Saturday, 28 February 2015

How do we respond?

not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. – 1 Peter 3.9

Nobody – I mean nobody – likes to be attacked or reviled or be on the recipient of evil. It is never any fun. Christians are no exception.

But something we forget today is that evil and attacks and reviling and persecution are part of what the church has dealt with since the day it was born. There have been good times and bad times for some of the church. There are parts of the church that have always been persecuted and attacked. I am sure that, like now, there were a lot of questions about how we are to respond. We could go through example after example of how Christians have responded throughout history and today.

A few years ago a large Christian college was targeted by a gay pride group not happy with the college’s view on homosexuality. They set up a demonstration and even trespassed on campus with goal of being arrested. Instead of a negative response the college sent out box lunches for the demonstrators.

Just last week 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded by ISIS in Libya. Instead of calling for retribution Christians in the area printed up a gospel tract and determined to pray for the attackers. From what I understand a couple of ISIS members who have taken part in attacks have now been saved.

There are a lot of calls for violent responses to the church’s attackers – and yet here Peter says that when people do evil we are not to respond with evil. When we are reviled we are not to respond with more reviling.

So how is the church to respond? In fact, how do we respond when we are reviled and attacked for our faith?

Peter says to respond with blessing.

I have to admit that doesn’t sit well with my flesh. My flesh says ‘that’s not fair!’

But then was it fair that an innocent Jesus had to go to the cross for me?

I don’t have all the answers, I wish I did. But it looks like the historical church was willing to take a lot more opposition than we are today. We seem to want to respond with bombs and jets and guns and armies or meanness and ugliness and name calling and half-truths and lies and deceptions.

It seems so simple, but it seems so complicated.


May God give all of us His grace to know how to respond. 

Friday, 27 February 2015

Christian courtesy

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; - 1 Peter 3.8

There seems to be a whole lot of ugliness in the church today. The relative anonymity of social media has really played in to this. People are saying things online that they would never say in person. 

But God’s standard doesn’t change just to suit the internet and social media. He still says:

All of you be of one mind
Have compassion for each other
Love each other as brothers in Christ
Be courteous

I will admit from the very start that I need this message as much as or more than anyone else. My flesh is just as proud and arrogant and self-serving as anybody. I like to be right. I don’t like to ‘lose’ an argument. I am as tempted as anyone to ‘win at all costs’ even if the cost is hurting my brother. 

And that is very, very sad. 

We have enough opposition from the outside that we don’t need division inside. Sure, we must correct error and deal with false teaching. But we must stop dividing over petty and silly issues. 

But I think at the root of the issue is the need for a meek and humble spirit. With a meek and humble spirit I can be willing to lay my personal views aside on things that don’t matter. The I need to always consider my brother’s feelings. Love doesn’t allow me to take any chance at hurting him. And I like the last phrase – simply be courteous. Common Christian courtesy appears to be a lacking feature in much of the church.

Including me sometimes. 

We need to show this courtesy to all. The context here in inside the body, but courtesy is a big part of our Christian testimony. 

May God give each of us the strength to manifest the kind of Christian courtesy that honours him and shows the reality of Christ in our lives. 

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Husbands

Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. – 1 Peter 3.7

So now we come to the husbands and our role. 

And there is some really good instruction here. I think to start I am going to personalise it. 

Roger, you know Mary. You know what she likes and doesn’t like. You know what makes her happy and what makes her sad. You know what causes her fears and anxieties. Live with her with those things in mind. 

Honour Mary as a precious vessel. Keep her safe and make her feel treasured. She is special, treat her that way. 

Always remember that Mary is your sister in Christ. You share the grace of God with her. Don’t let ‘familiarity breed contempt’ and always treat her with all the love and respect that she is due as a fellow believer. In all of your ministering to others remember to minister to her.  

Mary should be your greatest prayer partner. Don’t let problems arise that will hinder your prayers with her. 

As I typed those words I found myself convicted. It is easy enough to take our wives for granted as the years go by. I need this reminder. 

Husbands, God has honoured us with a precious treasure. Let’s treat our wives the way He wants is to treat them. Let's be the husbands He wants us to be. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Wives

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror. – 1 Peter 3.1-6

This husband/wife thing is one of those that is always difficult for a preacher to deal with. Since in our circles nearly all preachers (and Bible teachers) and men it can seem like we are preaching/teaching to suit ourselves.

But here it is, in the word of God and taught by both Paul and Peter. Those of us who are in happy Christian homes where husband and wife both strive to realise our tasks, we know that it ‘works’ We know it is not a matter of a tyrant and subject. We know how it plays out and it plays out in a wonderful way.

