Friday, July 30, 2010

Why Do We believe That?

II Peter 1:10-18

Several years ago, I applied for a job with Dineh Construction in Tse Bonito, New Mexico. The owner, Johnny, liked my qualifications, bu the hired me because he had worked alongside my father almost thirty years before. He was sure he could trust me because of what my dad stood for. He also was sure I would learn what ever was needed to do the job, simply because I was my father’s son. While it was a tremendous compliment, it set high expectations. My own actions would indicate whether I really was the man my father was. Living up to those expectations clearly established that I was like my dad, and I was kept on even after most other employees were laid off. When Johnny retired, he was instrumental in my getting a different job.

As children of God, people have reason to expect certain behavior, just as Johnny did of me. Failure to live up to those expectations would have cast serious doubt on my love for my father. A failure to live up to what is expected of God’s children brings our love for him into question. John 14:23-24 explains, “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.”

By consciously trying to live up to the expectations Johnny had, I clearly demonstrated my closeness to my dad, but in addition, I ensured steady employment. In a similar way, living up to the expectations God has set ensures that we will not turn away, and that we will not be embarrassed when we come into the Lord’s presence. A friend of mine, Cecil Hubbard used to say some of the guys he worked with almost had to back up to the pay window to get their check because they’d done so little. A lot of people will have the same feeling entering heaven.

Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 1:10-11)

My parents spent a lot of time and effort making sure we knew what was expected of us. They punished us less severely than some other parents, and perhaps the worst was having Dad say, “I’m disappointed in you.” A beating would have been preferred.

Other kids had far harder times because they didn’t know what was expected and so could not be sure what they were doing was acceptable. Many parents are inconsistent, letting behavior slide one time and punishing it severely the next, or getting discouraged with repeated behavior and beginning to ignore it. Some are just capricious, with no real standard other than what appeals to them at the moment. Their children have a hard time determining what is acceptable or not. Consistency is far more important than severity of punishment, but there is a tendency to emphasize severity and neglect consistency, because it is easier.

Just as children need to know exactly what their parents expect, Christians need to know exactly what God expects of them. Not knowing leads to one of three things. It may lead to apathy, because they can‘t do anything right anyway, to fear because they know they are going to be in trouble no matter what they do, or to rebellion because since they are going to be in trouble anyway, they just do something bad enough to make it worthwhile.

Many groups today want to set their own standards. As a result people are confused about what God expects. Romans 14 addresses the general problem, while I Corinthians 4-14 deals with specific examples. Peter is aware of the Christian’s need to know what is required, and that he will not always be there to correct them, although he will as long as he can. As a result, he is putting these things into writing so when he is no longer present, they will have a standard to refer back to. Without a written standard, the message begins to change, just in the old game “gossip,” where a message is whispered to the person next you, and thus passed around the room. The last person then tells what he heard, and it is compared to what was originally said. The message changes as it is passed from person to person, and sometimes the final message is totally different than the original. Only by checking the original can one be sure what was intended.

“Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.” (II Peter 1:12-15)

Like the message in “gossip,” tradition changes as it is passed along, and the only way to keep it pure is by referring back to the original records. Most non biblical writings about the church were written after 300 A.D., and thus are subject to 300 years of potential changes. It is these traditions that the Catholic bases much of their doctrine on. Protestant traditions have 1300 or more years of potential change, except where they have adopted some prior tradition. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for replacing God’s command with their traditions in Matthew 15:1-9, asking, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” Mark 7:9 says, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.”

The reasons for many traditions are forgotten over time, and they become just a ritual. As a teenager, I could not understand why when someone died in a house, the Navajos moved out, and traditional ones tore out the back wall so no one would live there. Younger Navajos could only explain that it was tradition and they had to do it. Only later did I understand that the pathogens causing Bubonic plague, Smallpox, and many other communicable diseases could remain in the dwelling, and by moving out and making it uninhabitable they could prevent the spread of the disease. What had at first seemed quite silly was very logical when considered in the light of it’s intended purpose. They tradition was not just some capricious standard. Our beliefs have a similar historical basis, if we go back to the original teachings.

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.” (II Peter 1:16-18)

John goes into greater detail as to the basis for their teachings in I John 1:1-5. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all."

It is those teachings and experiences that our traditions or beliefs are to be based on, and to which Paul referred when he said, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” in II Thessalonians 2:15. He commanded, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we(the apostles) have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” in Galatians 1:8-9.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Producing More Fruit

II Peter 1:5-11

While in Bible college, I rented a small house outside town, adjoining a wooded area. That summer, the landlady told me that there were blackberry bushes, gooseberries, and various fruit trees in the woods, and that I was welcome to pick as much as I wanted.

Growing up on the reservation, I didn’t know much about different fruits, and had to examine the bushes and trees for their different fruit to tell what kind of trees they were. The fruit was nearly all very small, and heavily infested with insects, making much of it unusable, but I was able to save enough to make a huge difference in our grocery bill the following winter. The landlady said I was the first renter to ever go to the trouble of picking and using any of the fruit.

After graduation, I learned several things I could have done that would have significantly improved the yield. Pruning some of the trees would have actually produced more fruit by eliminating dying limbs which sapped the trees of nutrients and protecting the fruit from insects and birds. Not doing those things, I was only able to harvest what grew wild, but that was more than previous renters had gotten.

Nothing I could do would make the fruit. That could only be done by the proper tree or bush. They naturally produced some fruit every year, even though nobody used any most years. Simply for the effort to pick it, I was able to reap quite a bit. By researching and acting on what I learned, I could have gotten a great deal more fruit, possibly supplementing our income by selling the surplus.

There is a similarity between the fruit trees and the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can produce spiritual fruit, and he will produce regardless of any persons efforts. Our efforts, on the other hand, can greatly enhance the results of the Holy Spirit’s action. We can simply settle for salvation through faith, or we can actively participate in maximizing the fruit Just as I could have done with the fruit trees. Galatians 5:22-25 describes the fruit and our need to participate in it’s production. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

For lack of a better way of describing it, the fruit of the Spirit is a collection of attitudes he produces in us. No one benefited from the trees producing fruit until someone picked it, Spiritual fruit produces little or no benefit until some effort is put into walking in the Spirit, actively doing what the Spirit directs. Peter lists essentially the same fruit and promises similar results.

