Friday, October 30, 2009

Chosen – 1 Peter 2:9-10

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (NIV)

I love these two verses. It is a great summary of the Gospel, where I was, and my new purpose. God has chosen me, along with all other Christians. That thought can be overwhelming.

When a new president takes office, he chooses his cabinet to serve him and help administer his office according to his policies. Many appointments are people who have shown their support prior to the election. A few are appointed for other political reason.

In some ways it is the same with God. I didn’t apply for the position of royal priest. I had no idea that there was even such a position. But God chose me. Another similarity is that the position of royal priesthood is an appointment to administer God’s policies. A priest is a mediator between God and man. Wait a minute, when Jesus died and the veil was torn, didn’t the requirement for a priest end? Yes it did, for those who know Jesus. However there are billions who don’t know Him and they need a priest. Paul explained it very clearly.

2 Cor 5:18-21 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (RSV)

God has already taken the first step. He has brought me back to himself in a friendly relationship. He has resolved the dispute between us. That restored relationship is available to everyone who is an enemy of God. However, most people don’t realize there is a dispute. Some realize it and just don’t know how to resolve it. They think they have to earn that relationship by their good behavior, rituals, etc. Since God has already made the way, He has called everyone who knows Him to be His ambassadors (or priests) to tell the rest of the world that the way to God is open. The way is through Jesus.

As a priest, I come to God with offerings. Those offerings are the people who I have told about Jesus. As the priest of the O.T. had to prepare the offerings, I have to prepare people to become a living sacrifice. I have to tell them that even though the price has been paid, there are still requirements like repentance and surrender to God. Jesus paved the way to God by taking everyone’s sins on Himself so that they can have the righteousness of God. To receive that gift of righteousness, they must surrender to Him. He is the conquering King and the reconciliation is based on His rules, not man’s. The ambassador or priest clearly describes the policies of the administration: freedom from sin if you are willing to be a slave to God.

Yeah, that’s right, a slave to God. The job of royal priest is a slave’s job. The position of being God’s people is slavery. The reward of being called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light is a slave’s reward. Receiving mercy is a benefit of being a slave as opposed to being an enemy. Rom 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (NIV) Don’t underestimate the benefits of holiness – the peace that comes with that – as well as eternal life – eternal pleasures at His right hand (Ps 16:11.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Spiritual House – 1 Peter 2:4-8

Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame.” To you therefore who believe, he is precious, but for those who do not believe, "The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner,” and "A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall"; for they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. (RSV)

Jesus is chosen and precious in God’s sight yet rejected by men. I wonder how many other things are precious to God that I have rejected. How many precious gifts have I received in my life and have scorned them or thought they were a burden? Maybe I simply haven’t been grateful for some of the things He has given. 1 Thess 5:16-18 says that it is God’s will for me to be joyful, pray continually and to give thanks in all circumstances. Jesus was rejected by mankind yet Heb 12:2 says that He considered it Joy to go to the cross for me. When difficulties come, shouldn’t I be joyful and thankful that I’m being molded and shaped by a loving Father who knows what’s best for me?

That molding and shaping is to prepare me to be a spiritual house and a royal priesthood. People often call the church building the house of God. Does God live in houses built by man? Yes He is everywhere but He dwells in us. Eph 2:22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (NIV) It doesn’t matter which denomination I belong to, I am part of the Church with a capital “C” because it is the body of Christ. However that denomination had better be following Jesus or it will be like the church in Rev 3:16b I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (NIV)

So what is that spiritual sacrifice that I can now offer as a royal priesthood? First I need to offer myself. That would be described in Romans 12:1 that says I should be offering my body as living sacrifice to God. That pleases Him. I have a feeling that many people who claim to be Christians haven’t really understood that becoming a Christian requires a total surrender to God; it is a transfer of ownership. That isn’t easy to do. I often forget and do my own thing.

Another sacrifice is praise. Heb 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (RSV) In many parts of the world, this is more of a sacrifice than others. To acknowledge His name can also bring a death sentence. I certainly should be able to do that here where there is little threat. I need to do that more openly.

I think this leads directly into the cornerstone comments. If I’m afraid to acknowledge Jesus as my Lord then I will trip over Him. Jesus said in Matt 12:30 that I’m not with Him, I’m against Him. In Mark 8:38 He said that if I’m ashamed of Him now, then He will be ashamed of me when He comes back. That doesn’t sound good. On the other hand, if I trust in Him now, I have confidence that I will be with Him when He comes back.

Then there is that last little bit of verse 8. Some stumble because that is their destiny. I can only say that I know Jesus. It is not my destiny to stumble. I had stumbled for a long time but not now. If you feel that you are destined to stumble then you should know that Jesus forgives and accepts right up to the last moment of life on earth. Just look at the thief on the cross. It was a last minute salvation for him. However, in the other Gospel accounts he had been cursing Jesus just as the other thief had. Yet he turned at the last minute to ask to be remembered by Jesus. The thieves knew that their time was almost up. Few people know how imminent death is. The only way to know for sure whether or not you are destined to stumble or to be saved is to ask Jesus right now to be with Him and surrender your life to Him. Otherwise you may miss the opportunity and discover in eternity that you were destined to stumble but had many chances to change that destiny.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Basics – 1 Peter 2:1-3

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (NIV)

In view of the previous verses, all that about how temporary life is and that God’s word endures forever, I should rid myself of all these evils. Malice can also be translated as wickedness – that really encompasses a lot. Perhaps, if I had a grudge against someone or was engaged in witchcraft this might be more meaningful to me. For now, I don’t relate.

Deceit seems to be lying or tricking someone to get something that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to have if I didn’t resort to it. Hmm, truth in advertizing – I’m opening new online stores so this is something I need to be careful about. I don’t want to deceive anyone about the products I’m selling or who I am or anything else. It is too easy to slip into this. Another thought in business is how to handle deductions for the business. I don’t want to fudge so I can classify things as business expenses when they aren’t. Yesterday a tax consultant said that I could write off my vacations if I took my laptop along and conducted my online business while on vacation. Come on now. I’m going to take hotel, and family meals as business expenses just because I take time on the vacation to make sure stuff is running correctly? It may be permissible but I wouldn’t have had those expenses if I were not on vacation. Sounds deceitful to me.

