Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Philip, My Father-in-Law

I first met my Father-in-law in 1990, I was dating my future husband and he brought me to meet his parents. I remember my thoughts that day...

I grew up in a family where we showed affection to each other, but not really to people we didn't know really well.  If you came to our house, you would be greeted cordially, but not warmly.  So I was unprepared for what happened when I met my husband's parents.  I entered the door, was introduced, and both of his parents greeted me with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.  My father-in-law also grabbed my arm and squeezed it in what I am sure he meant as a friendly gesture... he squeezed so tightly he left bruises where his fingers were.  Both of my husband's parents treated me like a member of the family from the very start, they were great, but I found them a little overwhelming at first, their affectionate behavior would take some getting used to.

When my husband I were married, I was so glad to officially be a member of this loving family.  I rarely ever really thought of my in-laws in the terms that many people think of in-laws, instead I felt like I had two sets of parents, and when my own mom passed away, I took great comfort in knowing that I still had my Mother-in-law, who, along with my Father-in-law, made me feel like I had been adopted by them.

My father-in-law was a no nonsense kind of guy, and while he showed physical affection readily, he didn't express his feelings in words.  He wasn't the kind of guy to often say, "I love you", in fact I am not sure if I ever heard those words from him.  But he showed his love every day.  He always thought about how to help others.  Whether that was by letting us rent a house for much less than he could have gotten from anyone else, building a fence in front of that house to give my first daughter a safe place to play, or giving my husband a riding lawn mower so that he could maintain the property we were blessed with by him and his brother. If I was to make a list of all the ways that man helped over the years, it would be incredibly long, I wonder if he knew just how much I appreciated him, how much I loved him.

He lived next door, and I remember how he would come up to our house, and rather than walking up the door and knocking, he would look into the windows to see if anyone was up and around.  I would be walking through the house and catch sight of him out of the corner of my eye and be so startled.  It used to drive me crazy.  Now that he is gone I am saddened that it will never happen again.

He used to love to tease people, and always had a joking remark about things I would say.  Sometimes I was irritated by that, but the other day as I was considering sharing with my mother-in-law my goals for the coming year, I forgot for just a minute that he was gone, and I imagined the things he might say.  Then I remembered and knew I would give anything to hear him say them.

While he always had a joke to tell, he was never truly critical of me.  Many times he stopped by when the house was a huge mess, but never did he say anything about it.  He always seemed to overlook my faults, as if he couldn't see them.  He would say that I was pretty, but not mention that I was obese.  He would tell me I was doing a great job with my kids, but not mention that I couldn't seem to keep a clean house.  He only mentioned the positive things to me, and never did anything that made me feel like less of a person.

Now he is gone, and I am wondering if he knew how much I loved him and appreciated all this about him.  I know I told him that I loved him, but I don't think I ever sat down and had a heart to heart telling how much I appreciated him, telling him that I thought he was wonderful.  I doubt he would have let me finish if I'd tried, because he really never would sit and listen to someone praise him, he would have shrugged it off and tried to make his good points seem insignificant.

Well, I know he is with the good Lord now, and I don't know if he can see us here on Earth or not, but I pray that somehow he knows how special he was to me, and how much I'll miss him.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Leading And Following

 1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.   

5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for   

      “ God resists the proud,

      But gives grace to the humble.”

 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

(1 Peter 5:1-7, New King James Version)

When it comes to authority, most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle, with some people in authority over us and others below us in the chain of command.  For example, a man is head of his home, but is under the authority of the church, the government, and of course God.  The wife is under the leadership of the husband, but is in authority over the children, and even the child may find themselves given temporary authority over younger children.  So all of us, men, women, and children need not only to learn to have a HEART OF SUBMISSION, but we also need to learn how to lead others in a humble way that honors God.

The first group of people Peter addresses are the elders of the church, but principles of leadership he gives to them can apply to any position of authority.  They are to shepherd those under them.  A shepherd cares for his sheep and always tries to do what is best for them,  putting aside his own wants to do what will most help them survive and thrive.  So the elders, along with others in authority, are called not to lord over those they shepherd, but rather to serve humbly by setting an example.

Extending this principle to others in authority, husbands should not "lord over" their wives and children and try to "lead the home with an iron fist", but rather should shepherd their families, instruct them and guide them with gentleness and humility, and be a living example of godliness.  Mothers should likewise be doing so with their children, and teach their children to act in the same manner if they find themselves in authority.  God will be the rewarder of those who live in this way.

