November 30 - Grow in the Lord

Sunday, November 30, 2008

November 30 - Grow in the Lord - 2 Peter 3:14-18

Peter comes to the end of his second letter and wants to ensure that he has said everything he needs to say before he is finished. In 2 Peter 1:13-15, we see that he is more than likely very aware of that his time on earth is short.

He wraps up the previous passage by encouraging his readers to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Jesus since the Day of the Lord is near. He repeats his admonition that the Lord's patience means salvation. In other words, just because the Messiah hasn't returned yet, don't dismiss the hope that He is not coming soon. Be prepared, be holy.

There had been tension between Paul and Peter. In Galatians 2:11-21, Paul opposes him in Antioch, yet Peter ends the verse (2 Peter 3:15) by speaking the same words about Paul that Paul used to described himself in 1 Corinthians 3:10. During all of those years, and amidst the disagreements that these two men may have had regarding how to teach the world about Jesus Christ, they still cared for each other.

Peter goes on in 2 Peter 3:16 to affirm Paul's teachings, even those that might have been difficult for Peter to learn.

As we come to the final two verses of these letters from Peter we are encouraged to stay alert. I love the command in 2 Peter 3:18. "Grow." The word means to increase, to grow up, to become greater, to augment. We are not to stay stagnant or maintain the status quo. We are to always be learning and always find ways to grow in God's grace.

I certainly don't want to be the same immature girl that I was at the age of 13 and I certainly don't want to be the same Christian that I was at that age. I can only pray that over the years I have grown into the woman that God wants me to be, both in the world and in His Word.

To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

It's hard to believe that another month has come to a close. Today is the beginning of Advent, the beginning of the Christmas season. I will begin wandering through the Gospels tomorrow, reading the story of Christ's birth. We spend less than a month preparing for His birthday. Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, Elizabeth and their families had spent many months. Can you imagine the excitement that Mary must have felt as she spent 9 months preparing for His coming? Can you imagine the anticipation that all of Heaven had as they waited for this child's entrance?

If you would like to invite someone to be a part of this adventure, they can either log on to the blog at or they can email me to get daily notices of this by sending an email to nammynools (at) cox (dot) net.

November 29 - Day of the Lord

Saturday, November 29, 2008

November 29 - Day of the Lord - 2 Peter 3:1-13

Jude 17-18 parallels 2 Peter 3:2-3.

Notice in 2 Peter 3:2 that Peter links the authority of the apostles to the historical authority of the prophets. He writes this way to assure continuity of the Gospel and authentication for Christian preaching. Tyndale's commentary states that 2 Peter 3:1-2 tells us to remember who brought the word of God and 2 Peter 3:3-7 reminds us of the power of the Word to create and destroy.

Peter emphasized the second coming of the Messiah in his first letter and follows up with further thoughts. As I read 2 Peter 3:3-7, I realized that I have heard people speak these same words. I remember having conversations with my father and other close Christian mentors about this. "If nothing has changed on this earth in the entire time that it has been in existence, why should we believe that it is going to change now?" My father finally told me that one way or other, we would be in heaven ... either through our own death or the return of the Messiah. And either way would be acceptable. He was right.

2 Peter 3:5 states that people who scoff at the return of the Messiah are deliberately forgetting their history. They are ignoring the truth of God's activity in the creation of this world and the destruction of the world in the time of Noah.

The present heaven and earth are reserved for fire (2 Peter 3:7). As you read the Revelation to John, you will find that fire is a primary destructive force unleashed upon the earth and the heavens. We are in no position to question God on His timing or His intervention into this world. We are to simply trust in the certainty of the things that He has done.

Peter discussion on God's timing is one of those passages that has allowed me to learn about trusting in God and what patience really means. God's idea of when things should happen tends to be completely different than what I think should happen. However, I am generally operating under the assumption that I have a limited amount of time left on this earth, so I have to ensure that things are done while I am here to see it happen.

God, on the other hand, is not bound by the constraints of time. He does not have a limited amount of time to deal with the issues on this earth. For heaven's sake, it took him thousands of years and many generations to get from Abraham, through the calling of a nation, through the rejection and acceptance and rejection and acceptance and rejection that the nation Israel dealt with in its relationship with him, and finally to the point of Jesus coming to earth to act as the greatest sacrifice. Any of us would have been finished with that garbage in a few weeks!

God's desire is not just to punish, but to bring everyone to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Peter is very clear, though. The Day of the Lord will come (2 Peter 3:10). The destruction will happen. Do not ignore this. Just as he taught about holiness in his first letter, he repeats himself and tells us that it is important to live holy and godly lives. He has promised that this day will come. We believe God's promises and just as we believe the promise of the destruction of the present heaven and earth, we believe the promise of a new heaven and earth which will be a home of righteousness.

Holiness leads to heaven.

November 28 - Punishment

Friday, November 28, 2008

November 28 - Punishment - 2 Peter 2:10-22

Ahhh ... this is much better. For some of you, Black Friday is something to get excited about ... for me, it would be punishment. So, I find it easy to write about that subject today.

The subject matter is paralled in Jude 8-16 if you want to look for the similarities.

As I read this through, it occurred to me that Peter was absolutely furious with someone. This sounds like a retribution tirade if I've ever heard one! I've had these conversations with Max when I've been righteously angry at someone for corrupting others.

2 Peter 2:10-12 begins to describe who these people are. I hope that you can see this in someone other than yourself ... because if you see yourself in these words, you will have some 'splainin to do!

First they despise authority and follow corrupt desires. They are bold and arrogant and will even slander celestial beings. By the time you get to 2 Peter 2:12, Peter assures us that not only are they brute beasts, but they are ignorant. They don't even know what it is that they are talking about! Wycliffe says 'their self-assurance was matched by their ignorance.' Paul speaks of this type of people in Colossians 2:18.

2 Peter 2:13 speaks of people who attend Christian events and then carouse, living a life that is completely different than the one they live while chatting it up in church! Peter speaks of a feast, he is speaking of the family-type gatherings that Christians had regularly.

In 2 Peter 2:14-15, we find that there is more to come with regards to their bad behavior. They never stop sinning. Their eyes are adulterous, they seduce the unstable, they are experts in greed, they love the payment they get for wickedness. When Carol and I were running Insty-Prints, it was always a challenge to be above board and to be honest. We watched dishonesty happen all around us. The business world is not an easy place to be a Christian. Too many Christian business people find themselves easily swayed by the easy dollar. It's much too simple to take a shortcut and charge the higher price ... Peter is fully condemning those actions!

As we move on through these verses, Peter emphasizes that it isn't enough that these people are corrupt, but they have to drag others into their corruption. In fact, they even go after people who are weak (2 Peter 2:18). They promise freedom, yet drag people away from true freedom of knowing Christ (2 Peter 2:20). For them, he says it would be better if they have never known the hope of righteousness, because turning your back on it is the worst possible consequence (2 Peter 2:21).

Peter ends this passage with the words of Proverbs 26:11 and everything seems very dismal. He has delivered these words to people whose corruption knew no bounds. It seems appropriate in this day and age to be reminded of his tirade against the ways of wickedness. We are an accursed people without the saving grace of Jesus Christ. It is impossible to live this life on our own.

Where will you stand today? Have you left the straight way and wandered off (2 Peter 2:15)?

November 27 - Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 27, 2008

November 28 - Thanksgiving

I am going to have to save the actual study from 2nd Peter for tomorrow. The title of it is "Punishment," and I think that is more appropriate for Black Friday than for Thanksgiving! So, instead, you get a story of giving. This is taken from Guideposts.

Mr. Thanksgiving

One man's mission to serve Thanksgiving to a few local folks turns into a feast for more than 2,000.

By Ashley Johnson
Florence, Alabama

Thanksgiving eve, Bob Vogelbaugh, owner of a small grocery store in Moline, Illinois, was bagging Rose Hanson's purchases. "Hey, there's no turkey here," Bob said. "My family's all grown," Rose said. "Why bother with dinner? It's just me now."

That got Bob wondering. Were there other folks in the same boat as Rose? He asked other customers that day about their holiday plans. "My kids have moved away." "It's too far to travel just for dinner." "Why go to all the trouble?"

Closing up, Bob took note of an old table and some folding chairs in his storeroom. I bet that table would seat eight, he thought. He scratched his plans to go to a family reunion (his mom was disappointed, but she understood) and called his customers. First, Rose. "I'm inviting you to Thanksgiving dinner," he said. "Does this mean I have to buy all my groceries from you?" she teased. Bob laughed. "It's just dinner! Come by the shop at six and bring your favorite dish. I'll supply the bird."

