Friday, January 27, 2017

God of Truth and Life (1 Peter 1:23-25)

“for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.” And this is the word which was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:23–25, NASB95)

Oh, how quickly things change. This past week has been an interesting time in our country as we experienced a peaceful transition of power on a national stage while some of our politicians refused to participate. As the new President started his work, things which the previous President signed into place by executive order were changed by new order, and now we are awaiting the approval of new Cabinet members so that our Executive branch of government can once again go about its own work.

And, away from the Capital buildings and the workings of the President and Congress, there has been large unrest in the streets ranging from outright anarchy to large marches. All of this has garnered media attention where disagreement with the people’s elected choice for a new direction has been voiced. It is yet to be seen how much coverage another march going on today will receive as the annual March for Life is underway. This march is not violent or harsh in its words or actions, but is one that continues from year to year pleading for our country to return to a culture of life. What a stark contrast it has been this week as one march celebrated death through abortion and the other life through protecting that of countless preborn children. Life and death are on the stage before us this week, and on both sides are people who are strongly convicted.

The ways of man are always temporary and subject to change and perishing. This is true in our societal structures and values just as it is true in very physical lives. Just as one day we might be able to take a long hike the next we might suffer a fall and be unable to walk, so it is that peoples change in what they hold dear. The reality is that everything we see has a life to it, and then it perishes. This is the way of fallen man in a fallen world. It is all temporary.

In these verses, Peter quotes the prophet Isaiah from whom we read, “A voice says, “Call out.” Then he answered, “What shall I call out?” All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:6–8, NASB95) In the next few verses Isaiah would tell the people to go up on the mountain and proclaim their great God. He is the One who does not change and He is the One who has power to establish forever. In verses 28-31 we continue to read, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:28–31, NASB95)

Sure, we live in bodies that fail, but living in us is our God Who never fails. He is our strength, and it is Him who enables us to serve Him and love others fervently or earnestly (1 Peter 1:22). We may be born of human seed, and we all know that short of Christ coming first these bodies will fail and perish. But, for those of us who have trusted Christ for their salvation we have the certain assurance that all that we are is not all that we see. We have been made spiritually alive in Christ, and even now we are enlivened by His Spirit.

This truth is incredibly important not only for us to remember, but to rest in as things around us seem, at times, to be spinning out of control. God never changes and His ways are firmly established. He does not grow weary and His Spirit strengthens us for difficult days. All Christians are made alive in Christ, and our eternity is settled once and for all. There is nothing in this life that can affect this.

But until the time that He brings each of us into His presence, He has called us to live as lights in the presence of others. We have the Light of life in us. We have the truth of His Word, and it is His unchanging truth that is to direct our steps and to come from our mouths. “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”” (John 8:12, NASB95)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Love as We’ve Been Loved (1 Peter 1:22)

“Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,” (1 Peter 1:22, NASB95)

Purified has the meaning of cleansing oneself. Speaking of the Jews, it was the process that they would undergo before entering the temple. We read of the apostle Paul in Acts 21:26, “Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them.” (Acts 21:26, NASB95) Paul had just spent a great deal of time among the Gentiles, and was considered by the Jews to be ceremonially unclean. Prior to entering the temple and offering a sacrifice, he needed to go through a purification or ritual water-based cleansing process. It was an outward sign that he was inwardly preparing to enter the temple where the intended sacrifice could be offered. For us as believers, we are to regularly evidence our faith by how we live. In 1 John 3:3 we read, “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:3, NASB95) Recognizing that none of us are clean apart from the perfect cleansing work of Christ in us who washed away our sins, we are to live according to who we are and so prove by our actions the work that He has done and is continuing to do in us.

