Peace? Yes, peace.

Just a very quick note today — because this is a thought that has already changed my day. It’s worth dashing off a reminder to you …

Are we foolish and naïve to even suggest one can have peace in this world?

Jesus said He gives us peace. It’s part of the inheritance we have as children of God. Now. Today. Yes, even in this world.

And He says it is a peace like nothing the world can give.

It’s only through and from Him.

Oswald Chambers says in today’s meditation in My Utmost for His Highest: “We become troubled because we have not been taking Him into account.”

What happens when you face the thing that is troubling you, wearing you down, frightening you, or creating chaos in your life — when you face it, taking our Lord into account?

Doesn’t everything change when we take Jesus into account?

My day just did.

 

 

1 Peter: Living in great expectation

This is the ninth (and last) in a series on 1 Peter. The series begins here.

 

*****

Need some good news? This world finds it increasingly difficult to find any good news to report. And I agree. Terrible things are happening on this planet hanging in space.

But my sojourn with Peter has opened my eyes to other things besides the evening news and newspaper headlines. I hope that has happened for you, too. Because there is reason to be truly glad. There is great joy ahead, and how wonderful for us to be able to live in great expectation!

Peter opens his letter with those phrases. Be truly glad, he writes. There is wonderful joy ahead. Even though things might be pretty grim now.

As citizens of another kingdom, we can look beyond what is happening here. That’s not to say we simply stick our head in the sand and wait for some glorious future day. No, God’s Word is clear that we have responsibilities in this world and we’ll have hard times on our way home.

But this is the good news—there’s coming a day when Satan no longer rules our world. We will eventually live in a world where Christ rules, and the earth is filled with the righteousness and glory of our God!

Ah…now that will be something, won’t it?

And there’s more—we have an inheritance waiting for us. We’ll claim a birthright beyond anything we can dream of inheriting here in this world. God’s children are due for great joy, my sisters and brothers!

Yet our joy does not rest only on expectation of that future day.

When Peter sent this encouragement to Christians mired in tough times (that would be us today, too), I believe he was saying that we can live expectantly and gladly because there is great joy ahead in the next moment, in tomorrow, waiting in next week, and next month.

When he writes that the reward for trusting Jesus will be the salvation of our souls, he was also talking about today, right now, this moment.

Don’t our souls need rescuing every day? Don’t we need the protection, the strength, the firm foundation that Jesus brings to us now? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Our souls are rescued on a daily basis, because we trust Him. He promises restoration and support as we grapple with life, now, in this world.

God is at work. The evening news doesn’t report it. But He’s at work among His children, in His own household, and in the world that does not yet know Him.

He had plans before the beginning of time. He has plans for after the end of time. And we are a part of it all. His holy nation. The temple He is building here on earth. Partners with Christ in His work.

If Peter were writing today, I’m sure he’d tweet this line:

It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen (1 Peter 1:12).

Be truly glad, my brothers and sisters. There is great joy ahead.

1 Peter: Breathing the air of Grace

This is the eighth in a series on 1 Peter. The series begins here.

 

*****

I have written and sent this short letter to you with the help of Silas, whom I commend to you as a faithful brother. My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace (1 Peter 5:12).

*

Perhaps this post is out of place. Perhaps it belongs at the very end of our nine-day sojourn with Peter. But we’re going ahead with it today.

There’s a statement here that sums it all up. Everything Peter has been saying about who we are and where we are going is in these words: This is God’s grace for you.

Peter wants us to catch a glimpse of this: that God’s grace—His kindness and favor toward us—is the realm in which we now live.

Grace created this life for us. Grace cleansed us and brought us into His presence. Grace was the adoption process that made us His children, the kindness and mercy that paid for our sin, the love that invites us into a relationship with our Creator.

Grace transforms the dead into living,
and the broken into whole,
and suffering into sacred ground.

Grace is the air we breathe,
the light that keeps us alive,
and the bridge that takes us safely into tomorrow.

Everything that we now are — God’s children, His treasured people, His holy temple—

and everything awaiting us in the future

is His kindness and mercy working itself out in our lives.