We also must remember that these teachings are not about relations between all men and all women. Women are not subject to men just because they are men. This is all about a husband and wife who both desire to please God. And if we are striving to please God we are sure to please each other.

Here we find an example though of a wife who is married to a man who ‘does not obey the word.’ Now that’s a tough situation to address. Does a Christian wife need to submit to a non-Christian husband?

When Peter wrote these words the church was still young. Most of these ‘mixed marriages’ came because either the husband or wife got saved and their spouse did not. I am sure there were great debates about whether or not Christian should maintain such a marriage. Paul addresses that and so does Peter, from slightly different perspectives.

Peter says that as long as the lost husband is not leaving the relationship the wife should submit to his leadership. Obviously, there is a measure of common sense here. No one should submit to abuse be it physical, emotional, sexual, or whatever. But generally a Christian wife should submit to her husband’s leadership.

Why? That through her conduct she might win her husband to Christ. Leaving a lost husband ‘just because’ he is lost is not God’s way. We have a good friend who was saved after she was married. She struggled at submitting in a simple matter, but this is an example of what this passage says. She did not like going to buy beer for her husband. It went against her personal choice. But then she realised ‘He is the same man I married, I am the one who changed.’ Once she did want he wanted and he realised how hard it was for her to do it he didn’t ask her again. He is not yet saved, but he enjoys their Christian friends and often attends church on special occasions.

It just makes sense. If someone gets saved before their spouse it is not fair to them to leave just because they are a Christian. In fact, it ought to be a strong motivation to stay.


There is more here, but I’ll leave that for now. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

By His stripes

who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. – 1 Peter 2.24-25

The previous verse have all been building to this climax. We have been told over and over that our submission and our response to different difficult situations is based on the example Jesus set for us. He submitted all the way to the cross. He did not attack His attackers. There was a more important task than making sure that He was not walked over by the world. 

He submitted in the greatest way possible when He bore our sins on the cross. He did it so that we could die to sin with Him and live righteousness. When I think about that it doesn’t even seem possible that Jesus would do that for me. Then I read Isaiah’s astounding words – ‘by His stripes you are healed.’

By HIS stripes WE are healed. He could do nothing about the curse of sin. The end result of our sin was death. Only Jesus could heal us of that curse. He solved our problem by taking our punishment for us. 

Words fail me. So lets just be reminded of what God said through His prophet Isaiah:

He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Did not revile

who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; - 1 Peter 2.23

The previous passage tells us that through His sufferings Jesus set us an example that we should follow in His steps. Here that teaching continues with a couple more examples of how this plays out.

When Jesus was reviled – He did not revile in return
When Jesus suffered – He did not threaten
Jesus trusted God to sort things out for Him.

And this is part of ‘following in His steps.’

This is one of those things that runs totally contrary to what we think or how we are inclined to act. When someone ‘reviles’ us we naturally want ‘revile them right back.’ It started when we were kids and it seems like we just can’t quit. When somebody calls us a name, or insults us, or  attacks, or whatever, we think we have to do the same back to them. It actually seems to get worse instead of better as we get older.

But Jesus did the opposite. He literally had all the power on heaven and earth to respond and destroy His opponents – but He did nothing. He did not revile. He did not threaten.

When I think about how little it takes to get me to respond or retaliate I am ashamed and embarrassed. My pride won’t let me not respond.

We have brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who are dying for their faith in Christ. Why is it that it takes so little to provoke us to an ungodly response.


Lord, strengthen me to ‘revile not’ when I am reviled by others and thereby be more like Jesus. 

Sunday, 22 February 2015

When submitting gets tough

Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:  “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; - 1 Peter 2.18-22

This is admittedly and difficult passage to grasp. It was written to an age different from our own. The servants referred to here were mostly indentured servants paying off debts. Some were what we would consider slaves in the the modern sense of the word. Some of these servants were getting saved and didn’t know how to deal with their masters. Should they try to get free, or continue to submit?

The New Testament deals with situation as it was. Being a testimony for Christ was more important than their physical freedom. By their submission they could demonstrate a Christ-like spirit. Christ submitted to suffering for us -  so to submit to their masters was to do no more than follow the example of Christ. It might involve harsh treatment. It might involve grief and suffering. And it might involve doing that when they had done nothing wrong. 

Christ submitted to the will of God even to the point of death. That was our example – to follow in His steps. 

The issue here is not so much the rights or wrongs of servants and masters. The issue is servants being a testimony before their masters and other servants. This is the ultimate example of suffering for Christ. But it is no more than He did for us. 

May God straighten us to be willing to follow in His steps – no matter how tough it gets. 

