Saturday, December 31, 2011

Living for Christ's Return (1 Peter 4:7-9)

The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint.
(1 Peter 4:7-9, NASB)

A couple of millennia ago, Peter wrote that the “end of all things is near.” Two thousand years later, we’re still waiting for that end, waiting for Christ’s return. And frankly, I echo the words of John after he heard Jesus say, “Surely I am coming quickly”: “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20, NKJV).

But for reasons we can’t understand, Jesus delays. Perhaps it’s because He’s still waiting for those He loves to choose to follow Him because, as Peter wrote in his second epistle, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (3:9, NASB).

In any case, while we’re on this earth, we need to represent Christ well, and Peter gives us some great exhortation:

We’re to be of sound judgment
. Are we thinking about how our actions might appear to an unbeliever? Do they see something different in us? Are we making wise choices?

We’re to be of sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. This doesn’t mean we’re to be doom and gloom “Eeyores.” No. God loves to see His children joyful. What this does mean is we’re to take prayer very seriously. We’re not to treat prayer as a last-ditch effort or something we do just before meals. We’re to come to God’s throne humbly—remembering how undeserving we are—and gratefully—remembering everything God has done for us.

We’re to fervently love one another
. Webster’s Dictionary defines fervent as “exhibiting or marked by great intensity of feeling.” Love is a verb, not a noun. It is an action. What do you do to love others? Do you know what’s really important to them? Do you treat them with respect and dignity?

Finally, we’re to be hospitable to one another without complaint. Going back to Webster’s, hospitable means “given to generous and cordial reception of guests.” We’re to be willing to open our homes and our hearts to serve others. But did you notice that last little command? Without complaint? Everything Peter calls us to do should be done with full and sincere hearts.

As we head into a new year, what if all of us who follow Christ did these things? Maybe the world would finally see the light of Christ in us? And maybe many would come to know Him in a personal way?

And maybe, the “end of all things” would come … quickly?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Suffering in the Flesh (1 Peter 4:1-6)

Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.
(1 Peter 4:1-6, NASB)

A couple of days ago, I wrote that we should expect persecution because of our faith. Today’s verses return to that thought. If we are “armed” with the purpose of sharing the truth of the gospel, we’ll be in God’s will.

These verses also give us an assurance that those who persecute us on earth will face judgment. God is well aware of what we face, what we endure as His children. And I believe His heart breaks as He sees our pain and suffering, whatever the cause.

Now, I do want to caution us all: We shouldn’t hope for that judgment. What I mean is, we should continually pray for our “enemies,” for those who hurt us. We should pray they’ll find salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for all—even for those who hurt us.

Our hope should be that everyone comes to know Jesus. We can, however, be confident that God is in loving control. He will judge or reward according to the choices we make.

And really, when it comes down to it, our focus should always be on what we’re doing for God’s Kingdom—not on what others may be doing to us.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Salvation Through Christ's Once-for-all Sacrifice (1 Peter 3:18-22)

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.
(1 Peter 3:18-22, NASB)

Peter’s two short epistles contain such incredible wisdom. Today’s verses are no exception, but I want to focus this morning on the true gospel message in verse 18.

Jesus “died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.” Whenever I speak at retreats and other events, I'm privileged to share the amazing truth that Jesus, God the Son, paid our penalty for sin. We do not in any way deserve God’s grace and mercy, but we get it anyway. All we have to do is accept God’s free gift.

It’s available to anyone, everyone. No matter what you’ve done. No matter where you come from. No matter what. If you accept Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf—on your behalf—you will be brought to God the Father.

Throughout history—and even today—many people have believed that what they do brings salvation. If they do that certain ritual or keep a particular tradition, they’ll be saved. If they live a good life, they’ll go to heaven.

But it has nothing to do with us. It’s only because of God’s love for us. His grace. His mercy.

Have you accepted that gift? Have you stopped trying to make it on your own? If you haven’t, send me an email (, and I’ll share with you how you can meet Jesus. Today.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Be Ready to Make a Defense (1 Peter 3:13-17)

Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
(1 Peter 3:13-17, NASB)

Doesn’t it seem that everything is protected these days? Culture. Race. Gender. Religion … oh, unless you’re a Christian. Then all bets are off.

Stand up comics regularly denounce Christians. Politicians lambast us. Celebrities complain about our narrow-mindedness. And don’t get me started about the media.

But we shouldn’t be surprised. The apostle Peter warned us two millennia ago. We will likely “suffer for the sake of righteousness.” We can expect “intimidation.” We may even be “slandered” and people may “revile [our] good behavior in Christ.