The next night, Rose and a half-dozen others gathered for green beans, mashed potatoes, turkey and pumpkin pie. "It was like the first Thanksgiving: people from different backgrounds getting together to share their blessings," Bob said. "And a great meal."

Thirty-eight years later, Bob's annual Thanksgiving potluck has grown into a buffet extravaganza that overflows the food court at a local mall. Dinner is served free of charge to anyone who shows up.

Weeks ahead of time Bob collects donations, rounds up volunteers and books buses (provided free by the transit authority) for the diners unable to drive. On the big day, he wakes up at 5 a.m. and heads to the mall to put up decorations. He checks in with the 400 volunteers preparing the salad, rolls and side dishes, and arranges for the delivery of the 2,000 pounds of turkey he's ordered. At 2:30 p.m., buses pull up to the mall, carrying hungry folks from four counties in Illinois and even a few from as far as Iowa.

Vicki Baker, Bob's right hand for the day, directs volunteers, who pass out plates piled with food. "As for dessert," Bob says, "it's every man for himself. People show up with a half-dozen pumpkin pies, stacks of angel food cakes. We always have enough for everyone."

"Everyone" was more than 2,000 people last year. Bob makes his way from table to table, saying hi to newcomers and regulars alike. "I know the ladies who bring the best pies," he says. "And one family still comes back to do all the dishes!"

The dinner costs about $9,000 in turkey, stuffing and fixin's. "We have a couple of large donors," Bob says. The third-grade class at nearby C.R. Hanna Elementary School raised more than $1,800 last year. "Mostly, we get letters with a few crumpled bills in them. The people always say they wish they could give more—those are the ones that really get me!"

After the last turkey is carved, Bob sits down with a slice of pumpkin pie and surveys the contented diners. What is Bob most grateful for, you might ask? "I don't believe the man upstairs meant for us to be alone at Thanksgiving," Bob says. "He gave me the chance to help bring all these people together for the day. That's what I'm most grateful for."

November 26 - A History Lesson

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

November 26 - A History Lesson - 2 Peter 2:4-9

Peter is about to deliver a very clear picture of God's ability to judge between the righteous and the wicked. If you read Jude 3-8, you will find much of the same language. The if ... then statements are summed up in 2 Peter 2:9. The Lord knows how to rescue godly men and He knows to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.

The lesson in this passage seems fairly obvious and I don't know that I need to spend much more time with it than asking you to read through this carefully.

The angels that sinned. We read about fallen angels in Job 4:18, Matthew 25:41, Jude 6 and Revelation 12:9. Jude and Revelation both speak of the archangel Michael, who led the battle against the dragon (Satan) and his angels (Revelation 12:7-8).

He didn't spare the ancient world filled with ungodly people, but he did separate Noah and his family to protect them.

He condemned Sodom and Gomorrah, but rescued Lot, a righteous man. And don't you love 2 Peter 2:8? 'that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard.' Somedays, after watching the news, I feel like that. Not that I'm proclaiming myself particularly righteous. But, we live among such filth and we are expected to maintain a sense of godliness through it. God rewards that!

In 2 Peter 2:9, the word 'terein,' which is translated in the NIV as holding the unrighteous for the day of judgment, actually means that God is keeping them under guard.

False teachers and prophets, ungodly men and women, sinful angels and those who deliberately reject God's commands face an eternity of punishment. We can hope for something better and ignore the fact that it is coming, but Peter wants us to understand that God will punish the unjust and the ungodly. He will also rescue the righteous.

November 25 - False Prophets

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

November 25 - False Prophets - 1 Peter 2:1-3

While reading these 3 verses, I became really disturbed. Not at the words, but at the realization of how easily we are taken in and how easy it is for us to be caught up in false teaching. In fact, sometimes it is nearly impossible to discern what is truth and what is false.

I get annoyed with the email stories that travel from person to person and generally head to or to get the rebuttal and send it back to the person I received the original email from. But, we don't have something that black and white to stop most false teachers and prophets. Their teaching is wrapped up in the guise of truth and many times it is wrapped in a beautiful bow that entices us into desiring that their words be truth.

We've seen cults destroy themselves as their leaders tried to introduce teachings and then fall apart. In fact, we've seen many evangelical pastors lose sight of the goal and turn the importance of the story of Jesus into a personal greedy goal. Peter assures us that their destruction will be swift.

I don't know that Peter is speaking of Christians who get caught up in something and find themselves spinning out of control as we've seen many evangelical leaders do over the last few decades. This is a more insidious, deliberate attack on Christianity. But, the enemy will use any way possible to get people to follow the lie and the false teaching.

Look at 2 Peter 2:2. What is one of the outcomes of false teaching? The way of truth is brought into disrepute. Hypocrisy among Christians is one of the biggest reasons that non-Christians offer for not wanting to become a part of the church. Who can blame them? Christianity, the church, everything about this has been turned into a business and many times not a very 'Christian' one at that. So, when an honest person shows up, wanting to spread the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, he (or she) must wade through the built-up sludge of lies and destructive heresies.

This is not an easy time to be a Christian. We are not facing direct persecution on a daily basis, but we do face the effects of allowing false prophets and false teachers among us.

In 2 Peter 2:3, the NIV says that 'these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.' Other translations read 'feigned words.' The Greek word for this phrase is 'plastos.' Yup, we get our word 'plastic' from that. Words that can easily be twisted. They twist these words to fill their greed. Paul speaks of the same thing in 1 Thessalonians 2:5, "You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness," when assuring his readers that he was different from others. In the Old Testament, Micah called them out by saying, "Her leaders pronounce judgment for a bribe, her priests instruct for a price, and her prophets divine for money." (Micah 3:11).

We don't have to pronounce judgment on these people, Peter says that 'their condemnations has long been hanging over them ...' (2 Peter 2:3b) But, we do have to be constantly on the alert.

November 24 - Prophets

Monday, November 24, 2008

November 24 - Prophets - 2 Peter 1:19-21

At the end of the passage that we read yesterday, Peter spoke of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus ensured that Peter, James and John saw the glory of the living Presence of God. In Chapter 2, Peter begins teaching about false teacher, but before he gets there, he wants us to know that he is preaching truth. Those cleverly invented stories of 2 Peter 1:16 were not used to tell us about the power and coming of Jesus, but Peter was a witness and the prophets told of those things.

Pay attention to prophecy, he says. It is a light shining in a dark place. Psalm 119:105 say that God's Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. He goes on to tell us that we are to hold to the Word 'until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.' (2 Peter 1:19b)

Numbers 24:17 says "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel."

And we see in Revelation 22:16 that Jesus is the bright morning star.

After the dawn of the morning star - scripture will no longer be needed. Understand this - it's beautiful! Scripture shines as a light until the coming of the dawn. That's what Peter is telling us. Jesus is the Word made flesh. Jesus is the morning star. We will no longer need scripture with the dawn of the morning star. We will have entered the New Jerusalem. Revelation 21:23 says "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light ... and the Lamb is its lamp."

Remember what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10? Oh, this just excites my heart. "But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears."

2 Peter 1:20-21 gives us more information about these prophecies. Firstly, the prophet did not make them up on his own and secondly, they came from God through the Holy Spirit.

The prophecies that are a light shining in a dark place are God's Words to us ... love letters, if you will. A promise that Jesus will return. A light to encourage our hope in the darkness.

November 23 - We Knew Jesus

Sunday, November 23, 2008

November 23 - We Knew Jesus - 2 Peter 1:12-18

In John 21:18-19, Jesus tells Peter that he will die a martyr's death. We find Peter acknowledging that this is going to happen soon in these verses (2 Peter 1:12-15). He wants to make sure that things are put into place so that his readers are able to remember the truths that he has spent the better part of his life teaching. Some scholars believe that 2 Peter 1:15 indicates that he spent time recounting his memories to Mark so that the Gospel would be written.

False prophets and teachers used myths and stories to emphasize their teaching. Peter clearly states in 2 Peter 1:16 that the stories he relates are true because he was an eyewitness. Paul used the same terminology in dealing with false prophets in 1 Tim. 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:4 and Tit. 1:14.

One of Peter's favorite memories had to have been the Transfiguration (Mark 9:1-13). Jesus ensured that Peter, James and John were allowed to witness the glory of heaven so that they could relate the story to others on earth ... as witnesses and participants.