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Honour the king

Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honour all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. – 1 Peter 2.13-17

There is an issue facing the church that I get more and more concerned about all the time. Starting in the US and spreading like a cancer we find utter disregard and disrespect to political leaders. It has gone way beyond exercising freedom in disagreeing with policies and laws to the point where the attacks have become personal. Petty and childish name calling has joined with flat out lies and deceptions to attack leaders. 

I don’t understand this attitude. What makes it worse is that I once did understand it. This passage is in the context is doing what is honourable so that God is glorified. 

Look how the passage starts. Therefore, in the light of our requirement to do what is honourable, submit yourself to man’s laws. Peter wrote the words while Judea was under the rule of a brutal Roman government which would eventually kill him. It is clear that believers ought to be law abiding citizens. But what if we don't like the way things are going? 

In the previous verse we read that our honourable conduct will draw men to Christ. Here at the end of the passage we are told to honour all men, love the brethren, honour the king. Honourable conduct shuts the mouths of our critics. They have no answer to honourable conduct. 

Those who live in free countries have every right and responsibility to disagree with their leadership. We are blessed to have the freedom to voice our opinions on policy and laws. We have the right to campaign and get involved and vote. We have the right to, in many countries, peaceably assemble to express our opposition and work for change. All of those are honourable way to act. 

But lying about our leaders is not honourable. Telling half truths is not honourable. Passing on information that has not been verified is not honourable. Calling leaders childish names is not honourable. 

There once were three young men who were told to bow down to an image of the king. They couldn’t do that – obviously. When called before the king they were respectful and simply told the king that God was in control and could preserve them from the death penalty. But, they said, even if He doesn’t they could not obey the law.

The lesson is that we obey unless obey would cause us to disobey God.  But even then we act with respect and decency. 

That is the honourable way. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Honourable lives make a difference

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. – 1 Peter 2.11-12


I'm just a poor wayfarin' stranger,
While travelin' through this world below.
Yet there's no sickness, no toil, nor danger,
In that bright land to which I go.
I'm goin' there to see my Father.
And all my loved ones who've gone on.
I'm just goin' over Jordan.
I'm just goin' over home.

So goes a great old spiritual that seems to be based on this passage. I think, if I remember correctly, that this song was sung by slaves in the American South. It was good reminder that we are only passing through this tired on broken world and we are headed for a our wonderful future home in heaven.

It was a song that focused on enduring until we get to go.

But this verse tells us that we have a lot more to do than just hold on. We are to:

Abstain from the fleshly lusts that war against us
Keep our conduct honourable among the world
Live so that when they speak evil of us there will no answer, because our good works will glorify God.

Certainly we are just passing through – but while we are doing so we need to make an impact for our God. We need to make a difference that everyone can see as we sojourn amongst this world.

We make an obvious difference when we ‘abstain from fleshly lusts.’ We are all aware that we have to war against them. I have to do battle daily. But instead of dabbling in them we are told to just abstain from them. Our very abstaining is going to make a difference. Even when we are made fun of or laughed at we are making a difference.

We keep our conduct honourable. We don’t just do right, we do the honourable thing.  God’s people should always be known as honourable people. We are honourable Christians, honourable in our homes, and honourable citizens of our earthly lands. 

And what happens if we abstain from earthly lusts and behave honourably? What happens when our actions and attitudes silence their criticism? What does it mean that they will ‘glorify God in the day of visitation?’

There is a lot of discussion about what this verse. I think, according to the context, it is pretty clear. When we make a difference we give our critics an opportunity to join us in glorifying God in heaven. And how are they going to do that? Only by coming to faith in Christ.

Are we making a difference in our pure and honourably conduct. Does it make the kind of difference that will impact others to join us in glorifying God when Christ returns for us?

The way we live is important. If it doesn’t match up to our words we are spinning our wheels and wasting our time.


Live honourable lives – make a difference. 

Thursday, 19 February 2015

A chosen generation - and more

A chosen generation

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.– 1 Peter 2.9-10

Not only are we a spiritual house, but we are also a chosen generation. I am not going to try to define exactly what this ‘chosen’ means. The church has be arguing for 2,000 years about what chosen is and neither ‘side’ as made any advance.

Instead let’s just acknowledge that God chose to save all who put their faith in Christ. Anyway – we are a people chosen by God. What a wonderful truth that is. God chose us to show his praises because he called us an delivered us from darkness into light. Before Christ we have not received his mercy, but now we have.

What a great God.

But there are a couple more things to note. Not only has He chosen us to do all those things. He has also declared us as a royal priesthood. Every one of us therefore has immediate and direct access to God.

