The Way to Godliness

2 Peter 1 

“Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” 2 Peter 1:1-2

Some very important things to note about this second letter that Peter wrote. First he introduces himself first as servant then as apostle. Peter was much more concerned with being recognized as a servant of Christ, than as his standing as an apostle of Christ. Second, he is writing this letter to fellow Christians and he is extending them peace and grace because of their knowledge of Jesus.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” 2 Peter 2:3-4

The way we exercise the power that is ours to claim, is through knowledge of God. He called us to be His and to be able to be a part of his own glory and excellence and through the knowledge that we gain of Him is how we live a life of godliness. When you start walking with Him and living with your life for Him, then you become a partaker of His divine nature. I love the way Peter phrases it here “his precious and very great promises”. The promises of God are precious and they are great! In other words, as we grow in our knowledge of Him is how we exercise power and it is the only way to live a life of godliness. I think people tend to shy away from feeling that they are living a godly life because they think it says something about themselves. But that’s not the point at all, you can only live a godly life because of who He is not because of who you are. I am one step away from slipping off the curb every single day, if not for the grace and peace of Him who flows through me. 

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 2:5-8

Have you ever come in contact with a new Christian who is so on fire for the Lord that their faith is spilling out all over everyone? It is a fun thing to watch! But the only way to sustain that is to build upon it. That’s what I love about these verses, everything about this walk builds to get us to love. And I know in my life sometimes it’s like I take a step back here and there and then have to start walking toward love again. When your faith is new and it’s exciting that builds virtue. As virtue in your life grows your knowledge of Him and who He is and what He has done for you grows and with that knowledge self-control kicks in, and then you become more steadfast and able to stand against the things of the world and the fiery darts of Satan and with that it builds godliness in you. Godliness produces more brotherly affection for your fellow man and as that grows you begin to love more like Jesus! 

“Therefore brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:10-11

Peter makes it sound so simple here when he says practice these qualities. But really I think it’s us who make it hard. Many times we think if we have not arrived at the steadfastness or love for our fellow man, then we have failed. But we have to remember that godliness in us grows as our knowledge grows. Diligence is simply putting into practice dragging your will to the cross every day. Ask Him for the strength for the self-control you need, ask Him to help you be steadfast against the world, ask Him to help you to love your fellow man. Especially when some of them are not necessarily very lovable. You know there are just some people you have to pray for Jesus to love them through you, because you really don’t like them very well. Some people are just harder to love than others and if Jesus isn’t doing it through you then it just isn’t happening. 

The last part of this chapter is Peter giving them a glimpse into some of the things of Christ, which he was fortunate enough to eyewitness. 

“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.” 2 Peter 1:16-18

Peter is telling them, and us, I’m not just telling you about things I heard ABOUT, I am telling you about things I HEARD!! We have all had moments in our lives that are profound moments that  we will never forget. Can you imagine if you had heard God’s voice audibly from heaven standing on a mountaintop? Peter heard it first hand, he heard God say “This is my beloved Son!” And he wants others to know it’s not a fable and it’s not a myth! Jesus is the Son of God! 

The last three verses of this chapter are encouraging us to pay attention, for these words, these prophecies, the Scriptures, don’t come from mere men, they come from men who listen to God Himself by the Holy Spirit! 

“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:19-21

Oh I love that picture and I pray, Holy Spirit carry me along and help me to be a lamp shining in a dark place! 

Humility, Grace, Strength

1 Peter 5

Peter is giving out exhortations for the elders of the church as well as to the younger people in the church. 

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” 1 Peter 5:1-4

Peter had the authority and the insight to give direction to the elders of the church, first as a fellow elder but also, as an eyewitness to the sufferings of Christ. And Peter was there and witnessed the glory of Christ too. He was there on the mount of transfiguration, he was there for countless miracles, he saw Jesus walk on water and actually walked on water himself. And he saw Him after his resurrection. Think of it this way, if someone is telling you about something they heard about, you may believe them, but when someone is telling you about something they witnessed, it brings a different kind of credibility and energy to the story. Peter wants to be sure that they realize, that he has credibility and energy to bring to them and to teach them about Jesus. Peter was the one Jesus told “feed my sheep”. He had received this exhortation straight from Jesus. And he had learned what that meant from the Master. He wants to teach the elders how to shepherd the flock as well. 

But he also does not leave out the flock in his exhortation. 