“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” (II Peter 1:5-9)

The Holy Spirit produces the attitude in our heart, but unless we trust God by faith and act on that attitude, it serves no useful purpose. The actions are our works. Just as James 2:19-26 describes our actions as completing and perfecting our faith, they complete and perfect the fruit in our lives. A lack of action leaves the reality of our salvation into question.

“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 1:10-11)

Philippians 2:5-11 directs us to have the attitude which Christ had, reviewing what it was like. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all describe the Holy spirit coming on Christ, and Luke 4:1 describes him as “being full of the Holy Ghost,” and “led of the Spirit.” Philippians 2:12-13 directs us to act in accordance with that attitude, completing and establishing evidence of our salvation. “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”

The Greek word translated ‘work out’ means ‘to work fully, to finish, or to accomplish’. Our works do not save us but they do demonstrate whether our faith is real. Without the attitude, the works are just a pretence, much like a guy buying a girl flowers in order to seduce her with no intention of marrying her.

Getting to Know the Lord

II Peter 1:1-4

I Peter was written especially to Gentile Christians living in Gentile cities with little Jewish influence, focusing especially on situations they would face. II Peter, also written by the apostle, is written to deal with problems every Christian faces. It is for everyone who depends on Christ for their righteousness, through faith.

“Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:” (II Peter 1:1)

It is generally conceded that we tend to become more like those we associate with. We begin to adopt their standards of dress, speech, and morality, as well as their attitude if we are not careful. Choosing our associates has a tremendous effect on how we will develop in life. Wise parents try to help their children find friends who will encourage proper behavior and attitudes.

Who we associate with as Christians will have a singular effect on our spiritual development. For example, Proverbs 22:24-25 warns, “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.” Many Christian leaders are in constant conflict, trying to convince others they are right. James 3:16 warns, “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” II Timothy 2:24-25 commands, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;”

To avoid being led into such behavior we need to associate with people who do not do them. Jesus Christ is the example we are to follow, a perfect example. II Corinthians 3:18 promises that Getting to know the Lord will result in our becoming increasingly like him. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Friendship depends on getting to know the attitudes and opinions of the other person. That takes communication, listening and understanding what is being said. Far too often the focus is all on talking, rather than listening. We talk to the Lord by prayer, but we listen primarily by reading his word and allowing him to speak to us through it. Real friendship cannot develop if one refuses to listen, insisting on doing all the talking, because they never get to know the other person. Christ already knows us far better than we will ever know him on earth. but if we listen, the Holy Spirit will teach us, and the fruit of the Spirit will begin to develop in our life.

“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (II Peter 1:2-4)

Our very existence is dependent on God’s action, as Acts 17:28 states, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being;…” He has made us holy and given us salvation by his power, not our efforts, as Ephesians 2:8-9 states. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

He has made us independent from the power of sin, giving us power to live a sin free life as Romans 8:2- 13 states. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Romans 8:2-13)

God has provides every thing for both our physical and our spiritual life. Getting to know the Lord and observe his attitudes changes our attitudes, and develops and understanding of how to apply his teachings. We stop resisting the Holy Spirit’s efforts to change us so much, becoming more like him.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Watch Out For The Dogs

I Peter 5:8-14

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” (I Peter 5:8-9)

In our neighborhood, there are a lot of dogs. People who pay no attention to them sometimes get bitten. People sometimes don’t go out walking because they fear the dogs. I learned that if I stuck a rock in my pocket before I went, I was prepared if a dog came after me, and my confidence was transmitted to the dogs. I don’t run when they bark. Simply pulling the rock from my pocket and preparing to throw stops all but the most aggressive ones, and a rock hitting the ground close to them stops the others.

The dogs are not more of a threat to others than to me, but because I am prepared, they leave me alone. Satan is the same way, preferring to attack those who aren’t prepared. When we are prepared, we can go about our business without fear, knowing he will not attack, even while others cower at home.

Romans 8:9 makes it clear that every Christian has the Holy spirit, and Galatians 5:16 promises, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” When we allow the Holy Spirit to control our minds, we have a rock in our pocket, and are prepared. The lion’s roars no longer frighten us. We have the power of God to resist. which instills confidence.

“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (I Peter 5:10-11)

Many times we find we have placed confidence in something that doesn't work. Paul told Timothy, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;” in II Timothy 3:14. He had already warned of the dangers of false teachers deliberately misleading people. If we are to please God, it is critical that we be sure what the source of our actions is. There was a problem with fake letters purporting to come from the apostles according to I Thessalonians 2:2. Peter wanted to assure them this one was real by sending it in the hands of a known associate.

By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand. The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son. Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.” (I Peter 5:12-14)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I Peter 5:5-7

Some professional teams spend millions of dollars hiring superstar players in an effort to win the national championship. One gets the impression that wins can be bought if one has enough money, and Professional sports associations have limited the amount that a team can spend in an effort to prevent the championship becoming just a matter of what team has the richest owner.

Rather frequently, the team which has spent the most trying to recruit the top players doesn’t win. Everyone expects the superstar to win the game, but unlike golf, winning most games depends on a team effort. Assuming the players are similarly skilled, the team that works most effectively together will always win. Most superstars became superstars as a result of a team that supported them, and when the team is not their, their tremendous talent or skill is not enough. They still need the person who gets little credit to set up the opportunity.

The successful quarterback has to depend on his line to protect him when he makes a pass, and his receivers to make the catch. If he doesn’t he will find it necessary to run the ball himself, every time, and shortly the other team knows what to expect and who to watch.

A basket ball player who doesn’t trust the others to control the ball will not pass it around and the other team can successfully double or triple team him to win the game. If he doesn’t rust the others to guard their man, he will be pulled out of position and allow the other team to score. The same principles apply to any team sport. Success depends on learning to trust the other person’s skill and allowing him to do his job, literally to submit to the other person.

