working people, including his step-father. While I liked the lesson Josh ultimately learns, I really struggled reading through his blazing “sermons” on consumerism and celebrity worship. (Especially when they were passive-aggressive jabs at his best friend.)

Faith in The Gospel According to Larry conflicted me even more. Each part of the book begins with a verse from one of the Gospels referencing Jesus as Messiah or His teachings. However, Josh really leans towards Hindu or Native American religions if he embraces religion at all. He prays to his dead mother and seeks signs from her. He reads Thoreau as if it were his holy book. On the one hand, I admired how Tashjian pulled the best teachings from multiple genres to create a compassionate philosophy. However, linking Josh to the terms “Messiah” and “Gospel” really bothered me. It felt like it diminished my Christian beliefs while promoting faithless philosophy.

Since I threw my husband’s education under the bus at the beginning of the post, I have to add that I admire his school for assigning The Gospel According to Larry. As a Christian, this book challenges me to think through my beliefs and how they relate to the real world. Providing a space to critically analyze their beliefs at an early age prepares students for when they face antagonistic philosophies later in life. All of that said, I would recommend students read this book if they have a wise mentor to help them process their thoughts and feelings. Without someone to discuss the book with, I fear the struggle and confusion the book could cause some students.

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Obedience and Love: Peter in Acts 10

Is it cheating to use our church’s preschool curriculum as inspiration for my blog posts? I figure that I’m already spending a couple hours a week studying a passage of Scripture to teach it to small children, so I might as well share my discoveries on here for adults. That brings us to the story of Peter in Acts 10. (Because Lifeway doesn’t want to go in order, apparently.) Between angels and visions, God sends Peter to a family of Gentiles in a story full of obedience and love.

The Passage

About noon the following day as [Cornelius’ servants] were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

The voice spoke to him a second time. “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

Acts 10:9-16 NIV

While Peter was still speaking [about Jesus,] the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Acts 10:44-48 NIV

Peter in Acts 10

I have two things to say about Peter in this first passage. First, I imagine I would be dumb-founded by a sheet of animals falling from heaven, too. I would immediately worry about hallucinations and the state of my mental health. Which leads me to my second observation. Peter’s consistent; he needed to hear things three times to actually absorb the information. But then, if I worried about my mental stability as the vision occurred, it would probably take me at least three times to hear God, too. All in all, I really love that we get this glimpse of Peter’s confusion and humanity right after he miraculously healed a paralytic and a dead woman in Acts 9.

Obedience and Love

In addition to Peter’s overwhelming trance, God gave him commands that completely shattered Peter’s expectations. Peter believed that Jesus came for the Jews. As a Christian, he still followed all the Jewish rules he grew up with. He avoided gathering with non-Jews per the Jewish Law (see Acts 10:23-29.) Yet, when God called Peter to alter his beliefs, Peter obeyed. He acknowledged God’s signs that Jesus came to save all people, regardless of their background. Because Peter obeyed, God’s great love spread to the whole world.

God broke down prejudices when He sent Peter to visit Cornelius. He showed that He loves all the people on earth. His followers no longer distinguished themselves by the rules they followed. Instead, they united over a common faith in a good, powerful God. Like Peter in Acts 10, let’s pray and confidently go forward in obedience and love so everyone can know that Jesus came to save them.

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Review: “If I Never Ever Endeavor” by Holly Meade

With my local library restricted to “curbside pick-up” options, I’ve turned to raiding my husband’s book collection. (I’m still a bit wary of the germs accumulating on library books. When I volunteered right before the shutdown, the librarian warned me of the sticky, goopy messes I would find when reshelving books. I’m not sure I want to know what’s been added because of this virus.) So, I found the beautifully-covered book If I Never Ever Endeavor by Holly Meade on our shelves.

“If I Never Ever Endeavor”

First and foremost, Holly Meade‘s illustrations leap off the page. The layered texture shows up so clearly that I kept touching the pages to feel the bird’s wings. Even the watercolor sky added so much depth to the images. In fact, the watercolor swathes often reflected the bird’s feelings and expectations. Truly, Meade excels at art.