So what are we to do when we face persecution because of our faith?

First, we’re to “sanctify Christ as Lord in [our] heart[s].” Sanctify means “to set apart.” We need to keep Christ fully in our hearts.

Second, we need to boldly—and gently—proclaim what we believe and why. And this means we need to know what we believe and why. We need to study God’s word, meditate on it, live by it (see Joshua 1:8).

If we stand up for our faith, we will be blessed. When we face the revilers, the jokesters, and the slanderers with intelligence and kindness, we will be blessed.

So “be ready to make a defense” of your faith. Because, sooner or later, you’ll need to stand firm.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Seek and Pursue Peace (1 Peter 3:8-12)

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For,

(1 Peter 3:8-12, NASB)

After a season of singing about heavenly peace, we return to Peter's first letter. And these verses are a great follow-up to our celebration of our Savior's birth.

Like a great attorney summing up his case, Peter recaps much of his previous exhortations. What a recap it is. And far from easy. Read through the list of things we’re commanded to do. And then read it again.

We’re to be “harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit.” Now sometimes, this is very easy. I can live in harmony with the nice guys, with my good friends. But this verse doesn’t say “only with those you like.” In fact, Peter makes it pretty clear. We’re not to be “returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead …”

That's not easy at all. It’s really hard to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39; Luke 6:29). But this is what we must do. Why? Well, first, because we’re commanded … But God, our good Father, loves to bless His children. And He’ll bless us for “keeping our tongue from evil,” which includes saying nasty things about others. He’ll bless us for seeking and pursuing peace.

Peace. All of us, at all times, with all people.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Boxing Day!

Citizens of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and some other commonwealths are celebrating Boxing Day today. For most, it’s a banking or public holiday. From my research, “its origins are found in a long-ago practice of giving cash or durable goods to those of the lower classes” ( Wikipedia adds that gifts were also given to those who provided service.

What a lovely practice!

What if we do something similar? Give a little financially to those less fortunate than we.

Or even better, give a little kindness to those who serve us. Today, say a heartfelt “thank you” to those who serve in your church. If you go out to lunch or dinner, recognize the hard work of your server. If you go to a store, give the clerk a sincere smile and let him know how you appreciate his help.

Let today be one of thankfulness and sincere giving in love. And let tomorrow—and all the days after—be the same.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Love Letter to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

Words truly cannot express my gratitude for Your willingness to leave heaven and come to earth. You chose to …

Put on flesh. Be born to a poor carpenter and a teenage bride. Experience scraped knees and stomach aches. Grow into awkward adolescence. Sweat sawing and sanding wood.

Be tempted by the enemy—Your enemy. Be ridiculed as You started Your ministry.

Be betrayed … arrested … denied … beaten … spat upon … scourged. Experience pain beyond my comprehension.

You chose to carry a cross. You chose to die … And You chose to forgive.

Words cannot truly express my gratitude. For Your love and grace and mercy.

But I do thank You.

Happy birthday, Jesus.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6, NASB)

If Jesus’ being our Eternal Father is a comfort to me, this last attribute given our Savior brings me the most … well, peace. For He is, indeed, the Prince of Peace.

But for some of us, peace is the last thing we feel. Even as you’re celebrating our Savior’s birth, maybe you’re struggling with finances or your health, or maybe you’re struggling with a relationship.

I wrote a book a few years back based on Jeremiah 19:11-13, where God says His plans are for peace, not for evil. Regarding finding peace in spite of our circumstances, I wrote:
I promise you this: If you’re truly willing to give your life, your plans, your dreams to God, He will keep His promise. You will have peace. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but if you trust Him, you will have peace.

Don’t believe me? Will you believe God? There are quite a few references to peace in the Bible. Let me share one of my favorites. Read these words, hear them with your heart, and listen to what God has promised you:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4: 6, 7).

Do you know what this verse says to me? When I’m focusing on God, when I’m asking in His name, when I’m praying for His will, I can be assured of two things: I need not be anxious for anything, and I will have peace—a peace that surpasses anything I could experience without God in my life, a peace that surpasses anything that I could get from my earthly relationships, from my job, from my church, from my family . . . from anything else.

Isn’t that what you’re looking for? A peace that surpasses anything you’ve ever experienced? Ask Him. Ask Him now. Give your plans, your timelines, your dreams to Him. Trust Him to bring about that perfect will in your life. Then, and only then, will you have that peace. You will have that peace. I promise. More importantly, He promises.
[excerpted from The Best Laid Plans © Sauni Rinehart 2005]
If you’re seeking that heavenly peace we sing about this time of year, go to the Prince of Peace. He’ll cover you with a peace that truly surpasses your human understanding.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Eternal Father (Isaiah 9:6)

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6, NASB)

Of the four descriptions Isaiah uses of Jesus, this one is the most comforting to me. Jesus is our Eternal Father.