Non-Biblical sources are used to make suppositions regarding Peter's life in Rome and his death. However, these sources are generally accepted as historical and are not part of the apocrypha. Josephus (AD 37 - AD 100) wrote two major works which describe Judaism and early Christianity, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Clement of Rome, St. Ireneaus of Lyons all spoke of Peter - that he and Paul were the founders of the church in Rome. Josephus wrote of how Roman soldiers entertained themselves by crucifying men in varying positions, which affirms the possibility of Peter's crucifixion being upside down.

Tradition holds that Peter fled from Rome to avoid execution, but in a vision/conversation with Jesus, was told that he (Jesus) was going to Rome to be crucified again, so Peter turned around and went back to Rome to meet his death.

He would have been murdered by Nero between 64 and 68 AD. On October 13, 64 AD, Nero celebrated the 10th Anniversary of his ascendancy to the throne. This holiday was generally celebrated with much bloodshed and came three months after the fire which Nero blamed on the Christians, hoping to eliminate many of them in the aftermath. This would have been a probable time for Nero to execute one of the major leaders of the Christian faith.

All of the stories, all of the traditions are interesting information, but what we actually know of Peter is that he as a man who knew Jesus intimately and his purpose in life was fulfilled as he taught people how to come to know his own Savior personally.

November 22 - You are Called

Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 22 - You are Called - 2 Peter 1:3-11

Sometimes I have a very bad habit of skimming over scripture and missing important thoughts because I do that. This is one of those passages.

Before we get going too deeply, read 2 Peter 1:10. I want you to have that verse in your head. "Be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure."

Now, let's start at the beginning of the passage (2 Peter 1:3). We have everything we need given to us and then the next bit barely makes sense, unless you spend some time with it. 'through our knowledge of him' (NIV) is probably more easily translated to 'through our acknowledgement of him.' So, as we acknowledge or know Jesus, we have everything we need for life and godliness given to us by His divine power.

The last part of this sentence speaks of our calling. We don't learn about or gain knowledge or come to acknowledge Jesus on our own, but because Jesus called us. He took the initiative in this relationship. And it is by his glory and goodness - that is - it is based on His own honor and excellence, that we are called. Peter makes it very clear that this has nothing to do with an action or activity on our own part.

In 2 Peter 1:4 we find Peter talking about jesus' very great and precious promises. What are these promises? Well, the word used here for 'promise' is only used in this letter in the New Testament. The other place that it is found is in 2 Peter 3:13. The use of this word opens and closes this letter and the rarity of usage of this word emphasizes its importance. The Greek word used here focuses on the content of the promise more than on the promise itself. While Peter doesn't offer us the exact content at this point, we will discover more about this in the second usage of the term.

What it does do is point us to the benefits of the calling: participation in the divine nature, which in essence means that we are more like God than like humanity - which reminds us of Peter's declaration that we are aliens and strangers in this world; and escape from the corruption in the world which is an ongoing process as we walk in this world.

2 Peter 1:5-7 begins a list of virtures that we are to build upon as we grow in knowledge of Jesus Christ. There are 3 other lists of virtues in the New Testament. We know of the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23, but we can also find lists in Romans 5:3-5 and James 1:3-4. Some of these cross lists, but some are individual to the writer.

What we can't miss here is the way that this list is put together. In essence, we must spend some faith to gain goodness; we must spend goodness to gain knowledge; we must spend knowledge to gain self-control; we must spend self-control to gain perseverance; we must spend perseverance to gain godliness; we must spend godliness to gain brotherly kindness; and we must spend brotherly kindness to gain love. There is expense and effort involved in growing virtuously. It isn't something that God just lays on us. So, by growing in virtue, our lives in Christ will be fruitful.

God has called and chosen us. He alone can do this, but for those who think that you can simply live without any type of growth in the virtues of the Christian life, Peter wants us to know that we have a responsibility.

Living a virtuous life will stop us from falling (stumbling) into sin.

You are called and chosen. You have a responsibility, but it will take some work - it won't be easy. The reward? Eternal life in Christ's kingdom.

November 21 - Greetings - 2 Peter

Friday, November 21, 2008

November 21 - Greetings - 2 Peter 1:1-2

There are many differences between these two letters which have caused scholars over the ages to ask difficult questions as to authorship. But, I tend to figure that God put this canon of Scripture together and I'm going to accept things as they are. Because, at the same time, there is plenty of scholarship which believes that the two letters, though quite different in form and in many other aspects, are written by the same man.

Peter took Matthew 23:11 quite seriously since he was obviously the leader of Jesus' followers after the Resurrection. As we read the early chapters of Acts, we see that Peter steps forward in the head position of the group of followers that seems to be growing exponentially. So, in 2 Peter 1:1, he not only identifies himself as an apostle, but as a servant of Christ. The lesson was learned.

The use of the word 'servant' here is rather awesome. The term describes a person who is totally owned by and devoted to Jesus Christ. His status is not his own but is derived from his master. (Peter H. Davids Commentary) Peter's authority is not his own, it comes because he belongs to Jesus Christ.

If you compare this to 1 Peter, you will find several 'letter' components missing. There are no personal greetings and no thanksgiving (which occurs in 1 Peter 1:3) and there is no blessing of the recipients. This letter is much more a sermon or a speech which is transmitted as a letter.

However, 2 Peter and the letter from Jude contain portions that are nearly identical. I will make every attempt to point out to you the parallel passages between the two letters as we work through this. Today, as you read 2 Peter 1:1-2, read Jude 1-2 as well. The opening portions are very similar.

Then, read Jude 3 and notice that he speaks of the faith of the saints, while Peter writes of the precious faith that we have. This faith is granted through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Notice here that this is one person. Peter does not distinguish here between two separate persons. In many translations it comes forth as 'God our Savior Jesus Christ.' Profound theology.

In 2 Peter 1:2, we find one of the main themes of this letter. Knowledge. Peter insists that this is very important. This is the knowledge that we gain upon conversion to Christianity. It isn't just an intellectual knowledge or simply knowing someone upon meeting them, but knowledge that results in a difference in our living.

While 1 Peter focused on holiness, we will find that we have a lot to learn about living a life in the fullness of glory. This second letter has plenty to say to us about knowing God and understanding the things of faith.

November 20 - Final Greetings

Thursday, November 20, 2008

November 20 - Final Greetings - 1 Peter 5:12-14

As we come to a close in this first letter of Peter's we meet some of the people that are close to him.

Silas, or Silvanus, is more than likely the same man that was a companion of Paul's and participated in much of the growth of the early church. It is likely that he not only assisted Peter with writing this letter, but delivered it as well. Peter calls him a faithful brother, which probably means that he was quite familiar to the people reading this letter.

We meet Silas in Acts 15:22 and read about his ministry with Paul through Acts 18:5. He assisted Paul and Timothy in writing the two letters to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 1:1-2, 2 Thess. 1:2) and was obviously a part of Paul's ministry to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 1:19). This was a man of great faith with a strong evangelistic ministry.

At the end of 1 Peter 5:12, we find that he repeats the message of grace that he began teaching at the beginning of the letter (1 Peter 1:2b). He calls us to stand firm in the message of grace. That message is found all through the letter, but spelled out clearly in 1 Peter 1:8, 21.

Stand firm in this message of holiness.

1 Peter 5:13 could have one of two meanings. There is an assumption that Peter is speaking of his wife. She traveled with him on his journeys, was well-known to his readers and tradition says that she was martyred in Rome before he was. The 'Mark' that is spoken of here is more than likely John Mark, who authored the second gospel. There is a strong assertion that Mark's gospel is actually Peter's gospel, he wrote down the things that Peter remembered about Jesus' time on earth.

The second meaning of the woman in Babylon is that Peter is speaking of the church - the word 'ekklesia' is a feminine noun. If this is so, then it is likely that Peter was already in Rome. Babylon was a term used to describe this city, though that is also disputed. He would have been sending greetings to the Asiatic churches from the home church there. History shows that Peter was in Rome at the end of his life and Col. 4:10 also places Mark there.

The NIV version of the Bible translates 1 Peter 5:14 as 'Greet one another with a kiss of love,' yet the original meaning here is 'holy or divine kiss.' The Greek word is 'agape,' which is the love that comes from god. This greeting was common among New Testament Christians (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thes. 5:26).