Peter, here, says that we continually purify or cleanse ourselves in our lives according to the work done in us by the way we live, which is according to the truth which we have learned. We obey not because obedience saves us, but because obedience to what we have learned from the truth of God’s Word sets the course for how truly cleansed people are to live. Living according to who we are in Christ makes a difference in our lives. Obeying the truth we have learned from God evidences the purifying work done in us as we daily cleanse or purify ourselves as people set apart by Him. So far in 1 Peter we have looked at the Greek word “hagios” several times from various perspectives. Again, in this verse we find the Greek word “hÄ“gnikotes”, which is translated “having purified” or “since you have … purified”, has its roots in the same word, and as such, points to the same cleansing process. Because we have been made holy in Christ we are to live holy, cleansed, and set apart according to the truth of His Word.

The mark of that love lived out, as Peter writes here, is a sincere love of the brethren. This is what we have been cleansed for and it is how we are to evidence that cleansing as we daily set aside that which is unloving and purpose to love one another. Not only are we to purpose to love one another, we are to do it with great enthusiasm and commitment. Having stated the principle, Peter follows it with the command, “fervently love one another from the heart.” Just as our outward obedience does not save us, but proves what Christ has done in us, so are we to demonstrate in an outward way the love of Christ that we have come to know so personally in our own hearts and lives. What God does in us is to work its way into how we deal with others. Because of His great love being shown to us, we are to love from our hearts those who He has placed around us.

We are to do this “fervently” or “earnestly.” It is to be a priority, and something that we do with great enthusiasm and tenacity. I think we all are aware that we are not easy to love at times. It is precisely for this reason that we are reminded that we need to exert energy to accomplish it. Fervently has the meaning of doing without ceasing to the point that we are stretched in the process. We are to continually put forth the effort to love others because God put forth the effort to send His Son, giving Himself fully for us as the greatest sacrifice of love man can ever know. It is precisely because of what God has done for us that we are called to make the effort to demonstrate His love by loving others from the depths of our heart with the fullness of our energy.

Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35, NASB95)

There is a lot of emotional stress going around right now in the face of political changes and peoples’ ideas of what they hold close are being challenged. As those who belong to Christ we are instructed to continually hide the truth of God’s Word in our hearts and live according to the entirety of it. It is to be our guide, and from it we are to demonstrate the love of God though our love for others—particularly those of the faith as we build up and encourage one another in times of both challenge and opportunity.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Inauguration Day – Christ is Still in Charge

Anarchy: a state of disorder due to absence or nonrecognition of authority.

Is this what many in Congress and in education are teaching students today? Not all will celebrate the election and this is understandable, but our system continues to work and it works better than any other system in the world.

Our system, by design, is not intended to function based upon the popular vote but by electoral votes that spread the voice over the populated areas and those which are not so populated, giving a voice to the people of every State regardless of their size.

We have a new President today, and I am praying that he will excel in his position.

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2:1–2, NASB95)

We can do this always remembering, “For in Him [Christ] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him [Christ] you have been made complete, and He [Christ] is the head over all rule and authority;” (Colossians 2:9–10, NASB95)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

God’s Plan Hasn’t Changed (1 Peter 1:20-21)

“For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:20–21, NASB95)

As we are looking to swear in a new President, and the old one is taking his last actions before leaving, there has been a lot of focus on health care. The President on his way out was behind a plan that was unpopular to a significant percentage of our population, and now that costs seem to be rising and other issues remain on the surface, the intensity of the objection has grown. Now, the new President has promised to put in place a new plan, but many of the details are yet to be seen. Regardless of the plan, it is highly likely that just as the previous plan was not approved by the minority in place at the time, so will the new plan likely not receive approval from the new minority as roles have changed. All of this seems to emphasize just how temporary the plans and ideas of man really can be. When our plans are subject to things beyond our control, or are in conflict with the plans of others, we realize just how powerless we are in so many areas of our lives.

Eternally speaking we have already been reminded that our salvation is not a plan of our own making, nor was it a means something that we could provide. We are saved by the grace of God through the action of the Son by the work of the Spirit. Our salvation is from God and no one else.