Frankly, it’s a mystery beyond our human understanding: The God we Christians worship is three-in-one. He is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. One God manifested in three persons.

And each shares the attributes of the others. I don’t fully understand, but I believe this to be true.

So even though we describe Jesus Christ as the Son of God, He is still, in fact, God the Son. And just as God the Father is eternal, so is Jesus the Eternal Father.

He is eternal—or what the New King James Version calls Everlasting. Jesus Christ has always been and will always be. He existed before time as we know it began, and He will exist when time as we know it ends.

He is our Father. He loves us with an unconditional love. There is nothing we can do or say or think that keeps Him from loving us. And He loves us whether we choose to love Him or not.

Yet if we choose to love Him, if we choose to believe in Him as our Savior and accept His gift of eternal life, He invites us to be in relationship with Him.

A relationship for now and for all eternity.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6)

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6, NASB)

Do you feel weak? Out of control?

Do you feel powerless as you hear of friends with cancer, read of starving children, watch news reports of earthquakes, hurricanes, or tornadoes?

Do you look at this world and wonder who’s winning the battle?

We live in a fallen, rapidly-declining world, and we are indeed in a battle. Sometimes it does seem as if the enemy is winning.

But the good news? Or should I say the great news? Our Lord Jesus is our Mighty God. We know that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). And He Himself reminds us that the war has already been won (John 16:33).

He is indeed mighty, powerful, omnipotent. Just resonate with some of these assurances of our Savior’s might:

“Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle” (Psalm 24:8).

“For who in the skies is comparable to the LORD? Who among the sons of the mighty is like the LORD”? (Psalm 89:6).

“More than the sounds of many waters, Than the mighty breakers of the sea, The LORD on high is mighty” (Psalm 93:4).

"How great are His signs and how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion is from generation to generation.” (Daniel 4:3).

If you’re struggling, feeling as if the weight of the world is on your shoulders, remember your Mighty God. Your Savior will help you carry your burden (Matt. 11:30). His shoulders are more than strong enough.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6)

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

(Isaiah 9:6, NASB)

In these few days leading to the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, I’m going to focus on four attributes of our Savior as described by the prophet Isaiah.

Today, we read about our Wonderful Counselor.

If you read the King James or New King James versions, the words “Wonderful” and “Counselor” are separated by a comma as if they’re two separate attributes of our Savior. But, while He is certainly wonderful, I believe the NIV and NASB translations are more accurate: Our Lord Jesus is a Wonderful Counselor.

But I wonder. Of all the attributes of our Savior Isaiah could have chosen, why begin with this one?

I can’t say for sure, but I wonder if it’s because we have a need to know that our Lord and Savior truly understands. Even though He is fully God, which we’ll talk about tomorrow, when He came to earth, He was fully human. And in being so, He experienced the same pain and temptation and weariness we do.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, NASB).

So He can provide counsel, comfort, and peace to us.

I don’t know about you, but this attribute gives me great joy—and lifts my burdens. For I can kneel at the feet of my Lord Jesus and share whatever is on my heart and mind. And my Wonderful Counselor will listen, and through the Word of the Father, will sooth my soul.

Join me tomorrow as we look at the next of Jesus’ attributes: Mighty God.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Commandments for Husbands (1 Peter 3:7)

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
(1 Peter 3:7, NASB)

Yesterday, I addressed Peter’s exhortation for wives. Today, Peter talks to husbands. Now I know some take issue with the “someone weaker,” but that’s not what I want to focus on. There are a couple of key commands that may, for some of you wives out there, make submission a bit easier.

Husbands are commanded to live with their wives “in an understanding way …” One of the definitions for “understanding” is “friendly or harmonious relationship” according to Webster’s Dictionary. Husbands are to live in harmony with their wives. Harmony speaks of unity, tranquility, smoothness.

Then comes a very important commandment: Husbands are to “show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life.” Two things here: honor equals esteem, but more importantly, we wives are “fellow heirs” of God’s grace. God doesn’t look at gender (Galatians 3:28). We are equal in His eyes as we’re covered by His grace and mercy.

Therefore, as wives show respect to their husbands, husbands are to honor their wives as they recognize our equality in God.