God intended the both the marriage and the church to be team efforts. Before he commanded the wife to submit to her husband in Ephesians 5:22, speaking to every Christian in Ephesians 5:21, he instructed, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” While it is important that one takes the lead, the leaders success is dependent on the rest of the team, whether it is his wife, or the rest of the church. It is the picture that Peter is giving here.

Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” (I Peter 5:5)

The younger and less skilled need to learn from and work with the older and more mature members of the team, while the older ones must learn to depend on the younger to do their job. If a player consistently refuses to work with the team, hogging the ball, the coach may be forced to bench him, or even remove him from the team because he will not cooperate. God is the greatest coach of all. If we will trust him completely, and lay aside our pride, he will enable us to attain what is best for the team, and for us.

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (I Peter 5:6-7)

Conflict between players, or a rumor that a player is unhappy and planning to go to another team is enough to mess up the teamwork, greatly increasing the probability of defeat. A player who ignores the rules, or one who is distracted by family problems, grades, or a chance to go to another team may not devote his best effort to the team. Each player needs to concentrate on not allowing such things to distract him. Satan will try to introduce as many distractions as possible because he knows he can’t win without cheating.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Instructions to Pastors and Church Leaders

I Peter 5:1-4

As a plumber, I worked under several different bosses over the years, and alongside many guys who worked for other companies. I observed that the attitude of a crew was directly related to that of the crew leader or boss. One boss was almost killed by one of his workers after chewing him out. Another had to be replaced after the entire crew walked off the job and refused to come back unless he was replaced. Some of the same guys went to work for a different company, at far lower wages, and stayed for years, because they admired the boss.

The amount of work accomplished, the quality of work done, employee absenteeism, employee turnover, and theft are all largely determined by the leadership of individual crews. Some bosses are successful with nearly every crew they lead, while others have trouble everywhere they go.

In the same way, the leadership of the church determines the attitude of the church. When a new pastor takes over a church, for a while he can live on the hopes of the people, but before long the results of his attitude and actions begin show up. Many bosses, and many pastors have had no real teaching in how to lead, and just copy what they’ve seen elsewhere with no real understanding of the effects of their actions.

When Baptist Bible College first started, the intention was to use only experienced successful pastors as instructors. Shortly after they started, they discovered that more teachers were needed, so the business manager was assigned to teach classes on church administration. Before long, other teachers were needed, and men who were having trouble in their churches were more easily obtained than those who had good ministries. A desire to obtain certification led to hiring men whose only experience was academic, and the practical teaching based on experience was largely lost. Young pastors have had less exposure to men who have experience at applying what the Bible teaches, and the attitude of the students and graduates has changed dramatically. Though they are better educated, they are often less prepared to lead a church. Peter’s instruction is based on his training and calling as an apostle as well as his many years experience as a pastor and church leader. He is not talking from a theoretical viewpoint, but from the practica, as to how to successfully do the work.

“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:” (I Peter 5:1)

Three different terms are assigned to church leadership, referring to different aspects of the job. The term ‘elder,’ used here, refers to the demonstrated spiritual maturity of a leader. Paul describes the spiritual maturity and attitude to be expected from such leaders in Titus 1:5-9 and I Timothy 3:1-7. They are to set the example for the church.

The term ‘bishop’ or overseer refers to responsibility for coordinating and expediting the efforts of each to accomplish the edifying or building up of the church, and reaching the unsaved. Luke 12:42-48 pictures some of the responsibility.

The final term, ‘pastor’, or shepherd refers to the close personal contact and individual care of the sheep herder. A good shepherd is aware of each sheep’s individual needs, seeing that none are left without proper food and water, even when it entails bottle feeding a motherless lamb, splinting a broken leg, or taking the entire flock to an easier place because some have special needs. Peter focuses especially on the pastoral aspect of the job.

“Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;” (I Peter 5:3)

A successful sheepherder has to have an interest in the sheep themselves, not just how to make money from them. He has to care about the health of the sheep, the condition of it’s legs and hooves, and how it interacts with the other sheep. If the sheep stops eating properly, he must be aware immediately, find out why, and remedy the problem. Failure to do so may result in the loss of many sheep to some poisonous weed or disease. A crippled sheep may cause others to fall behind or attract predators.

The most successful sheepherders walk with the sheep, leading the way and developing personal relationships with each one, so they are aware of problems immediately. They may be shunned by other people because they smell like sheep from their constant association with them. The result will not be a quick, huge profit, but sustained growth and profit. Those who are looking for quick profits destroy churches.

“Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” (I Peter 5:3-4)

Ezekiel 34:1-24 describes the responsibilities of the shepherd or pastor. It also warns of the judgment on those who haven’t cared for the sheep properly. The state of the flock is the responsibility of the pastor.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Don’t Allow Yourself to Be Discouraged

I Peter 4:12-19

Growing up in the Depression, my parents had very little. My mom’s family lived in a eight foot by twelve foot house for several years. One of Mom’s jobs was to gather cow chips for cooking and heating the house. They nearly always had a milk cow, but Jackrabbit and tumbleweed greens comprised major portions of their diet. Because there was no refrigeration, frequently all that was available for supper was a cup of clabbered milk. That was milk that had soured but not yet completely turned to cottage cheese. Mom’s teeth developed yellow streaks that we now know were an indication of malnutrition.

My grandfather worked at any job he could get, helping herd cattle, traveling to other areas to help in wheat harvest, or working at WPA jobs for fifty cents to a dollar a day, when work was available. Flour was bought in cloth sacks because the cloth was needed for clothing. During that time, they didn’t consider themselves poor, because almost everyone they knew lived the same way. They just didn’t have any money.

Today, many people are shocked when they experience problems in their Christian life. They don’t understand that Jesus said we will have problems in John 16:33. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” I Corinthians 10:13 declares, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man:…” Job 5:7 advises, “Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.”, and Job 14:1 reiterates, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.” Trouble is a normal part of life and should not shock us.