Our salvation is also according to God’s perfect plan. It is not a result of God going back to the drawing board after realizing that a first one might have failed. We are reminded from this passage that our salvation, which is the focus of the previous verses, is according to the foreknowledge or foreordination of God. God knew our eventual condition before the condition ever developed, and He knew exactly what He was going to do about it. He knew all of this perfectly before the foundation of the earth, which means before man was ever created, placed in the garden, and sinned.

We looked at the Greek work “proginosko” earlier in this chapter. It encompasses not only the knowledge of all that will happen, but the perfect control over how it will all play out. He knew absolutely every detail before there was ever a detail, and He had the perfect answer before there was ever a need. In the passage it says “He was foreknown.” This is not speaking of Jesus as someone apart from God that God knew of, but it is speaking of God the Son’s incarnation to complete the plan for our salvation. Jesus was present in creation, and we read that all things were created by Him. But until His incarnation, leading to His death, burial, and resurrection we did not know Him in a personal way. It was in Jesus being fully God becoming fully man for us that we came to know Him and to then to know the Father more deeply.

We are in “these last times.” We are in the period between His birth and His coming again. We are in the time when Jesus has been shown to us and when we await being with Him for eternity. We are in the time when God’s plan was revealed in His Son and recorded for us in His Spirit-breathed Word. We know what He has done, and we are told to look forward with hope and even a level of understanding to what He will do.

And, as we read in these verses, He did this for us. He did it for our sake—for all who believe in His Son and who have the great hope of eternity set before us. The Father sent the Son to die, paying the price for our sins, and He raised Him from the dead for our sake. Now the Son has returned to glory and is glorified in His obedience to the will of the Father. Because of this we have a certain hope that God will keep His promise and bring us to Him.

In the midst of all of the turmoil surrounding us in our country this week, we have great hope because our future lies not in the hands of our President and our leadership, but in the perfectly known and carried out plan of our God. At the same time, we are instructed to pray for those in authority over us, submitting to them according to the authority given them by God.

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2:1–2, NASB95)

We can do this always remembering, “For in Him [Christ] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him {Christ] you have been made complete, and He [Christ] is the head over all rule and authority;” (Colossians 2:9–10, NASB95)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Remembering Who Paid the Price (1 Peter 1:17-19)

“If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” (1 Peter 1:17–19, NASB95)

There are so many people out there who think that everyone gets what they deserve, whether it be karma or the meted-out judgment of some works based god. There are also others who simply believe that we live and then we die with nothing else. For this later group, anything we do stands or falls entirely in this life as they deny any power outside of man himself. But Peter is not talking to any of these people. He is talking to those who know God as their Father. He is talking to believers—Christians. We are those who are saved not by any works that we have done, but by the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5–7, NASB95)

Yes, our God is impartial and He will judge impartially. But for believers this judgment is not for salvation, but for rewards that are given to those who are saved. We continue to read in verse 8 of Titus 3, “This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.” (Titus 3:8, NASB95) The teaching is consistent. We are not saved by our works, but we are saved for good works, and in Ephesians 2:10 we read that these very works were even prepared for us from beforehand. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, NASB95)

We just read in a previous verse (v. 13) that we are to be ready for action, and to think soberly, and to stay focused on our hope for eternity. Here Peter continues by encouraging us with the assurance that God will indeed see the works we do according to His power and He will recognize us appropriately. Our call is to know His grace, to walk with hope as we seek after Him, and serve Him with all that He gives us.

Jesus saved us by giving Himself. He lives and will bring us to Himself. He is infinitely God, and because of His work the Father will receive us, embrace us, and reward us with things that truly last. There will be no need to hook up a U-Haul to our hearse. When we step out of these bodies we leave everything behind and step into His very presence where He will deal with us in ways that never perish.

In times of persecution, suffering, loss, and enduring, and waiting it can be very easy to lose sight, to become overwhelmed by the immediate, and to become discouraged or disheartened. But God is faithful. He will bring us surely to His end and He will receive us. Why? Because we did not buy our ticket.