Hypocrisy is being two faced. Professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that I don’t hold. If I were to tell you how humble I am, that would be hypocrisy. If I told you I loved you and didn’t or that I believed in Jesus but didn’t, both would be hypocrisy. Jesus had a way of cutting to the heart of the matter in the religious realm of hypocrisy. Giving was a big thing. When the Pharisees blew trumpets to announce how much they were giving, not to honor God, but to get attentions for themselves, Jesus nailed them. When they kept their own rules and overrode God’s commands, Jesus got them on that because it was for their own glorification, not God’s. I can easily slip into writing this blog, not for my original purpose to dig into the Word, but to get people who read it to look up to me. Same with any ministry, I slowly stop doing it for the right reasons and for my own pride.

Envy is another matter. Too easy to envy what others have. How much of why I’m working is to have the things others have and how much is to use it for God’s glory? It is just too easy to slip over the line. It’s good for me to stop and think about this regularly.

I don’t want to slander or bad mouth people either. It isn’t my habit, but I know it is easy to judge and put someone down while sharing prayer needs or just talking about a “situation” with others who know about it. Lord, help from doing that, too.

If I’m not in the Word of God, accepting it like a new born baby, I can easily fall into all these things or never get out of them. Matt 18:3 "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (RSV) I hadn’t drawn this connection between pure spiritual mild and what Jesus told his disciples. To be a kingdom citizen, I need to accept His Word and even crave it just like a child. How else can I avoid and get rid of these things? 1 Cor 14:20 says that I should be mature in my thinking. It starts with correct thinking (Phil 4:8,9) that transforms me by renewing my mind (Rom 12:2.) The result is growth and maturity.

Peter’s command to crave pure spiritual milk is a starting place. Heb 5:11-14 About this we have much to say which is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need some one to teach you again the first principles of God's word. You need milk, not solid food; for every one who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. (RSV) I need to keep on in the Word and not only going over the basics. I need to start there and keep them but I need to push on also. A key in this verse is, “trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.” Without training and practice, I’ll remain a baby and not be able to determine if that tax deduction is really right regardless of what the tax consultant or tax code says.

This is the way I can grow up in my salvation. Getting rid of the bad stuff by learning to determine what is good and bad by the Word of God.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Love One Another – 1 Peter 1:22-25

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. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever." And this is the word that was preached to you. (NIV)

It is a given that I have purified myself by obeying the truth. Oh I have to stop and think about that one for a while. Have I really purified myself by obeying the truth? I don’t think I can stand up to perfect scrutiny of my life, my thoughts, or my habits. Yes, I believe that Jesus has purified me, but there is still that ongoing process of becoming more like Jesus. I’ve a long way to go.

One proof that I haven’t made it is that stuff in the verses about having sincere love for my brothers. NASB says that now I should have fervent love for others. Fervent? Synonyms for fervent are: keen, avid, ardent, enthusiastic, passionate, zealous, and fanatical. Well, that just isn’t me. What a lame excuse! I’ve heard it from other and now I’m using it myself. That’s what the power of the Holy Spirit is all about, changing me from who I am into what God wants me to be. Ok, Lord, I need a lot of help in this area.

The whole reason for loving each other is wrapped up in being born again through the Word of God. The Word of God can change me into that loving person. Peter quoted from Isaiah 40:6-8 to contrast the brevity of man to the eternal nature of the Word of God. Jesus stated in Matt 5:18 “For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” (RSV) Since Jesus is God and He is also called the Word in John 1:1, I am pretty confident that the Word is going to be around forever.

Since my life is so brief on earth it only makes sense to love one another. All the other stuff of the world is passing away. It is temporary but my brothers and sisters in Christ are not. We will all be together in eternity. How embarrassing it will be to meet a fellow believer in heaven and realize that there was no love for that person on earth. Ouch!

How can I show love to others? A good verse is 1 John 3:16-18 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. (NASB) I am overwhelmed sometimes at the abundance I have here in the West and the poverty of my brethren in other parts of the world. I’m trying to set up an account in our church so that I can help poor Christians in a Pakistan city with Bibles, school supplies, and other aid. If anyone wants to help, let me know at “temp at” Just change the at to @ and remove the spaces.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ransomed – 1 Peter 1:18-21

You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (RSV) 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. (NIV) 21 Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (RSV)

I’ve been ransomed. It strikes me that most governments, while trying to free kidnapped people, are opposed to paying a ransom for their release. All of mankind was kidnapped by Satan when he tempted Adam and Eve in the garden and got them to rebel against God. Ever since then, children born to their descendants have been born into slavery to sin. The futile ways I’ve inherited is my nature to sin. I was no different until Jesus ransomed me. A ransom is the price demanded by the kidnapper or slave owner for the freedom of the captive. Usually, the kidnapper establishes the price, but in this case, God established the price for my freedom.

The price for freedom from sin and adoption into the family of God had to be something a whole lot more than the things of this world. No amount of money could buy my freedom. Money is worthless in eternity. Previously, I quoted Psalm 49:-9 that expressed God’s position on the ransom for a life. God says that no payment is ever enough. No wonder Peter says that the blood of Jesus is precious. In human terms it is more precious than any amount of earthly riches. Why blood? Because Lev 17:11 says that life is in the blood and Heb 9:22 explains that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness.

I think about all that Jesus had to do to provide that for us. John 1:1-3 establishes that Jesus is God, is eternal, and created all things. He had to give all that up in order to take on a body that could bleed and dies. If He hadn’t done that but came as some super human being, He couldn’t die. There isn’t any kryptonite that would have made Jesus vulnerable. He had to give up His God nature on His own. Once it was established that He could die, He volunteered to go to the cross to pay the price for our sins and rebellion. That’s what Phil 2:6-8 is talking about.

Peter points out that Jesus was chosen before the creation of time to do this. The timing is confirmed in Eph 1:4, Titus 1:2, and Rev 13:8. I am astounded to think that before I existed, or even the earth for that matter, God decided that He would come to the earth to redeem fallen mankind and me by dying on a cross. He made that choice even before He created Adam and Eve. Jesus was not a martyr in the sense that He had no control over the situation. He is a martyr because he was a willing volunteer to take the punishment and pay the price that we couldn’t.

The result is that I have confidence in God through Jesus. When I believe in Jesus, I believe in God. God’s plan included raising Jesus from dead. His plan for me was not to let me wallow in my sin but he has restored me from that state and given me a position in His family. I’m redeemed!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fear God? – 1 Peter 1:17

Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. (NIV)

I call God my Father. That should be quite a sobering thought and action. A good son should emulate his father. There is a phrase that I haven’t heard for a long time, “He is a chip off the old block.” The reference is to a child who looks and acts like his dad. It also used to be a matter of honor that a son would follow in the footsteps of his father. I wonder if names like Wilson, Johnson, and other were carried on because that son acted and behaved in accordance with his father Will or John. I would like to think that since I have been adopted into a new family (Eph 1:5, 3:14,15) that I would want bring honor to that family in my actions. My new family name is Christian – which means little Christ.