And then we have one of my favourite descriptions of us as God’s people. This same phrase is used in Titus and I really like the old King James phrase here – we are a ‘peculiar people.’ That word has a whole different meaning today than it did then. Today it means odd or out of place. In 1611 it had more of the idea of being uniquely belonging to Christ.

But I’m not so sure there isn’t a viable connection. If we uniquely belong to Christ we are going to seem peculiar to the rest of the world. Our faith ought to cause a sense of peculiarity in this present world. I am not so sure that ‘peculiar’ is a description for us to be put off by.


So Lord, thanks for choosing me. Thanks for my royal priesthood. And let me thrive in being peculiar for you!  

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A spiritual house

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,

“Behold, I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”
Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,
“The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone,”
And “A stone of stumbling
And a rock of offence.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. – 1 Peter 2.4-8

I like the mental pictures God uses for the church and for His people. This is one of my favourites.

Here we are called a ‘spiritual house.’ From the very beginning the whole church, of all ages and nations are all a part of the one great spiritual house. I like this image because we have what we call an ‘open house’ policy in our family home. Our house is a place of openness and fun and fellowship. It is a special place to us, and I hope, others. The church too is a house, open to anyone who will come in. 

It all starts with Jesus – the living stone. It is an image which runs all through the scriptures. Jesus is the rock that moved with the Jews through the wilderness. He is the rock the psalmist wrote about. Here He is the elect, precious, chief cornerstone.  Without this cornerstone there would be no spiritual house.

But the house is made up of living stones as well. What are these living stones? They are us- those who have put their faith in Christ. It is a wonderful house with a great diversity of stones from every nation and people and race and ethnicity. The whole house is ‘fitly put together’ as Paul describes it in another place.

The problem is that this house, though open to everyone, has not been accessed by all.

To those of us who believe Jesus is our cornerstone. I remember a song from long ago that still sticks in my head to this day.

Jesus is the Cornerstone, came for sinners to atone
Though rejected by His own, He became the Cornerstone

Jesus is the Cornerstone
When I am by sin oppressed, on the Stone I am at rest
Where the seeds of truth are sown, he remains the Cornerstone

Jesus is my Cornerstone
Rock of Ages, so secure, For all time it shall endure
'Til His children reach their home, He remains the Cornerstone
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me find my rest in Thee
'Til the breaking of the dawn, 'til all footsteps reach His throne
Ever let this truth be known, Jesus is the Cornerstone

© 1976 Bridge Building Music, Inc. (BMI)

What a blessing it is to have the Rock of Ages as my cornerstone.


But for those who don’t believe Jesus is a stone that they must trip over on their way to destruction. He stands in the path offering them hope, but far too many ignore Him and take offence at the fact that He tells them they can’t make it on their own. He is the door to the house. If anyone knocks He will open. But far too many stumble at the door and never come in. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

A hungry baby

as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. – 1 Peter 2.2-3

Peter gives us a little bit more here about the word of God. The Bible uses all kinds of illustrations for the Bible. In other places it is compared to honey, bread, water, and possibly a few other foods. Every use has a purpose in its context. 

Here Peter refers to the Bible as the ‘pure milk of the word.’ I think the reason is that he is picturing the kind of desire we should have to partake of His word. 

Here’s the picture. Think of a hungry newborn baby. Think of a really hungry newborn baby that needs to be fed. Think about that baby in the middle of the night. 

That baby wants fed and nothing is going to placate it. The baby is going to scream and holler and make it very well known that he wants his milk. Any parent, especially a mother, knows what I am talking about. 

Now, I don’t think we need to be screaming and hollering and carrying on like that, but I think it is a  picture of what real desire is like. It is a picture of how much we should desire the word of God. We too often take the Bible lightly with a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude. Few of us desire the word of God with the same intensity that the newborn baby desires their milk. 

Do we wake ravenous for our spiritual milk? Orr do we allow ourselves to get distracted in a way that no hungry baby would?

Monday, 16 February 2015

Lay aside

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking… if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. – 1 Peter 2.1,3

God’s word endures forever. It is not going to fade away. It is not going to change. What I read today is going to be the same tomorrow. 

How does that impact my life? It means that the sins and issues I deal with today are not going to okay tomorrow. So what do we do? 

That’s what the ‘therefore’ in this passage is there for – to tell us what to do. 

Therefore, lay aside:

All malice – all mean-spiritedness
All deceit – all trickery
Hypocrisy – hold others to a higher standard than we hold ourselves
Envy – begrudging what others have
All evil speaking – just what is sounds like

But the end of this is interesting as well – you do this if ‘you have indeed tasted that the Lord is good.' These things might be helpful to those who have not ‘tasted that the Lord’ but they are vital to those who have. 