There is a link between works and salvation. But it is not our work that makes it possible. It is His work for us that is perfect and spotless. There is no fault or failing in Him, and because of Him our hope is sure. We did not earn our way. Jesus paid it all, and He has made us joint heirs for all of eternity. And, having paid our way, we are called to do His work in response. Passages like these are reminders that we are to keep the truth of salvation and works in the right order because of the righteous work of God our Father and the Son, Jesus Christ.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Identify with Your Identifier According to Your Identity (1 Peter 1:14-16)

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”” (1 Peter 1:14–16, NASB95)

Believers in the New Testament are referred to as “saints” in many of our translations. We see this repeatedly in Paul’s letters as well as others. It is used both as an introduction to a group of readers and a description of their identity. It is used to classify them as a special and unique people changed by God. In Ephesians 1:1 and 2 we read, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:1–2, NASB95) This letter was written to the saints who are in Ephesus and all others who would read or hear its content. His audience is described as “saints,” which is a descriptive term more than an accurate translation.

The Greek word translated “saints” is “hagios,” and it means “holy.” It refers to the nature of the individual as well as to his or her actions. We see this in verses 14 and 15 today, where we read in the English Standard Version, “but as [H]e who called you is holy [hagion], you also be holy [hagioi] in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy [hagioi], for I am holy [hagios].”” (1 Peter 1:15–16, ESV) Because of the work of Christ in us where His righteousness has been imputed (put upon us) we are identified as holy with our holy God and we are called to live in accordance with His character and our identity. We have been changed and we are called to live as changed people. It is for this reason that we read words such as those in verse 14 and 15, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior….” Prior to our salvation in Christ we had a different identity as those who were children of the devil and darkened in our spirits. In Christ, we have been made spiritually alive and adopted fully into the family of our new Father and His Son. As such we are to live in full accord with the children we have become.

We are to live obedient to our Heavenly Father. As His children, we are to live as obedient children. This means that we are also to stop living as children of the devil and the ways of the world. We have been given new life and we are called to live in the newness of that life. We are to set aside the desires which are separate from Him and desire after those things that reflect our new identity. When we did not know the ways of God we acted in ignorance, but as we come to know Him and His ways we are no longer ignorant and we are called to live as those who have been enlightened and enlivened by His Spirit in us.

Paul expanded on this in Ephesians chapter 4, where we read, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:17–24, ESV)

He said that these former ways are not how we learned Christ, and subsequently they do not reflect how we are to live now. We are to live in accordance with our new identity. This means that we are to purpose not to put on the old yucky clothes, but to dress daily in righteousness and holiness to reflect accurately our new self. This is how we have been created in the likeness of God and it is how we are to live on a daily basis. God is holy, He has made us holy in His Son, and He calls us to live as His holy children. He has given us our identity in Christ, and daily as we identity with His Son we are to live in accordance with how His Son lived before Him and us, and has called us to live rightly as His Spirit makes His Word alive to show the way and empowers us to walk in that way.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Resolved Living (1 Peter 1:13)

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13, NASB95)

In the past month and a half, I’ve sat down with this verse several times to think on and write about it. But, each time I went away having penned nothing while knowing that I indeed must heed its admonition. It can be very difficult to plan for action when you are uncertain of the action that needs to be taken or when you have been previously shaken or turned back by the ones that you have. Staying focused for the long haul without measurable progress can even become discouraging, and I must admit that I have struggled as my hopes have not been realized in the way that I have been longing.

As we walk before our incredible God we do so without the perfect knowledge of His intended outcomes. This can lead to seasons of extended waiting and even efforts that may not meet with our idea of success. At my home church, we have been working through the book of Ruth, which is an incredible example of a small family who set out on what they thought would result in the betterment of their family only to find that those hopes were dashed. It is in this record that we find the mom of the household (Naomi) returning to her home and her people without the husband and sons with whom she had left. Instead she returned with a daughter-in-law for whom she could not provide. It includes the record of the daughter-in-law (Ruth) taking the role of a widow and the poor by going into the fields to glean from the leavings for her and Naomi’s daily provision. And it includes the introduction of a well-placed landowner noticing her, being touched by her, and then making sure that she was taken care of. Then as we enter chapter 3, where we were last Sunday, a risky plan is devised by the mother-in-law to provide for the security for her beloved daughter-in-law. Without going forward in the verses that follow and seeing how the plan was resolved, we find Ruth responding to Naomi and her plan with these words, “All that you say I will do.” (Ruth 3:5, NASB95)