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (I Peter 4:12-13)

After the end of the Depression and World War II, Grandad became a highly respected member of the community, having his own farm, running a custom broomcorn cutting and baling service, and later working for the county. Many others went looking for an easier way to live, moving to California or other more glamorous sounding places. Many times it was not better, with many becoming involved with criminal activities, whether as victims or participants.

While going elsewhere to escape the trials here may seem desirable, there will be equal and perhaps bigger trials elsewhere. Turn your back on the Lord or become involved with wrong doing will take away any possible rewards already earned, and may not even be better temporarily. Instead, we should rejoice that God counted us able to handle what we face, and that we will be rewared for the suffering. II Timothy 2:12 warns, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:” As Paul says in Romans 8:18, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

“If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” (I Peter 4:14-16)

It is troubling to see those who profess to be Christians persisting in obvious sin. I John 3:9 is very clear. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” The way the Greek word translated ‘commit’ is used here implies that the person may do a sin but that he cannot continue to do so, because the Holy Spirit will not permit it. If it were impossible for a Christian to do a sin, There would be no need for chastening, and Hebrews 12:7-8 makes it clear chastening will be administered. “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Examining the entire passage of John 3:8-10, we find that consistent sin enables us to identify some who are not really Christians. “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”

Hebrews 3 and 4 describe many who painted their door posts with the blood and escaped from Egypt, crossed the Red sea, partook of the manna and drank of the water from the rock, but still without faith, turned from God and were destroyed in the wilderness. Hebrews then goes on to point out that the church has some in the same state. It is this group, who’ve seen all the blessings yet never accepted it as enough who Hebrews 6:4-6 refers. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

When they reject Christ, after experiencing all he has offered as not sufficient for them, they can no longer claim any ignorance, nor can they ever come back to the place of accepting Christ. They have rejected him fully. As a result, II Peter 2:20-21 says they are worse off than if they’d never heard. “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” If they’d never heard, ignorance would mitigate some of the punishment.

Because God chastens his children, they cannot get by with things nearly as long as the unsaved do. Because they don’t stop, the unsaved will receive far greater punishment.

“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” (I Peter 4:17-19)

We can safely trust God with all the trouble we have. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Even when we are being chastened, unlike some parents, God always does it for our benefit as we see from Hebrews 12:10. “For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Occupy Till I Come

I Peter 4:6-11

I am frequently impressed with the very practical and logical way scripture teaches, showing us what the problem is, presenting the solution, and then showing how to implement it. This passage is no exception.

Hebrews 9:27 makes it clear that every man dies, and will be judged. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” Romans 2:3-6 makes it clear that no one will escape that judgment, and that their actions will determine the outcome. “And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds:” Continued sin just accumulates more deserved judgment.

Those who died before Christ came could not be saved until he had died for them. I Peter 3:19-20 Describes Jesus reaching out to those who had died. “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” Because they couldn’t be saved until he came, Christ went and preached to them.

For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” (I Peter 4:6)

By believing in him they could have the same spiritual life as those who came after them. God’s plan for salvation was no different for those who died before the crucifixion than for us who came later. The entire plan is in place now, and all that remains is the end, when everything is judged and rewards and punishment distributed. Until that end comes, there are some things all Christians need to do, because it is coming.

“But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging.” (I Peter 4:7-9)

In Luke 19:11-27, Jesus told a story of a man going to receive a kingdom, and leaving his servants to care for things while he was gone. He specifically told the story because some thought the return was so close they didn’t need to do anything. He gave each one responsibilities and command them to do them until he came as Luke 19:13 describes. “And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.” Peter reminds us of what we are supposed to be doing until Christ comes.

Because we know the end is coming and the Lord is returning, we need to be sober or serious minded, not just goofing off or having a good time. We need to devote time to prayer or talking with God, not just perfunctory prayers, but as I Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing.” Most important of all we are to love our Christian brothers. John 13:34-35 says our love is the evidence of our Christianity. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” I John 4:20 drives it home emphatically. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” Sharing what we have with those we love should be free and not produce resentment.

"As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (I Peter 4:10-11)

Special talents and callings should be used for the benefit of the church, as caretakers of God’s property and business. They are not to be used selfishly for personal gain or reputation. A speaker is to speak as God‘s spokesperson, accurately presenting what God has said and intended, whether popular or not. His own ideas and opinions must be clearly identified as such, and not as being God’s official position.

Efforts to meet emotional or physical needs are to be based on God’s power and working, rather than human effort, so that God receives the glory, rather than the man doing the actions. For example, building a church or ministry should not be based on human fund raising efforts such as book sales, Bingo games, or issuing bonds. Evangelism should not be a marketing effort, using the psychological techniques developed by skilled marketers, but the working of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Attitude of Christ

I Peter 4:1-5

The army is quite insistent about calling officers “sir” as a mark of respect. Unfortunately many former soldiers resent being called “sir” because they have little respect for some of those who required them to call them sir. Calling someone sir is, to them, an insult. While the term is accepted as indicating respect, the attitude behind it changes it’s meaning completely.

Paul makes it very clear that the attitude behind the actions is more important than the actual action in I Corinthians 13:1-3. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

Far too often we get caught up in the actions and neglect the attitude behind the actions. Even soul winning or going to church does not glorify God when it is done for the wrong reasons or with the wrong attitudes. I am reminded of the lady who came home from church, dusted her hands and said, “I got that chore done.” How many times is our prayer, our witnessing, giving , or church attendance just a chore to be done? We don’t commit sin because it wouldn’t be the Christian thing to do?

The more I study the scripture, the more I become aware of the emphasis on the underlying attitude rather than the actual actions. The following verses represent a sample of what the scriptures say about the subject. Philippians 2:5 instructs, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” Ephesians 4:22-24 directs “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Romans 12:2 commands, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Peter exhibit’s a similar focus on the attitude controlling our actions.

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.” (I Peter 4:1-2)

Romans 6:6-7 describes our state as a result of salvation. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” When we accept Christ. We are dead to the power of sin. Romans 6:11-14 advises us to realize it as a fact and act accordingly. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”

As Romans 6:21-22 points out, the rewards for sin are undesirable. “What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” Any time spent on those things is too much, as Peter states.