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” 1 Peter 5:5

Peter begins addressing the younger people of the church, but he quickly realizes this is really a lesson for all. He wants them to serve each other, but he also quoted scripture to them. He reminds them of Proverbs 3:34 when he quotes “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Following Jesus means setting aside our own agenda and pride and living under God’s grace. 

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7

Acting in humility under the hand of God, is simply following His direction for your life. It is realizing that we wouldn’t be anywhere without His lead. I have tried many times in my life to make something happen. But I have come to learn that when I submit my will to His will things always turn out so much better. Sometimes I receive what I was wanting and sometimes I receive a direction that is better than I could have ever thought. I remember once I was up for a job I thought I wanted so bad. I didn’t pray for God’s will, I kept praying for that job. Well, I didn’t get it, and it hurt my feelings so bad. But I also had to humble myself a little bit and I had to congratulate the person who got it, and still had to work with her and be gracious even though she got the job I thought I wanted. But about a year later, another job came available that I was better suited for and was more money, and was way better for me than the first one would have been. I can’t help but think that the attitude I made myself have, to act in humility and be gracious to her, and believe me it was not always easy, had to have helped me to land the other job. I also know God knew what was coming later and He knew what would be better for me at the time and for my future. 

The next verses are some of the most famous of this entire book. 

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” 1 Peter 5:8-9

We must always be aware that we have an adversary and if he can’t take us out, he wants to take us down. Once you accept Christ and become a Christian, the devil knows that he can’t own you anymore. But that doesn’t mean he gives up. His aim then becomes to cripple you, he will watch you and he will know your weaknesses and he will throw every fiery dart your way that he possibly can just to make us lose our credibility and to question our faith. But if you resist the darts, and you stand firm in your faith, you will gain more and more strength in order to resist him. I know that the devil never gives up completely but that thing that he is throwing at you, that is driving you to your knees in prayer, is making you stronger in Christ. Friends, don’t let him take you down on your back, let him take you down on your knees. Whatever tactic he is using to cripple you, you take it to the Lord in prayer and then you get up and you brush yourself off, and you stand firm and resist the devil and the darts he is throwing. You see I think after a while, he gets tired of that tactic. And yes, he will move on to another tactic. But you, because of the time you have spent in prayer, your faith will be restored and confirmed, you are stronger and strengthened and more established in your faith. And you will be able to stand firm against him again and again until Christ returns. 

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” 1 Peter 5:10-11

Surprised by Suffering

1 Peter 4

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” 1 Peter 4:1-2

I have to admit that the phrase in this passage “ceased from sin” bothered me just a little. First of all, we know that no one will ever “cease” from sin until he or she goes on to glory. I thought it strange that Peter would put that in there. So I went digging into commentary and other versions and read forward and what I came up with, and what made sense to me is not that Peter was saying we would never sin again if we have suffered with Christ, but that the resistance to sin and the fleshly desires to LIVE in sin would become easier as we place our trust and our lives in Christ. Peter goes on in the next few verses and explains this a little further. He gives a list of sins that would most definitely be aligned with “living in sin or in the flesh”. 

“For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery and they malign you, but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.” 1 Peter 4:3-6

When Peter says “what the Gentiles do” we can interpret this to be what the world is doing. He is saying that it surprises the “world” when we, as Christians do not live the same way as they do. Think about it, generally speaking does it not seem to surprise them that we live the way we do. And going back to the first thought in the first verse where Peter says once you suffer for Christ you will “cease from sin”, is it not true? As you put away fleshly desires, and as you align your life with Christ does it not become easier to resist those fleshly desires over time. When you have been through things that only Christ can get you through, the things of the world become less important and following Christ becomes your aim. And people who are living worldly lives will never understand as long as that is their aim. 

“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” 1 Peter 4:7-11

We hear all the time we are living in the last days. Here it sounds to me like Peter thought they were living in the last days. Whether we are or we are not, the bottom line is it says in scripture that no one knows the day or the hour, not even the son, so we should be living self controlled lives. The NKJV says “be serious and watchful in your prayers”. When it comes to prayer we should take it seriously whether we think we are living in the last days or whether the last days are still 100s of years from now. And then above all, we have to love each other. Peter says to love and show hospitality and serve without grumbling. Oh that is the hard part for me. I find myself grumbling and whining and falling into that critical spirit so fast. I need to write these verses on my forehead! We have to remember love and service and that serving each other is the way we serve Christ and that is what glorifies God! 