Many of the Jews that challenged Jesus claimed to have God as their Father. (John 8:41) First they claimed Abraham as their father in verse 39, but Jesus confronted them to act like Abraham and not try to kill Him. They then appealed to God as their Father. Jesus responded by saying that if they had God as their Father then they would Love Jesus. Jesus even went so far as to say that they had the devil as their father in verses 42-44. Jesus’ argument concludes with John 8:47 “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." (NIV)

I have to take a little side trip here to simply state that I’ve met people who claim to love God but don’t want to have anything to do with Jesus. Based on Jesus conversation with His detractors, I have some bad news for anyone who thinks of Jesus as less than God in the flesh and the only way to God the Father. You are on the wrong path and it isn’t leading to heaven. (John 14:6)

I think that this is where the reverent fear comes in. I know that God isn’t going to judge me on the curve. He isn’t going to weigh my life on some kind of scale that balances out the good and bad to see if I’m worthy of heaven. He is going to look at me and if He finds even one thing that is wrong, I’m under a sentence of death. That is absolutely scary. Have I been listening to what God says? Do I call Him Father but am I like the Pharisees who sought to justify themselves by their observance of man-made traditions? If so then I should have a deathly fear of God.

Of course as I’ve already discussed that it isn’t by my good works that I’m saved and Peter will go into that even more in the next few verses. I just want to get a good grasp on the fact that without Jesus’ sacrifice, I should be deathly afraid of God and His judgment. However, in light of the fact that I am saved, that horrible fear changes to a reverent fear. What’s the difference? It is the knowledge that without Jesus, without His forgiveness, my Father in heaven would not spare me. However I also know the love that God has for me. Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (NASB)

Sometimes, I forget about the awesomeness of God and I’m caught up in the brotherhood of Jesus and being in the family of Christ so that the Father becomes a bit to “familiar.” I should still hold Him in great respect. Yes, I can come before the throne of grace with confidence (Heb 4:16) but that confidence shouldn’t cause me to come with a disrespectful attitude. There is a balance I want to achieve between the tender mercies of my Father who will someday wipe away every tear (Rev 7:17, 21:4) and the knowledge that without Jesus I would be horribly lost.

I want to life to bring honor to my Father, and that means I need to have the proper respect for Him.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Be Prepared – 1 Peter 1:13-15

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (NIV)

I re-read the passages that precede this since Peter started it off with “therefore.” He really packed a lot of theology into those first 12 verses. Most of it relates to salvation, how God has brought it about, and what we can expect in the world. Therefore – my response is to be mentally prepared and to be holy.

When I wrote about persecutions I emphasized that what I have decided ahead of time helps me to be prepared for to react in a godly manner when life presents difficult choices. Peter affirms that this is exactly what I need to do. Because of all he has written, I am to prepare my mind for action. An example of this is found in Job 31:1 "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman.” ( New Living Translation ®) Job knew that if he didn’t make up his mind to control his thoughts when he saw a beautiful young woman, he would be in trouble. The verse suggests he did this by averting his eyes so that he would not be tempted.

I remember going to a conference about family behavior. The speaker went to this verse in Job and explained how children watch their parents. When Dad takes that long or second look at a woman as she walks past, both sons and daughters notice. The daughter sees how the scantily clad woman pleases her dad and consciously or subconsciously decides to dress that way when she is allowed. The son watches and sees that this is the way men behave and emulates his dad’s behavior leading into a life immersed in pornography and lust. With only his eyes Dad has led his children into behavior that easily leads them into sexual sin. Mom? She feels betrayed and certainly not the only woman in her husband’s life.

I watch old re-runs of “Emergency.” In nearly every episode, and more than once in most, Johnny turns half way around and gives a nurse the “look over.” I’m sure that the message is clear that this is natural and normal behavior for a single man. But it isn’t what Peter is telling me. Peter is telling me to be self-controlled. I can’t be self-controlled until I have prepared my mind. I need to know where the battle is and take my thoughts captive to make them obedient to Christ,(2 Cor 10:5) not to Hollywood, not even to conservative talk show host. The way I look at a woman is a good example of the way I should order my life and be prepared to combat sinful desires.

My motivation is the grace to be given to me when Jesus is revealed. When I stand before Jesus, He will present me without fault and with great joy before His Father. He has cleansed me and forgiven me but I don’t want to be presumptuous about that and think that I can do whatever I want.

Out of gratitude to that wonderful salvation I want to obey Jesus. Peter encourages this obedience to Jesus. He tells me that I should not be living my life the way I did before I came to Christ. Back then I was ignorant about what was right and wrong. I shouldn’t be now. Heb 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. (RSV) If I want to know right from wrong, I need to understand it from God’s Word and put it into practice. I need to leave those old habits behind and form new, godly habits formed on the sure Word of God.

The final reason for being prepared and leaving the old, sinful habits behinds is that God is Holy. He wants me to be holy just as He is. Will that happen today? No. Does that give me an excuse for not working on it? No. Ultimately, I want to be Holy because my Father is holy. I want to be like Him.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Prophesied Salvation – 1 Peter 1:10-12

The prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired about this salvation; they inquired what person or time was indicated by the Spirit of Christ within them when predicting the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things which have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (RSV)

I’ve always wondered if the prophets and writers of the O.T. knew that what they were writing was a prophecy for the near future or something way beyond. Several of the Psalms have statements in them that are astounding. To appreciate it fully, I imagined that I’m David as I’m writing this Psalm. As I write praises to God and thanksgiving, suddenly these next two verses come to my mind and I write them down. Ps 16:9-10 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. (NIV) Whoa! Where did that come from? (Of course, Holy One is not capitalized so that I can recognize that it is a reference to the coming Messiah.) I have to stop and ask God, “Are you saying that I won’t decay after I’m in the grave? What does that mean? Will you resurrect me?” Now did God answer me and tell me that I’m writing about the coming Messiah or do I just keep on writing? Did I even comprehend that a Messiah was on the way or did that understanding come later? According to Peter, David did stop and start asking God a lot of questions. I certainly would.