Peter concludes this letter with prayers for peace for those Christians who are persecuted. Jesus said "My leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives." (John 14:27a)

Greet each other with a divine kiss. Love and holiness cannot be separated.

November 19 - Be Alert

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

November 19 - Be Alert - 1 Peter 5:8-11

After you read these verses, turn to Luke 22:31-32.

Peter knew something about Satan messing with you. He had definitely been devoured by Satan when he denied even knowing Jesus, but since he had come through it, he also learned a lesson in resisting him.

Now, 1 Peter 5:8, though translated in most Bibles correctly, actually does not give us the full image that the Greek is expressing. Peter wants us to imagine a courtroom as we read this. Remember, he has been telling his readers to hold up under persecution. If the accusations against you are false, stand firm, be respectful, etc.

He finally gets to the courtroom scene after all of the information he has put into this letter and assumes that we are dealing with persecution simply because we are Christians, not because we have done anything wrong.

Be self-controlled and alert. The original Greek actually translates to 'calm' and 'watchful.'

I'm a huge fan of the old black and white Perry Mason shows. There were two things you could always count on when he was in the courtroom. He never showed his emotions (he was calm) and he was always ready to pick up on the errors coming from witnesses or the prosecution (he was watchful).

'Your enemy; comes from the Greek word 'antidikos' which means adversary - in the courtroom sense. The word 'devil' (diabolos) in this verse actually translates as 'slanderer' or 'false accuser.' Peter is telling his readers that false persecution and false accusations will come at us and our accuser will be actually trying to swallow us.

We must stand firm in the faith because we know that our brethren throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. The word 'world' here is the Greek word 'kosmos.' I think that's cool. The word 'sufferings' also means 'afflictions' and implies that we are facing these afflictions because of our faith in Jesus.

We meet up with this same slanderous adversary in John's Revelation. In Revelation 2:10, Jesus tells the church in Smyrna that the devil will test some of us for ten days. That number is meant to be encouragement, as it is a relatively short period of time. We also see him in Revelation 12:9-12. The devil - who is identified here as a slanderer and accuser - is seen standing before God accusing believers day and night. At some point, God finally is done listening to his lies and flings him to the earth and sea. In Revelation 20:2, the devil is bound for a thousand years, released, but then in Revelation 20:10, he is thrown into the lake of burning sulfur to be tormented day and night for eternity.

Stand firm. In 1 Peter 5:10, we are told that the suffering is only for a little while. We are restored and made strong, firm and steadfast.

Praise the Lord - to Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

November 18 - Humility

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

November 18 - Humility - 1 Peter 5:1-7

In 1 Peter 1:1, Peter identifies himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Now, he begins this passage by telling us that he witnessed Christ's sufferings and has confidence that he will share in the coming glory.

This part of the letter certainly takes us through Peter's life with Christ. As I grow older, my memories come flooding back to me in various instances. It doesn't take many words to make me remember specific things. Imagine what is going through Peter's mind as he writes this.

In 1 Peter 5:1, he remembers the arrest in Gethsemane (Mark 14:43-46), the beatings (Matthew 27:28-31) and denial (Matthew 26:69-75), and the crucifixion (Luke 23:44-46) as he identifies himself as a witness to Christ's suffering. Without missing a beat, he speaks of the glory that he saw revealed in the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36).

1 Peter 5:2 is reminiscent of Jesus' conversation with Peter in John 21:15-18, where He removes the stain of Peter's denial and entrusts the leadership of the church to him. Peter now extends this command to the elders of the church. "Tend to the sheep ... feed them ... take care of them."

He would have remembered Jesus tearing through the courtyards of the temple in Luke 19:45-46 as he expressed his desire that overseers not be greedy with the money that comes in to them as gifts. Peter was not speaking of the stipend that paid them, but additional funds being dispersed to them from the offerings of the fellowship.

When Jesus taught the disciples in Luke 22:24-30 about who would be the greatest and that the kings of the Gentiles and the Benefactors were not personalities to be emulated, Peter listened and translated those words back to his readers in 1 Peter 5:3. By the time Peter gets to 1 Peter 5:5, we know that he is remembering that very strong lesson in John 13:1-17 when Jesus knelt down to wash his feet.

Even though it goes against everything we are taught in this culture, we must remember that we humble ourselves - under God's mighty hand. And why? So that he may lift us up in due time. Our time is not His time, our plans may not be His plans. Only by stepping under that hand ... will we find ourselves walking in harmony with our Lord.

Holiness takes us to our knees before God.

November 17 - Don't Be Surprised

Monday, November 17, 2008

November 17 - Don't Be Surprised - 1 Peter 4:12-19

Peter certainly has plenty to say about suffering in this letter and this time he tells us that we shouldn't be surprised at what is in front of us.

In the 70s, there were little cards that Christians passed around with the question, "If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" That question strikes me now as it did then. If people aren't slandering me, lying about me, teasing me or persecuting for being a Christian, do they actually even know that I am one? Do I surround myself with people that are safe? Even my non-Christian friends are safe - they aren't actually non-Christians, they're more like non-churchgoers.

So, what do these passages on suffering for the name of Christ mean to me? I take this as a challenge to be less like the world and more like Christ. I'm not sure what that looks like on a day to day basis, but I am certain that I need to be constantly aware of my interactions with others. It's not about a legalistic set of rules that I need to live by, it's very much about how I actually show love to the people that I meet from day to day, including my family.

1 Peter 4:14 really spells out why this is so important. "If we are insulted for the name of Christ - if we are actually living like Jesus so that people might insult us, we are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on us."

I want to live as if that Spirit is resting on me. The original Greek in this passage actually means 'pauses over.' My mind's eye saw the pointer hovering over (pausing over) the scripture passage on the blog and the passage opens up so that it easily readable. As the Spirit of God pauses over me, I open up to become something so much more than what I am!

The final three verses (1 Peter 4:17-19) explain our responsibility. If we can't get it together as Christians, it will be that much more difficult for non-Christians to come to God. We need to commit ourselves to who (1 Peter 4:19)? To the 'faithful' Creator. Peter is constantly reminding us that we are to set as our baseline for living something that is much higher than any of us can hope to achieve. God is more faithful than we can ever dream of being. Yet, He has committed Himself to us. As we commit to Him and continue to do good, we will make it easier for the ungodly and the sinner to be saved.

Watch your behavior today. Just observe. Are you distinctly different from the rest of the world because of your relationship to Jesus Christ? If you aren't ... why not? This is something I really want to pay attention to this week.

Holiness is not easy, even though we think that it might be.

November 16 - The End is Near

Saturday, November 15, 2008

November 16 - The End is Near - 1 Peter 4:7-11

This is an amazing passage, one that is filled with deeper meanings as you look at the Greek, yet on the face of it, is still filled with so much truth. Take some time to read it through.

I once asked a close friend about the end of the world. He was an amazing Christian man and a man who had an intimate relationship with His Savior. He assured me that he believed that in his lifetime he would see the end of the world. And then he told me that even if the end of the world only manifested itself in his death, he would still see the end of this world in his lifetime. You see ... he knew his life extended beyond the earthen grave. He died several years ago and I'm thankful that I got to know him and hear his wisdom.

The end of all things is near. Whether it is our own death or the return of the Messiah, we don't have that much time. When you begin to add up the minutes and the hours, the days, weeks, months and years that are left in our individual lifetimes, we find that time is short and we cannot afford to squander what we have. 1 Peter 4:7 - " clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray."

Why do think that was important?

In 1 Peter 4:8, Peter discusses love - a deep love. There are three words for love in the Greek language: "agape - divine love; eros - physical love; philos - brotherly/friendship love." The word in this verse is 'agape.' This is the same love that Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 13:4-13. Love that is sacrificial, love that overlooks others sins and wrongdoings, love that comes from the depths of our soul ... the deep that calls out to deep.

Who do you need to love with this love?

1 Peter 4:9 speaks of hospitality. This gracious gift was something that was never questioned in Jewish society. Hospitality above all else was practiced. But, that didn't mean that behind a guest's back, the host wouldn't be murmuring and grumbling. Gracious, sacrificial giving.

What would change if we gave sacrificially?

The gift that Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 4:10 is the Greek word 'charisma.' The holder of this gift is a steward of the grace of God. Read what I just wrote again. The holder of this gift is a steward of the grace of God. There is no question as to whether or not each of us have received a gift, the only question is whether or not it will be used. As this verse goes on, it says 'faithfully administering God's grace in its 'various' forms.' The word 'various' is translated from the Greek 'poikolos' which means multi-colored or variegated. The word polkadot comes from this. God's grace comes through in many types - multi-colored/variegated - of gifts. Each of us has a gift from God. We are stewards. We can't hoard this or hide it. Peter is calling us out.