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13

Suffering can come in many ways, we may feel that we suffer persecution for our christian beliefs, but we also may be suffering because of bad choices that we have made. One thing we can be sure of is as long as we are still on this earth, there will be suffering. Sometimes we want to be surprised by the suffering, because we don’t understand how this could be happening to me? Oh, I’ve been there, I have asked God a lot of why’s over things that have come my way. Some by my own hand, some by the hand of others and some just because we live in a sinful fallen world. But the the one thing I know and can testify to, is that every amount of suffering that I have endured has not been wasted IF I lay it at the foot of the cross and ask Him to use the pain and to grow me and to be glorified in it. 

“Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And ‘if the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’ Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” 1 Peter 4:16-19

Friends, we are being watched by the world. Let us be sure that we are handling the things that come our way in a way that glorifies God. If we don’t then what is to become of them? How we handle the sufferings that come our way is what will either point the world to Jesus or away from Him. 

Be Prepared

1 Peter 3 

Peter begins this chapter talking to wives and husbands. I do believe that the husband is supposed to be the head of the household, the authority in the home. I also believe that it comes with a responsibility of the husbands to treat their wives with respect and honor and that is what Peter is addressing here. 

“Likewise, wives be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” 1 Peter 3:1-2

When I read commentary on this chapter it also pointed out that when Peter was writing this, there may have been women who were becoming Christians before their husbands were. Many of these women were looking for direction. They may have been trying to figure out how to navigate being a Christian and their husbands not being so. Peter is teaching them how to win over their husbands, by the way they conduct themselves. 

“Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

Now I am a girls girl. I like to put on makeup and fix my hair and I like cute clothes and shoes and I don’t like being told not to do those things. Peter is not saying here not to take care of yourself. In fact other versions use the words “merely external”. Peter is saying do not let that be your main focus. We, as Christian women, should always take care of what is in our heart before the outward beauty. If you had a southern mama, no doubt you have heard the words before “pretty is as pretty does”! That’s basically what Peter was saying to these women. 

But let’s not forget the husbands. 

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7

Peter may have only given the husbands one verse here but he did say a lot. He tells them first of all to live in an “understanding way”. While Peter recognizes the husband as the head of the household, he is not giving them permission to rule over the wife. When Peter uses the term “weaker vessel” he is speaking of physical strength. If the husband looks closely he will realize that what is being said is it is a partnership when Peter uses the phrase “heirs with you” and that mistreatment of his wife will hinder his prayers. 

Peter’s instructions move on to all of us, all Christians, male or female should follow his next directives. Peter is calling the Christians to have “unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” (v. 8)  This is the way we should live with each other as Christians. But he also says we should not “repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling” but that we were to bless just like we have been blessed and will obtain more blessing. (8)  We could all write the next verses on a plaque or at least in our journals and be reminded of this daily. 

“For ‘whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good’ let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.’” 1 Peter 3:10-12

Who doesn’t want the eyes and ears of the Lord, Peter is simply telling them, you do these things, keep your tongue from evil, do good seek and pursue peace and you will have the eyes and ears of the Lord. Peter is saying if we are living our lives, pursuing peace and doing good, that chances are we will not have many enemies. BUT he goes on to say that if we are doing good and we do end up suffering, if we are suffering for “righteousness’ sake” that will be blessed in the end. 

“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” 1 Peter 3:14-16

Our lives should be preaching for Jesus every day, and if necessary we use words. We should have the words prepared to defend our hope in Christ, especially if someone wants to know more about Jesus. However we should be able to speak to others with gentleness and respect. We should let our lives speak for themselves and live in such a way that when others do try to persecute you they really do not have anything bad to say. 

Christ suffered for our sins. He has already done the real suffering. The suffering that we may endure, does not hold a candle to the suffering he endured for us on the cross so that we could be forgiven of sins and be brought to God. 

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” 1 Peter 3:18

Living Stones 

(Originally published January 12, 2021)

1 Peter 2

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation-if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2

Have you ever watched a baby that was hungry for his bottle? And the parents were frantically trying to get it to just the right temperature. All the while the baby is raising quite a fuss. And then when finally that bottle gets popped into the baby’s mouth and he begins to suck on it and receives his milk, and he starts to calm down, it’s so sweet to watch him calm down and sigh and be satisfied. Peter is saying here we should long for God’s word in much the same way and when we taste it, it should satisfy us. 