Perhaps, as David I would think back to Job 19:25-27 I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes — I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (NIV) I would sit back and understand that my Redeemer will have to suffer death but will be raised from the dead before He rots in the grave. I, however, will die and my body will decompose but somehow, I too, will be resurrected with a new body that will be able to see my Savior. Yes, my heart also yearns within me to see that day. It is all part of the hope that Peter has just mentioned.

Another great verse is Ps 110:1 The Lord says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." (NIV) David must have certainly wondered about the beginning of this verse. Jesus used this verse to clarify unequivocally that the Messiah had to be a descendant of David and also God because David called Him “Lord.” My salvation is in Jesus because He is the only one who can satisfy the requirements of divinity as well as an earthly lineage of David.

My salvation is in one who can pay for my sins. Ps 49:7-9 No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him — the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough — that he should live on forever and not see decay. (NIV) Peter already talked about the security of our inheritance. When a son of Korah penned this Psalm, he was declaring that salvation can’t come from a mere man. Did he wonder how we could ever have eternal life if there was no way anyone could pay for it? Did he understand that Jesus, being God in the flesh, would be the only ransom, the only payment that would be able to give him eternal life? I’ll bet he looked at that verse and shook his head and kept on writing because he knew that someone in the future would see it and understand.

When Peter talks about the predictions of the suffering Christ, two passages come to mind. The first is Isaiah 53 Isaiah details the Jesus suffering and the reason for His suffering. My sins caused Him to be pierced. He took the punishment of my sins. He was assigned a grave with the wicked (the two others crucified at the same time) yet buried in a rich man’s tomb. All this even though He did nothing wrong. It was God’s will to do this to Him. He bore all our sins, not just mine. I have a hard time imagining what was going through Isaiah’s mind as he wrote this. Perhaps the Holy Spirit let him know that a future generation would need to know this to explain Jesus’ purpose during His first visit to the earth.

The second passage is Psalm 22. The details of the crucifixion were recorded here a thousand years before that horrible death was invented. His hands and feet were pierced. He can count His bones after the flogging. Even the detail that they cast lots for His clothing was written down. How could David not wonder about what he was writing? It certainly didn’t happen to him. Yet, the Holy Spirit must have let him know that this was a future event that had something to do with salvation, otherwise he would have crumpled it up and started over again.

This salvation that Jesus has purchased for me and everyone else is just too astounding to comprehend. Hundreds of years before Jesus, people were writing about it. It is so astounding that angels even wonder about it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Seeing is Believing – Not! 1 Peter 1:8-9

Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls. (RSV )

I think that one of the hardest parts of believing in Jesus is the fact that He isn’t a visible person. As I studied English literature in college, I took a class on fairy tales as literature. The class described how fairy tales change over time. I’ve seen the same things in those urban legends that are passed around on the internet. Someone gets an email and tweaks it a little bit to make it sound a little more realistic for his friends or his neighborhood. A name is changed or a place, most certainly the date so that it appears urgent. This is what I once believed about the Bible and Jesus. I thought that from the time of Jesus, people kept tweaking the Gospels to fit the needs of the time or to make them more acceptable. I believed that Jesus’ appearances after His death were some of the things that were tweaked.

After a thorough study of early manuscripts and other document, of which thousands have been preserved, literary scholars agree that the Bible has not gone through the changes that occur with folk and fairy tales. With that in mind, these two verses celebrate a key in the Christian faith. Even though I have not seen Jesus, I believe in Him but more importantly, I love Him. I believe because of what has been written. It isn’t a faith based on fantasy or speculation. A careful examination of the Gospels and current medical knowledge absolutely confirm that there is no way Jesus could have survived His crucifixion as some skeptics have claimed. Yet He is alive!

The book of Acts was written by a physician and researcher – his accounts are very trustworthy because of his scholarly approach and other historical facts in his writing can be verified. Acts 1:3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. (NIV) I am struck by the fact that Luke says Jesus gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. 1 Cor 15:5-7 says that Jesus appeared to over 500 people. Some of these people were alive when Paul wrote this. The silence of the rest of literature opposing these statements is another proof that Jesus is alive.

With all this proof, I still have to have faith. John 20:29 Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." (NASB) I consider myself blessed because I haven’t seen Jesus and have believed. There is something inexpressible about knowing that I believe and didn’t require Jesus to appear before me to make me believe. Paul’s experience on the way to Damascus may have been life changing and very dramatic, but he missed the joy of believing without seeing. I’m trying to get words around this but I’m not doing a very good job. That’s probably because Peter was right. In the RSV it is unutterable; in the NIV and others it is inexpressible; in the KJV it is unspeakable. That joy is described as glorious. Just thinking about it gives me a sense of the presence of God from Whom all glory comes. It is inexpressible.

The outcome of this faith is the salvation of my soul. I can think back on the time before I believed and can see that I was lost. For this, I am very thankful.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rejoicing in Trials – 1 Peter 1:6-7

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (NIV)

Just before I sat down to write about these verses and what they mean to me, I read an email from Pakistan that included a news article. Apparently the Taliban around the city of Sargodha sent a letter to several Christian pastors and Christian schools in the city. The letter said that Christians should convert to Islam, pay an Islamic tax imposed on religious minorities, known as 'Jizya tax', or leave the country. If Christians refuse to accept these choices, Christians “will be killed, their property and homes will be burnt to ashes and their women treated as sex slaves,” said the letter. The Christians “themselves would be responsible for this,” the letter added.

If I were in Sargodha, would I be rejoicing that my faith was being tested? What would I do? Would I remain and take my chances that the government would protect my family and me? Would I take everything I could carry and flee? It is hard for me to understand what I would do, however, I have made up my mind that I would rejoice.

I’ve been through some personal trials in my past, family, health and other things, but nothing that threatened my life. I have felt God’s presence in those trials. I know He will sustain me in trials. I have resolved that I would listen for God’s direction if this were to happen to me. He may lead me to flee as many of the early Christian had to when persecution broke out against the Church in Jerusalem. (Acts 8) Most fled to other parts of Israel and even beyond. The amazing thing is that when this occurred, the Word of God spread faster than it would have in a time of peace. Perhaps I would flee and thereby take the Gospel to some area that needed to hear it.

If I had to stay in place and the threatened to renounce Christ or die, my verse would be: Mark 8:36-37 "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (NASB) At this time in my life I have made up my mind that I would not renounce Jesus for any reason. If it cost me my life then I would be in a better place. Why do I so confidently say this? It is because I know that if don’t make the choice now, when not threatened, I will have a harder time when faced with it later. This same principle applies to most critical decisions. If I am faced with an easy way to cheat and get away with it (on my job, taxes, wife, you name it) then what makes me think I will not do that if I haven’t already made up my mind to be honest even when no one is watching.