How will you use your gift this week?

The last verse of this passage (1 Peter 4:11) begins with a direct call to use the words we speak to speak the words of God. God's sayings (Greek: logia) are so much more important than our own. And yet, we barely know God's Word. How can we be certain that we are speaking it? Peter calls us to serve, using God's strength not ours. He isn't being kind or generous to us, worrying that we might wear ourselves out. He knows that when we set ourselves aside, God will be glorified.

Are you more important than God?

He ends this passage with a short benediction, actually glorifying and praising God. That's all I can think to do after reading these verses.

God is holy and is worthy of our praise.

November 15 - Imitating Christ

November 15 - Imitating Christ - 1 Peter 4:1-6

Sometimes I don't think that it's fair. The one person that we are supposed to imitate just happens to be the Son of God. Talk about some impossible standards.

I grew up in a home that didn't tolerate self pity. We learned that it was easier to just suck it up rather than have Dad disappointed in us. Now, I don't believe that it was always the best way to handle a family, but we learned a lot about endurance and keeping a decent attitude through it.

I think Jesus would have had every right to whine and complain about His lot in life. He had been sent to die for the sins of the world. That would give a lot of people plenty to whine and cry about. Peter says that we are to approach suffering with the same attitude that Christ had.

1 Peter 4:3 made me giggle a little. "You have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do - living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry." Ok ... what if I haven't? What did I miss out on?

But, he goes on to say that the pagans don't understand a Christian's behavior, since we refuse to participate in their bad behavior.

I wonder what our world would look like right now if that were true?! What if Christians actually chose not to participate in that behavior and did so with gentleness and respect, rather than announcing to the world that they weren't going to be living detestably like the pagans do and then ... come to find out ... they are actually participating in secret. What if ...

There are many lifestyle choices that we have to make as Christians, and I'm willing to bet that very few of us choose to walk away from bad behavior because of Christ's calling on our lives. Do non-Christians think it strange that you do not participate with them? Do they heap abuse on your for it? Doubtful... right?

What if that were a sure sign that you were a Christian and that was the only way someone could see who Christ really was? What if that were the standard that you set for a life lived in Jesus' name? What if your attitude was such that you cared more about living as Christ calls you than you do about giving in to your own selfish desires?

Oh, these words convict me to the core.

Judgment is coming. We are judged according to men in regard to the body - but, we live according to God in regard to the spirit.

Mankind looks at each of us and judges us according to our behavior. If we are judged to be a non-Christian, what will that do to the world - how will that affect people around us?

Holiness is living according to God in regard to the spirit.

November 14 - Suffering

Friday, November 14, 2008

November 14 - Suffering - 1 Peter 3:13-22

Here he goes again - presupposing that as Christians, we are going to 'do good.' Just gotta love him. It isn't every pastor that has that much faith in his people. 1 Peter 3:13 is a rhetorical question, yet even though we do what is good - persecution will still occur. Matthew 5:10-12 is the original beatitude (blessedness) that Peter is remembering. And in 1 Peter 3:14, he continues by quoting Isaiah 8:12-13. Christians shouldn't fear their enemies, but should instead, fear God (Matthew 10:28).

Peter says we are to set apart Christ as Lord "in our hearts." (1 Peter 3:15) Notice that he also used this in 1 Peter 1:22 when he speaks of how we are to love one another deeply. For him, the heart was the core self of the person (Peter H. Davids, Commentary). This is so much more than an intellectual process. This is commitment - on our parts. We honor Christ with everything that we are.

1 Peter 3:15 is probably one of my watchword verses. I want to be able to tell people confidently why I have the hope that I do. Hope is one of those things that Peter talks about a lot. 1 Peter 1: 3, 13, 21.

I have plenty to say about the last 1/2 of this verse - speaking with gentleness and respect, but I think that's a blog for another time. What I will say is that a lack of these two qualities is one of the reasons that non-Christians see hypocrisy and refuse to listen to us. I'm just saying ...

We are to imitate Christ. If we think that our suffering is too much, Christ suffered for absolutely no reason - other than to save us. He was the righteous one and He died for people He would never meet, simply because they could not ever atone for their unrighteousness.

The words in 1 Peter 3:18 " bring you to God," come from a technical term that means to "gain audience at court" (probably more like a King's court). Peter is saying that all of this was done for us so that we could have full access to the throne room. Paul says the same thing in Ephesians 2:18, 3:12 and in Romans 5:2.

1 Peter 3:19-20 are difficult verses to interpret. Is Peter talking about imprisoned angels? Is he talking about souls in Hades? Peter Davids says that there are several interpretations - OT Souls of the faithful, souls who died in the flood and are awaiting the gospel proclamation, fallen angels of Genesis 6:1, demons - the offspring of the fallen angels. The word "preach" is a term that means to 'proclaim' or 'announce.' What Jesus is proclaiming is also debatable. This term, if it is meant to be a proclamation of judgment is not used anywhere else that way in scripture. (Luke 12:3; Rom. 2:21; Rev. 5:2).

Clearly, they disobeyed during the time that Noah built the ark. There were 10 generations from Adam to Noah, so there was plenty of time for disobedience. God exercised great patience through that time.

Peter is making a comparison of these few that were saved on the ark, to the small Christian minority that are dealing with persecution.

Peter makes it very clear through these passages, that we are not to expect special favors from the world because we are Christians. If our 'rights' are trod upon due to the fact that we are Christians, we are to take it. With grace. We are not to get as ugly as the world gets in this fight. Because suffering for God brings a blessing.

Baptism in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is what saves us. Laws meant to protect us are created by the world and mean nothing in the end game. Christ's resurrection is the means of salvation.

All angels, authorities and power will be in submission to Him.

Holiness sometimes means more on the inside than it does on the outside.

November 13 - Blessing

Thursday, November 13, 2008

November 13 - Blessing - 1 Peter 3:8-12

We live in a pagan world. We are simply visitors to this world. And yet, Peter also tells us that we must live together in this world, with each other and with the the residents of this pagan world. How? He gives us five characteristics:

1. Live in harmony with one another. In other words - be of like mind. This is very similar to Paul's teaching to the Philippians in Philippians 1:27-2:4. Both of these men were trying to teach some that seems so simple, yet is so alien to our nature.

2. Be sympathetic. The Greek is 'sympatheis' and means 'feeling with.' Romans 12:15 tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.

3. Love as brothers. Greek - you know this - 'philadelphoi'. 1 Thessalonians 4:9. Paul says that he didn't need to tell us about brotherly love because we had already been taught by God to do this. I guess if we haven't learned the Golden Rule by now - we never will.

4. Be compassionate. This word is found only one other time in the New Testament - in Ephesians 4:32. This is a tender-heart towards someone in need. I guess that I would also associate this with kindness which is in the list from Galatians 5:22-23 of the fruit of the Spirit.

5. Be humble. Putting others before ourselves. I was in Junior High when I first discovered the cycnical implications that no one did anything for anyone else unless there was an ultimate personal payoff. That floored me! Now, yes - I am a "Friends" television show addict, and I distinctly remember Phoebe's crisis of conscience when she realized that it was nearly impossible to do something without getting some kind of benefit for herself. But, how do we consciously put everyone else before ourselves? It's so difficult and yet, Jesus demands it of us.

And now, we've finally reached verse 9 (1 Peter 3:9). I finally read "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Alborn last night. What a wonderful book. But, one of the things that Morrie said in their last days together was about his reaction to people in traffic. He would raise his hand when he was cut off - the offending driver was expecting to see a rude gesture, but Morrie would smile and wave as if to offer that driver his place in traffic. It changed the face on the other driver quite often.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. Can we really live that way and not have a heart attack? I believe that to avoid the stress that leads to ill health, we have to live that way.

Peter goes on to say that we must react with blessing, because it is to this we are called. The reason is so that we may inherit a blessing. Jesus speaks of that inheritance in Matthew 5:10-12, while Peter goes on to quote from Psalm 34:12-16.

Holiness must go out from us in our interactions with people.