I look at that list and wonder how I do in laying these things aside in my life. I also wonder how much of an impact the church would have if we took this to heart. It is easy for us to focus on the ‘big sins’ like murder and adultery and violence and abortion and such, but what about these sins? Are they priorities an the things we lay aside? 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Word endures

having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because
“All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. – 1 Peter 1.23-25

Things come and go. We all know that. I know we say ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’ has some merit, but there is also a sense where ‘the more things change the more they change. 

I am still a young man, but things have changed a lot in my short lifetime. I have only lived in Ireland twenty years, but this is not the same country we moved to in 1995. Things change – that is life. 

Change can be scary – we never know what is going to come next. Change can be good or bad. The only thing that we can really depend on is things are going to be different. And in the midst of all that change everything around us is fading away. Once you drive a new car off the lot it is a second hand car – and that goes for all the stuff we deal with. 

Things change. The law of entropy tells us that things from order to disorder, things tend to run down. Anyone who starts to age a bit knows the truth of that. 

But in the midst of all this change and entropy there is something that we can depend on. There is something that endures no matter what runs down into disorder. 

The word of the Lord endures forever. God’s word doesn’t change. It is not subject to the law on entropy. It is not going anywhere. It lives and abides forever. 

Just a few miles from here in Dublin you can visit the Chester Beatty Library for free (except on Mondays). Upstairs there have a wonderful collection of early Bible manuscripts. Some of them date from the 2nd to the 4th century. There are some of the earliest manuscripts of several whole Bible books. Some of them are on display is glass cases and those who can read Greek can actually read these ancient documents. I was there with my son Matt, who does read Greek and he assured me that what he read there was what we have in our English translations today. 

I, for one, I am glad there is one thing I can hold on to that is not going to change or disappear Everything else I know may pass away – but my Bible stands

Saturday, 14 February 2015

A Valentine's Day special

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, - 1 Peter 1.22

What a passage for today. And believe it or not – it was not planned. It is just the way it fell out in my reading.

It is, of course, Valentine’s Day. It’s a day created by card makers and flower shops and sweet shops and restaurants and jewellers and hotel to exploit consumers and make them feel good at the same time. (Whoops, did I say that?)

Okay – it is the day when love (in all its forms) is celebrated. This year in particular draws a line between the world’s ‘love’ and God’s love. Hollywood chose Valentine’s Day to a release a film celebrating the degradation of women and the perversion of God’s plan for sexual relations. The bad thing is I am sensing that even some believers are caught up in the hype.

But enough of that. There are plenty of sweet celebrations of real love today. Couples share their love. Parents and children celebrate love. Friends celebrate love. That is all kind of sweet and harmless.

But here we read about the kind of love that God celebrates. It is pure love out of a pure heart and a love that is loved with fervency.

That is the kind of love God loves us with. Pure love is just love. It is not conditional. God’s love for us doesn’t depend on our worthiness to receive it.

And that is how we should love others – with the same pure love that seeks nothing for self. People don’t need to earn our love.

Pure love is sincere. It is not hypocritical. It comes from a pure heart so it is not put on for a show.

And pure love is fervent – is moves and motivates us to action.


So let’s examine our love this Valentine’s Day. Is it a sincere love? Is it a fervent love? And is it a love with its source in a pure heart? 

Friday, 13 February 2015

Redeemed

And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. – 1 Peter 1.17-21

Redemption is an interesting word. Here are the the definitions in dictionary.com.

1 to buy or pay off; clear by payment: to redeem a mortgage.
2 to buy back, as after a tax sale or a mortgage foreclosure.
3 to recover (something pledged or mortgaged) by payment or other satisfaction: to redeem a pawned watch.
4 to exchange (bonds, trading stamps, etc.) for money or goods.
5 to convert (paper money) into specie.
6 to discharge or fulfill (a pledge, promise, etc.).
7 to make up for; make amends for; offset (some fault, shortcoming, etc.): His bravery redeemed his youthful idleness.
8 to obtain the release or restoration of, as from captivity, by paying a ransom.
9 Theology. to deliver from sin and its consequences by means of a sacrifice offered for the sinner.

It is interesting that most of these definitions describe what happened when we were redeemed. A payment was cleared for sin. We were bought back even though we were originally owned buy God. We were recovered from the ravages of sin. Our rags were exchanged for Jesus’ righteousness. We were convert from hell-bound to heaven-bound. We were fulfilled in Christ. Our lack was made up for. We were released from our servanthood to sin. 

All of that was done, not by anything that was corruptible – but by the precious blood of Christ. My hope therefore is not in me or my works or my religion or my goodness or my practice. My faith and my hope is only in the shed blood of Christ. 

Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed through His infinite mercy,
His child and forever I am.

Refrain
Redeemed, redeemed,
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed, redeemed,
His child and forever I am.

Redeemed, and so happy in Jesus,
No language my rapture can tell;
I know that the light of His presence
With me doth continually dwell.

I think of my bless├Ęd Redeemer,
I think of Him all the day long:
I sing, for I cannot be silent;
His love is the theme of my song.

I know there’s a crown that is waiting,
In yonder bright mansion for me,
And soon, with the spirits made perfect,
At home with the Lord I shall be.

Praise God that my redemption was not paid through things that don’t last – but by the precious blood of Christ. 

What a price. What a Saviour!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Be holy

as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1.14-16

The older I get the more I seem to come across the idea of holiness. The more I study the more I am constantly confronted with holiness. Holiness is a tough topic to approach because holiness is not easy to live. Holiness is in total, absolute, and completer conflict with what our flesh wants. 

Salvation, the salvation talked about above, brings changes. We aren’t the same as we used to be. There has been a great change since we were born again. The things we used to do we don’t do them any more. At least that is the goal. 

Peter deals with this clearly. Live as obedient children. Don’t be conformed to the goals and desires and lusts that controlled you before you were saved. God realises that before we were saved we acted in ignorance of how we should live. We didn’t know any better. And it is good for us to remember that we can’t expect the world to do any better than to act in ignorance of God’s way. 

And His way? 

Holiness. The One who called us is holy. Therefore we are to be holy in our thoughts and attitudes and our conduct. God’s standard of holiness is nothing new. Way back in the Law God had said ‘ be holy, for I am holy.’ 

Of course I can’t just ‘be holy.’ I was made holy 41 years ago today in a university library in Pennsylvania when Christ saved and imputed His holiness in my place. So as of today I have enjoyed 41 years of positional holiness. 

One day, probably not 41 years from now, I will know complete holiness as my holiness is perfected in the presence of God. 

But I have to say that I have not enjoyed 41 years of daily practical holiness. My life is far too often marked by disobedience and conformity to my own desires. 

That last bit is what Peter writes about here. 

My life should be focused on seeking after holiness instead of seeking after my own lusts and desires. I have no problem going after all the stuff I want – I find it harder to seek after holiness. 

We must set out every day with a desire to live holily and a dependence on God to give us the strength to do. 

Be holy – what a challenge for me today on my 41st spiritual birthday. 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Battle plans

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; - 1 Peter 1.13

There was an old anti-drug abuse ad in the States that ended with the slogan ‘a mind is a terrible thing to waste.’ We all know how important our minds are. We all know the mind is where the great spiritual battles are fought. We also know that it is too easy to waste our minds on foolish and wasteful things. 

I’ve read a couple of writers who deal with our minds as a battlefield. I like to liken it to a sporting arena. Either was there is a battle or a contest going on in the arena of the mind. If we aren’t careful we can lose the contest before we even realise the contest is on. 

Before a sporting event the sides have to get ready. You always have to prepare and warm up and put on the right kit. You have to train – and the more and harder you train the better prepared you are. 

As we face this wicked old broken world we need to be ready. We must have our minds kitted out. We need to set our minds on things above, not things that we see. 

‘Gird up the loins of your mind’ James writes. As warriors of the day prepared for battle then would take the edge of their robes and cinch them up in a belt to assure they had the mobility for battle. They were prepared and ready to go. 

We get as ready as we can, we realise the seriousness of the fight, and then, most importantly, we put our hope in the grace of God. 

Prepare our minds, study the enemy, then go forth reliant on the grace of God

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

What the angels wish they knew

Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into. – 1 Peter 1.10-12

All through the Old Testament salvation was a mystery. God kept giving glimpses of it, but it was not clear. People put their faith in God and were protected. The prophets, somehow that I don’t understand, had the Spirit of Christ in them. That Spirit led them to talk about our salvation. 

Salvation seems to have fascinated these prophets. They ‘inquired and searched carefully’ even while they ‘prophesied of the grace that would come’ to us.  The searched out how and when He would come. Despite not understanding it all they revealed the mystery which was not made apparent until the coming of Christ. 

Not only did the Old Testament saints not fully understand salvation – it is something the angels wish they could grasp. Though the angels rejoice over every one who comes to repentance they don’t fully understand salvation.

I have to admit that I don’t understand all that. I do know that it helps me appreciate how precious my salvation is. I thank God that I live in a day when I can know that my salvation is eternal and secure and that the great hidden truths of salvation are made clear. I don’t know why the angels can’t understand it – but I am grateful that I can. 