Matt 5:9-12 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you." (RSV)

Jesus’ words are hard to swallow sometimes. In the US there are many churches that teach that a Christian should be healthy and wealthy or they are living in a state of unfaithfulness. I can’t help to wonder why they ignore the clear teaching of Jesus that some will be persecuted. There are many other verses that also state that this is the norm for Christians. 1 Peter opened to those who had already been scattered to other countries because of the persecution that occurred. I certainly don’t think that I should be exempt just because I live in the 21st century.

Jesus’ words bring out the truth that I’m not living for this world. My reward will be in heaven. If I fix my eyes on this world and its rewards then my decisions and my goals will be oriented toward the temporary things of this world. When I eventually die, then all those temporary things will be gone and the eternal things that I should have worked for will not have been achieved. (2 Cor 4:16-18)

For my brothers and sisters in Pakistan, I pray daily for you. I pray that you would remain strong in your faith and not surrender. I pray that you would have wisdom to flee or stay. I pray that plans to aid you in some way will occur. I pray that you will not show fear for that is Satan’s tool to keep others from becoming Christians. I pray that you will be able to rejoice in all circumstances. (1 Thess 5:16) And I pray for peace for you.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sanctification – 1 Peter 1:5

Who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (NASB)

I normally think of salvation as something that happened to me when I turned to Jesus and was born again as stated in earlier blogs. The ending of this verse refers to a salvation that is different. My understanding is that there are three stages of salvation. John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (KJV) This is the initial start of my salvation. There was a point in my life some 35 years ago when I heard Jesus’ words, understood them for the first time and believed. At that point I crossed over (NIV) from death into life – eternal life. At that point I knew I was no longer condemned.

The second part of salvation is my daily growth in Christ. Some people call this a process of sanctification. This process is described in part in Phil 3:7-14 where Paul says that he considers everything that he had gained in the world, prestige, power, and whatever nothing in comparison to knowing Jesus. In fact he had to give it all up when he became a Christian. I didn’t have to give up as much as some people do in other parts of the world. Would I give it up, if I had to? I certainly hope I wouldn’t even have to think about it. He describes the process of sanctification as not having his own righteousness but the righteousness that comes from faith (initial start of salvation.) He goes on to say he wants to know the power of Jesus’ resurrection, sharing in Jesus’ sufferings, and to become more like Jesus.

In Eph 1:19-23 Paul describes the power of Jesus’ resurrection. He says that power is for me because I believe. That is the power to live a holly life. Learning to rely on His power is what brings me closer to being like Jesus. Back in Philippians, Paul also goes on to admit that he hasn’t become the perfect Christian but that he puts the past behind him to push on to that goal. I need to remember that when I sin (I’m getting tired of people saying they made wrong choices, messed up, or made a mistake – I just about typed one of those instead of saying sin) that I need to repent, put it behind me and get back on the path to becoming more like Jesus. With Paul, I admit that I’m nowhere near that goal, but I have experience His power to overcome sin.

1 John 3:1-3 says that in God has lavished His love on me so that I’m a child of His. I will be like Jesus and I don’t know exactly what that will be like. Because I will and I have that hope, I purify myself because Jesus is pure. It doesn’t mean that I sit around and wait for Jesus to wave a magic wand and I become pure. It means that I have to work with Him, to yield to Him so that it will happen.

Finally, the last stage of salvation is when I’m safely in heaven. That is the reference in 1 Peter 1:5. It is in the last time. That is after Jesus comes back, sets all things straight on the earth, rules for 1,000 years to give mankind a last chance at salvation then starts over with a new heaven and a new earth. (Rev 20 and 21) I wasn’t made for a life on this earth; I was made for an eternal life. Through sin, that life was forfeit. Through Jesus, that life is redeemed. Everyone was made for that eternal life but unfortunately, not everyone will make it and that too, is described in Rev 20 and 21.

So I’m eagerly waiting for the culmination of my salvation when Jesus is revealed to all.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Guaranteed Long Life – 1 Peter 1:5

Who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (NASB)

Ok so I’m done with the inheritance but this next verse is really cool. I am protected by the power of God. I know that many people believe that they can lose their salvation if they turn away from God. I think this is one of the verses that support the fact that I will be kept safe until that salvation is completed. There seems to be a caveat in the verse as it states that the power of God is available by faith. Does that mean I have the ability to lose my faith and then I will no longer be protected and could lose my salvation? Well if my faith were in my own ability to remain faithful then I could certainly lose my salvation. However, my faith is not in myself, but it is in God and His ability to protect me.

A very familiar verse is Phil 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (NIV) I don’t think God is someone who will not finish what He has started. Unbelievers may argue that, but I believe that the book of Revelation is God’s plan for the end of this world and the beginning of a new world to come. I know the end of the story because I’ve read it. In the same way, I believe that He isn’t going to dump me if I don’t progress at a perfect rate or if I fall on the way. He will keep on working in me and won’t give up.

Jude 24-25 Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen. (RSV) This is one of my favorite memory verses because it affirms that when the end comes I will stand before my God without any blemishes. I know that I will stand there with great joy because He isn’t going to bring up all my sins and ugly things I’ve done in my life. It will be to His glory and not mine because everyone who sees me standing there will know that I don’t deserve it. It is only because of Jesus and His sacrifice that I can stand there.

So I’ve looked at what others have said in Scripture about what they think God will do. Another set of my favorite verses is in John 10:27-30 "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one." (RSV) These are Jesus’ own words. First Jesus says He has given me eternal life and that life is so firm and solid in His mind that He can say that I will never perish. Wow! His promise is something I can hold on to and it is apparent that He is holding me in His hand. So the question is whether or not someone can pull me out of His hand.

I must diverge. I remember seeing the Kung Fu TV series where Grasshopper finally is able to snatch a pebble from his master’s hand and then it was time to leave. My Master isn’t some aging martial arts expert. My Master is eternal, all-powerful, and all knowing. If someone were to try to snatch me out of God’s hand, He would know it way before hand. He would be able to prevent it even if He didn’t know it. He is eternal so He doesn’t get weak or senile so that He can’t hold on to me.

Some have argued with me and said that they could chose to reject God and therefore lose their salvation. My answer is that since I’m saved and in His hand I don’t want to leave. If I did want to leave then I wasn’t really in His hand to start with – I didn’t really believe and have faith. Even if it crossed my mind to do something like that (and that happens), He is protects me. Otherwise I would be able to say that I’m greater than God and am able to snatch myself out of His hand.

