Monday, July 31, 2017
I must apologize that this week's posts are slightly out of order....we began going verse-by-verse through I Peter last week, and I should have first given a brief overview so that we can familiarize ourselves with the themes we will find here.
I hope that you will bear with me, as my study times have become a bit erratic. My better half has experienced some issues with his back, and I'm juggling things here. Pray for me, please! (Grin)
Remember we talked last week about trials? Some verses in I Peter call these suffering. Let's use them interchangeably for now, OK?
You know how annoying it is when people try to talk about things they know nothing about? Some people are nice about it, and freely admit that they are making "shots in the dark." Others, however, are pretty arrogant. They think that their study and knowledge makes them experts, even though they have never experienced what we are going through -- and they drone on about how we should handle things. They give us all kinds of advice.
Peter, however, was not one of those people.
He knew exactly what he was talking about. You see, Peter has been there. Done that.
The historical and the Biblical records agree that Herod had already put James to death, and arrested Peter. His plans were to execute Peter, too. Remember the story of how Peter was delivered? When the angel of the Lord arrived at the prison, Peter was sleeping! I've always loved that -- oh, to have the peace that passes understanding, and allows one to sleep in the midst of trials!
I mean, come on, now......the "old" Peter would have been feverishly thinking of escape plans!
Am I right?
He would have been thinking about sawing through the bars of the cell, or picking the locks on his chains. He might have been planning to tunnel his way out.
Instead, this "new" Peter was sound asleep. He is not the same man that we read about in the gospel accounts.
This is completely consistent with Peter's teachings in his first letter to the church folks. Here is what he says about suffering and trials, in each of the five chapters that we Christians have divided up:
In chapter one, he says that suffering is the will of God, and that it purifies our faith, and brings glory to God.
In chapter two, Peter tells us that suffering for sin is no good at all, but innocent suffering is commended. He sets forth the example of Christ for us to study.
Chapter three may be difficult for us at first, because Peter says that suffering and trials are blessings! They can bless us in three ways: opening the door for us to witness, leading to the salvation of others, and being a path to glory.
The fourth chapter says that trials are an encouragement to us, for it happens when godless people are upset by the change in our lives, and the shadow it casts on their own behavior. He also tells us again that we should not be surprised by our trials, but rejoice in them. That may be a tall assignment, but we will get into it in the coming weeks!
He concludes his letter by saying in the fifth chapter that suffering and trials are the same the world over. That our experiences are similar to believers in the body of Christ, no matter what the geographical location. And he encourages us with the assertion that after our trials, we will enter into God's eternal glory; Peter says that God will confirm, strengthen, and establish us. (Wow, we could study that verse for a long time!)
Again, please bear with me for allowing this study to get a little off-track. Hopefully I will be able to keep up -- Lord willing and the creek "don't rise"!!
Friday, July 28, 2017
Thursday, July 27, 2017
Peter wrote such awesome letters! So full of things that help us each and every day. We talked yesterday about how this world is not our home. Today we'll see that Peter tells us of the hope that should encourage us to keep going:
(I Peter 1:3-5)Christians going through trials need hope. Our hope is not like worldly hope, though. Let me explain.... Worldly hope is uncertain. People hope the stock market investments they make will prosper. They hope that they will make it to the next gas station before they run out; they hope their favorite team will win. There's not much certainty there. (There's a lot of anxiety, though!) Biblical hope is certain, because it's backed up by our God, the Holy One Who cannot lie. We can be certain about the final outcome in our lives. We may not know exactly how all of the events in our lives will unfold -- we may not know about (and probably don't want to know ahead of time) all the twists and turns that life will take -- but we know for certain that good will win over evil. We know for sure that glory waits for us in heaven. That is biblical hope!
Why do we have this hope, living in this evil world?
Peter tells us, if we go back to the first two verses!
First, we have hope because we've been chosen by God. I think that Peter must have put this reason first, because he wanted to reassure us.