It’s the whole story of God’s plan to bring His people back to Himself. You are living in the pouring out of something so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching what happens.

Stand firm in this grace.

1 Peter: Walking the sacred ground of suffering

This is the seventh in a series on 1 Peter. The series begins here.

****

Although Peter’s letter was written to Christians who faced torture and death for their faith, much of the encouragement and hope we find here can speak to any type of suffering. Our lives encounter many sorts of suffering … not only physical and verbal attacks from outward opponents, as some of the early Christians were experiencing, but deeply personal and private mental anguish, physical battles, broken relationships, the ongoing war between the old nature and the Spirit within, financial crises, grief… every one of us can add our own dark days to this list.

I’ve started this post a half dozen times, scrapped it, started again. Peter has so much to say about the suffering that is part of our pilgrimage, and every person who is reading his letter today will find the Spirit speaking to them in different ways. I can’t begin to reflect on everything he has to say, and I can’t begin to presume to know what kind of suffering you are going through … and so, I found it difficult to … begin.

As Peter spoke to you, did you focus on the rewards waiting, after faith has held through suffering? Or were the most prominent passages for you today the verses on how God’s people should respond to undeserved treatment? Perhaps uppermost in your mind was the tangled and ugly conflict at your workplace, as you read about the example Christ set for His followers, or maybe your thoughts are filled with the pain your church is living through as some of today’s winnowing issues cause division and hurt.

As I’ve read 1 Peter, two things have come into sharper focus for me.

 

“Suffering is walking on sacred ground.”

I read those words somewhere else during my sojourn in 1 Peter. They’ve stayed with me, an echo of Peter’s words.

Somehow, suffering deepens and strengthens our relationship to Christ. Of course, if one’s heart is not “set on pilgrimage” (as the psalmist says), then suffering can be responded to with bitterness and hardening against God. But Peter assures us that suffering cements our partnership with our Lord. We learn even more of God’s power and grace. We’re purified and strengthened. Peter talks about suffering leading us to a place where we’re “done with sin.” (Wow!) And gives us the promise that “the glorious Spirit of God rests on you.”

Our natural inclination is to shrink back and look for detours around the terrifying, discouraging, and hostile terrain along our pilgrimage home.

But it’s sacred ground, where God pulls us ever closer.

 

The one way to respond to persecution 

Even if your life is being threatened because you bear the name of Christ, says Peter, don’t worry or be afraid of the threats.

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way (3:14-16).

Isn’t that an interesting juxtaposition? Faced with real opposition and danger, what do we do?

Worship Christ as Lord of our lives!

That’s certainly counter-culture.

This is the one thing to hold on to, no matter what suffering we experience: Worship Christ. Give Him place as Lord. Focus on Him. Know His promises and hold onto them. Arm yourself with the same attitudes He has. Give yourself to the mind of Christ (4:1).

Instead of worrying and being afraid, worship Christ as Lord of your life.

Peter sums it all up in 4:19. Walk on the sacred ground of suffering. Keep on doing what is right.

And trust your lives to the God who created you, because he will never fail you.”  

 

Amen.

1 Peter: Holy in everything we do

This is the sixth in a series on 1 Peter. The series begins here.

**

Oh, you’re here? That title today didn’t scare you away? Good.

 

*****

Growing up under a tradition of preaching that emphasized a long and heavy list of dos and don’ts, it took many years until I came to see that God’s idea of calling His children to live a holy life is quite different than our ideas of you must and you must not … or else!  

God calls His children to a way of life that shows His goodness and His light. We are His temple, His priests, His nation. We live differently than the rest of the world because we belong to a different world.

We model God’s idea of a life well-lived. “Being holy” doesn’t mean being flawless and perfect. It means being devoted to God’s way.

That’s easy enough to say, but Peter throws in examples that immediately make us bristle and step back and throw up many objections and defenses.

Yet God says, In everything you do, reflect who I am. Get rid of the old. Live the new life born of My Spirit. Model My new way of life, so different than the empty way of living you inherited from your ancestors.

 

Now, down to the nitty-gritty.