We also should give deference to the one in authority over us.  We should ALL willingly submit to each other with a humble heart, knowing that ultimately it is God we submit to, and knowing that it will be God who will lift us up.

Often, it is difficult to submit to authority because we fear losing something we want to keep, and it can also be difficult to take up authority because we fear losing the hearts of those we are responsible for.  However, we can cast those cares upon Jesus, anything we are concerned with we can give to Him, knowing that He loves us and wants what is best for us.

Lord, help me today to lead when I am called to and to follow when I am supposed to.  Help me to lead in gentleness and humility, and to seek Your will above all else.

Friday, December 18, 2009

We Need Revival

7 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. 8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” 9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.   

12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.

17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 Now

      “ If the righteous one is scarcely saved,

      Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. (1 Peter 4:7-19, New King James Version)

We are in the end times, it may be tempting to look at verse 7 and think that since it was so long ago that Peter said the end was at hand, he must have been wrong.  However, he wasn't wrong.  In the scheme of History, it wasn't really that long ago.  We have been in the end times since Christ ascended, moving closer to His return each day, and each day the signs increase all around us, indicating that His return is imminent. He wants us to continue to live our lives, but always with the knowledge that He could return any moment.

Remain watchful, see the signs around you and talk to God about them, ask Him to help you understand their significance, ask Him for wisdom, and He will give it. Continue in love, hospitality and service to another, not grudgingly, not with a grumbling heart, but rather doing all for God's glory.

Expect some level of persecution, it may come of in only in the form of mockery, or it may be full blown persecution by an evil government that wants to make it a "hate crime" to teach certain parts of the Bible, but all of us need to realize that some for persecution is to be expected.  It is not unusual, but rather is a normal occurrence when one follows Christ in this fallen world.

American Christians have had it easy so far, our idea of persecution has consisted mostly of people laughing at us behind our backs, and perhaps in extreme cases to our faces.  We might even occasionally get yelled at, or if you live in certain cities, beat up because you believe. But most of us have never experienced these things, for most of us, we fear ridicule and think that is persecution.  However, government sanctioned persecution is coming to America, I believe that in the very core of my heart.  It is very near as the world becomes more and more tolerant of all viewpoints other than Christian, and more and more intolerant of our beliefs.  In many places in the world,  places that have had free speech laws similar to those in the U.S. it has become illegal to read certain portions of the Bible out loud in Church, or to express publicly your belief in what those parts of the Bible teach.  Our own country is fast heading down that same road.  Soon, belief in the Bible will called hatred and bigotry, and teaching the Bible will be a hate crime.

It is coming, we may be able to delay it through the democratic process, we be able to temporarily fight it in the courts.  Certainly God may see fit to delay it if we get on our knees and pray earnestly for revival to sweep this land.  If we  fast and fall on our faces before God brokenhearted, not only over the sin of unbelievers in our land, but over our own sin.  Perhaps if we humble ourselves, confess our sin, and recommit to God as Nehemiah did in Nehemiah 1:5-11.  Perhaps God will hear, and send revival, and delay the persecution that is heading our way.  Either way, whether He grants us a reprieve or not, we must trust God, totally commit our souls to Him, trusting that He knows what is best.  We must continue to do good and to walk with Him, doing all to His glory.

  In some cases we need to repent of being more political than spiritual, and of being busybodies in other people's matters, and in other cases we need to repent of not using the freedom we have to influence our government, either way we must repent of not putting God first, and not travailing in prayer over the direction our nation is taking. 
Judgment begins in the house of God, the Church must repent of its materialism, its apathy, and its prayerlessness.  Revival always begins with an awakened awareness of sin and repentance from it.  Let the Church examine itself and ask God to search it and know it.  Let the individual Christian look into the mirror of God's word and ask God to show us if there is any wicked way within us.  Let us come to Him humbly repenting, not just in hopes of avoiding persecution, but in humility, in deep pain over having dragged Christ's name through the muck by our actions.   Let us truly be sorry for having dishonored and disobeyed god.  Let us come to Him humbly and repent.