I also like these verses in John because Jesus reiterates that He is God by claiming to be one with God. “Ah!” you say, “He didn’t claim to be God but only one in purpose with God.” When I look at John 10:31-33, I see that the Jews who were listening to Him clearly understood that Jesus claimed to be God and said they would stone Him for making the claim. In the following verses Jesus didn’t deny the charge.

So Jesus is the one I have faith in and He gives me eternal life and guarantees that it will always be that way.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Our Inheritance – 1 Peter 1:4

And into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, (NIV) Not only am I given new birth into a living hope but also an inheritance. The NAS version says to obtain this inheritance. Unfortunately the word obtain is italicized which means it isn’t in the original Greek. Obtain clarifies the meaning since it doesn’t seem like I can be born into an inheritance. That is something I get or obtain when another person dies. I don’t usually think about the future benefits of heaven as an inheritance but it fits because Jesus is the one who died so that I can go there when I die. That is another strange thought – I have to die (unless Jesus comes back first) before I can receive the inheritance.

In Heb 9:15-17 it says that Christ is the mediator of a new covenant (from which comes the term New Testament) so that I may receive the promised eternal inheritance because Jesus has died. The Greek word for covenant and will (used in verse 16) is the same - diatheke (dee-ath-ay'-kay). The verses go on to explain that for a will to be in force, the death of the one who made it must be proven. Now I want to go off with a big explanation of the proof of Jesus’ death and resurrection but then I’d never finish this thought. Besides, I did that a long time ago. ( The current benefit of the inheritance is found in Heb 10:16 "This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds." (NIV)

I need that law in my heart and mind, otherwise I’m without hope. In the past, before I was born again, my only hope for heaven was to be 100% obedient to all of God’s laws. The problem with that is that I can’t be 100% obedient. I don’t know anyone who can. Neither does God know of anyone who can. So the law was put there to show that I need someone to be a mediator for me. 1 John 2:1-2 My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. (Holy Bible, New Living Translation ®) Now of course that doesn’t give me the right to blatantly sin but Jesus does defend me and has paid the penalty for me. With His law in my heart and mind, I now have a desire to obey. Before it was all external obedience but not from my heart.

Now I want to get back to the inheritance that is kept in heaven for me. The key thing in 1 Peter 1:4 is that it can never – and I need to emphasize the word never – be diminished in any way. It is kept for me by the power of the almighty God. He has promised it in these verses. Is there anything I can do that will remove that inheritance? No. Is there anything that anyone else can do to remove it? No. It is based on the one who has promised it.

Eph 1:13-14 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession — to the praise of his glory. (NIV) The Holy Spirit who gives me hope is my guarantee that I will receive that inheritance. He will keep me until I die or Jesus returns.

That inheritance is like a divine 401(k). My inheritance is a mansion (John 14:2) and the right to reign with Christ. (Rev 3:21, 5:20, 20:6) That is the employer’s input to my 401(k). My input is found in Matt 6:19-21 (store up treasures in heaven.) The great thing is that this is kept safe for me. No depressions, recession, moth, rust, thieves, or anything else will be able to diminish that.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Living Hope – 1 Peter 1:3

God the Father has given me a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I need to ponder that for a moment. How many people think God is out to get us, to keep us under His thumb and make our lives miserable? But this verse says He gives me a living hope. A living hope as opposed to what, a dying hope? Yes, my hope is not just that I will eventually wind up in heaven where everything will be better, even though there is nothing wrong with that. That is certainly something I should keep at the forefronts of my mind.

I better digress and define hope. "A wish or desire accompanied by confident expectation of its fulfillment." This is not the “I hope it won’t rain today” type of wishful thinking. This is confidence that what I will get something that I have not yet received based on the authority and power of God who has promised it.

Romans 5:1-8 tells me what that hope is all about. I have peace with God. No, His goal isn’t to make me miserable. When I face bad things, instead of blaming God, I know that the troubles are there to produce perseverance, character, and hope. I am confident of this because my confidence is in God who has promised it. How can I be so confident? Verse 5 says that hope doesn’t disappoint me because God has poured out His love in my heart by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given me. It isn’t me and my ability, but it is the Holy Spirit who gives me that confidence.

Romans 5:1-8 ties back to 1 Peter 1:3 as it explains that at just the right time, when I couldn’t do anything to help myself, Jesus died for me – the ungodly person that I was. God demonstrates His love for me that while I was still his enemy and totally opposed to everything He is, while I was doing everything in my power to insult and hurt Him (even though I thought I was being a very nice guy,) Jesus died for me.

Now with a God like that, how could I not have hope that helps me live each day.

Rom 8:23-25 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (NIV)

Ok, some of that hope is also knowing that this isn’t all there is. This life will someday be over and when it is I will be with Jesus. Again, there is confident expectation that it will occur. My body will be redeemed and I will no longer have to put up with the physical or spiritual weaknesses I now have. I have to wait patiently for that day to come. One thing about growing older is that I know that day is closer than it was yesterday.

1 John 3:2-3 Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (RSV)

So, because of this hope that I have, I don’t sit around and do whatever I want. Instead, because I will someday be like Jesus I need to purify myself now. If I’m not trying to become pure then I’m simply proving that Jesus isn’t my Lord and that I really don’t care what He wants.

Jesus had to die to give me this hope. His resurrection proves that His death wasn’t meaningless but that He can give me the power by His Holy Spirit to live a godly life and purify myself.

Monday, October 12, 2009

New Birth - 1 Peter 1:3-5 continued

“Are you one of those born again Christians?” I was asked. I answered yes. Why did I say that I was born again? Verse 3 says that God has caused us to be born again. The NIV says He has given us new birth and the Greek says He begot us again. Of course, I remember some of the older translations that have all the “begets” in the O.T. The meaning is clear that we are born again. Also the more famous verse is John 3:3, In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (NIV) There is also James 1:18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (NIV) 1 Peter 1:23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God. (NASB)

I am struck by the fact that three different authors of books in the Bible have mentioned this phenomenon which is the beginning of Christian life. It wasn’t just John, but also Peter and James. Like Nicodemus, the person who asked me didn’t get it. It was babbling to him. He claimed to be a Christian but his life didn’t demonstrate it. There is no getting around the fact that something changes in people when they become Christians. If nothing changes, then there has not been a new birth. If I had continued in my ways after being born again I wouldn’t be able to claim to be born again. By the way, I know I changed because the person who ask me the question wanted me to go back to my former habits which had become disgusting to me.