Monday, 9 February 2015

The end of your faith

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. – 1 Peter 1.6-9


It is easy to get discouraged sometimes in our Christian lives. It is easy to not be joyful while we are here on earth. We have already seen how these trials and more precious than gold. We have already seen how we love Christ without ever seeing him. 

But the best part is saved for last. What is going to happen at the end. What is the end of our faith? 

It is a wonderful promise – the end result is the salvation of our souls. It is the final and complete salvation of our souls when we will not only be saved from the penalty of sin and the power of sin but we will be saved from the presence of sin. 

One day our faith is going to end. It is going to end in sight. It is going to end when Jesus is no longer unseen. It will end when we see Jesus. Then it will be worth it all – all of the trials and tribulations and sufferings and all of our trusting during those time when our faith ends in sight, and in the final salvation of our souls. 

It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus. Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ. One glimpse of His dear face...

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Love at no sight

whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, - 1 Peter 1.8

We have all heard of ‘love at first sight.’ I am not sure I believe in it, but when I first saw my wife Mary I was certainly greatly attracted and the more I saw her and learned about her I loved her more and more. Maybe there is something to love at first sight. I just am not sure. 

But what we see here is more amazing – here we read about ‘love at no sight.’ Love at no sight is love based only on faith – and faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence not seen. Faith make love at no sight possible. Without ever seeing Him we choose to love Him. 

But that’s not all. The love without sight causes us to rejoice with ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ We have yet to see Him face to face, but we see Him in His word and in His care for us. We see Him in the Holy Spirit of comfort. We see Him in the love we have for each other. 

We haven’t seen Him in person yet – but we believe. And in believing we find our joy. 



Saturday, 7 February 2015

More precious than gold

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, - 1 Peter 1.6-7

Trials rarely seem precious in the moment. This is especially true of those earth shattering, life changing, punch in the gut kind of trials that seemingly come out of nowhere and knock us flat. 

We have seen some of those through the years. We all have. Some are worse than others, but all of our trial are trials in our lives. ‘Joyous’ is hardly the word that we use easily to describe these trials. We, or at least I, tend to use words like discouraging, depressing, crushing, hard, and terrible. 

This is an area where our faith is tested. God says that when our faith is tried it proves the reality of our faith. They are more precious than gold that is purified through fire. One day, when we see Jesus, they will be found as praise and honour and glory. 

It reminds me of Paul when he wrote that at then end of his trials he would ‘come forth as gold.’ The reality is that everyone suffers. We live in a broken world full of broken people. Those who have faith suffer the same results of brokenness as those who have no faith. When our faith is real and genuine if gives us hope to cling on to during trials. If I couldn’t trust that there is a God who loves me and cares for me I don’t think I could endure some of these trials. I certainly could not have any faith in me. It is all about our hope – and our hope is in the Lord. That hope is far more precious than hoping in the gold we can't take with us. 

Friday, 6 February 2015

Kept

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. – 1 Peter 1.3-5

Kept by the power of God. 

That kind of sums the whole question of my inheritance and its security, doesn’t it? A lot of folks spend far too much time trying to keep what they don’t have the power or resources or ability to keep. 

Not only is my inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and fading not away. There is one thing that is, if possible, even more securing. My inheritance is kept by the power of God. If it is kept for me by the power of God how can anything happen to it? For it to be lost someone stronger than the Keeper would have to break in and steal it away. 

And all that was required to receive this eternally kept inheritance was the faith that was required for salvation – what a mighty God we serve. 

And oh what a day it will be when it is ‘revealed in the last time.’  I remember when I got the inheritance cheque I talked about yesterday. It wasn’t for a great amount – but it was still nice to get (although all I did was put it in the bank). It had been eroded and depleted. But it was still something. 

Now, imagine the inheritance that comes with being a joint heir with Christ. Imagine it being incorruptible, undefiled, and not fading away. Imagine all of this being kept by the Great Keeper. When I think of that it ought to make these days a little easier to handle. 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

My inheritance

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. – 1 Peter 1.3-5

A few years ago a relative of my mom died. I think he was a first cousin, or maybe a second cousin. He died intestate and with no immediate family. The lawyers began tracking down the family he did have and eventually they got to the cousins. My mom of course had died so here share of the estate was split between us six children. My mom’s share would have been about 1/18th of the estate. So that mean each of us would receive 1/104 of the estate ( I think my numbers are right). But we had to wait and wait and wait for our inheritance. I don’t know what the original estate was worth, by I am sure taxes and fees and legal costs and all that greatly reduced the amount we eventfully received. The original shares kept fading away. While the inheritance was nice, it wasn’t what it had been. 