Lord, I confess to You that in so many ways I have strayed from Your ways and Your word.  In so many ways I have not been serious and watchful, in so many ways I have sinned and not served You with all my heart, have not loved You all my heart, mind, and strength.  Lord, I implore You, I beg You, send revival.  Let revival be sent to this nation, and let it begin within my own heart, right now.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

We Are Not Who We Were

 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.

 1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. 4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. 5 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. (1 Peter 3:18-4:6, New King James Version)
Christ's sufferings bring us into the very presence of God.  Our servitude to our flesh has ended and we are made alive by the Holy Spirit to live new lives.

This same Spirit, in an act that remains somewhat of a mystery to us, is how Jesus went and preached the gospel to those souls in prison.  Those Old Testament people who lived even before the establishment of God's covenant with the people of Israel, before even the flood, were now presented the gospel so that even though they had suffered the judgment of death on earth, they might have the chance to take part in eternal life. (verses 3:19 and 4:6)

Just as Noah and his family demonstrated their faith by going into the Ark, and so were saved, we by faith choose to take part in Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, and we demonstrate that decision with baptism.  The act of baptism itself, the act of dunking our flesh into the water the water  is not what saves us, otherwise taking a bath would have the same result, the death and resurrection of Christ is what saves us.  It is the cleansing of conscience by His resurrection that we need, not just the cleansing of our flesh.  Baptism is simply how we show our decision to take part in the resurrection.

Because Christ died and rose again for us, and because we have symbolically taken part in that death, burial, and resurrection through baptism, we should no longer live in sin.  When we decided to follow Christ, we decided to die to sin, this death is represented in baptism by our body being dunked under the water, just as a dead person is placed under the ground.  However, we didn't stay under the water!  We didn't just decide to die to our old life of sin, we were also making a choice to live anew for God!  This resurrection to new life is represented by our rising back up out of the water, just as Christ rose up from the grave.  So now, having died to sin and risen again to a new life in Christ, we should not live to please our flesh, but should live to do God's will.

Enough of our past lifetime was spent in sin.  We now live a new life, who wants to waste time in this new life by walking in sin? 

Those who knew us in our past life think it is strange that no longer live as we used to.  They may speak evil of us, but we can rejoice because we know that we have life in Christ.  Our judgment for sin is finished.  The penalty has already been paid.  So we can rejoice over that rather than be worried about what others say about us or do to us. 

In fact, rather than hating them, we can pity them, for unless they choose in this life to judge their own sin and accept Christ's payment for it, unless they choose to begin a new life in Him, their sin will be judged in the next life, and they will have to pay their own penalty.  We can pity that, because we too were deserving of judgment, no better than they, the only difference being that we have recognized that and have accepted the free gift of salvation.

So we should pray for them and try to live lives that point them to Jesus.

Lord, I praise you that you have given me new life in You.  I thank you so much for this free gift Lord.  I did nothing to earn it, could do nothing to earn it if I tried.  I am saved, and can't become more saved or less saved by my works, praise you for that Lord, because surely I'd mess up and end up "less saved" if that were the case! However Lord, Your word does teach that my works matter, not in the sense of earning my salvation, but in the sense of glorifying You, and being used by You to draw others to Your Kingdom.  Help me Lord to glorify You today in all that I do, all that I think, and all that I say.  I pray in Jesus' name.  Amen.

Always Be Ready

 8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For
      “ He who would love life
      And see good days,
       Let him refrain his tongue from evil,
      And his lips from speaking deceit.
       11 Let him turn away from evil and do good;
       Let him seek peace and pursue it.
       12 For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
       And His ears are open to their prayers;
      But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.”   

13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:8-17, New King James Version)

Love should be the primary factor in our relationships to one another, this will show itself in the big ways like having compassion, but perhaps even more so in the small everyday things.  Things like being courteous, showing manners, making that phone call if you're not going to be able to do what said you would do, or opening the door for the person who has their full. While small, "common courtesy" type of things, these very things are what is so easy to overlook, and are things that in today's world are becoming far from common.  We need to practice these little, everyday things, not just because we were taught to, but because we are seeking to glorify God and shine His light.

We also should not be seeking to "get back at" others, but always to try to bless. The principle of doing good and blessing those around us is found throughout scripture, Old Testament and New.