November 12 - Husbands & Wives

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

November 12 - Husbands & Wives - 1 Peter 3:1-7

If I could drop these 7 verses out of this book, I would consider it nearly perfect. I'm betting that Peter's wife didn't have much to say about this part of the letter. Either that or they had just had a nasty fight and he was still angry with her. GoodNESS!

Somehow I have this image of Peter dealing with an unruly teenaged daughter who wanted to go out with her friends - she was all dressed up and making a scene about worrying whether or not she was beautiful. Her mother was stressing out because there were going to be boys at the party and things in the Cephas' household were not fun. Peter was desperately trying to write a missive on holiness and he was wondering if he would be able to maintain a sense of stability in the household while this was happening.

There was every probability that he was dictating this letter to Silas (1 Peter 5:12) and he was probably embarrassed by the women in his household. So ... in a fit of fury, he spouted off these words and Silas took them down.

Of COURSE men want their wives to be submissive and gentle with quiet spirits. Why would any man out there want a wife that stirs up trouble in the home?

Anyway ... let's look at what this is really saying.

First of all, being in submission does not bring about inequality. Remember. Jesus is in submission to the Father and yet He is equal. In 1 Peter 3:3, Peter is saying that inner beauty is much more important than outward trappings. I doubt that any of us would disagree with that and all of us know women that spend extensive time and effort on their outward beauty and they are difficult to be around because of their attitudes.

Do you notice that in 1 Peter 3:4, Peter speaks again of the contrast between the imperishable (unfading beauty) and the perishable. The phrase 'you can't take it with you' can easily apply to jewelry, plastic surgery and makeup.

By the time he turns to the husbands, notice that he uses the same phrase "in the same way." (1 Peter 3:7). This implies a sense of equality. Again, just as he did with slaves, women, who were not given any respect in the secular world of the day, received not only respect from Peter, they were given expectations and privileges.

There is plenty of debate regarding what is meant by the 'weaker' partner. I'm not going to argue the point here - I figure that's Peter's to deal with when we all face him down in heaven. However, any husband who doesn't understand the importance of treating his wife well has missed the point of this passage. Not only is he expected to see her as a co-heir with him, but his mis-treatment of her will hinder his prayer life.

While he spends more time describing exactly what a woman is to do, he is quite blunt with husbands. For a man in that day and age, holiness was something part of the social aspect of their lives. They were called to pray at the temple and to pray in public. Being disrespectful of their wives closes off that part of their lives - Peter hit them where it hurt the most.

Holiness in the home - what a concept!

November 11 - Enduring

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

November 11 - Enduring - 1 Peter 2:18-25

While the idea of slavery is abhorrent to us, it was a reality in the time of Jesus and his disciples. Paul's letters generally dealt with guidelines for the masters of slaves and by Peter's asking the slaves to act morally gave them privileges and expectations that most outside the Christian faith did not.

This code of conduct is set out for all - not just for slaves. I think that for nearly all of us, the idea of enduring a beating for doing wrong - or for doing good is unacceptable. The idea of suffering for any reason is also just as unacceptable. If there is money available and someone can fix it for us - we don't suffer. Why should we?

Isaiah 53 is the prophecy around which the 'Suffering Servant' is understood. It was intertwined into the teaching of the Messiah and was a large part of the teachings regarding Jesus Christ. Peter quotes from it in 1 Peter 2:22 and weaves it into his words in 1 Peter 2:25. We are going to continue to read about this in the next chapter.

He reminds us in 1 Peter 2:21 that Christ suffered as an example for us, so that we can follow in his footsteps. In fact, he says at the end of 1 Peter 2:20 that we are called to this. What in the world can he mean by that?

While we avoid suffering at all costs, Paul tells us in Romans 5:3 that there are deeper things going on ... Suffering produces perseverance. Perseverance produces character. Character produces hope. Look back at 1 Peter 1:3. God has given us new birth into a living hope and into an imperishable inheritance.

Spend some time with this if you aren't making the connection between suffering and hope. Paul took us through it and Peter is teaching the same lesson. Christ died on the cross (Peter uses 'tree' as a euphemism in 1 Peter 2:24) so that we can return.

Very few of us know or understand what it is like to actually suffer in the name of Christ. I'm not suggesting that any of us should actually pray for that understanding. I know from experience that asking God for teaching on something like that generally gets a response. But, I do believe that when we are faced with it, we might learn to ask God what it is that He wants us to learn before we ask Him to remove the suffering.

The road to holiness ... never simple.

November 10 - Submission

Monday, November 10, 2008

November 10 - Submission - 1 Peter 2:13-17

Submission. That's a word that strikes fear and fury into many a strong-willed woman's heart. We know full well that the Bible speaks to this and we should learn to live under submission to our husbands ... on and on and on. For many of us - male or female, it's difficult to even consider being in submission to anyone, much less an unseen Lord.

My mother was a strong-willed wife, not unlike her daughters. However, as any good Christian woman might, she became concerned with the Bible's teaching on becoming a good wife. She began an experiment in our home. She would be completely submissive, in all areas, to my father. Now, poor Dad didn't know that this was going to happen. He came home for lunch and discovered a mouse where his wife had been. She acquiesced to his every desire and withdrew from the decision making in the household. She ensured that the home was neat and clean, meals were ready when he arrived, we three children were presented as perfectly as possible to him. He was getting what every man thinks he desires - free reign in his home.

She didn't just do this for a day, she ensured that this happened for over a week. I'm certain that Dad began to enjoy himself more than any man should, but by the time she was ready to leave her skin, he was actually going a bit stir crazy himself. There was no joy in this for either of them. It all came down to their interpretation of the word.

The letter of the law, rather than the spirit of it was translated into our homelife. While it seemed like a good idea on the outside, there was no possible way it was going to work. She tried to transform her basic personality and called that submission. She was miserable during that entire period and it began to affect their relationship. Both of them knew that it couldn't work.

Peter isn't talking about submission for the sake of submission either in these verses. If you read 1 Peter 2:15, you will find that he begins to explain the reason for this teaching. That we 'should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.'

He is also not speaking of unlawful or tyrannical authorities. In Acts 4:19, we find Peter speaking to the Sanhedrin and refusing to abide by their command to not speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Their reply was "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God."

No, Peter clearly states at the beginning of this passage that we are to obey authority for the Lord's sake. And by the time we get to 1 Peter 2:15, he is also clear that we are within God's will. If we suffer at the hand of an authority, it should be because we are a Christian, not because we have committed another offense.

Ignorant and foolish talk is more than likely a form of slander that was used to persecute these early Christians. Even today - our 'right' behavior will silence those who make fun of or slander us. Only when we allow ourselves to be drawn into the behaviors of the world and make our Christian lives hypocritical, can they gain a foothold against us.

1 Peter 2:17 offers up two pairs of commands. Show respect to everyone, love other Christians. Fear God, honor the King.

There is a distinct difference between how we are to treat people in the world and how we treat those in the fellowship of Christ. We show one group respect, but we are to sincerely love our Christian family.

While we may honor (again - show respect) the authorities, we are to give God reverence.

We are taking holiness out into the world.

November 9 - Chosen People

Saturday, November 8, 2008

November 9 - Chosen People - 1 Peter 2:9-12

Every time I begin to study another passage in this letter, I realize why I love it so much. Peter uses a lifetime of knowledge of the scriptures to emphasize the lessons that he teaches. But, I barely know how to begin today's lesson, there is so much information that I am taking in! I'll do my best to limit myself.

1 Peter 2:9 is the fulfillment of Matthew 21:43. We are the people that will produce the fruit of the kingdom of God! Do you see why holiness is so important? Do you understand why we are being built into the spiritual house - the tabernacle (1 Peter 2:5)?

This verse is a combination of 3 passages in the Old Testament: Deut. 10:15; Exod. 19:6; Isa. 61:6. Israel was chosen ... in their rejection of the Messiah ... we, as Gentiles, are invited to be this royal priesthood (priests of the King!), a holy nation (we are in this together) and a people belonging to God (no longer are the Israelites the only people that God has chosen as his children).

And the purpose? That we may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. As priests, we are called to sacrifice. Hebrews 13:15 says, "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name."

1 Peter 2:10 comes from Hosea 1:9, 10, 2:23. Peter is stating that the Gentiles are becoming spiritually what the Israelites were literally ... God's people.

I find this passage to be compelling and exciting, yet terrifying. We have such a responsibility and we squander it. Just as the Israelites spent thousands of years walking away from their inheritance, each of us in our short lives, walk away from this inheritance over and over. Only through God's intervention are we drawn back to Him.