(Romans 9:16)Our relationship with God doesn't depend on our weak, mortal hands hanging on to our Lord. It depends on His sure grip on us! We did nothing to merit our salvation; it is God's doing. And since God is all powerful, and also a sovereign God, we can submit to Him in times of trouble, and we can have confidence in Him.
We also have hope because we have been saved by the triune God. God in three Persons....we sing about it, but who can really explain it? Peter assumed that his readers accepted the concept of the Trinity, and I think that's a pretty good way to be. He didn't try to explain it, or to defend it; Peter simply stated that we were chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father -- chosen also by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit -- so that we can obey Jesus Christ. Each Person has a role in our salvation, and we can have hope because of this.
Lastly, Peter says we can have hope because we enjoy God's grace and peace. We would have to think that for Peter, God's grace was such a motivating factor; he must have wanted to share this every day! He actually uses the word in every chapter of this book, which he wrote as a letter. That brash, impulsive Simon, that we met recently in our studies, had failed miserably on several occasions (and this gives me hope, for I fail so often!). Most terrible was the time that he denied the Lord. But he became Peter, who was wonderfully used by God! Peace is just the inner result of experiencing God's grace.
God gives His grace freely to us, too. He forgives our sins and then showers us with blessings that we don't deserve! And He promises that we will be with Him forever, in heaven. What a wonderful hope we have!
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
"This world is not my home, I'm just a-passing through...."
Remember that little song? There's a lot of truth there!
Let's refresh our memories of the first two verses in Peter's letter:
Peter was writing to believers who were scattered throughout the northern regions of what we now call Turkey. It's possible that these were members of small churches founded by converts from Pentecost when Peter preached -- they could have traveled home and spread the good news of the gospel in their home towns. They could have become Christians as a result of journeys to the area by Peter, or perhaps they were converted by Christians from nearby regions who heard Paul preach. (He was forbidden by the Spirit to go into Asia, and into Bithynia.)
It's also possible that these were believers who had left the larger church communities, especially that of Rome, because they hoped to escape the persecution they saw coming.
At any rate, Peter uses a Greek word, "diaspora," which means scattered. The scattered people of God were both Jewish and Gentile, because we see many references in Peter's letter to Old Testament passages; we also see references that point to Gentiles in chapters 1, 2, and 4.
Another interesting word that Peter uses is "aliens," or in some translations, "exiles." To some people, this conjures up images of creatures from other planets, with unusual skin colors and several antennae. (Grin) What Peter is talking about is that we are both foreigners and temporary residents of this world.
Have you ever traveled far from home? Perhaps to a country where the language and the customs were very different from your own? Probably the local people are just as interested in watching and listening to you, as you are in observing them -- so different! If we try to speak a language unfamiliar to us, we sound out of place; if we try to join them in their activities, we are awkward.
One of the words that Peter uses most is the Greek word, "anastrophe." He actually uses it six times in I Peter, and twice more in II Peter! And both of those are fairly short letters! It's only found five other times in the whole of the New Testament..... it means way of life, or behavior.
Here is the point that I believe Peter is trying to make.....as believers in Christ, our conduct and behavior should stand out in the same way that we would stand out if we visited a different country. As Christians, we don't belong to this world. Jesus prayed this:
So, let's make one thing clear, here. And I know that this goes against what some folks say. They think you need to talk like unbelievers and act like them, in order to bring them to the Lord. Nope! Peter clearly tells us that our behavior should be different from the residents of this world. Look over in chapter two....
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (I Peter 2:9)The King James says a "peculiar" people! But as the coach says, "Listen up!" That doesn't mean weird! It means distinct.
Let that sink in a minute. Believers should stick out like sore thumbs. We should stand out as Godly people in a corrupt, ungodly world!
But before someone misunderstands what we're talking about, let's make sure we are all on the same page....this doesn't mean that we are to become hermits, either! We aren't supposed to withdraw from the world, to shrink away from it, and to avoid it. How can we witness to others if that is the case? (Grin) Peter is telling us that we should live in the world and be commendable people. People of integrity, of such wonderful behavior and personality that we draw people to us, and they ask why we are different.