If we live this way, always treating others with respect and courtesy, and always seeking to bless others, it is much less likely that anyone will hate us and try to hurt us, however if it does happen we at least have the blessing of a clear conscience, the knowledge that we are suffering for righteousness and not for our own sin.  This will give us great hope through the trial of mistreatment, and will prompt questions from those around us.  Questions such as how we continue to love those who treat us so badly, and how we endure such mistreatment with patience, and how we continue to have hope even in situations that seem hopeless.

Of course the reason for our hope is Jesus Christ and the fact that He died for us and purchased our salvation, and that He promises not only life eternal and abundant, but even promises additional reward for those who suffer for His name.
Often I hear this verse (vs. 15) interpreted that we should study the Bible intently so we are ready to to give an answer, of course that is true, but in the context of this verse I think it is more about having a clean conscience and a good witness, so that we are ready to share whenever asked.  If we live as God calls us to, we will always be ready to share this, never feeling that we need to hold back because our actions condemn us as hypocrites.  Instead, with a clean conscience we can share Christ, knowing that we have lived out our faith. 

Praise God for His awesome gift of salvation.  May we do all we can to share this gift with others.

Praise you Lord that You have given me the gift of salvation and a true and living hope in You.  Help me to live today in such a way that I will always be ready to share the reason for my hope.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Heart of Submission

Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:

       22 “ Who committed no sin,
      Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;
  23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 1 Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.   

7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 2:18-3:7, New King James Version)

This passage deals with submission, it begins by mentioning servants  and masters.  In that culture, a servant had no choice but to stay with his master, but if a master was harsh and impossible to please, the servant would probably be tempted to only obey when the master was looking, and to do the bare minimum required of him, because he would have no love for the cruel master.

But Peter tells the servants, "No, submit to your master in your heart, serve him joyfully."

God's word does not address the question of whether this situation of slaves and masters is right or wrong, because God is concerned with each individual's heart.  Slavery in that culture was a fact, and God chooses in His word to reveal how His children, even those who are enslaved, can live within the situation and station in life they find themselves in.

The answer is that each one is to live righteously, even if those around them are not, each one is to continue serving God and doing what is right, even when life isn't fair and they are treated unjustly.  Each one is to do all that they do as if it is being done for God Himself, because indeed it is being done for God, that through the humble example of a submitted, faithful, and even loving heart,  God would be glorified and the master would be drawn to Him.

Since some masters were cruel and harsh, loving and submitting to them was not an easy task, but Christ, dwelling within the servant would enable him to do so.  The suffering that Christ went through is pointed to, basically saying, "If Christ went through so much in order for you to be saved, isn't it right that you be willing to suffer in order that your master may be drawn to Him and be saved as well?"

After addressing servants, Peter addresses wives, and tells them to submit to their husbands.  A woman's position in that society was not much better than a slaves, and again, the issue of whether that is right or wrong is not really addressed.  Instead God's word focuses on telling women who knew Him how to best serve Him where they were at.  Again the purpose is clear, submit in order that others may be drawn to the Lord.

Submission is a hard thing to do, and is even hard to understand at times.  It is something that comes from the heart as a sacrifice to God.  The servant who "submits" only to avoid a beating is not truly submissive.  True submission is not something forced upon another, true submission to any other person comes from a heart that is submitted first to God and to His will.  Since His will is to draw others to Him, submitting to another for that purpose is not so difficult to a heart that is submitted to God.   It is a freewill offering.

Many changes have happened in culture, and most of us do live on either side of the slave-master relationship.  Also, the position of women in society has been elevated to where she is now on equal footing with her husband, but that does not mean this passage has no direction for us today.  We are still called to have gentle submissive hearts.  Submitting first to God's will and then to others, not insisting upon our rights, but yielding them up in order for God to be glorified.

And lest anyone should think that this applies only to slaves or to women, consider the following:

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. (Ephesians 5:25-29, New King James Version)

Notice that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  How did Christ love the church?  He gave up all of His rights, He gave Himself wholly in order to save her.

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:15-21, New King James Version)

5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for

      “ God resists the proud,
      But gives grace to the humble.”
(1 Peter 5:5, New King James Version)

You can see in these last two verses that the command is given to the entire Church to submit to one another.  Now I want to note that I am not trying to say that a woman should demand her husband submits to her!  No, the husband is the head of the family, and  scripture leaves no question about that.  I am simply making the point that all of us have to yield our desires and wills to other people at times, and husbands are not exceptions to this.  However, it is also important to add, we are not to be looking at the other person to see if we will do what God asks of us.  The wife is not to sit around waiting for her husband to love her as Christ loved the church before she will submit, and the husband is not to wait until the wife submits before loving her.  Each needs to look to their own behavior first, and make sure that they are walking as God calls them to, regardless of what the other is doing.