This is what makes marriage work: mutual love, mutual respect.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Bit More Controversy (1 Peter 3:1-6)

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
(1 Peter 3:1-6, NASB)

I thought yesterday was controversial … I almost want to skip today’s verses because someone’s going to take issue with what I’m going to say. I can almost guarantee it. But if I’m going to go through 1 Peter verse by verse, I need to meditate on every verse, even those that are uncomfortable for me or for others.

So here we go.

Submission—biblical submission—has quite a negative rap these days. I believe it’s not as bad as people make it out to be. I led a Bible study for women in unequally yoked marriages. I wrote a Bible study, and one of the chapters addressed this:

“Submissive: Being willing to be subject to something.

Did you catch that? To submit is an issue of willingness. I read recently that a wife-to-husband relationship is similar to a vice president-to-president relationship. Certainly a vice president is able to do as much (or perhaps more) than the president. They work together, often make decisions together. However, the vice president willingly submits to the authority of the president because there needs to be one leader. In the same way, we as wives contribute and have a voice, but there does have to be a final authority. However, submission does not mean we’re to accept bullying or abuse.”
(Excerpted from You’re Not Alone © 2010 Sauni Rinehart)

I believe there does need to be one leader in a marriage, one final decision maker. But I also believe in a healthy marriage, husbands and wives want the best for each other. So they’ll cooperate. They’ll discuss. They’ll compromise. So submission isn’t so difficult.
You may disagree, but I challenge you. If you’re in a Christian marriage, pray for God to work in your heart. Pray for that “imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit.” And if you're unequally yoked? Do the same because you may very well "win [your husband] without a word by [your] behavior."

No, you're not a doormat. Not a whipping post. Rather, be a woman of God who desires to be precious in the sight of her God.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Bit of Controversy ... (1 Peter 2:14-20)

Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.
(1 Peter 2:14-20, NASB)

Oh, today’s verses can be really controversial. Submission to “every human institution.” That can be hard. Really hard. But that’s what we’re commanded to do; it is the “will of God.” And why? Because by honoring and submitting to authority, we represent Christ.

And then we’re commanded to “be submissive to [our] masters.” Peter used terms that would have been familiar to his immediate audience, but we who are working for someone else need to respect and submit to our employers, even if our employer is “unreasonable.” Ah, this is convicting. Peter knew what we’d be thinking centuries later: Sure, I can submit and respect my boss if he’s good to me, but when he’s unreasonable? Not a chance.

However, we’re not given that “out.” We need to honor our employers no matter what. And why? Not only do we represent Christ by “patiently enduring” harsh or unfair treatment, but we also please our Father. Our behavior “finds favor with God.”

It’s not easy. We live in a society of fallen heroes, corrupt politicians, uncaring bosses. We work hard and try to live as Christ would, and then we see evil win out—or so it seems.

Just remember:
• We're to work as unto God, not men (Col. 3:23).
• And most importantly, our ultimate Authority has already won the war (John 16:33).

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Excellent Behavior (1 Peter 2:11-12)

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
(1 Peter 2:11-12, NASB)

I’ve been listening to podcasts of sermons by Andy Stanley. And he’s been speaking of how the church of Christ should be an excellent example to the world.

And so we should be. We should be so generous to help the “least of these” that the world takes notice (Matt. 25:31-46). We should live honestly and morally. We should show love to all people, neighbors and enemies alike (Mark 12:31; Matt. 5:44). We should speak only those things that are good and true and pure (Phil. 4:8).

Even if someone isn't sure about the whole Christianity thing, they should be impressed or inspired or intrigued by our actions.

They shouldn’t, as they often do, think that we’re hypocrites. That we say one thing (like loving neighbors and enemies) and do the opposite (like hating a particular group because of their race). Or condemning a particular group because of their lifestyle.

We really need to be looking at the logs in our own eyes instead of the specks in the eyes of others (Matt: 7:4-5). We really do need to look out for the needs of others. I’ve heard Andy say this before: If all of us who call themselves Christ-followers gave just the ten percent that’s mentioned in the Bible, we could wipe out world hunger and many diseases. (See Gen. 14:19-20; Heb. 7:2-6.) And if we gave generously from our abundant blessings, we could wipe out poverty.

Instead, we hoard what we have. We buy McMansions and the latest automobile. We upgrade our electronics even though what we already have works well. We throw tons of food away. And we totally freak out when the stock market tanks.

I’m as guilty as the next guy … And I’m feeling particularly convicted.