 

Attitudes 

Even before Peter explains how we are to be God’s temple here on earth, he addresses the matter of our attitudes. Doing away with the old way of life, living a life dedicated to God’s way, will necessitate shedding of some old and comfortable habits.

Did you think carefully about the list of things Peter calls us to get rid of? His list of “evil behavior” in Chapter 2, verse 1, does not include acts of murder, adultery, stealing, or blasphemy. No, his list includes temptations we have every day: unkind speech, jealousy, deceit, hypocrisy.

Those attitudes have no place in a holy life, in the household of God.

Ouch.

“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.” (3:9).

Spirit, scrub us!

 

Relationships

And then Peter tackles several prickly subjects. As we read these, we find ourselves balking and saying,  “But ….But … “

First, there’s the matter of respecting all human authority. BUT… what if our “king” doesn’t deserve respect? What if authority is actually battling against good, even to the point of death? What if the authority in our land is spearheading genocide?

Then there’s the matter of slaves accepting authority with all respect. Wait. Slavery? How could these words possibly be applicable today? (In our outraged denunciation of this practice, let’s not gloss over the many poorly disguised forms of slavery our Western society is guilty of tolerating.)

Wives accepting the authority of husbands? Submission is almost as taboo as slavery these days. And what’s this advice to be unconcerned about how we look and present ourselves? We’ve all pretty much bought into the idea that a woman’s worth is tied up with her physical appearance.

Finally, we get to 3:7. Husbands, treat your wives as equals. Now, there’s an idea that seems good—at least to part of the population today!

Ah, yes. We have such knee-jerk reactions to these subjects, don’t we? And the conditioned reaction is exactly what Peter is talking about in 2:11 – the worldly thinking that wages war against our very souls.

Aren’t all of those reactions programmed by our current cultural mindset? The culture around us, human reasoning, popular thinking, even what we now call political correctness—all of this is part of the world’s war against our souls, the tactic that attempts to dictate how we think and act in these (and other) situations. And that mindset reads these Scriptures and thinks that they can’t possibly be relevant today.

But these reactions are not unique to our time and generation.

Peter’s first audience might have been just as incredulous at these parts of the letter as we are. Their emperor was throwing them to the lions! Their society operated on an entrenched tradition of slavery and women treated like property. When this letter was first read to Christians in Asia, it may have elicited some of the same doubtful responses that we hear today.

Are we brave enough to ask that our blindness be healed?

Are we willing to let the Spirit break us out of the thinking the world has pounded into us, and hear what God is saying through Peter’s words?

The message is that we do not look to our culture for guidance on how we are to conduct ourselves in these situations and relationships. We look to Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Christ will mold our thinking in a completely different way than the world. We’re God’s temple here. We are His holy nation. We are to live His way of life, not the world’s.

And, in highly-charged situations like these examples, Jesus’ way of thinking is quite different from the world’s.

Peter warns against the world’s thinking. “Be on guard against those things that wage war against your soul.” Culture wages war against God’s household, and one of its most effective weapons are lies that sound reasonable and proper and relevant… lies that sound like truth.

I don’t know all the ways in which these passages might mold our lives today. I have trouble with even the first, simplest one—respecting all authority. Ummm. My head wants to offer a host of good reasons for wiggling out of this admonition.

And yet, there it is. We’re a holy nation. God is calling us to a radically different way of thinking and living. God says, “My household must live differently. My household must be holy in everything it does. Dedicated to me and my way of life.”

We’re called to be the temple of God. His holy nation. Our thinking must be molded by the Spirit of Christ, not by the mind of the world around us. And in these passages, the mind of Christ resists and refutes the mind of our culture.

 

Serving each other

Then there is the marvelous promise of a gift given to everyone who belongs to this holy nation, a gift given just like a cherry atop an ice cream sundae.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 4:10-11).

Beautiful! You’ve been given a gift. A way in which you can best help others. Use it well, in this life devoted to God, and it will bring Him glory.

 

Holy in everything we do.

We’re called to a way of life. Do away with the old attitudes. Live honorable lives. Let the mind of Christ lead you. Stand guard against the things that wage war on your soul.

We’ve been called by God to be His holy nation. May we live our lives, devoted to that heritage.