That said, the quality of illustration far surpasses the quality of writing. While I love the premise of the book, the language was often so disjointed and the rhythm so inconsistent that I had a hard time following along. Honestly, I felt like I was reading a tongue twister. Several passages sang and flowed with rhyme, but the following passages dropped like a dud. Of course, the challenge of finding multiple rhyming words with a bird theme affected the flow. I think in trying to keep the story original, Meade used a convoluted structure to overcome any repetitive rhymes. It didn’t destroy the story, but it did take away from the book’s readability.

Working Through Fear

What the book lacks in structure, it makes up for in heart. The little bird’s struggle to fly reflects a very human fear of change, failure, and rejection. I love the pages at the climax of the book when the bird decides to try flying. The bird doesn’t instantly swoop into the air like a superhero. Instead, the bird plummets. He struggles at first, but he keeps on flapping. That perseverance ultimately gets the bird flying.

While I might have revised the structure and rhyme scheme of If I Never Ever Endeavor, I see myself reading this book to my future children one day. The book will help me encourage them to try new things. It will give me the opportunity to remind my children that God protects them. God won’t always keep them from failing, but He will support them and lift them back up when they fall.

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A Way Out: Hope in Acts 16

We’re working through Acts and the ministry of Paul for our preschoolers at church. I have to admit, the lessons taught by the preschool teachers often inspire me more than the sermons preached for the main service. In preparation for this week’s lesson, I reviewed Acts 16 and stumbled upon the account of Paul and Silas in jail. The jailer’s story always struck me, so let’s look at how the jailer finds a way out and gains hope in Acts 16.

The Passage

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailor woke up, and when he saw the prison doors were open, he drew his sword to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole household.

Acts 16:25-34 NIV

Hope in Acts 16

To be honest, I feel absolutely inadequate to speak on the issue of suicide. How do I distill such a complex, highly personal, and deeply emotional concern into a 500 word blog post? I’ve tried before, and I really don’t think it can be done. Yet, the weight of it prompts me to speak anyway, so here goes.

We find the jailer sleeping through the night shift when an earthquake shook open the jail. The jailer believed all the prisoners had fled. At the least, he imagined he would lose his job, and at worst, he imagined his execution. Faced with all hopeless options, the jailer decided to take his own life. At least, that was his plan until Paul yelled from the inner cell.

The jailer asked Paul to explain the Gospel, Paul obliged, and the jailer’s family converted to Christianity. It seems that Paul’s message of Jesus’ resurrection gave the jailer a way out from his fear and pain. Thankfully so! Unfortunately, belief in Jesus doesn’t take suicidal thoughts away from everyone. Suicide and suicidal ideation finds roots in everything from genetics to inflammation. Treatment can require more than a declaration of belief.

A Way Out

I prayed for a year for God to remove me from an unhealthy workplace. Every door that seemed to open later slammed in my face. I watched four employees who had only worked at the office for a few months move on to better positions while I still waited for a job in my dream writing field. My belief that God would provide a way out cycled with my fear that I would be stuck in the stressful position forever. After a year, the feeling of being trapped won out. The thoughts racing through my head scared me to death.

I accepted Jesus into my heart at 5 years old, so faith wasn’t holding back my mental health. I found a way out by seeking additional counseling and psychiatric help. Thankfully, I was able to remove myself from the unhealthy work environment and recover from home. I’ll be honest, God still hasn’t dropped a writing job out of the sky for me. He led me in directions with childcare and children’s literature that I never imagined for myself and that I now love.

Perhaps you relate to the jailer, and faith in a loving God would provide your way out. Maybe you’ve believed in God for a long time, but you don’t see a way out of your current situation. Or possibly neither scenario reflects your journey, and you just feel stuck. Please seek counsel that encourages you to keep trying (the National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255, and they offer texting). There is a way out, and it’s probably a path you never expected.

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Review: “Helen Keller: Courage in the Dark”

I’m not sure whether my fascination with Helen Keller came from reading about her or seeing the museum first. My mother would have to confirm for me. Just knowing that Helen Keller grew up a town over from my parents sparked my interest. I read Helen Keller: Courage in the Dark by Johanna Hurwitz so many times that I practically had it memorized. Almost twenty years later, I want to see how Hurwitz’ book could combine with faith to inspire young readers.