Remember up there where we said another meaning of "alien" was temporary residents? We're thinking pilgrims, not settlers. Our real home, our permanent home, is in heaven. There are several times in Peter's letter that he mentions "during our stay on earth," and "for a little while." This is especially comforting when we are suffering for our faith.
Oh, believer, do you look around you at wicked folks who seem to be doing really well? They seem to have lots of money, and they have a smile to go with their possessions.....let me tell you, that smile is probably pasted on, because wealth does not bring happiness! But I know, our human side looks at that and wonders, "Is it really worth it? I'm trying so hard to follow Christ...." But let's not lose sight of the fact that eternity is directly ahead of us. And though we may suffer, and the wicked may prosper for now, that day is coming when it will all be made right, just as our Savior promised!
Yep, we are travelers. Temporary residents. Here on earth.
And we are looking for that great day when Jesus Christ returns from heaven -- for us!
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
One of the wonderful (and I think one of the most important) things about being engaged in the lives of children is our opportunity to guide them to the Lord. Whether they are our own kids, our grandkids, or the neighbor's children, or children visiting at church, we have a responsibility to influence them for good.
They need love, unconditionally. They need humor, applied judiciously. They need guidance on the path that leads them to the Father.
One of the easiest and most natural ways to do all of this is to pray around them! Saying grace before we eat, saying a prayer at bedtime, even praying on the spur of the moment when the moment is right....all of these can be used by the Spirit.
If my ancient brain can remember to do so, I'd like to explore some of these in the coming weeks, whenever our prayer request day rolls around. (Grin)
It's never too early to pray over our kids or grandkids, or any children that we have relationships with. A prayer at bed-time can be the start of a sweet time in the evening, and start a habit that can last for years. A simple prayer asking God to bless mommy and daddy and child (and teddy bear and more) is a wonderful start to good prayer-time and interesting discussions. Some people think that children are un-affected and uninterested in these things, but I believe the opposite to be true! Even a sleepy-time song can impart thoughts of God's keeping and comfort.
Let's make sure that our families see (and hear) us praying. It's one of the most important things we can do!
Today is our prayer request day -- I hope if there is a burden on your heart that you will allow us to pray along with you. Likewise, if you have a praise for answered prayer that you can share with us, please feel free!
Monday, July 24, 2017
I am so stoked to start this study!
I find so much that helps me in this book.....I hope it will bless all of us as we study here.
We've studied Peter himself, a couple of weeks ago, and we saw that in spite of his flesh, or "natural man," and the characteristics that he showed, he became a wonderful witness for God, and a rock in the early church.
His letters have a wonderful simplicity and so much good advice..... he talks about suffering, about hope, and about maintaining our testimony in this world -- in short, being holy.
Let's dig in!
It puzzles me why some believers fall prey to the philosophy that it's God's will for all believers to always have health and wealth. God did not promise us a trouble-free life! I do understand, though, because I have been there, that it's awfully easy to slip when we undergo trials. So many examples that I've heard; some have faced intolerable marriages and fracturing families, but they bail out, "I have a right to be happy!" Some are facing illness or disability, and become bitter or complain. Others look back on their childhood and are angry, "What kind of God would let me suffer like I did?"
Understandable, but wrong. And I've been there, so I can say that. Many of us have a human view of suffering, and become bitter toward God. We are not in submission to Him -- we are oh, so vulnerable to temptation and to sin.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8)Others may submit, but it's a grudging sort of submission. More like being resigned to fate, instead of trusting our Father. They become depressed, and may even lose hope.
What we all need is hope and holiness. This world is not friendly to Christians many times. In fact, it is downright hostile, and some face persecution and death for their faith.
This is the same kind of situation that the readers of Peter's letter were dealing with. We shouldn't think that we are experiencing anything that others haven't already been hit with! The letter is addressed to Christians scattered around in what is now northern Turkey. Peter probably wrote the letter from Rome, because he uses a "code" word: Babylon. The timing? More than likely this was just before Nero's all-out-attacks on Christians in Rome, in 64 AD.