“For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.” (I Peter 4:3-5)

I was listening to a couple of guys at work one day. They were describing how much fun they had on weekends, going out and getting drunk. It nearly always ended in a fight of some kind. A couple of times, the guy they were fighting went to his car and came back with a gun and everyone had to run. At least one of their friends had gotten shot. They couldn’t understand why I wasn’t interested in going out for a good time with them. After all, I’d miss so much fun.

Most guys mature and develop a different attitude that saves their lives, but some continue and almost always end up in prison or dead as a result. The sooner they quit, the better their chances of having a good life. The sooner and more completely a Christian leaves the old life behind, the happier he will be.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Remembering What Is Needed

I Peter 3:17-22

A housing contractor advised “always leave some small flaw for the building inspector. He has to find something to prove he’s doing his job. If he doesn’t find anything wrong, he’ll keep looking till he does. It’s cheaper to control what has to be fixed.” The pressure to show he is doing his job exists for every inspector or regulator.

This same mindset has allowed many distortions in our society. Bernie Madoff was able to con people out of huge amounts of money, while hundreds of legitimate investment advisors were stripped of their licenses for some unintentional mistake. Small but solid banks have been seized as not sound while huge and clearly insolvent banks have been rescued by the Federal Government. Because they try to obey the rules, the small banks are examined more closely, and mistakes are found, while the dishonest ones can conceal their frauds.

The world looks to find flaws in everybody to justify their own sin. There is no reason to attack the person who is worse than yourself, although you may have to protect yourself from him. For example, most people don’t bother about a drunk as long as he isn’t obnoxious or driving, but the non drinker is made to feel uncomfortable at many business functions. Peer pressure is used to get many people to do wrong. One who refuses may be accused of considering themselves better than other people, and avoided, or even physically attacked because they don’t participate.

“For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” (I Peter 3:17-20)

We have the example of Christ, who was accused of wickedness and crucified like a criminal though he was innocent, suffering these things to provide salvation for mankind. It is somewhat like the example of Noah. He did not participate in the sins of those around him, but believing God, built an Ark at his own expense, with great labor. II Peter 2:5 tells us that he was a preacher of righteousness, implying he warned others of the danger to come.

Tradition claims it took 120 years to build the Ark, but the scripture makes no such claim. Until the day that the flood came, every human on earth still had the opportunity to come into the Ark. Only eight people did so. Everyone who got on the Ark was saved from the flood. The rest died because they chose not to get on the Ark. Neither God nor Noah can be held accountable for their refusal. The ark was there, and the warning had been given.

A similar situation exists today. Jesus Christ has provided a means of salvation. He promised that everyone who believed would be saved, and that everyone who did not would die. The boat is ready, but only those who get on board can be saved. John 3:36 states, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” This similarity is what Peter means by a like picture.

“The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” (I Peter 3:21-22)

The Greek word translated baptize means “to put into, to immerse.” Romans 6:3-6 explains that we were spiritually put into Christ, and the results in our lives. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”

Just as Noah’s family physically went into the Ark, the Christian enters spiritually into Christ by faith. Water baptism portrays us being placed into Christ. It is a testimony of our faith in him. Peter is very clear that it is not the action of the water removing filth, but the good conscience obtained by faith in Christ that saves us.

Like Noah and his family, we do not want to forget where our salvation lies. It is well worth sacrificing earthly pleasure and convenience for.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Casual Relationships

I Peter 3:8-16

Peter has gone into detail about the relationship Christians should have with various others, including the government, their employers, and their wife or husband, whether Christian or not. Now we come to how we should treat those with whom there is a less obligatory relationship, especially fellow Christians.

“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.” (I Peter 3:8-9)

Each Christian is to allow the Holy Spirit to direct their thinking and attitudes. When such is the case, there will be unity. I Corinthians 3:3 makes it very clear that disunity only comes from a lack of spiritual leadership. The Holy Spirit will produce an ability to empathize with the feelings of others if we quit holding to our pride. Our love will grow, and a real desire to help, rather than to appear helpful will begin to develop as well. Good manners, or courtesy are a way of showing respect, which is part of loving others.

In the world, many people feel it necessary and desirable to respond to verbal attacks in a similar manner. Assertiveness classes to learn how to do so were quite popular for a while. Christians ought not behave in such a manner. The Christian attitude ought be quite different. Paul goes into more detail in Romans 12:13-21.

“Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

If we are to be pleasing to the Lord, and want to experience his blessings, we need to learn to control our tongue, as well as our other actions. James 1:26 tells us that a man who cannot or will not control his tongue has a worthless religion. “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.” James 3:2 stresses that the ability to control the tongue implies mastery of other areas of life. “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” As Romans 14:12 says, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

“For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” (I Peter 3:10-12)

Most people will not hurt those they do not perceive as a threat to them. It is easier to ignore what is not causing trouble. Some sadistic types feed on the hurts of others. Paul instructed the Philippians, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;” in Philippians 1:27-29. Peter’s instruction is very similar.

“And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” (I Peter 3:13-16)

Many people are killed by deer every year because when deer are frightened, they will do anything within it’s power to protect itself. A Christian ought trust god enough to not respond in the same manner. When he doesn’t it will get some people’s attention, and he ought be ready to explain why he didn’t react defensively.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Prerequisite for Love

I Peter 3:7

Ephesians 5:21-33 compares the relationship of the husband and wife to that of Christ and the church in an effort to make our understanding of both better. Unfortunately, we live in a society where most people have little understanding of either marriage or real Christianity. On one hand, an atheistic educational and political system has tried to destroy traditional moral and religious values. On the other hand, religious leaders have sought to gain control by changing the rules. The present confusion and situation is the result of both sides efforts.