The Helen Keller Museum

I don’t remember how old I was when my grandmother took me to the Helen Keller festival one summer. She drove me to a big, grassy field with a two-story house and side building. We walked through the house with its creaky wood floors. The sinking sun colored the rooms gold. We peered through the windows of the small side building where colorful wooden toys covered the ground. We meandered by the black iron water pump to chairs that faced the back of the main house. We watched a reenactment of Helen Keller’s early life, and I learned how to spell water in sign language.

Seeing Helen Keller’s home in real life inspired me to learn as much as I could about her. I loved reading and reading about all Helen learned and accomplished in her life. I imagine her writing abilities piqued my interest, too, since I always loved telling stories. Even now, reading Helen Keller: Courage in the Dark reminds me of all we can accomplish with hard work. The growth certainly comes with its challenges, but things I believed to be possible at 6 don’t have to be impossible now. The book truly inspires hope, which blends wonderfully with faith.

Faith in “Helen Keller: Courage in the Dark”

Just because early readers use simple language doesn’t mean that the concepts can’t be complex. In Helen Keller: Courage in the Dark, Hurwitz shows young readers the challenges Helen Keller faced as a blind and deaf young woman. Even thought the sentence structure repeats and the language is basic, Hurwitz beautifully chooses details that young readers can relate to. This way, the readers put themselves in Helen Keller’s shoes and learn compassion.

I also love that at the end of chapter 2, Hurwitz adds that Annie Sullivan considered Helen’s quick learning a “miracle.” Considering the time and place, Annie Sullivan’s statement probably was religious. Hurwitz blends it into the story seamlessly by showing how Helen’s behavior changed. Readers understand why Sullivan called it a miracle because they saw for themselves how different Helen’s life became.

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“You Are the God Who Sees Me,” Genesis 16

I think we all struggle with feeling alone at some point or other. If nothing else, this quarantine we’ve been living under has certainly highlighted loneliness. Even introverts like me who thrive on days at home, pet snuggles, and warm blankets battle that emotional hurdle of loneliness. I imagine we all know the feeling of being alone in a room full of people. That’s why I love Hagar’s declaration of God. In Genesis 16:13, she names Him “You are the God who sees me.”

The Passage

So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.”

“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think is best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

The angel of the LORD also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man: his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

Genesis 16:3-13 NIV

Hagar

I have to confess, this passage makes me greatly dislike Sarah (or Sarai at this point.) I know, God uses her to be the mother of His people. Sure, she endured a ridiculous amount pretending to be Abraham’s “sister.” Miraculously, she did give birth at nearly 100 years old. Most importantly, I know that I sin just as much as she did. I just want to slap her for how she treats Hagar.

Hagar did not have a choice in bearing Abraham’s son. Then, the very mistress who concocted the plan starts mistreating her. (Jealous much, Sarai?) The situation worsened to the point that Hagar ran away. Despite the horribly messy situation, God showed up.

“You are the God who sees me”

God knew Hagar’s Egyptian heritage. He knew her slave status, and He knew that she ran away. Yet, God sent an angel to find her in the desert. He comforted Hagar and prophesied a hopeful future. God didn’t leave Hagar despairing and vulnerable in the desert. Yes, He did tell her to return to Abraham’s camp, but that command protected her from the dangers of wandering the desert alone.

I doubt many of us encountered an angel as we hid in the desert from our rude mistresses. Yet, Hagar’s name for God holds true for us, too. “You are the God who sees me.” God sees us in our pain and fear and anger. He sees our joy and hope and excitement. God doesn’t run from any of it because He is just that amazingly powerful. If God doesn’t run from it, we can face it head on because “You are the God who sees me.”

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Review: “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

In honor of my brother’s birthday, we’re taking a brief break from children’s literature. (I mainly made this decision because I thought I owned The Lightning Thief and I don’t… Whoops!) So instead of looking at the books my brother and I read together as kids, we’re discussing my brother’s favorite grown-up book. How does faith mesh with the American Dream? Time to talk about glamour, green lights, and The Great Gatsby!