I sometimes wonder if it was easier for God to deal with an entire nation as a corporate entity than it is for Him to have to deal with each of us as individuals. It's a good thing that He never sleeps!

1 Peter 2:11-12 are an introduction to Peter's 'rules' for living in the world. He reminds us who we are. If you are told, when traveling in Mexico, to avoid drinking the water, you know that makes sense. Our bodies do not hold the immunities to the many bacteria that live in that water. These bacteria 'war' against our immune system. We are aliens in that world, our bodies make it very clear that we can't drink the water and we choose to drink bottled water that is clean.

Due to the length of time that we have lived on this earth, we find that we have been here long enough to become accustomed to the bacteria - the sinful desires that 'war' against our souls. We forget what our purpose is, the reason for our existence. We forget that we have been chosen as a royal priesthood - sent by the King of Kings, a holy nation - ruled by that same King and a people belonging to God - the Creator of all things!

And just as the locals might offer you a glass of water and laugh when you refuse to take it, Peter tells us that when living among the inhabitants of this earth, we should live lives that teach them about God and when the day comes that He returns, they will glorify Him on that day.

It's still about holiness. Living lives free from sinful desires is the message for today.

November 8 - The Living Stone

November 8 - The Living Stone - 1 Peter 2:4-8

This passage may seem very familiar to you ... and there are several reasons why!

The original passage comes from Isaiah 28:16, but a similar scripture is Psalm 118:22. Jesus quoted that one in Matthew 21:42 and Peter himself used the verse when speaking to the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:11. He uses it again here to describe our relationship to Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:4. "As you come to him ..." These words mean much more than simply walking up to Jesus. Peter is describing the act of believing in Jesus, this is the conversion experience, the chance to be born again.

Let's go on with the description of us - we'll come back to the description of the living stone. ", also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood ..."

Now, while we are like living stones, we are not THE living stone. We recognize immediately that is a description of Jesus Christ. But, because we have come to Him (been born again), we are like Him ... we are connected to Him.

Peter is describing in these verses, the process of building a temple. Stones are needed and the most precious will be used as a cornerstone. The temple was the most important building to the Jews. Many gentile Christians would have recognized the importance of that as well. But, the temple was made out of stone - stone that could be destroyed. The temple was always susceptible to destruction.

With the death of Christ, God no longer communicated with his people from within the Temple, but took up residence in the hearts of men ... temples that were made of 'living' stone. We are that temple. We are a spiritual house. The sacrifices of the Old Testament were no longer needed, priests were no longer needed ... we are the holy priesthood, we offer sacrifices through Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus tells Peter that he is the rock upon which His church will be built. Peter, however, deflects this image back on to Jesus. He is the foundation of the church. Paul, in Ephesians 2:19-22, describes this same structure. The holy temple is all of us, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone. And in this temple, God will dwell.

Since Peter has identified us with the Living Stone, this becomes an assurance for the readers of his day that were facing persecution and for us as we face rejection for any number of reasons. Christ may have been rejected by mankind, but was chosen by God and precious to him. We are chosen by God and we are precious to him.

The first chapter of this letter described a process that would draw us toward holiness. At this point, we begin to see our responsibility - not from a worldly perspective, but from God's perspective. He wants to dwell within us as He did among the Israelites in their Tabernacle and later, in their Temple.

We are God's dwelling place. Now, as you consider the reason to be holy (Be holy, for I am holy), does this begin to make more sense?

The Tabernacle had to be made to very specific requirements. Each part of that structure was designed by God. From the outer courts to the holy place, God set out His plan for the creation of the Tabernacle. Once the priest made his way from the hustle and bustle of the outer courst, through the place of sacrifice, cleansed himself in the laver and approached the holy of holies, he had made himself as pure and holy as possible so that he could come before ... God.

A call to holiness. A call to be in the presence of the Most High God.

November 7 - Born Again

Friday, November 7, 2008

November 7 - Born Again - 1 Peter 1:22-2:3

I love this first verse today. "Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart." (1 Peter 1:22)

Peter assumes that if you have made a decision to follow Christ and his prescription for holiness ... well ... you are actually living up to that commitment! I guess that this is what Paul is talking about when he describes maturity in Hebrews 5:12.

Paul tells us that maturity comes to those who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:14). Peter says here in 1 Peter 1:22 that obedience to the truth is of great import. Then he goes on to reinforce the importance of love. Obedience calls for a sincere love. Obedience will bring about a deep love - from the heart.

Peter uses Jesus' comparison from Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, of the Word of God to the seed that is sown. It is in John 3:3-8 that we find Jesus speaking to Nicodemus and telling him that one must be born again. Peter hopes to make his reader understand that when we are actually born again - into the Spirit, we make the leap from the fragility of life to the absolute strength that is found in the Word of God. We become more than a life that exists on earth for 70-80 years and fades into dust. The Word of the Lord stands forever.

As we begin Chapter 2 of 1st Peter, we find the process of being holy.

'Rid yourself of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.' (1 Peter 2:1)

Well. Let's see. How do I stack up against those five sins? Malice: a deliberate, sometimes violent anger towards someone, Deceit: lying, Hypocrisy: saying one thing and not living up to it, Envy: desiring anything that someone else has, Slander: saying evil things about someone else. Oh my goodness! In the words of today's vernacular: Epic Fail. There isn't a one of these things that I don't face down nearly every day. Peter says that I am to get rid of them from my life. It seems to me that these are such a basic part of my personality that I might actually destroy myself if they are gone.

Hmmmm ... I wonder what would be left if they were gone? Maybe a life that is open to God and his goodness!

The translation of 1 Peter 2:2 into English is weak. "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk..." This is much more passionate than it sounds. The imagery that is described here is that of a child who at the end of their schedule and is impatient for milk. A voracious, hungry impatience of an infant. We are to crave with that much passion the pure spiritual milk so that we can grow beyond that as Paul demands in Hebrews 5:12 into a mature salvation.

From Psalm 34:3, Peter reminds us that we have tasted the the Lord is good.

Peter encourages us to grow up. He lays out expectations for a life that is lived fully in God. Chapter 1 tells us that we are to be holy - not because our pastors are holy, or our spiritual mentors are holy, or even he, himself is holy ... but, because God is holy.

We are called to holiness.

November 6 - Redemption

Thursday, November 6, 2008

November 6 - Redemption - 1 Peter 1:17-21

Jesus taught us to call God 'Father.' (Luke 11:2) In fact, Paul, in Romans 8:15, says that we can cry out to 'Abba, Father,' which is even more personal. But, Peter says here in 1 Peter 1:17, that if we are going to call out to Father, we need to be sure that we are living in reverent fear.

Proverbs 1:7 says that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge..."

We should not presume upon the relationship that we have with God, because He will judge us all impartially. We always need to approach the Creator with reverence and awe.

When I was in high school, I was in several singing groups that toured the state of Iowa singing in churches. One Sunday morning we were in a church that was a different denomination than most of the kids in our group. One of the kids was sitting on the altar rail while we were warming up and getting things set up. The pastor came out and as politely as possible, gave the entire group a small lecture on honoring the things in the sanctuary. Treating the house of God with reverence. It was a lesson I never forgot (and a lesson that I was happy to receive from afar - generally I'm the one that learns the tough lessons in person!).

1 Peter 1:18-19 reiterates the basis for the Gospels. We were bought with a price, something worth much more than silver or gold. Our redemption came at the cost of Christ's life.

It was Peter who said to the crippled beggar in Acts 3:6, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." He brings those words back to remind us that what we see as worthwhile pales in comparison to the price of redemption.

Jews were required to bring a lamb without blemish or defect to the altar as an offering. Jesus is presented as the sacrificial lamb, pure and without any blemish or defect. I can only imagine that the selection process for an unblemished lamb was arduous. Entrepreneurs figured that out and tried to make it easier on the everyday worshipper, but managed to get themselves in trouble when they charged exorbitant prices and did this on the temple grounds.

1 Peter 1:20 shows us that Christ was selected before the world was created. Peter H. Davids, in his commentary says, "it was not an accident that this prices was paid: God paid it deliberately; that is, it was a plan 'chosen in advance, before the foundation of the world.'" This is not simply a matter of God knowing that it was going to happen, but this plan was set into place and revealed when the time was right.

The plan worked. In 1 Peter 1:21 we see that through Jesus, we believe in God. Our faith and our hope are in God. And this is because of the Jesus' resurrection and ascension into glory. God has made it possible for us to believe in and have faith in the One who is able to accomplish the resurrection of the dead.