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:4-5

Jesus is the living stone, but he was rejected by men, but chosen by God. And our belief in Him makes us living stones that are built upon the cornerstone of Jesus. Peter is showing the Christians of his day a word picture of the temple and showing that our belief in Jesus is what is building a living temple, a spiritual house for God. Much the same way that the priests in the days before Jesus came, offered sacrifices in the  temple, we now are considered a holy priesthood, chosen to offer our own sacrifices which are acceptable to God now because of Jesus. 

“For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’” 1 Peter 2:6

Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith, of our spiritual house and He is precious to God, and precious to us. This brings us to the best question I have found in all of my studies. Is Jesus precious to you? He is precious to God and what He did for us on that cross should make Him precious to us. Think about things that are precious to you. What would you do for them? I would lay my life down for my children and my grandchildren, they are so precious to me, that my heart can feel warmth just by thinking of them. I want Jesus to be that precious to me too. And because He is that precious to me, I will take any amount of ridicule and persecution that may come along with my belief in Him. 

“So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.” 1 Peter 2:7-8

You see our honor in our belief comes from above, from God. But to the world our cornerstone, our Jesus is a stumbling block, it offends them. We are so surprised many times at the persecutions that come to us as Christians and the fact that the world wants us to be tolerant of sin, but they get offended at our beliefs and they ridicule us for our belief in Jesus. But that is just the way for those who do not believe. We are God’s chosen people now, by our beliefs in Jesus on the cross and that He is now the cornerstone of the temple of our hearts. But our cornerstone, is what makes them stumble,  what we believe offends them.

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” 1 Peter 2:11

While it would be so easy to give in to our nature and to get into arguments with those that are offended by Christianity, that is not the way to win them over. Peter is telling the Christians of his day and this lesson being in the Bible, is also a good one for us – “keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable”. We will not win any lost souls by arguing with them over our rights and our beliefs, however you might win them over if you keep your conduct honorable and even if we don’t win them over, there will come a day that they will see. 

In the latter part of this chapter Peter addresses submission to authority. 

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institutions, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” 1 Peter 2:13-14

We are a divided country. Over the last few years we have seen people use the slogan, hashtag “not my President” and many people now on the other side want to use the same slogan, hashtag. However, as Christians we are to be subject to our human institutions and authority. We have to let our good, be what puts others to shame. This can be a bitter pill to swallow when you feel that you are on the right side. But we have to look at the directives of God’s word. 

“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” 1 Peter 2:16-17

Let’s let our freedom in Christ be the instrument we use to show honor to our leaders, and we love our fellow man and we have a holy fear, a reverence for God. We can show honor to our leaders, because of Christ living in us, whether our fleshly desire is to do so or not. Jesus took a beating and was crucified on a cross for us, yet the he suffered and died for us, he did not spew threats and insults back at the people who were beating Him. 

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:21-24

Oh Jesus, thank you for being an example to us. Thank you for being our cornerstone and help us precious Lord as we attempt to treat others as You would have us. Help us as we honor our leaders and love our brothers and sisters, whether they believe as we do or not. 

FAITH THAT IS MORE PRECIOUS THAN GOLD! 

(Originally published January 11, 2021)

1 Peter 1

I am very excited to look into 1 and 2 Peter. I have always loved Peter and identified with him a little. Not so much because of who he became. Peter was an apostle and was considered a very important leader of the church. But because of who he was in the beginning. Many stories about Peter make me smile. He is a bit spontaneous, he does things before he thinks of them. He gets himself into so much because he doesn’t think before he speaks. At least that is the Peter of the Gospels. The Peter who has written these letters has matured in his faith. He has grown up so to speak and I can’t wait to see what he is going to teach us. 

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.: 1 Peter 1:1-2

Peter begins this letter stating who he is, “an apostle of Jesus Christ”. That is pretty much all he had to say because Peter was known among Christians of his day. Peter is writing this letter to all Christians, not just in one region as we see many of Paul’s letters he wrote. According to commentary, the list of the places that he names was probably the places that his letter would be delivered. 