Glamour and Green Lights

To be honest, I’ve written so many literary analyses of The Great Gatsby in my life that I could bang my head against the wall. I think that’s why I enjoy bantering with my brother about “old sport” and “boats against the current” so much. After all, the book’s final line is one of the top two Greatest Last Lines of All Time. (I mean, Winnie the Pooh poses tough competition.) As an English major, I love having a book to discuss with my non-reading brother. (When my brother was seven, he told my mom that he didn’t need to know how to read. He was going to be a major league baseball catcher, and he knew enough to read road signs. My mom brilliantly told him that he had to learn to read his baseball contracts. My quick-witted brother didn’t really have any comebacks after that.)

As an aspiring entrepreneur, my brother finds the book’s discussion of the American Dream very interesting. (Of course, he wants to do everything the legal way. None of us want him to wind up dead in a swimming pool.) While the glitz of the rich holds universal appeal, the pitfalls the book portrays help us analyze making money ethically.

Faith in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I can’t say that F. Scott Fitzgerald put any faith-based values in The Great Gatsby. Truthfully, every character behaves corruptly regardless of their social status. Nick holds the most morals of the entire book, and he ultimately flees back to the boring mid-west where he grew up. However, the blatant corruption doesn’t mean the book holds no value to Christians.

While we may not want to emulate the characters in The Great Gatsby, we can certainly learn from their mistakes. Rather than amassing wealth for meaningless grandeur, we can use the fruits of our hard work to help others in need. Instead of seeking extra-marital relationships, we can encourage our family and friends to grow in God’s love. Unlike the cold pomposity of East Egg, we can care about the struggles and joys of our fellow humans because God made them. Truly, Fitzgerald so eloquently portrays corruption that it is easy to learn what not to do.

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Confidence to Speak: Peter in Acts

I’ve noticed a theme appearing lately in conversations with my friends. For some, this time of quarantine has grown my friends’ confidence to speak and move forward God’s kingdom. For others, this quarantine makes their need for confidence more apparent. It reminded me of Peter. We saw how Peter’s rash and impetuous nature changed after Jesus’ resurrection. After looking at Acts, I noticed that Peter’s redemption gave him confidence to speak.

The Passage

Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city… They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”

Acts 1:12, 14-17 NIV

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest of each one of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them…

Amazed and perplexed, [the Jews] asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel…”

Acts 2:1-4, 12-16 NIV

Confidence to Speak

If you flip back one page to the end of John, you will read an intense conversation between Peter and Jesus after the resurrection. (Granted, different people authored John and Acts, but I find the canonical juxtaposition interesting.) Peter responds in frustration to the point of anger when Jesus asks if Peter loves him. Basically, Jesus calls out and restores Peter all at the same time. This conversation seems to deeply impact Peter’s trajectory in life.

Back in the first chapter of Acts, we find the disciples anxiously waiting for God’s next directions. They pray and fellowship until Peter stands up in a moment of clarity. He points out how Judas’ actions fulfilled prophecy. Then, he directs the believers to appoint a new apostle. A few days later, the miracle at Pentecost came. It stirred up a big old ruckus with rumors flying. Who stands up to address the crowds? Peter does, and he makes sure everyone can hear him, too.

I hope you find comfort in Peter’s transformation. Peter continued to grow as the early church spread. Yet, Peter’s actions in the beginning of Acts shows us how believing in God’s power gave Peter the confidence to speak. Peter outright denied Jesus before the crucifixion. In spite of that, God gifts Peter with the wisdom and the confidence to lead His church. I can’t think of a greater mercy and love than that.