In these last two verses, being born again is linked to the Word of God. It seems clear that without His Word, we can’t become born again. 1 Peter 2:2 says that as newborn babies we should crave the pure milk of the Word. One of the things that happened after being born again is that I had a desire to read the Bible. Even more amazing, was that I could understand it. A man at a men’s breakfast group asked the others how we could understand the Bible. I don’t remember the exact passage because it was many years ago, but it was evident that this person was either not born again or so infrequently in the Word that he had stagnated.

Heb 5:12-14 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God's word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn't know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. (Holy Bible, New Living Translation ®)

One reason for this blog is that I don’t want to be in this position of only knowing the basics and not being able to use the Word to tell the difference between good and evil. When I face situations I want to be able, first of all, to recognize that something might be wrong with the picture. If my only view of life is what I get from the world (TV, magazines, movies, newspapers, Dr. Phil, teachers, professors, conservative or liberal talk show hosts, etc) then I may easily stroll through life sinning blatantly and not have a clue that I’m dishonoring God. However I want my world view to be shaped by God’s Word so that I can see that something is wrong. The next thing is to formulate and carry out actions that are also shaped by God’s Word. I can’t do that if all I’m doing is reading the Bible briefly or sporadically. I need to dig into His Word so I don’t just walk away after my time in the Word and not be moved closer to what God wants.

I may be born again, but I also need to keep on growing. I pray that is everyone’s desire.

Friday, October 9, 2009

His Great Mercy - 1 Peter 1:3-5 continued

One of the reasons that God is worthy of our worship is because of His great mercy. I just can’t keep away from looking up the Greek since some versions use the word abundant instead of great. While abundant is much more descriptive of God’s mercy, the Greek is polus (pol-oos') which means much or many or large so great is probably more accurate. Now I’m off on a rabbit trail because polus sounds a lot like Palouse which is a huge, abundant wheat producing area in eastern Washington that extending into Idaho and Oregon. If you’ve ever driven though the area in the spring, it is a beautiful green and turns to gold when the wheat ripens later in the year. The origin of the word Palouse is debated but thought to come from French and has nothing to do with abundance or greatness but it should. God’s abundant and great mercy is certainly shown by the provision that we receive from this part of our nation.

The love of God, his mercy and grace can be seen in the O.T. as well as the N.T. However, to understand His mercy and grace I also have to understand that without it, I would be suffering His wrath. The following verses express both His mercy and my guilt and the consequences if I did not receive His mercy. Ex 34:6-7 Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." (NASB). My sin and rebellion against God will certainly have far-reaching consequences, not only on my eternal destiny but also upon my children and those of others. The people I vote for, the causes I embrace, my lack of respect for nature, if not guided by God are sin and affect many generations.

The greatness of His mercy can be seen in Eph 2:4-5 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. (NIV) God has taken me out of the realm of the dead and given me life. Of course, before this happened, I thought I was alive, not realizing that my spirit was dead because of my sins. That’s the biggest problem in presenting the Gospel to anyone, convincing a person that he or she is a sinner. My friend, Larry Kent, has written some tracts that help do this. They have been translated into many languages. Go to to see them.

Now back to the Bible. One last thing about God’s mercy and love, it isn’t like my concept of love. I generally love others because they are nice people and we get along with each other. These are people who are relatively decent toward others. However, can I say that I love my enemy or those that have insulted, maligned, or ignored me? Before becoming a Christian I was an enemy of God whether I knew it or not. Most of us would probably say we were not. Unfortunately the Bible says that when I love the stuff in the world that isn’t aligned with God’s plan and direction, I’m His enemy. James 4:4 You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (NIV ) So how great is God’s mercy? This is how great it is: Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (NASB) How about that? Jesus died for me when I was His enemy.

Yes, God is worthy of worship – blessed – because of His great mercy.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Blessed 1 Peter 1:3

1 Peter 1:3-5

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (NASB)

My first thought is that I could camp out on the first phrase for a long time, even the first word. I’ve never looked up the word blessed. It sounds good in this verse but what do I mean when I say God is blessed. In Heb 7:7 the writer says that the lesser is blessed by the greater. How can I bless God? The good old dictionary and the Greek cleared up the confusion for me. The dictionary has several definitions and the one that fits in verse 3 is “worthy of adoration, reverence, or worship: the Blessed Trinity.” Checking out the Greek, the word is eulogetos (yoo-log-ay-tos'); adorable.

Our God is adorable. If I adore my wife, and I do, is this the same adoration that I have for God? My wife is attractive, delightful and charming – a definition of adorable. Would I describe God that way? Yes and no. He is much more than that. Adorable is also being worthy to be adored. Knowing sign language helps because the same sign is used for adore and worship. From now on, when I see verses say “Blessed be God” I will think of God how worthy He is of worship. Worship is the reverent honor and homage paid to God. What is homage? A dictionary definition is the formal public acknowledgment by which a feudal tenant or vassal declared himself to be the man or vassal of his lord, owing him fidelity and service. OK, now we’re getting somewhere. I can only worship God when I belong to Him.

A vassal was essentially a slave. As a vassal of God, I am owned by Him and in worship I acknowledge that He has complete authority over me. A vassal was granted land in return for paying homage to the lord, a portion of the crops, and even military service. Isn’t that the picture of a Christian? God gives to us life, everything we have on this earth, and an inheritance in heaven. In return we give back to Him our selves, tithes and offerings, our service to spread His Word. Living the Christian life has been often symbolized as warfare.

I’m glad that I picked the NASB for this verse since the NIV says “Praise be to God…” I don’t think I would have discovered the richness of the first four words otherwise. In many verses in the O.T. the NIV uses “praise” where the NASB uses “bless.” The NIV is much more readable than the NAS, but that may only because my vocabulary is limited as it is written to be more understandable at a lower reading level than the NASB.

The phrase, “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” appears only four times in the Bible. (Rom 15:6, 2 Cor 1:3, Eph 1:3, and 1 Peter 1:3) I sometimes become messed up trying to think of God and Jesus. So what do I do? I go back to what I know for sure, that Jesus and God the Father are one. John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (NASB) This has to be the clearest declaration of the deity of Jesus and the unity of God and Jesus. The next thing I do is think about what it means to say the Jesus is our Lord. It goes back that vassal thing above. He owns me and I am His.