That is the way most inheritances work – but we have one that is:

Incorruptible
Undefiled
Does not fade away

My eternal inheritance is safe. It is not going to be frittered away. I don’t have to share this with anyone else – we all get 100% of this one. 

I am an heir, and not only that, I am a joint heir with Christ. I have already inherited all the joys of eternity with Christ. He already meets my needs from the riches of heaven itself. I don’t have to wait to begin to enjoy this inheritance today and the blessings will go on for eternity. 

Praise God for my eternal inheritance – and give me the faith to enjoy its blessings today. 

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Our hope is alive!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a lively hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. – 1 Peter 1.3-5

The opening of 1 Peter is one of those great passages that grabs you from the very start and doesn’t let you go. It almost seems like Peter wanted to squeeze in as much as he could before those reading his letter had a chance to put it down. 

Right after a few introductory words he writes ‘blessed the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ He doesn’t waste any time and he doesn’t mince any words. He goes right at it. 

He says a few things in this first section. The first that jumps out to me is ‘our living hope’ because of the reason for our living hope – ‘through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’ 

Hope is vital for everyone. We all hope in something. Some hope that when it all comes to and end we die and they just dump us in the ground. That way there is nothing to worry about because we are accountable for nothing. 

Some hope in good works or religious practices. They hope that at the end of the day their good works are going to outweigh their bad and God (or whoever) is going to be happy. Their hope, in reality, is in them. 

But our hope is in the Lord – and He is our living hope. Our hope in Him is not in some vain emptiness – but in the One who conquered death. And in what more could we put our hope? Our hope is alive because Jesus is alive! Our hope will never die because He cannot die!

Praise God for a hope which is alive!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Turn him

Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. – James 5.19-20

This is the contrast to the passage above dealing with not judging our brethren and not grumbling about them. Sometimes our fellow Christians do mess up. Sometimes they wander away from the truth. Sometimes they (and we) do get off track. 

So God has a plan for that. 

When we see someone who gets themselves off track our task is not to judge and condemn them. Our job is to lovingly turn them back from their sin. 

When Paul wrote to the Galatian believers he gave these instructions – ‘Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.’

We have no right to sit as judge because we are just as liable to wander from the truth, be in error, or be overtaken in a fault. Our attitude must be meekness and gentleness with one goal in mind – to restore him to fellowship. 

Too often we are tempted to simply kick the erring brother to the kerb. If they can’t cut they ought to get out of the way and let us who can get on about our business for the Lord. That certainly may be the tough guy approach and it sure is easier that trying to help – but certainly is not God’s way. 

When we see our brother wandering he needs us to come alongside him, put our arm around him, and lovingly guide him back on the path. 

Monday, 2 February 2015

Effectual and fervent prayer

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.. – James 5.16-18

I really wish I knew more about how prayer ‘works.’ I know the concept pretty well. I understand what prayer is. I know that prayer needs to be in the will of God. I know that prayer is to bring me in line with God. 

But I still don’t really understand how it all works. 

This passage for example. It talks about confessing our sins and praying so that we might be healed – but I know not everyone is healed. It talks about how Elijah, a man like us, through his ‘effective fervent prayer’ stopped the rain and started the rain with his prayer – but I know that I can’t control the weather with my prayers. 

But I also know that prayer does work. I have seen wonderful, amazing, and miraculous answers to prayer far too many times to doubt that. 

So I guess all I can do is to strive to live righteously and pray fervently and trust God with the effectually and the avails much aspect. After all, He does know best and wants the best for me. 

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Pray and sing

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. – James 5.13

What a nice passage for a Sunday morning before church. As we prepare to head off to our worship service and fellowship let us take two little thoughts to heart. 

If anyone is suffering let him pray
If anyone if cheerful let him sing

I like this simple reminder. God doesn’t take our suffering lightly. He doesn’t just ignore it. When we are suffering He tells us to pray. The very fact that the perfect and holy all powerful creator of heavens and earth would invite me, the chiefest of sinners, to pray is an amazing fact. 

We need not suffer alone. We have hope. We can pray to the God of All-Comfort and depend on Him and His perfect will. That knowledge ought to give us great comfort. 

And when we are cheerful we ought to sing. 

Singing is a major part of worship. It is something we are called on to do. Singing not only honours God and blesses our hearts, it is a way to minister to each other. While we make ‘melody in our hearts to the Lord’ (Ephesians 5.19) we also ‘teach and admonish each other in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs’ (Galatians 5.15). 

So as we assemble this morning lets pray with the suffering and lets us sing with the cheerful that we may truly serve and minister to each other. 

And don’t worry about whether or not you have a ‘good’ singing voice. After all, God said ‘make a joyful NOISE to the Lord.’