What do I do—what do you do—that looks “excellent” to unbelievers? What do I do—what do you do—that makes unbelievers wonder: What is different about her—in a very good way?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Our Merciful God (1 Peter 2:9-10)

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.
(1 Peter 2:9-10, NASB)

I love these verses. I really, truly do. There’s so much hope, so much goodness, so much grace. I’m not even sure where to start …

Read these words again and again. We’re chosen, royal, holy. We’re God’s precious possession. He’s “called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

Don’t you love it?

Oh, but don’t stop there. We are the people of God. We have received mercy.

Mercy. Not receiving what we do deserve.

And what are we to do in return? “… proclaim the excellencies of Him.” Praise and worship our great God. And why wouldn’t we? We are chosen, my friends. We are holy in God’s eyes.

I hope you love these verses as much as I do. Mark them. And when you feel unworthy, remember them.

And praise God.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:7-8)

This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

(1 Peter 2:7-8, NASB)

Yesterday’s verses encouraged those who follow Jesus Christ. Today’s should encourage us as well, but in a very different way.

Jesus, the precious Cornerstone for us, is a “rock of offense” to those who don’t believe. And because of their unbelief, they are doomed.

So, how is this in any way encouraging, you ask? Verses like these encourage me to be bolder in sharing my faith. They encourage me to be salt and light to those who are blinded to God’s truth.

We all have people in our lives who don’t know Jesus, who are offended by our faith. And they need redemption. They need the peace and joy that comes from a relationship with our Savior.

They need to see Jesus in us. Are you a shining light for Him? Are you willing to be His advocate so unbelievers will come to know Him, so they can be obedient to His word and thus avoid eternal doom?

I’m encouraged—and convicted—today. I pray you are too.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Living Stones (1 Peter 2:4-6)

And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED."
(1 Peter 2:4-6, NASB)

Peter quotes the prophet Isaiah in these verses, the same Isaiah who prophesied of Jesus’ birth (9:6) and death (53:3-5). Prophecies fulfilled, by the way.

Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone, precious in God’s sight. As it should be. But we’re a part of the story. We’re “living stones,” part of God’s “spiritual house.”

Think about it: God chooses to use us. He allows us to participate in His plan. When we serve Him, when we follow His call on our lives, we’re offering “spiritual sacrifices.” I find it astounding that the God of the universe, the Sovereign Lord of all things, gives us the privilege of being stones to build His temple on earth.

He doesn’t need us. In fact, I often say things would be a lot easier without us! But He loves us so much He wants to bring us joy as we serve Him and others.

And I’m not disappointed. Are you?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Longing for God's Word (1 Peter 2:1-3)

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
(1 Peter 2:1-3, NASB)

I asked Jesus to come into my heart when I was six, and as a child, I loved God’s Word. While I’m not sure I’d describe myself as “longing” for His Word, I remember reading and memorizing scriptures with joy.

Then came my twenty-year rebellion. As my path meandered, times when I wanted nothing to do with God intersected with moments I desired nothing more than to find Him again.

I recommitted my life to Jesus in September of 1993, and for a while, I was content just knowing I was back in the fold. Praise God, that contentment didn’t last. About five years into my renewed relationship, I realized I needed more. If I was going to become the woman God desired me to be, if I was going to “grow in respect to salvation,” I needed really know God’s Word. I needed to meditate and study and respond.

I needed to long for it.

In the last eighteen plus years, I still experienced seasons where that longing was suppressed—usually by my own selfishness or pride. But for several years now, I seek to spend time in God’s Word daily. And I find myself missing that time when I neglect it. I recognize such weakness in me that if I don’t take this crucial time, I tend to falter.

I’ve “tasted the kindness of the Lord,” and the least I can do is make time for Him, in prayer and enjoying the “pure milk” of the gift of my Father’s Word.

I pray for you, my friend. Long for the Word of your Father. Grow in Him. Be grateful to Him.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Fervent and Sincere Love (1 Peter 1:22-25)

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For,
And this is the word which was preached to you.

(1 Peter 1:22-25, NASB)

I love how Peter describes our eternal salvation. We are born again imperishably “through the living and enduring word of God.” The apostle John described our Savior Jesus Christ as the living Word, and we are saved through His death and resurrection.

Because of that gift, we can be assured of eternity with God.

But these verses command us to do something while we remain on earth. We are to have a “sincere love of the brethren.” We are to “fervently love one another from the heart.”

I don’t know about you, but this pierces my heart a bit. I rejoice in the thought of being imperishably born again. I long for the day when I’ll discard this weak, fleshly body—especially on days like today when all four of my chronic health issues are flaring—and spend eternity praising and worshiping my Lord.