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Review: “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders remains one of the most popular books for young adults despite being written in the mid-1960s. I recall my 8th grade study hall talking loudly about the book before we settled into our homework. Even my husband kept his copy of the book with Sharpie arrows on every few pages. Bearing in mind the harsh reality S.E. Hinton describes, I had to reread The Outsiders and see how the values jive with faith.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

One of The Outsiders strongest qualities is its unflinching depiction of reality. I cried for the last 80 pages of the 180 page book because I felt completely immersed in Ponyboy’s world. Because we walk in Ponyboy’s shoes as we read, we see the beauty and strength hidden in gangs and switchblades. This group of young men with various rough backgrounds came together as a family. Their main concern was protecting and providing for the other members of their gang.

We also learn of our common humanity along with Ponyboy. In a conversation with the Soc Cherry, Ponyboy says, “‘That’s why we’re separated,’ I said. ‘It’s not money, it’s feeling – you don’t feel anything and we feel too violently,'” (p 38). We see the good and the bad of both sides. As Ponyboy explains towards the end, it came down to the person. Boys from the ‘wrong’ side of the tracks saved people, and boys from the ‘good’ side of the tracks jumped innocent passerby. The mature understanding of humanity Ponyboy gains ultimately fulfills Johnny’s advice to “Stay gold, Ponyboy,” (p 148).

Hiding in Church

Ponyboy tells us that he and Johnny used to go to church consistently. That stopped when they brought other Greasers with them who couldn’t sit still and caused a scene. Yet, in their time of trouble, Ponyboy and Johnny wind up back in a church.

Hinton doesn’t expressly bring faith into the story. Nobody runs around quoting scripture. A preacher doesn’t convert all the gangs into perfect, law-abiding citizens who never fight. And honestly, the book is better for it. The book would feel deceptive if these tough, complex characters suddenly turned into religious robots. Instead, the Greasers and the Socs grow in empathy and understanding. We see the personal aspect of faith reflected in how each person responds to death. God lovingly created each human being with their own strengths, weaknesses, trials, and temptations. Hinton does an excellent job recording it.

Hinton, S. E. The Outsiders. New York: Penguin Books, 1967.

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2 Peter 3: Encouragement During Stress

We looked at Peter’s response to Passover and Easter the past two weeks. I wanted to continue the Peter theme, so I opened the letters he wrote for inspiration. I was surprised to find several passages that I didn’t remember. Peter recognized the struggles we face in this broken world and gives some wise advice. Let’s turn to 2 Peter 3 for some encouragement during stress.

The Passage: 2 Peter 3

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgement and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:3-9 NIV

Encouragement during Stress from 2 Peter 3

First off, I want to recognize that between the original authors and modern-day translators, Biblical text sure can get muddy. (Peter even addresses this in 2 Peter 3:15-16 because people misinterpreted Paul’s letters!) So let’s break down exactly what Peter means when he repeats “water” and “words.”

Water

Peter’s rather confusing “of water and by water” refers all the way back to Genesis when God created the earth. In Genesis 1:6-10, we see God separate the sky from the earth, which the Bible explains using the term “water.” On the next day, He grouped all the literal water on the earth into “seas” so that dry ground appeared. Peter then references the flood account from Genesis 6:9-22. God punished the water-formed earth by sending a flood to kill everything. Only the faithful Noah and a select group of animals survived the flood in an ark God taught Noah to build.

Words

Peter’s first reference to “word” points to Genesis 1 where God spoke the world into being. (I haven’t met an English major who doesn’t love the power of words in this account, regardless of their belief in its scientific accuracy.) Peter goes on to connect God’s word with His mercy and judgement. Because justice characterizes God, He ultimately must judge evil as He did in the flood account. However, in His mercy, His word holds back the judgement we deserve until the time He decides.

Peter reminds us of God’s power by showing us how God created, judged, and maintained Earth. Yet, Peter doesn’t leave us with this image of an almighty, wrathful God. Instead, Peter points us to God’ loving patience. He reminds us that God holds back His judgement for our benefit.

In Light of A Virus

2 Peter 3 shows us that God holds ultimate control over the happenings of Earth. We very well may not understand God’s permissions or His timing. Instead, we remember God’s goodness and faithfulness. The early church did not know why Jesus still waited in Heaven. They expected His arrival yesterday. That same tension hits us today as we continue to face a complete upheaval of life as we expected it. Thankfully, the same powerful God of the early church draws us to Himself today.