Do I worship Jesus in the same way that I worship God the Father? Yes! Absolutely! How do I know that it is OK to worship Jesus? Well, I’ll start with what Jesus said. Matt 4:10 Then Jesus said to him, "Begone, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'" (NASB) Clearly Jesus says by quoting the O.T. that we should only worship and serve God. John 9:38 Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him. (NIV) Of course you then need to read and see how Jesus responded to worship. Did Jesus rebuke the man for worshiping Him? Not at all, in fact He used the situation to point out to the Pharisees that they were spiritually blind. When Thomas first saw Jesus after His resurrection he declared that Jesus was his Lord and God. John 20:28-29 Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." (NASB) Did Jesus rebuke Thomas? Well, yes, but not for calling Jesus Lord and God, but because he had to see Jesus physically first. For us who have not seen Jesus in the flesh, we are blessed when we believe. This Greek word for blessed is not at all the same one that was used before. This is makarios (mak-ar'-ee-os) which means happy. In just a few more verses I'll see why I should be happy.

I’ve run out of time and will continue with these verses later.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

1 Peter 1:1-2

1 Peter 1:1-2

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been 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:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance. NIV

Ok, I’m not sure that I really want to start out with these verses. My goal was to get back into the Word deeper than just doing a daily reading and then walking away, not even remembering what I’ve read. I picked 1 Peter because there is a lot in here about suffering for Christ. Many Christians panic when something goes wrong in their lives. I thought that this would be a good study to post so that I could also help others who are going through troubles as well as helping me learn what God wants in my life.

So what do I hit first of all? Verses about election! Do I really want to comment on verses that have divided Christians for centuries? Well, if I want to be true to the Word, I can’t skip over them and not study them. I certainly don’t want to offend someone with what I believe God is teaching me, but I don’t want to miss a blessing from God because I’m afraid to state clearly what I believe the Word is saying. I’ll try to side with Paul as he stated in Gal 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. NIV

With all that out of the way, I’ll actually start commenting on the verses. As I look at the NIV, the first words that stand out are elect, strangers, scattered, and chosen. I double-checked with NASB and an interlinear Bible to make sure the words are really there in the original Greek.

Elect or chosen. The Greek is eklektos (ek-lek-tos'); select; by implication, favorite: KJV – chosen, elect. Rather than reiterate what hundreds or thousands have had to say about election, I simple want to understand what God is saying to me and to anyone who knows Jesus. I’m His favorite. I’m not His last pick for choosing sides. I may not have come over the first time He called but out of that line up of humanity, He selected me. What can I say but, “Thank you Jesus.” I certainly can’t say that I deserved it or earned his calling. There was nothing I did or will do that caused Him to say He wanted me. The word that goes with this selection is foreknowledge.

The Greek for foreknowledge is prognosis (prog'-no-sis). Guess what it means: forethought. Two things come to mind. God thought about me before I was even conceived. He knew me and wanted me to be His. The other thing is that this word is what we always hear regarding health issues. What is the prognosis? How is this disease, injury, or condition going to turn out? Being in sin is like a disease and the ultimate prognosis is death and eternal condemnation. But God’s prognosis for me is eternal life with Him. It’s good to know that the Person making the prognosis is the One who has the capability to make it happen. See Ps 139:1-18 for more about how God knows us.

Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." NIV Speaking to the prophet Jeremiah, God has a word for me too. He formed me, He sets me apart, and He appoints my function in life. If God is sovereign, then He is sovereign in all things and that includes my destiny. My pea sized brain can’t hope to comprehend how He can have total control and foreknowledge (He knows that some will not accept Him and others will) as well as give everyone the opportunity to know Him. (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-13) I can only say along with Paul, “Who knows the mind of the Lord?” (Rom 11:34) His being is too much, too great for me to comprehend. I can only stand or fall down in awe.

Strangers or aliens (NASB). At first glance, you would think that Peter is addressing those who are now aliens because they are now living in a country where they had to flee from persecution. However, Peter also speaks about being aliens and strangers regarding behavior in 1 Pet 2:11. Paul explains in Eph 2:12 that we Gentiles were not citizens of Israel and therefore had no part in the promises of God. But through the blood of Jesus we have been brought near to God. Again in Phil 3:15 Paul clearly states we are citizens of heaven. The reason we are aliens is that our home country is not of this world. Our behavior and our customs should be different from those around us.

There are many people in the US (and other countries as well) who think that Christians are out to destroy the country. They believe we have a hidden agenda to overthrow it and make it a “Christian” nation. Part of that fear is based on the fact that we do behave differently. Personally, am I different enough to be identified as a stranger or alien? If not, then something is wrong. What do I need to change? I think I’ve been trying to blend in too much so that I won’t be criticized. It gets back to that stuff I mentioned up above about want to please God rather than man. Lord help me to be an alien that pleases You.

We have been chosen and it is through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. If anyone has seen the Stargate TV series, then you know about the Goa’uld. These are alien, snake-like creatures that use a human as hosts and take over. These are totally evil beings. On the other hand there are also the same aliens that are good but are called the Tok’ra. I wonder how many people view Christians as Goa’uld because we have the Holy Spirit living in us. In one of the first TV episodes people are “chosen” to be hosts. If you knew nothing of our God and Jesus and had seen these TV shows, what would you think of people who say they have the Holy Spirit living in them? Well, quite frankly, we are possessed! We have surrendered our bodies to someone who is outside of our physical domain. We have become slave to God and the benefit is holiness and eternal life (Romans 6:22.) This is really scary to people who want to do their own thing. They don’t want to have anyone or anything control them. Me, the more the Holy Spirit is in control of my life, the better.

Then the Word in 1 Peter 1:2 also says that the purpose of your being chosen is obedience to Jesus and that we may be sprinkled by his blood. Whoa! What does that mean? There are so many verses in the Bible that talk about sprinkling blood. Animal sacrifices to cover sin and cleanse objects and people to make them acceptable to God. But in the New Testament, it is clear that Jesus willingly shed His blood once (instead of the many animal sacrifices) so that God would forgive our sins and accept us. Not only does his blood buy our redemption but it also clears our consciences. Heb 9:13-14 says, “The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” NIV Our obedience to Jesus is a demonstration that we have accepted that cleansing from sin and are turning our lives around. If there is no obedience, then there it is evident that are not His.

Peter finishes his short introduction to this letter by asking for grace and peace be multiplied to us. Thinking about how God has chosen me, cleaned me up, and indwells me by His Holy Spirit based on Jesus’ shed blood to remove my sins and make me part of God’s family, a citizen of heaven gives me peace. Hopefully, I can extend that grace to others too.