Talk about being in a pressure cooker! Christianity was a new faith; people looked sidewise at you if you said that you actually believed that Jesus came as God in human form, then died on a Roman cross and then lived again . . . In chapters two, three, and four we will see that believers were being slandered mightily, and in chapter four we'll see that Gentile Christians were truly reviled by their former companions in sinful lifestyles. (I see you nodding; yes, this is just like we see today!)
These Christians found themselves the targets of a hostile world's arrows, just as we do today. And they needed to know how to handle these trials -- the ones that came because they sought diligently to follow Christ. Peter points them to Christ, who is our great example, and our Friend. He endured suffering inflicted unjustly. Christ kept himself holy by submitting Himself to the Father's will.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)Don't we all need this practical advice? I believe we do! In one way or another, we will all face trials, if we are living for Jesus Christ. Peter doesn't tell us that Jesus will make it so we undergo no hardships at all....no way! He actually says in chapter four that we should look at them as normal.
Trials are not abnormal; they are even to be expected. Peter doesn't get us all depressed and bummed out, though. He points us to Christ, and to the glory of heaven that is promised to us. I believe that if we learn from this great letter, and then are strengthened and encouraged by it, we can live for Christ in a world that is distinctly hostile to us! I Peter gives us hope, and encourages us to be holy.
Personally, I can't wait to study more of it!
Friday, July 21, 2017
I am having such fun teaching my granddaughter some of the kids songs that I remember singing years ago.
This is one such song -- it may be for kids, but the message is just as important for us adults!
(And yes, this will be stuck in your head all day.)
This is one such song -- it may be for kids, but the message is just as important for us adults!
(And yes, this will be stuck in your head all day.)
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Ah, the good life!
Working outdoors, breathing that good fresh air.
Being in the midst of the Creator's handiwork, and enjoying it.
On a farm, the equipment that is used is almost as important as the people using it. It is carefully maintained, with routine checks of major systems, and in-depth maintenance at scheduled intervals. For example, there is a checklist of things to do after two hundred hours of use, and at four hundred, and so on. The complete machine needs to be inspected; fittings need to be greased; tires need to be filled; hydraulic fluid needs to be "topped off" periodically, and filters changed. Usually the entire tractor needs a good bath, too!
If this maintenance work is not completed, the tractor may just break down and be immobilized. Then it will have to have a chain or tow rope attached, and be pulled back to the barn. The locked-down tires sometimes won't turn, and dig up patches of turf as it moves across the field or pasture.
Here's where I'm headed with this: just like a complex piece of machinery like a tractor, a Christian needs maintenance!
First, we need a good, thorough inspection. God sees our hearts, and knows us; we need to allow Him to show us our sins and shortcomings.
Then we need to be washed....
We need to "lube" our days with prayer! Our daily prayers prepare us for His working in our lives; it's a chance to confide in Him our cares, and to know He will help us.
Our spiritual "tires" should be filled with gratitude -- we will find it much easier to make it through each day!
When we get stuck and are immobilized by sin or some obstacle we hadn't anticipated, the Spirit will find us....
Even if our "wheels are locked" and we aren't cooperating, the Holy Spirit will bring us back to where we need to be. We may look back and see the torn up turf where we dug in our heels, but if we will submit to His leadership, we will be so much happier in the long run!
Let's make sure that we do our daily "maintenance!"
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
I learned a lot from my dad-in-law.
As a member of the "Greatest Generation," he had life experiences that were both interesting and inspiring to me. As a boy, he hitch-hiked his way to a school a hundred miles from his home, and worked for his tuition in the school's dairy. He was truly a self-made man, and showed determination and fortitude in the ensuing years. He reluctantly left his young wife and infant son behind to be part of the Army Air Corps, and stayed in England for over two years, before returning to the US to resume his life as a civilian.
His interests were many and varied -- he never seemed to stop wanting to learn. And he tried to pass some of that along to his kids and his grandkids. Some of it "stuck" and some didn't. (Grin)
I recall his working to prune the scuppernong and muscadine grapes that my hubby planted near our house. He would take pruner in hand, and with a practiced hand and an expert eye, would prune them in the dead of winter.