For example, church leaders decreed that people were only married who had a church approved wedding. That gave them the right to declare a marriage invalid. It ignored Paul’s statement about the sex act in I Corinthians 6:16. “What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.” Examining verse 15, we find that Paul’s statement is based on the basis of marriage found in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” The decree also ignored Jesus’ statement that God caused the joining, in Matthew 19: 6, also based on Genesis 2:24. “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Once they’d usurped God’s authority over marriage, The church could decide who was or wasn’t married and grant divorces and annulments at their pleasure, as well as control who got married. Governments then seized the authority from the church. Our present attitude about divorce is a direct result. So is the present attitude about sexual promiscuity, ignoring Exodus 22:16. “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.” If the government controls who is married, they have the right to make homosexual marriage legal if they choose. Those who taught that a marriage depended on a legal ceremony and government approval unwittingly helped lay the foundation for the modern gay movement which many so strongly oppose.

With equally serious distortions in doctrine about the church, it is easy to understand the current misunderstandings about what Paul was teaching. While Paul addressed churches with both Jews and Gentiles, Peter is specifically addressing Gentile people. He goes straight to the mechanics of love in his instructions to both men and women. A child cannot understand the principles of addition, that 2+2=4, until he can count, so teachers start by teaching them to count. Peter is taking a similar approach to teaching how to have a Christian marriage. Knowing that some Gentiles may be as confused about the meaning of love and marriage as modern Americans, Peter does not simply say “husbands, love your wives” as Paul did. Instead, he starts with something they can do and use to begin to understand what love is.

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” (I Peter 3:7)

In order to have a home that truly portrays Christ it is necessary to know certain things. First, she is neither inferior not superior. She has the same standing with God as the man. Her inheritance does not depend on her husband, nor does her spiritual standing. Galatians 3:28 states, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” The husband is not to take advantage of his physical strength to force her compliance, but to respect her as his equal. His strength enables him to lead, but it must not be used to dominate. This is the first step in learning to love, and a couple that doesn’t learn to show proper respect for each other will be hampered in their spiritual walks by the resulting conflict. I John 4:7-8 is doubly applicable in the marriage. “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”

Ephesians 5:33 commands, “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence(respect) her husband.”

The world teaches that respect must be earned, but God commands both husband and wife to give it by virtue of their humanity, and their relationship to God. Until we do so we will never be able to love as we are commanded, as I Corinthians 13:4-7 describes. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

While Paul was concerned about a lack of respect of women for their husbands, Peter was aware that there was an equally severe lack of respect by men for their wives. Titus 2:5 warns that an improper home life can cause the name of Christ to be blasphemed, as well as hampering our own spiritual walk.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

To Be A Godly Woman

I Peter 3:1-6

A major source of controversy in many churches is the woman’s place. Years ago, a church in the town where I was born would not allow the women in their church to wear any colors but black or dark blue. Shoes had to be button type, and a plain hat or bonnet had to be worn. Jewelry was absolutely forbidden and hair had to be worn in a knot. Black stockings, ankle length skirts, and long sleeves were mandatory. The humility to wear such unstylish clothing was a source of considerable pride.

Thanks to the emphasis on women’s rights, the woman is no longer considered a slave to her husband, and some old standards have been generally rejected. A few churches stress returning to those old standards, and younger women are often offended by the demands. They have a right to be. As we examine the passage, we need to consider exactly what Paul is saying before we discount it as anti-feminist. Peter here addresses the woman’s special responsibilities.

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” (I Peter 3:1-2)

Some have taught that the woman must do whatever her husband demands without question. Men who have such an belief are often very demanding and dictatorial, and most women rightly rebel against such an attitude. Ephesians 5:22-23, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body,” is often quoted to justify the teaching. It comes very close to the old Mormon teaching that the husband will raise the wives he loves to go to heaven and that she must please him well enough he will want her. She was almost a slave, and some modern teaching has the same effect.

As we study the scripture, we realize our salvation is not predicated on our behavior, pleasing Christ, but on his love, despite our sin. Our obedience to Christ is based on and demonstrates our love for him according to John 14:23-24. “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.” Our love for Christ is rooted in his love for us, as I John 4:19 tells us. “We love him, because he first loved us.”

Christ does not dictate every aspect of our lives, although he asks to be considered in every area. We are to have an attitude of cooperation with him, knowing his love for us, and his intent to benefit us. Ephesians 5:24 commands that wives show a similar attitude of cooperation to their husbands. “Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” Her demonstration of love will have a considerable influence on drawing an unsaved husband to the Lord. At the same time she is to recognize the truth of his unloving behavior, and Like Abigail in I Samuel 25, who was blessed of God for going against her husband when he was doing wrong, protecting herself as well as others by her actions. Like Nabal, some will not listen, so who knows what the results will be? Peter gives some guidelines for producing the greatest impact.

“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” (I Peter 3:3-6)

If the woman is to be an effective witness, she must not be focused on her appearance, either dressing in an unstylish manner to impress with her religiosity, or over dressing to impress with her good looks. I Timothy 2:9-10 addresses the same issue saying , “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” The word modest means “not calling attention to itself”. The focus should be on obeying God, rather than on her appearance. Proverbs 31 teaches a great deal about the attitude of the Godly woman. When her attitude is Spirit directed, her actions will be pleasing to God.

I Peter 2 deals with the attitudes and actions of Christians if they are to please God, and I Peter 3:1 starts “Likewise…” Adherence to a set of rules will not result in godliness.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Christian Equality

I Peter 2:17-25

The Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self evident, That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Throughout history, people have striven to attain ascendancy over others. Whether the Shoguns of Japan, the castes of India, or the nobility of Europe, the attempt to set some above others has been universal. The establishment of the United States was an attempt to produce a society that would function on the principles of equality laid down in the Bible.

Despite their best intentions, human nature, as controlled by Satan has often resulted in corrupting the aim. Slavery, racial prejudice, and class struggles have prevailed throughout our history, to the point of viewing the very rich, or political figures as superior to others. In fact, some of the media has referred to the Kennedy family as American royalty. A Christian, with a mind directed by the Holy Spirit, rather than by Satan, should have a different attitude than the man directed by Satan.

“Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” (I Peter 2:17)

Every person is to be respected as God’s creation. Even our disparaging words will be judged according to Matthew 12:36. “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” Jesus was very specific that there was to be no hierarchy of superiority in the church. Mark 10:42-45 is very specific. “But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

To clear up any possible misunderstanding, Matthew 20:25-28 and Luke 22:25-27 repeat the teaching. In his condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus warned against using title that set us above others, or that turn attention to us rather than to God. Matthew 23:8-11 instructs, “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” We are to love as brothers and sisters. Titles set one above another, and inhibit real brotherly love.

Cooperation among people is required for many purposes, and willingly allowing someone else to direct us to maximize our efforts is necessary. A Christian should submit even more readily, recognizing that God puts men in a position to achieve his purpose.

“Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” (I Peter 2:18-20)

Not every person in a position of authority exercises it as a Christian should. Some take unfair advantage, play favorites, make false accusations and cheat on pay. As a Christian, we need to be willing to yield, and trust God to make things right as he has promised. Christ set us an example we should follow, even taking the blame for things he was not guilty of for our sakes.

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (I Peter 2:21-24)

It was Christ’s willingness to take the blame for our sins, and suffer the punishment in our place that enabled us to be saved. He had done no sin himself and everything he suffered was on our account. Rather than getting angry or retaliating, we should recognize our opportunity to demonstrate his nature to others. There should be a change in our attitude when we have turned back to Christ, our shepherd or ‘pastor’ and Bishop or ‘overseer.’

“For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” (I Peter 2:25)

An unwillingness to put up with some trials and difficulties implies a lack of submission to God.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Adopted by God

I Peter 2:9-16

Several years ago, an kids were making fun of one of my cousins because he had been adopted into the family. My cousin told them that their parents just got stuck with them, while his parents chose him in particular. As Christians, we have been specially chosen to be adopted into God’s family. As such , we become heirs of God and joint heirs with the only natural born son of God, Jesus Christ.

The nation of Israel was based on the descendents of Abraham and Sarah, Today, they number millions. Most nations started from a similar family group, later taking other groups under their control to increase their base. Israel has largely preserved their family ties, resting in Abraham’s claim to the land of Israel.

Christians have the same family ties, because they have been adopted by God. Like my adopted cousin, before the adoption their was no connection to other members of the family, but the adoption connected us together. As adopted children, we have the same privileges as the natural born children, of which Christ is the only one. Since we have been adopted into the family of God, we are recognized as royalty.

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” (Peter 2:9-10)

Before believing in Christ and being adopted, we had little in common with each other, and were doomed to an eternity in hell. When we received Christ, he mad propitiation for our sins, and we are no longer subject to the penalties for them. We are now united by that forgiveness. As such we are free to act as priests before God, without sin to prevent our doing so. We were chosen because of our faith, and as members of the ruling family, are royal priests, with special privileges. We are a special group, God’s family, and form a great nation.

Some of those who have been adopted were taken from families where there was abuse, drug use, and other serious behavior. Sometimes, the adopted child is attracted to what they experienced, before when they are old enough to decide for themselves, not realizing why they had to be adopted out, or that it is not normal behavior. Peter warns that the Christians who have been freed should not make the same mistake.

“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” ( I peter 1:11-12)

Alcohol, abuse or drugs caused many parents to have their children taken away and adopted, and if the child goes back into the same life style, he or she may have their children taken away as well. On the other hand, the adopted child who learns to live in a more responsible manner will be respected as a child of the adopted parents, and his past ignored.

A Christian can make the same choices, learning to do what is right and pleasing to God, and earning the respect of those around him, whether Christian or not. If he chooses to revert back to his old ways, he risks destroying his own life and losing any respect he could have earned. Even if surrounded by those who hate God, when judgment comes, they will be forced to acknowledge the righteousness of those who have done right. One area that is of particular importance is that of our attitude toward Law.

“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.” (I Peter 2:13-16)

A child’s behavior reflects on his parent’s attitudes and behavior at home. The parents set examples and practices before him that he tends to follow. A child who respects his parents does not deliberately cause them distress. Christians who respect and love God will not deliberately do things that reflect badly on him. God has set standards of behavior, and authorized enforcement of his standards. Ignoring his standards implies a lack of concern for God, making us no different than any other criminal.

Romans 13:1-7 goes into this in detail. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”

Though we may not like certain laws, or paying taxes, we are to obey them as being authorized by God. The only time we should disobey is when the laws forbid our obeying what God has clearly commanded. Our conscience, or our own opinion is not a valid standard.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Are You Building or Falling on the Rock?

I Peter 2:2-8

Several years ago, I worked on a farm where we raised hogs. With more than 150 breeding sows, baby pigs were an almost daily occurrence. I quickly learned that a healthy baby had only one interest at birth. He wanted to eat. Until his belly was full, nothing else mattered to him. I also learned that if food wasn’t received in a very short while, he would become weak, lose interest, and die within a an hour or so. It was essential that he be fed immediately. One who did not get food immediately and lost interest might require force feeding initially to survive. Once the initial hunger was satisfied, the urgency for food for survival was reduced a little, but they would fight even harder for their food. Piglets born prematurely usually do not have the same nursing instinct and have to be force fed for a while until it develops.

A new Christian should have a similar craving for spiritual food. Just like the baby pig, his survival as a Christian is dependent on receiving spiritual nourishment. If he doesn’t receive it, he will not grow, and will soon lose interest. Premies have no understanding of their need, and will need extra encouragement to survive until they understand their need. If they don’t discover the richness of God’s love, and learn to crave more, their survival is unlikely.

“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” (I Peter 2:2-3)

Peter now changes to a different model, that of a house being built. The first stone, the chief cornerstone, is used to align every other stone. Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone of God’s building. Each Christian is measured and aligned with him to produce a satisfactory structure. While he has been refused by other builders he has been chosen of God to be the chief corner stone. We submit to God, as a living sacrifice, and allow him to align us properly with Christ, to build his church as it pleases him.

“To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 2:4-5)

Jesus Christ is the one who God has chosen. Acts 4:12 tells us, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” I Corinthians 3:11 tells us there can be no other foundation. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” This makes him very precious to those who believe.

“Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” (I Peter 2:6-8)

Those who choose not to believe in Christ reject him as the cornerstone, refusing to be aligned to his standard. Instead, they try to adjust themselves to some other standard of their own choosing, often themselves. No house will stand well without a strong foundation, and as II Corinthians 10:12 tells us, using ourselves as the standard is not very smart. “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” There cannot be any other foundation than Christ.

Israel was one group who rejected Christ, choosing another standard, the Law. Romans 9:31-33 describes their plight. “But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”

Building on any other basis will only collapse and cause embarrassment. Building on the basis of faith in Christ guarantees success. It is our choice. We can build on the rock or fall on it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Proper Development Demands Exercise

I Peter 1:22-2:3

Teaching little children to make proper decisions about when to do things themselves and when to let their parents do it is sometimes difficult. We do not wish to destroy their confidence, nor do we wish to encourage pride. There are things the child cannot do because of his lack of knowledge, or strength. Many others he may be able to do. He needs to let the things he cannot do alone until someone is there to help him. Disobeying his parents in an effort to do something he is incapable of doing is dangerous.

Attempts to free ourselves from sin are doomed to fail, and are dangerous spiritually. The nation of Israel had chosen to try to get salvation through their own efforts, and were disobeying God in the process. Romans 10:3 describes the problem. “For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” They were in danger of hellfire because they insisted on doing it themselves.

Paul, a former Jew, had recognized the problem and given up his own efforts in order to escape that danger, as he tells us in Philippians 3:9. “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” As a result, he could say, “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith,” in Galatians 5:5. Every Christian has had to do the same thing.

As Christians, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, and begins to make changes. It is his presence that gives assurance that we are God’s according to Romans 8:9, which states, “…Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Love is an automatic and natural result of the Holy Spirit’s presence according to Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…” Jesus himself said love was the evidence of our salvation in John 13:35. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” I John 4:11-13 puts it all together. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit." Peter says a genuine love is one result of being saved.

“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:” (I Peter 1:22)

A person is born with many muscles. As the baby begins to move, he exercises and develops those muscles, and they become much stronger. If the baby doesn’t move around, the muscles atrophy, and the baby’s development is hampered. The same thing is true of love. We are repeatedly commanded to exercise love so it can grow and become strong.

For example, in John 13:34 Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” I Thessalonians 4:9-10 states the entire point. “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;”

Love is the natural heritage from God because of his very nature, but we need to exercise it according to I John 4:7-8. “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” We are born of God, with that natural love nature. We ought to develop our potential.

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” (I Peter 1:23-25)

Many of today’s youth have poorly developed muscle because they prefer to play video games or watch television rather than doing more physically demanding activities. They don’t understand the long term effects. Many times Christians neglect spiritual activities in favor of temporary earthly pleasures. We need to realize that life is more than just today. The long term results of our decisions may be severe. God’s word is still valid. We need to live with an awareness of more than immediate pleasure, exercising and eating with an eye to the future effects.

“Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” (I Peter 2:1-3)

Proper physical development requires both a proper diet and exercise. With out proper nutrition to build muscles and organs, the body cannot attain maximum strength. A newborn baby must start with the milk, and progress to more as he grows. Milk will not meet all his needs as he grows, but as a newborn, it is all he can digest. Several years ago, some Indian Health Service doctors were telling mothers that since refrigeration wasn’t available, they could give their babies 7-up instead of milk. Today, the resulting health problems are of epidemic proportion.

Spiritual mis-feeding has equally serious problems. Jesus commanded “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me,” in John 5:39. II Timothy 3:16-17 declares, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Since it is all valuable and is all that is needed, II Timothy 2:15-16 instructs, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.”

Full development of muscles includes learning to control them in various directions. Full development of love involves learning to control and direct it as well. Colossians 3:12-13 commands us to develop specific attitudes. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”

Ephesians 4:1-3 Stresses the same attitudes to develop. “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

The proper spiritual attitude will result from proper spiritual study and practice.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Life’s Journey

I Peter 1:13-21

Probably every parent has heard the old refrain, “Are we there yet?” on a trip. Children have a very limited understanding of time or distance. Unfortunately, adults are just big kids. Their limits are a little bigger, but still limited to how long they have lived. An undisciplined child can become very cranky about the time taken to arrive at a destination, complaining that “we’ll never get there. Christians can become cranky about delays in receiving what they expect, deciding that God will never keep his promise. Peter advises that Christians take control of their minds, staying focused on what is expected, but recognizing that there aren’t any shortcuts to getting it.

“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” (I Peter 1:13)

For a group pf undisciplined kids, even a short trip becomes an exercise in frustration. There is constant anger, whining and complaining. They fight with their parents, their siblings, and anyone else in the vehicle. Parents are frequently called on to stop fights and become frustrated as well. Children that learned to control themselves, and do as they are told are far less upset by the trip, causing themselves far less discomfort and frustration.

Like the child who learns to discipline himself, the Christian who maintains control over his attitude and actions finds far fewer struggles in his daily life. He causes himself far less conflicts with other people and is receives less chastisement from God. His attitude is far more mature and God like than that of the rebellious and undisciplined. Peter advises us to sit back and enjoy the trip.

“As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:14-16)

The Christian life is a journey, and we can make it far more miserable for ourselves than it needs to be. By learning to not concentrate on our immediate pleasure and comfort, we can make the Christian life more enjoyable for ourselves, and less offensive to those around us.

The undisciplined child always thinks he is being taken advantage of, never considering the others are experiencing the same discomforts and delays. He demands that he receive special treatment. Parents often cannot meet those demands, but if they can it may require being unfair to others. Any special privileges from God will have to be earned. Instead of concentrating on what we desire, we need to look at what we have.

The cranky child needs to understand he could have been left behind, or forced to ride in the luggage compartment. He could have had to walk because there was no car. Our salvation, while free to us, cost God a tremendous amount. Jesus Christ gave his own life for you to obtain salvation. What right do you have to complain?

“And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.” (I Peter 1:17-21)

Are you making your own life miserable by refusing to heed Gods advice? Are you making life miserable for those around you? You can change your attitude.