After his greeting, Peter jumps right into praising God. A statement I read in the commentary was “When Peter considered the salvation of God, his immediate response was to simply praise Him.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5

There is one of the exclamation points I have come to love. Let us not forget this is the same Peter who denied Jesus 3 times on the night before his crucifixion. This is the same Peter who Jesus restored after His resurrection and Jesus asked him 3 times, Peter, do you love me? And He told him, “Feed my sheep”. It looks to me like Peter was still grateful for his restoration and his salvation. Peter knows his salvation, Peter knows a little something about grace and it looks to me like he is living in it. He knows the living hope of the resurrection of Jesus. 

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7

Peter was talking to some people who had possibly been through some stuff! He mentions that they had been “grieved by various trials” but that even though they had been grieved that the trials had produced a “tested genuineness of faith”. This faith that Peter is talking about is deep, abiding faith, and Peter tells them that this kind of faith is “more precious than gold”. Have you ever known someone who had gone through some stuff and come out on the other side? These people usually have such a deep abiding faith that it appears to the outside world nothing can shake them. One of the things that was pointed out in my studying, and I had never thought of it this way, was that when our faith is going through a testing by God, it’s not because God wants us to prove something to Him, so much as it is to prove our faith to ourselves. See God already knows if we have that deep, abiding faith! But many times, we don’t know if we have it or not. We say things like “I could never live through that.” I’have things that I ask God all the time, “please don’t prove to me I could live through that.” The truth is, when He is testing our faith with various trials, it is not to prove to Him that we will stand strong, it’s to prove to us that with Him, we can stand strong through anything that comes our way. 

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:13-16

In light of this faith that we have, the faith that the trials we have been through have proven to us, we should prepare our minds for action, we should be serious in our thlnking that we have a hope that can rely fully on the grace that we receive because of Jesus. Jesus calls us to be set apart, to live a life that would be holy in the way we conduct ourselves. Not because of us, but because of who He is in us! Peter says in this chapter that if we call on Him as Father, He who will judge us each according to our own conduct, not in comparison to anyone else. He is the most impartial judge. He will look at our lives on the whole and He will judge us, BUT if we know Jesus, when we are judged by the Father it will be: 

“knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, 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.” 1 Peter 1:18-19

He will not look on us and see all of of our past mistakes and our bad habits and our sinful nature. All He will see when He judges us is the precious blood of Jesus, of His son! 

Peter ends by giving us a charge. 

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” 1 Peter 1:22-23

If our souls have been purified by Jesus blood and by our obedience to the truth, we should be able to love one another earnestly from a pure heart! 

Lord, help us to hold fast to the faith that we have, to see that faith as more precious than gold,   and help us Lord to Love each other earnestly, the way You would have us to love! 

WARNINGS, PATIENCE & PRAYERS! 

(Originally published January 8, 2021)

James 5

All throughout the book of James, he is trying to teach complete dependence on God. At the beginning of chapter 5 James addresses the rich people in his audience. Not because James thinks it is impossible for a rich person to have complete dependence on God, but because it is more rare for a rich person to have complete dependence on God. Many times a very wealthy person will begin to depend much more on their own wealth and riches than they do on their God. Apparently also their were rich people in James midst who were wicked, they used their wealth to oppress their workers. This would be the audience that James was talking to in the first part of chapter 5. 

“Behold the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” James 5:4

Jesus had pointed out that it is more difficult for the wealthy to have complete dependence on God. 

“And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’” Mark 10:23 

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:25 

But Jesus, nor is James saying it is impossible. They are just pointing out where our dependence should lie, where our faith should lie. Regardless of how much wealth someone has. A wealthy person may have to make a more conscious effort to be sure that their faith lies in God, rather than their own riches but it is not impossible. 

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.’” Mark 10:27 

James next addresses suffering. 

“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also be patient. Establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James 5:7-8

When we have something that we are praying for, something that we are having to wait a long time for an answer, James is using the illustration of the farmer waiting for his crops to show us how we should be patient while we wait for an answer. A farmer plants his seeds, then he waits. Much the same way, we pray the prayer, then we wait. I love the phrase he uses here “establish your hearts”. When you are waiting for an answer to a prayer you must “establish” your heart. You must plant your heart in Jesus and let Him sustain you while you wait. He goes on to use the steadfastness of Job as his example. 