God calls all of us thave gentle submissive hearts that are willing to yield our own interests and rights in order to glorify God and draw others to Him.  Whether it is woman yielding to her husband, a person serving their employer faithfully even when no one sees or seems to appreciate it, or a husband yielding up his rights for the good of his family, we are ALL called to put the good of others before our own good.

Lord, I know I have a rebellious heart, as soon as I am told I cannot do something, I want to do it even more.  Submission is hard for me Lord, I've watched out for myself since I was a child, and it is hard to give up control.  I choose to submit myself to You Lord, and ask that You will give me the strength to live up to that decision.  In submitting to You, I am choosing to put others before myself, because that is what You ask of me.  Help me in this Lord, because I know I can't do it on my own.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pilgrims and Bondservants

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

13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (1 Peter 2:11-17, New King James Version)

Since we are just visitors here, staying for a short time on this earth, we need to keep ourselves from being entangled in the things that would hinder our progress.  Pilgrims and sojourners must travel light, and whenever we give in to fleshly lusts we find ourselves hauling around emotional and spiritual baggage.  Not only that, but the reason God leaves us here in the world, rather than taking us home immediately when we come to Him, is so we can invite others to receive His free gift of salvation.  We must conduct ourselves in such a way that they'll see a difference in us and want what we have.

The way to silence those who accuse us is to live honorably.  To submit to and obey the laws.  There may still be those who will falsely accuse us, but they will know deep in their hearts that their accusations are lies, they won't be able to make these accusations before God in the day of Christ's return, but will fall silent before Him. 

We are free in Christ (vs. 16). We know that even we sin our Lord forgives us.  Yet we are not to use that freedom as a cloak for vice, we are not to sin intentionally and hide behind our freedom in Christ.  Rather we are to live as bondservants of Christ.  Remember, a bondservant was a slave who had been given his freedom, but who loved his master and his home and so chose of his own free will to continue serving his master all the days of his life.,(See Deuteronomy 15:12-17)  So while we have our freedom we should, out of love for our Master, freely choose to do His will.

We should treat all people with honor and respect, not only those who are living righteously and serving our Lord, but also those who don't know our Lord and are caught up in lifestyles of sin, because we won't win anyone by despising them and treating them like dirt.

We also need to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  When those around us see our love for one another, how well help each other, forgive each other, and pray for each other, they will know that we are His disciples,  (See John 13:34-35), and some of them will drawn to Him as well.

We also are to give honor to the rulers in government.  In the time this epistle was written, it was king.  Today in America, it is our president.  We are to honor him, whether we agree with him or not.  We are not prevented from speaking out against policies and participating in the political process, but we should NEVER resort to verbally attacking the person.  We should honor him, just as we are to honor all men, and treat him with respect.

So I pray that the church will put away the jokes, the unflattering posters, the unfounded accusations, and will start to pray for our president.  I pray if we write letters in regards to policies we disagree with, whether those letters are to the editor of our local paper, to our congressmen and women, or to the White House, that our letters will be polite and respectful and will speak to the issues, not attack the person in office.

Lord, help me to abstain from all that would hinder my journey.  Help me Lord, to live in such a way that those around me will either be drawn to You or at least be silenced before You.  Help me to honor all people, so not will have a just reason to accuse.  I thank you Lord, that each day You give me freedom, and that I am free to choose to stay with You.  I choose You today Lord, I will stay with You to serve You.  Help me to be a good servant today Lord.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Where We Belong

 1 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.   
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,

      “ Behold, I lay in Zion
      A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
      And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”

7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,
“ The stone which the builders rejected
      Has become the chief cornerstone,”

 8 and

      “ A stone of stumbling
      And a rock of offense.”