No matter what persecution the early Christians faced, no matter what we may face, we can be confident in the fact that God will be able to do for us what He did for Jesus Christ.

This is the hope of the redemption story.

November 5 - Be Holy

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

November 5 - Be Holy - 1 Peter 1:13-16

Holiness is the goal of Peter's letter. These four verses begin his teaching. Take a few moments to read them. As you do, ask God to open your hearts and mind to what Peter is saying and what God wants you to learn.

Prepare your minds for action... Jesus tells us in Luke 12:35 of the importance of being prepared. I tend to be quite lazy regarding the actions of my faith. I always assume that tomorrow will be coming and I have all the time in the world. How would my life change if I knew that tomorrow would bring the return of the Messiah? How would your life change? How can we implement some of those changes to make our lives seems more Christ-like?

Be self-controlled... Part of the fruit that should be produced in our lives as a result of the Spirit fo God living in us. (Galatians 5:22) As we move further into this letter, we will find Peter emphasizing this basic behavior. As Americans, I suspect that this is one of the most difficult things to conquer in our lives. We believe in excess, we have lived lives of excess ... and we believe that no one should tell us how to live our lives or how to behave. Peter preaches directly against that lifestyle. Will we listen?

Set your hope fully on the grace... Along with holiness, Peter speaks often of hope. There is an anticipation of blessings when Jesus is revealed. While the goal of this letter is holiness, the theme is eschatology (study of end times). Peter is looking forward to the day when Jesus will return.

1 Peter 1:14. I think that this verse is pretty straightforward. You are Christians, you should be obedient. If you are obedient, you must be different than when you lived in ignorance (knew nothing about the lifestyle of a Christian). In other words ... you have a responsibility as a Christian to leave evil desires behind. Peter is laying out a doctrine of a Christian lifestyle. It's not going to be easy, but it does offer some amazing perks!

1 Peter 1:15-16. Peter quotes directly from Leviticus 11:44, and he counts on Jesus' words from John 17:17, "Sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth." We made holy by the word of God. The One who calls us to be holy is the One who is holy.

Holiness is defined by one thing - God. Be holy, because I am holy. Peter has more to say on the subject. I'm looking forward to reading it.

November 4 - Prophets and Preachers

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

November 4 - Prophets and Preachers - 1 Peter 1:8-12

Read this passage carefully today. Peter is expressing some pretty awesome things here.

1 Peter 1:8 "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy..."

Remember that Peter was in the room when Jesus spoke to Thomas in John 20:29. While Peter doesn't quote Jesus in his letter, there are at least 25 instances in which he alludes to Jesus' words. Much like we absorb lines from movies and television shows, those words had become such a part of his life that they were a part of his conversations and his letters.

The words of Jesus in Matthew 5:12 are the prequel to Peter's teaching here on the relationship between suffering and joy. I suspect that this is a passage that makes no sense to many of us. How can suffering produce joy? But, when we come to accept, as Peter will ask us to over and over, that our lives on earth are only temporary and that our greatest joy will come in the last days, we can begin to understand this concept a little better.

Peter goes on in 1 Peter 1:9 to exclaim the salvation is not something that happens at the beginning of our relationship with the risen Christ, but it is the goal of our faith.

1 Peter 1:10-12a is rather profound. "Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven."

The prophets of old were heroes of the faith during the days of Peter and his readers. Notice his description of their activities. The prophets were proclaiming the coming of the Messiah and searched the scriptures deeply to find the revelation so that they could be prepared. however, the prophets knew that they were delivering words that would be fulfilled far into the future, long after they were dust. Their goal was to make known the things of the Messiah.

The preachers of Peter's time brought the gospel, the good news of the fulfillment of those prophecies. The prophets were looking forward to the Age of the Church, the preachers were delivering the Good News, just as those who share it today are doing.

Prophets and preachers - bringing the Good News of fulfillment of ageless prophecy to light.

We are given the chance to understand the depths of the prophecies regarding the first coming of the Messiah and the second coming. Even angels long to look into these things (1 Peter 1:12b).

(many notes taken from Peter H. David's commentary "The First Epistle of Peter")

November 3 - Inheritance

Monday, November 3, 2008

November 3 - Inheritance - I Peter 1:3-7

The Christians that Peter wrote to were just beginning to face the waves of persecution that were to come. As you read through these letters, Peter continually calls his readers to submission in the face of trials. They had much to face, these people were scattered among the pagans and to stand for faith in Christ meant that many times they stood alone.

Paul speaks of this inheritance in Romans 8:17-18. We are children of the King. This inheritance is imperishable, undefiled and unfading. It is kept for us in heaven.

Max and I received an inheritance from his mother who passed away last year. There was a lot of stress over this bit of money. A long wait to receive it, what to do with it once we did receive it. Fortunately there was no reason for the family to argue over it, but that can easily happen within families. The inheritance that is offered to us comes to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As he lives again, we are offered life and inheritance from the Creator.

Peter is quite certain of the revelation of salvation that will happen in the last days. This will not be the last time he speaks of it. His words are written to assure his readers (that includes us) that though we face trials now, those trials happen for just a short time. Life extends far beyond the 80 or so years we live on this earth.

Have you ever considered that your faith is worth considerably more than gold? (1 Peter 1:7) You see, trial by fire refines our faith. Refinement by fire can destroy gold ... our faith will be proven to be genuine.

When mom died, I was pretty shaken up. I remember talking to a friend and telling her that my greatest fear was that I would be shaken from my faith because of the trauma of the loss. I was thankful for her reassurance and her prayers. But, my faith was not going away ... I relied on it to get me through that and many other situations.

I have spent hours screaming at God, pleading, begging, wondering, crying ... all of that based on the fact that I have a relationship with Him. One that allows me to have feelings. Because of that relationship, my faith has grown.

Praise, glory and honor in the revelation of Jesus Christ. I look forward to that day!

November 2 - 1 Peter 1:1b-2

Sunday, November 2, 2008

November 2 - 1 Peter 1:1b-2

To whom was Peter writing? There's a lot of information in these verses.

God's elect. These are God's chosen people. This is no longer limited to just the Israelites, but now reaches out to Gentiles and Jews alike.

Strangers in the world. This means exactly what it says. Strong's says it is "one who comes from a foreign country into a city or land to reside there by the side of the natives." We live beside the natives, but we aren't from this world. Phillipians 3:20 tells us that our citizenship is in heaven.

Scattered throughout ... The word 'scattered' is the word 'diaspora' which is a technical term used to describe the Jews who lived outside of Palestine. John used it in John 7:35 and James in James 1:1. Many of the Jews had never returned to Palestine after the Babylonians had taken them into exile. But, the use of this term does not mean that Peter is only writing to Jews. He is writing to Jews scattered throughout Asia and to Christians that have been interspersed into the culture as well.

If you look at Acts 2:9-10, you will find these cities listed there as well. These people had heard Peter speak on the Day of Pentecost. In Peter H. David's commentary he tells us that these are Christians that live in the northwest quadrant of Asia Minor where it borders the Black Sea (See this map). In Acts 16:6-10, Luke tells us that Paul was not allowed to evangelize there. He had established churches in the southern area of Galatia and in the western areas of Asia, but we don't know who was in the north, establishing churches. There is a possibility that it was Peter himself, but we can't know for sure.

Just as the churches in the Revelation of John are listed in the order that a postal messenger would travel, so are these. This would have been a very long trip for the messenger and these communities were in the 'backwoods' of the Roman Empire.

1 Peter 1:2. Chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.

Not only are the readers of this letter the 'elect' or 'chosen,' but Peter reminds us that we are chosen before we were born. This transcends any purpose that we feel we have on this earth. God knew us before we were born. Jeremiah was told by the Lord that God had set him apart before he was even formed in the womb.

We also see Peter acknowledge the Trinity in this verse. The doctrine of the early Christian church is being set into place.

1 Peter 1:2b. Grace and peace be yours in abundance. The Greek word for 'grace' is 'charis.' This is very similar to a standard Greek salutation 'chaire' or 'cheers!' Peter knows what he is doing. Then, he offers peace and both of these are offered in abundance or better yet in multiplication ... more than just a little ... abundance.

We are chosen and sanctified for obedience. We are foreigners ... travelers in an alien world. We are intermixed with non believers. Peter is writing to us. He has a lot to say.