“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” James 5:11

We can look to Job as our example, he remained steadfast in the face of unimaginable affliction and while we all still may shake our heads at how much Job had to endure, we also see how God blessed Job’s steadfastness in the end. Also, we see how Job’s story is used to build our faith! I am sure while Job was enduring the afflictions that were heaped upon him that he never dreamed his story would go down through the ages and that people would be using his example to endure hardship thousands of years later. One thing we can learn from Job, God will never waste our pain. 

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” James 5:13-14 

James is covering all bases here. We should pray when we are suffering, we should sing praise when we are happy and if we are very sick we should call on others to pray. Our job is to pray, it is God’s job to act. 

“And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:15-16

Clearly not all sick who are prayed for receive physical healing on earth. Many times, I think we are afraid to pray for physical healing because what if we don’t receive the answer we want. James is saying here, we should pray with the knowledge that the Lord can handle it. I love the last line of those verses and I especially love it in the NKJV. 

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16b NKJV

When we pray do we pray fervently? The word fervent means “having or displaying a passionate intensity”. Are we coming boldly to the throne of grace of the Most High God and laying our requests down with the knowledge that He will answer. I saw this statement in my studies of commentary. 

“Effective prayer must be fervent, not because we must emotionally persuade a reluctant God, but because we must gain God’s heart by being fervent for the things He is fervent for.” 

Yes, when we begin to pray for something we pray for the answers we want but at the end of the day even if the answer doesn’t come as we want it, when we pray with fervency, what we gain is far greater than the answer we were pursuing, because in the end what we gain is our hearts intertwined with our God’s. 

Draw Near To God!

(Originally published January 7, 2021)

James 4

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” James 4:1-3

Everyone has their own agenda, and when everyone has their own agenda there will be quarrels and fights among them. We see that in our homes, we see it in our communities and we are seeing it play out in our country. James says you do not have because you do not ask and when you do you ask with the wrong motives. What we as Christians have to remember are James next statements. 

“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4

We do not want to be friends with the world and the worldly things that are going on around us. We also have to remember that no matter how bad things may appear, God is still on the throne and He is still in control! 

“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:6-8

Where do we fit in with all the mayhem going on at this time. We must remember and live in the grace that comes from God. James says resist the devil. This word for resist means ‘stand against’. We have to stand against the devil in our own every day life. And when we do that he will flee from you. It goes like this, if you have something that is a tug for you, a sin that you wrestle with, and you feel the pull to do that sin, the more you stand against it, the more you resist it, the easier it is to resist it. As you stand against it, you feel stronger and the devil, who is trying to entice you to it, because he knows it is your weakness, will over time stop trying to entice you to it. The best and really the only way to stand against or to resist the devil is to get closer to God. God desires relationship with us, He doesn’t need it, but He desires it, and if we do our part and work toward relationship with Him, He will in turn draw near to us! 

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:10

We should live our day to day life in humility and grace. As we draw nearer to God and we live in the humility that all we have are blessings from Him and that He gives us the grace to go through every day, it is amazing to see how many blessings can come our way. I am not saying that life will be perfect. We still live in a fallen world, and there are still going to be sickness, and  strife that happens all around us. But I truly believe that if we live in the grace He gives and follow His will, that He will lead us to many blessings. 

James carries on to say that we should all realize also that this life is short. We don’t know what is coming at us tomorrow. 

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” James 4:13-16

I don’t think James is telling us here not to make plans at all. We have heard it said “Failure to plan is planning to fail”. However, we must submit our plans to the Lord. When you submit your plans to Him and allow Him to lead you, then you are living in the grace that He gives. 

Lord, help us to live humbly in the grace that comes only from You. Lord we desire to draw nearer to you and we are grateful that as we draw near that you draw near to us! Show us Your way that we may walk with You!

Blessing and Cursing

(Originally published January 6, 1921)

James 3

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” James 3:1

Years ago, I was asked to speak at a women’s conference at our church. I was so afraid to say yes to it at first. I prayed about it and asked the Lord to show me if this was something that He wanted me to do. I wasn’t sure I could get over my fear of actually opening my mouth in front of a large group of people and actually having sound come out of it. The next Sunday our pastor stood in front of our church and told a story of little children asking him if he ever was afraid to stand in front of the church. My ears perked up. He went on to say that yes he was afraid but it was not for the reasons they thought, it was because he was afraid of not handling the word of truth rightly or being taken wrong and of not living out what he was preaching. I realized in that moment that my fears had been misplaced. I didn’t need to be afraid of looking silly or if my knees were going to knock together or if I would trip going up and down the stairs, that if I was going to speak at a conference I needed to be afraid of not handling the word of truth correctly and then of not living it out. I am not saying I never get afraid of those other things too. But I do realize that if I write, or if I speak or if I lead a Bible Study then yes, my life will be judged more strictly than if not. I fear what your opinion of my Jesus would be more than if I were to look silly to you. I pray that I can live up to my writing of who He is. 