   They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:1-10, New King James Version)
Because we are born again through the precious, incorruptible blood of Jesus and the eternal word of God, we now need to lay aside all of those things that are not suited to our new nature.  Malice, or ill intent, has no place in our new life.  We must reject every form of deceit and dishonesty, and hypocrisy which is that tendency to say one thing and do another, to pretend that we something other than what we are.  We need to stop envying each other for their possessions, their talents, gifts, relationships, whatever, because this is often the source of malice and hypocrisy.  We must continue to be careful not to speak evil of others.  We must stop making excuses for all these things and make a choice to lay them aside, rejecting them as behavior not suitable for a new creation in Christ.

We need to feed on God's word and not resist the things it says, but rather  let it do its work to change us and cause growth.

Indeed our Lord is gracious and precious to us who yielded our lives to Him.  He is the solid Rock on which we stand and base our lives, but to hearts bent on rebellion He is a stone which trips them.  Having been offered a free pardon and then choosing to reject it, they heap more condemnation on themselves.

But those of us who know Jesus as our Savior and our Lord are chosen.  We are a royal priesthood.  Royal because we are children of the King of Kings, and a priesthood because we are God's servants and ministers.  We are His hands and feet, going and reaching out to those around us, a light in the darkness that so heavily hangs over this world of ours.

We are a holy nation, we no longer claim citizenship in this world, but our citizenship is in heaven, and we are strangers and visitors here on earth.  We are God's chosen and special people, set apart to proclaim the praises of  God bring glory to the One who called out of the thick choking darkness we once walked in and into His marvelous light.

Once we were not a people, once we did not belong, we had no place or people to which we truly belonged, but now we belong to God Himself, we are His people, on which He has chosen to show His incredible love and mercy.

Lord, I thank you for your mercy.  I thank you that now I truly have a place I belong, in Your loving arms.  I praise You, Lord, for choosing me.  I don't understand why you did, there was nothing in me to warrant or be worthy of  Your choosing, yet You chose me as a vessel to display Your mercy.  I can only respond with humble thanks.  I ask Lord, that You will help me to lay aside everything that would hinder my usefulness to You, anything that would stop other people from seeing Your glory.  Praise You LORD.

Our Motivation

13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, (1 Peter 1:13-23, New King James Version)

This passage begins with the word therefore, which basically means, "because of what was just said". So following my old pastor's instruction, whenever you see the word therefore, look back and see what it is there for. What came before this was a collection of verses which expounded on how we are saved and kept by God, by His grace and mercy and mercy alone, not our own works, and how God has given to His church greater revelation, grace, and mercy than has been extended to the prophets of old or even to the angels in heaven. (See Who Hold's Us and Keeps Us and Mysteries Even Angels Wish to See.)

So it is because of that awesome grace which saves us without works, and because of that incredible revelation given us in Scripture that we should be sober and put our hope fully in Jesus. It is because of God's grace that we should be obedient and not conform ourselves to our former lusts, it is because we know how good God has been to us that we should walk in holy conduct.

What motivates us to be obedient and to live righteously is knowing how much God has given to us, knowing that He loves, has saved us, and will keep us irregardless of our works, this should be our motivation. We should be motivated out of love and thankfulness to not want to tread upon such awesome mercy and grace, but rather to serve Him with a whole heart.

No longer motivated out of fear of hell, but out of thankfulness for our sure deliverance from it, we are free to obey and do the work God calls us to do. The only fear (vs 17) which now has any part in our motivation is the fear of defaming our Lord, fear of our conduct driving others away from Him, fear that others will see us who claim to have Christ inside us, and will wrongly judge Christ based on the wrong they see in our lives. For indeed, the world does judge Christ, and the credibility of His word, based on what they see in us. The fear of causing others to think that Christ is not true. That is the only kind of fear which has place in a heart transformed by love.

We know how precious and incorruptible is Christ's blood which has redeemed us, and we should fear making it look like a common, unholy thing in the eyes of those who watch us to find out what Christ is like. But even that fear is grounded in love and in knowledge that our salvation is sure no matter what, knowing that we have been born again of incorruptible seed, knowing that we have God's word telling us that our salvation is sure in Him and that He will keep us in His hand, and knowing that despite all the weaknesses of our flesh, God's word will stand forever.
24 because
“ All flesh is as grass,

And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.