Neither of them knew what would happen. What they did know was that there was a plan with a hope, and Ruth purposed to do all that she had been told in order to see where the plan ultimately led. Because of her love for her mother-in-law and her trust in her God, Ruth chose to do just as she was instructed, and what would follow next is far beyond anything that either of them ever could have imagined. At the end of Sunday’s message two very special verses were put up on the screen for all to see as they appropriately pointed to the person would become the great-great grandmother of the man who penned them. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5–6, NASB95)

Proverbs 3:5-6 have been very special to Robin and I for a long time. My blog is titled “” because of the truths of these verses. When everything seems out of control, when there seems to be no clear direction, when my mind is racing trying to come up with answers I am reminded that God has it all under control. He knows what He is doing, and He will set the groove for my life. It is then up to me to seek after Him, trust in His leading while not becoming overwhelmed by the obstacles along the way, and trusting Him to bring me and my family just where He wants. It is important that I make this regular and persistent response to trust in Him and not lean on my own understanding that makes all of the difference in being able to persist when things get really tough and plans as I see then do not come to pass or are delayed well beyond my expectations. It is trusting Him that even allows me to adjust as His leading becomes more clear along the way. When things seem overwhelming it is this recognition of “But God” that makes all of the difference in standing and even continuing to take new steps.

Peter wrote that we are to “prepare our minds for action.” This means that we need to be constantly looking to God, hiding His Word in our hearts, and growing before Him regardless of how clearly we may see or not see the action ahead. To prepare our minds for action means that we are to continually be making ourselves ready for His use. We are not to sit back and wait, only to get ready when an opportunity arises.

He also said that we are to “keep sober in spirit” or “sober-minded.” Sober has the idea being self-controlled and not easily swayed by circumstances or obstacles. It means thinking clearly and not being intoxicated or deluded by other fancies, fears, or frustrations. And it means doing things right, not cutting corners or holding back. One commentator wrote, “The sober Christian is correctly in charge of his priorities and not intoxicated with the various allurements of the world” (MacArthur Study Bible). Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians, “so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.” (1 Thessalonians 5:6–8, NASB95) And then in 2 Timothy he wrote, “But you [Timothy], be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5, NASB95) Clearly things are not intended to be easy. What is intended is not that we see clearly, but that we trust God fully during these difficult and challenging days and even in the face of obstacles for which we see no quick or obvious resolution.

Lastly, in this verse, Peter wrote that we are to “fix [our] hope completely….” Maybe the most important part of this instruction our focus on the end. What we often see as the objective is not necessarily what God has in mind. It may not be about us holding on to achieve a desired or believed appropriate goal, but in fixing our hope on the real end which Peter wrote is “on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” For over four years we have been searching out God’s leading for me in ministry, and we’ve had many difficult days. There have been days when I have wanted to give up and walk away. There have been days when burdens of caring for and proving for my family have pressed in very powerfully, and honestly there have been days when I have questioned whether we listened rightly and set our course appropriately. On the days when my back aches standing in a cash register I begin to wonder if there is really reason to hope for anything different. All of this can ultimately become very disrupting to hope and faith when they become bigger than the end which we will all realize when we see our Lord face to face.

On the 7th I leave two decades of the F’s behind and enter the S’s. I don’t know what God has in store for 2017 or whether a church will be led by Him to call me as their next pastor. I don’t know what work lies ahead or what will come of the struggles. I do know that even as 2016 ended, God showed Himself through His people in incredible and loving ways. And, knowing His faithfulness while looking forward to the great hope He has given us for eternity I resolve to make the admonition of Peter my overarching objective for the future. “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”