James also expresses that we all will stumble and if anyone can control themselves so as to never stumble that he would be a perfect man. Then he gives a lot of language to the tongue. The tongue is a small member of the body, yet it is the hardest member of the body to control. He compares it to the fact that we can put a bit in the mouth of the horse and we can guide the horses whole body by that bit. The rudder of a ship is small yet it guides and turns the whole ship. Much the same the tongue is small, yet with it we can build things up, we can edify others and praise our God. But we can also tear things down. 

“So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongues is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” James 3:5-6

I have let my mouth get me in trouble more times than I can count. I have destroyed relationships and I have seen other peoples relationships destroyed by things said. I am still trying to learn how to control my mouth. James calls it a “restless evil, full of deadly poison”. I pray that I can get my tongue under control before I take my last breath and I pray that I will be forgiven for the things I allow my tongue to say before my brain can catch up and stop it. 

“With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not be so.” James 3:9-10

I beg forgiveness of anyone I have said something that was stupid or came out as cursing another person. I want to praise and bless God with my tongue and I pray that I will be able to tame my tongue. 

James goes on to discuss wisdom from above. 

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” James 3:13

There is a difference in what the world calls wisdom and the wisdom from above. We can see the big difference in these days. I don’t want any part of the earthly wisdom that is around these days for sure. We are surrounded by thoughts and practices that are different from what 

Is in God’s word. 

“This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” James 3:15-16

I think we can say that we are surrounded by disorder and vile practices. But we should seek the wisdom from above. 

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 17-18

I pray that we will seek the wisdom from above and that we will allow that wisdom to help us to tame our tongues so that we may bless people and God! 

FAITH, LOVE, WORKS

(Originally published January 5, 2021)

James 2

“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” James 2:1

James is pointing out that we should not show partiality between the rich man and the poor man. We should welcome whomever into our churches. I have often heard the story of the pastor who dressed up like a beggar and sat outside the doors of his church to see if anyone in his congregation would stop and talk to him. When no one did, and it was time for his sermon, he walked up the aisle of the church and took his place in the pulpit much to the surprise of his parishioners. I wonder how I would respond. I was in Jackson the other day and I saw some people holding signs on the street corner asking for money. I will admit I did not give them money, I’m not sure that would be a good idea either, BUT did I harbor in my heart against them? Was I accepting of them? Would I have stopped if they had been better dressed? Or how would I have treated them if they had come into my church? 

“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” James 1:8-10

We can’t be nice to the rich man and not nice to the poor man. We should be accepting of all people in the same way, especially when they walk in the church doors. 

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” James 2:14

Now wait a minute Paul told us we couldn’t work our way into the kingdom of God and then here James is telling us that we have to have works? Not exactly, in my studying I found a saying. 

“faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone” 

True faith will always produce works. As you fall in love with Jesus you can’t help but want to work for Him. You can’t work your way to Jesus, first it will wear you out, but also He wants your heart not just what you can do for Him. But if you cultivate and develop that relationship with Him, He will lead you to the works that He has for you, and it will not be burdensome. It will be fulfilling to you. 

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one, you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder!” James 2:18-19

It’s really not enough to just believe in Him, you have to love Him, to want to follow Him, to have faith in Him. I know people who can play the game and can quote scripture but it’s like James said in chapter 1, you have to become a doer of the word. You have to let it change you. Whether you are 9 or 99, there is always something there to change, and there is always and will always be, until we get to heaven, something new to learn and let Him do in your heart. I never want to stop learning from Him. I never want to stop changing, I never want to stop working for Him. Sure, the lessons I am learning now are different than the lessons I learned 20 years ago. There are things I learned and things I may have struggled with then, that I don’t struggle with anymore. But there are still lessons to learn and work to be done. If you still have breath in your body, there is something for you to do. As long as there is breath in my body there will always be something to do, to learn, to work for Him. To love Him is to work for Him!