But do I sincerely and fervently love my brothers and sisters? Do I, as the apostle Paul wrote, think more highly of them than I do of myself? (Phil. 2:3, my paraphrase) I know I want to. I pray I do.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Faith and Hope in God (1 Peter 1:20-21)

For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
(1 Peter 1:20-21, NASB)

One of the hardest concepts for nonbelievers to grasp is that of what we Christ-followers call the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Many accuse us of worshipping three gods. Or they argue that it’s impossible for there to be a three-in-one being.

It is difficult to grasp, and continues to be one of those mysteries we probably won’t fully understand this side of heaven. However, it’s clear throughout the Bible that our Sovereign God manifests Himself as God the Father—Creator, Sustainer, and Provider; God the Son—Redeemer and Savior; and God the Spirit—Helper, Encourager, and Convicter.

Today’s verses tell us that Jesus was foreknown before the foundation of the world. And in Genesis, we read that God created man in “Our image.” In the gospels, when Jesus—God the Son—was baptized, God the Father spoke and God the Holy Spirit descended like a dove.

In God’s perfect plan, humankind would need a Redeemer, a perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sin. God the Son appeared on earth “for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God.” Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have hope and faith in God the Father.

Are you feeling hopeful? Or hopeless? Remember that the only real hope we have is in Christ. When all else fails, our triune God—Father, Son, and Spirit—will never fail. Never.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Redeemed With Christ's Precious Blood (1 Peter 1:17-19)

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
(1 Peter 1:17-19, NASB)

Have you ever felt unworthy? And I don’t mean that put-yourself-down “I’m pond scum” kind of unworthy. I mean, have you ever pondered on what Jesus did for you? And then recognized how very unworthy you are?

I’ve been in a season of change the last couple of years. God has blessed me so abundantly by giving me an opportunity to do so many things about which I'm passionate. And so often, I shaken my head, wondering how He could possibly love this flawed, weak woman as much as He does. And why would He bless me so abundantly.

I am unworthy of His blessings. Oh, but He—in His unimaginable grace—sees worth in me. So much so, He trusts me to help fulfill His mission. Amazing grace, indeed.

Then I read verses like this, and I’m humbled again. And convicted.

Humbled because I am redeemed by the “precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” God the Father saw enough worth in me, He sent His beloved Son to pay the price for my sin. (John 3:16) I resonate with the words of the psalmist: “Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?” (8:4, The Message).

Convicted because I have to ask myself, do I really “conduct [myself] with fear [with reverent awe] during the time of [my] stay on earth”? I pray I do. I know I want to. It’s my heart’s desire to somehow, in some small way, give back to God a fraction of what He’s given me.

To somehow let Him know how grateful I am He sees worth in this cracked, unworthy vessel.

Amazing grace. Indeed.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Be Holy (1 Peter 1:13-16)

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."
(1 Peter 1:13-16, NASB)

As I’ve heard many pastors say, when you see a “therefore” in the Bible, you need ask yourself what it’s “there for.”

Yesterday’s passage spoke of prophets serving us and preaching the “gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” Today’s verses now put the focus on us. If indeed the prophets spoke truth about the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus—and I believe with all my heart they did—then what are we to do to continue to proclaim the gospel—the good news?

We have a pretty concise “to do” list here:
• Prepare our minds for action
• Keep sober in spirit
• Fix our hope completely (did you get that? Completely) on grace
• Do not be conformed to former lusts

And finally:
• Be holy

Wow. I don’t know about you, but this list is pretty daunting. In fact the “easiest” of these tasks (for me, at least) is fixing my hope on grace. I am so very, very grateful that, forty years ago, God adopted me as His beloved daughter. I’m equally grateful that, over eighteen years ago, He brought this prodigal back to Himself. I understand grace.

I can even handle being prepared for action, keeping sober in spirit, and not being conformed to former lust—that’s where grace comes in.

But that last? Be holy? Me? With all my flaws and weaknesses and brokenness? Are you kidding me?

I’m far from holy. You may be thinking the same about yourself.

Ah, but it’s not about us. It’s not about me. I’m holy only because the One to whom I belong is holy. When I gave my life completely and irrevocably to God, I was washed clean. I was made righteous in His eyes.

And in gratitude, I strive to live as closely to how Christ lived as I can. I desire my Lord’s will. I want to follow His plan.

And I, with His grace, am becoming more and more like my Savior.