The grass withers,

And its flower falls away,

25 But the word of the LORD endures forever.”

Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:24-25, New King James Version)

Lord, I thank you and I praise you that you have saved me, and that my salvation is not dependent upon me, but upon You. I praise you Lord that Your perfect love casts out fear, and that now I can serve You out of thankfulness for what You have done, rather than out of fear of what You might do. I pray Lord that I will not defame Your holy name today. That I will walk as You would have me, that when others look at me, they may not see me, but may see You through me. I ask this in Your precious name Jesus. Amen.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mysteries Even Angels Wish to See

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:6-12, New King James Version)

We rejoice that Jesus holds us and keeps us, knowing that any trials or tests we face will pale in comparison to the glory we will have at the revelation of Jesus Christ in the last day.

We have not seen this day, and we have not seen Christ, but we love Him without seeing Him because His Spirit dwells in us who have received salvation by God's grace.

It is interesting to note the prophets who in the past proclaimed this grace that was to come did so through the same Spirit, that is, the Spirit of Christ (vs 11). These prophets did not fully understand what they prophesied in the messianic prophesies, but they put their faith and trust in God based on what had been revealed, even though that revelation was as yet far from complete. It was okay that they didn't understand it all, because the things they prophesied and wrote were not really for their benefit, but for ours. They were part of a bigger picture they could not even imagine, a piece of God's plan.

We put our faith in Him based on so much more revelation than they had. We (the church) have mysteries revealed to us that even angels desire to know and understand. Mysteries which God did not reveal directly to His angels, but instead revealed to His church, and through His church revealed them to the powers and principalities in heavenly places. (See Ephesians 3:9-11)

So much more has been given to us than to the prophets of old, our revelation is so much more complete. It is a wonder we do not explode for joy over the knowledge of God that has been given to us!

We have even been given so much more than the angels in heaven, have been given, for Christ did not die to save fallen angels, but did die to save fallen human beings.

We should always be rejoicing at the sheer miracle of the gospel, both what Christ actually did for us, and that we have had it revealed to us so completely.

There are things that still have not been fully revealed to us, (1 Corinthians 13:12) and will not be fully revealed to us until Christ returns and we become like Him, but surely if the prophets could walk in such faith with the little that was revealed to them, we can do so with the abundance of revelation and grace given to us.

Lord, I praise You for Your Mysteries that have bee revealed through Your word, thank You that you have chosen to reveal to Your church things that previously You did not even reveal to the angels in heaven. I praise You also Lord for the glory that will be revealed in the last day, for the day when we will behold You face to face, and know You in ways we cannot fathom now.
Praise You Jesus!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Who Holds Us and Keeps Us

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace be multiplied.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

(1 Peter 1:1-5, New King James Version)

We must never forget that although scripture contains many exhortations and encouragements for us to live righteously, and we certainly should heed these, our rebirth is only because of God's abundant mercy. It is He who saved us, He who begot us again.

Not only is it He who saved us, it is He who keeps us. No matter how often, or how badly we fail, He never abandons us. There are consequences in this earthly life for our failings, often serious consequences, and there will even be loss of some reward in eternity, but our eternal salvation is kept in Him, by His grace and love. (See 1 Corinthians 3:11-15) It is He who reserves our share of Christ's inheritance, and it is He who keeps us by His power.

We can never take pride in being saved, because we did not do any of it, God did it all.

The book of James made it clear that we are to watch our actions and make sure we are walking as we should. (See "Useless Religion", "Pure Religion", "Dead Faith", "Who is at the Helm", "More on Wisdom", "Watch Your Own Step", "Whose Plan", and "What to Do"). Putting James
together with this and many other passages of the New Testament makes it clear: we are responsible for our actions, but God is responsible for the saving of our souls, we simply need to trust in Him to do that.

First Entry

I have been blogging for a long time at My Homeschool Blog, but I have been using it for so many random things on all kinds of subjects, that I think it has lost its main focus which is to be a homeschooling diary of sorts, showing what we do in our homeschool adventures. Not only that, but since it has no autosave feature, I am always losing my posts! So I have decided to start posting my devotionals and bible studies here, I might still cross post them to homeschool blogger, or link to them. But I think this will be a better place to create the posts, mainly because of its autosave feature which will keep me spending an hour writing a post, only to have it vanish and have to start all over.

I am not giving up on homeschoolblogger, I love the community there, I am just going to narrow the main focus of that blog to homeschooling posts, and move my devotions here, I'll probably do my other personal posts on Myspace.

I have found this so much easier to post under, I am sure I will happier creating my posts here!