I would stand there with him and try to learn how, so that I could do the pruning in the future. I often would ask him why he pruned certain branches of the vine, and not others.
He told me that it was important to have air circulation around the vines, for that would discourage some of the problems that grapes can fall victim to -- molds, fungus, even "bad" bugs. It was important, too, to train the vines to grow along the wires, so that they could be more easily harvested in the fall. (Scuppernongs and muscadines are late to fruit....they begin to ripen in the late summer, and are pungent and delicious just before the frost.)
My dad-in-law also told me that some vines were pruned back to increase their strength. Some, he recalled that they did not produce well, so he cut them back. Some did not produce at all, and were snipped off entirely, and discarded or burned. He was careful to prune them at just the right point -- there needed to be a bud just before the cut, so that the correct growth would occur. In that way, the best growth for strength and for increased production of grapes would happen.
I'm sure that you see where I'm going with this.
I remembered, standing there in the cold, the verses that Jesus spoke:
Oh, that our lives will truly bear fruit to the glory of our Father and His Son Jesus!
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Did you know that singing and laughing can release positive, beneficial chemicals within our bodies? It's true!
All types of singing have positive psychological effects. The act of singing releases endorphins, the brain's "feel good" chemicals. (from Science, HowStuffWorks)No wonder the Bible tells us multiple times to sing to the Lord; we are encouraged to "make melody;" and we have many examples of folks in the Bible who sang praise to God (or who sang asking for Him to comfort or intercede, too!).
Here's something a little different: even instrumental music can be a wonderful way for us to meditate and be open to the workings of the Spirit. When we are not focused on the words of a song, we are able to think about the attributes of our Father, about the ways He has worked recently in our lives, and about what we hope to accomplish in this day.
I challenge all of us to try this -- perhaps you have some solo Christian artists, or some groups, that are your favorites.
Branch out a little!
Try some instrumental music, and focus your thoughts -- oops, don't let them wander to the grocery shopping list, or to whatever chores are facing you today.....
Zero in on the relationship with our Father. Thank Him for all of His blessings. Ask Him to forgive any sins or shortcomings.
Then let's quietly wait and let the Spirit minister to our hearts.
I promise we will rise to continue our day with lighter hearts!
Monday, July 17, 2017
Have you recently planned on a trip away from home? Was it for business, or for pleasure? A lengthy journey, or a quick trip?
Probably all of us have done this. How do we usually prepare? Are you a list-maker? Do you just keep mental notes and hope you get it all done?
There's so much to be done!
First, we must choose where we are going -- many miles away, or just a few? What do we hope to accomplish? Is this trip for fun? For excitement? For relaxation? For learning?
Once we know the why and the where, we can choose the "how." Will we need tickets for train or airplane travel? Will we use our vehicle or rent one? Many of us will juggle these to decide what is the most cost-effective way to travel to our chosen destination, and then to travel home again.
Now we must consider that home. Will everything we leave behind be safe? We need to make arrangements for pets -- will they board somewhere, or will someone come and care for them? Will the lights be programmed to give the illusion that someone is home?
Lastly, what will we take with us on our trip? We must consider where we are going, and what activities we will participate in -- warm clothing or cool, fancy or casual. And let's not forget to pack all of our daily toiletries and medicines!
Can we just stay home? (Grin)
Dear Christian friends, do we put as much thought and energy into our life journey as we do into our earthly trips?
First of all, just as on our earthly trips, we need to know where we are going:
For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Hebrews 13:14
Next, what is the purpose of our trip? Why are we making this journey?
I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; Philippians 1:23
Yes, to be with our Lord, Who died in our place because of His mercy and great love for us! Now, how do we prepare?
Lastly, what shall we pack? What will we take with us? (Trick question, right?)
Now we can make our plans! For the most important journey ever -- the journey that takes place step by step, each day, as the Spirit sanctifies us and prepares us to live with Him!