Thank You, Abba, for seeing the worth in me. Thank Your for looking past my rebellion, my deliberate sin. Thank You for making me holy in your eyes. Amen.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Prophecy Fulfilled (1 Peter 1:10-12)

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.
(1 Peter 1:10-12, NASB)

One thing I love about the Bible—among many—is the fact of already fulfilled prophecies. Old Testament prophecies about the birth and death of Christ. New Testament prophecies about the destruction of the temple.

I feel so blessed to know that because some prophecies have already been fulfilled, others will one day be also.

In these verses, Peter reminds his readers—which includes us, by the way—that the prophets of old predicted Christ’s suffering and His glory to come. Jesus did suffer, and one day, those who know Him will bask in His glory.

But there’s more in these verses. In fact, in a very real way, these verses define the reason God inspired men to write His words: to serve us. Have you thought of that? God didn’t have to leave a written account of His work. He could have just left it to general revelation through creation. Or He could have let us figure it out on our own (like that would happen!).

No. He loves us so much He left the gift of written word. Words inspired by Him, flowing through chosen men. Men who dedicated their lives to accurately scribe God’s inspiration.

Have you thought of what an amazing gift your Bible is? Have you praised God for speaking to you through its words? Don’t take it for granted, my friend. Read it. Meditate on it.

And thank God for it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

More Precious Than Gold (1 Peter 1:6-9)

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:6-9, NASB)

I find it very interesting that some followers of Christ are surprised when trials come. Somehow they think that becoming a Christian means rainbows, cotton candy, and puppy dogs.

Apparently, they haven’t read their Bible.

I’ve written before about being refined as gold, and I love today’s scripture. Not the being “distressed by various trials” part. Frankly, I’d rather avoid trials. Suffering isn’t on my top ten favorite things to do. If God chose to grow me and mature my faith in any other way, I’d say, “Bring it on.”

But that’s not how God works. He knows we’re fickle and frail and fleshly. He knows we (or maybe it’s just me?) tend to be self-sufficient when the skies are clear and the waves calm. It’s when the storms hit—when we face the fiery furnace—that we reach our hands up and plead for His presence.

So no, I’d rather not have the trials, but since I know I’m who I am today because of the difficult times and how they’ve shaped me, I can rejoice as Peter exhorted.

I can praise and glorify and honor my Lord. I can love Him through the trials. I can find hope, knowing that my trials are for “a little while.” And I can be confident God will use those trials to make me precious like gold.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A Living Hope (1 Peter 1:1-5)

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
(1 Peter 1:1-5, NASB)

I'm beginning an "encore presentation" of devotionals I wrote from 1 Peter almost two years ago. There are so many rich truths—I can’t resist going through them again. So for the next few weeks, join me as I remind myself of God’s voice through the apostle Peter.

And may I pray, as Peter prayed: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure!

The last few days, I focused on a psalm that often felt bleak, but ended with hope. Today, I start our review of 1 Peter with hope—a living hope. We who follow Christ, who have personal relationships with Him, have been offered a great mercy from our Lord God.
We are promised an inheritance—imperishable and undefiled—in heaven.

We are promised protection—by the power of God through faith—here on earth.

When I read verses like this, I get homesick. I completely resonate with Paul’s words to the Philippians: “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” (Phil. 1:23, NKJV)

It gives me a hope I can live with on earth to know one day the cares and sufferings I experience now won’t even be a memory. I’ll be in the presence of the triune God!

Now, that’s a hope I can live with!

Monday, December 05, 2011

You Are My God! (Ps. 42:11)

Why am I discouraged?
Why am I restless?
I trust you!
And I will praise you again
because you help me,
and you are my God.

(Psalm 42:11, CEV)

Discouragement is the lack of courage. Restlessness is the lack of restfulness.

And because of my relationship with Jesus, I have courage. He is my courage. He is my strength. I find my rest in Him. I can “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him” (Ps. 37:7). Jesus invites me—He invites you—to “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS” (Matt. 11:28-29, NASB).

God has proven Himself to be faithful and trustworthy throughout my life. He has protected me and sustained me. He has carried me through the valleys. He has blessed me beyond my expectations—beyond what I deserve.

He has helped me when I haven’t been able to help myself.

Why? Because He is my God. My banner. My strength. My healer. My provider. My Savior.

And I praise Him.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Where Is My God? (Ps. 42:9-10)

You are my mighty rock.
Why have you forgotten me?
Why must enemies mistreat me
and make me sad?
Even my bones are in pain,
while all day long
my enemies sneer and ask,
"Where is your God?"

(Psalm 42:9-10, CEV)

I’ve decided to call this the schizophrenic psalm. Back and forth it goes. Despair to praise. Sorrow to trust.

Today, even these two verses have a bit of contrariness to them. Then first sentence is full of power and strength. The psalmist asserts that God is his rock, his strength. Yet, he immediately questions, “Why have you forgotten me?”

Even though he knows that God is the all-powerful One, he still feels forgotten. He is overwhelmed by the mistreatment from his enemies. He is sad. He is in pain.

And when his enemies see his pain, they sneer at him for his trust in a God who seems non-existent.

I wonder sometimes if my “enemies” sneer at me. By enemies, in this case, I think of those I know who don’t believe in my God. When they see me suffer, when they see the constant pain I endure, I wonder if they sarcastically say, “Where is that God you believe in? Why would He allow such pain if He’s so good and strong?”

I don’t know why God has allowed me to feel such pain. But I do know He’s here with me. I know He hasn’t forgotten me.

Not now. Not ever.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

He is Kind (Ps. 42:8)

Every day, you are kind,
and at night
you give me a song
as my prayer to you,
the living LORD God.

(Psalm 42:8, CEV)

Oh, how I needed today’s verse after yesterday’s! Yesterday, the waves were crashing and discouragement was rampant.

And today? I remember that God is always kind—every day and night. I am never, ever alone, even walking through the darkest of valleys. Even if I walk through the “shadow of the valley of death” (Ps. 23:4), I don’t need to fear anything because He promises to never leave me, going with me wherever I am (Deut. 31:6).

Maybe to some it sounds contradictory: Why does a loving, kind God allow the valleys in the first place? It’s because of the tragic choice of the first man and woman. Does it seem unfair that we experience pain and crisis and suffering because of their choice? Perhaps, according to human standards. But when sin entered the world, all the junk that comes with it entered too. And even we believers sometimes get hurt by sin’s touch.

Ah, but that’s where God’s kindness comes in. I believe His heart breaks when He sees His children suffer. And when we do, He gathers us in His arms and listens to our cries. It’s just like an earthly parent. Things are going to happen to our children, things that hurt them. And yes, we’d like to take the hurt away, but sometimes all we can do is love and comfort them.

Just as our heavenly Father loves and comforts us.

Friday, December 02, 2011

So Deeply Discouraged (Ps. 42:6b-7)

I am deeply discouraged
as I think about you
from where the Jordan begins
at Mount Hermon
and from Mount Mizar.
Your vicious waves
have swept over me
like an angry ocean
or a roaring waterfall.

(Psalm 42:6b-7, CEV)

So far, Psalm 42 has been more encouraging than not. Today, however, there’s a distinct change with today’s verses.

And that’s one of the things I love most about God’s word. Its many authors have no problem expressing the darker side of life.

I’ve felt deeply discouraged, just as the psalmist wrote. Deeply discouraged. During the darkest days when the pain is unrelenting, I’ve wondered why God keeps me here on earth. I don’t see any purpose for my pain.

I’ve felt the waves crash over me just like an angry ocean. I remember once at the beach—I must have been nine or ten—and I was caught under a wave. I honestly had a moment of great fear as I lost complete control. I wondered if I’d make it. It was momentary, but I still remember that feeling of complete helplessness.

And when I’m in the deepest valley, I’ve felt that same helplessness.

Today’s verse seem to offer no hope. The only hope I find is that I can cry out. Just as the psalmist did.

And maybe God will listen.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Praise and Sorrow (Ps. 42:4-6a)

Sorrow floods my heart,
when I remember
leading the worshipers
to your house.
I can still hear them shout
their joyful praises.
Why am I discouraged?
Why am I restless?
I trust you!
And I will praise you again
because you help me,
and you are my God.

(Psalm 42:4-6a, CEV)

I love to sing, and I’ve been privileged to be on worship teams for years. Lifting my voice and my hands in praise and worship is one of my favorite ways to commune with the Lord.

But I confess: There have been times when I led worship with less than a joyful heart. Times when it was more about me than about Him. And sorrow fills my heart.

Praise God, He forgives … and even when my heart hasn’t been right, His always is.

Worship and sorrow are mutually exclusive. If my heart is focused on Him and lifting His name in praise, I can’t be sorrowful.

Yet sometimes I am discouraged. Sometimes I am restless. Just this past Sunday, I went to church in more-than-usual pain. I knew I needed to be there. It’s so important for me to worship with other believers. But I did feel discouraged, and as I sat trying to find a comfortable position, I was restless.

What do I do when I feel discouraged and restless … and I still want to praise? I have to remember that God will help me. If I ask Him, He’ll cover the pain … for the moment, at least.