Wonderful Hope

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There is a clip in the Christmas movie classic: It’s A Wonderful Life where George Bailey, the main character, is frustrated with life. He is thinking about unmet expectations, challenges he’s faced, and various other disappointments in his life. Then, his wife shares she is pregnant, and he is filled with hope, the fire stokes once again in his gut.

As Christians, we understand that hope is a faith-driven view and anticipation of the future, based on the conviction that God is God is in control and true to His promises. You see, the object of hope is crucial. The object of hope cannot be human effort or worldly resources. No resources less than God is adequate to meet human needs. Hope’s object is not seen. As believers, we have not seen God or eternal life, but have hope as the result of our faith and God’s love for us. Hope is placed in God through the gospel, which promises eternal life and future rewards. It flourishes with patience, endurance, and tenacity.

Faith and hope are distinct yet related, as seen in Hebrews: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). The relationship between faith and hope can be illustrated in the joy a child feels when his father tells him they are going to an amusement park tomorrow. The child believes that he will go to the amusement park, based on his father’s word—that is faith. At the same time, that belief within the child kindles an irrepressible joy—that is hope. The child’s natural trust in his father’s promise is the faith; the child’s squeals of delight and jumping in place are the expressions of hope.

Christians are people of faith and hope. When we look at the Christmas account, we discover that preparation is a statement of faith and the fruit of hope. Every detail of the Christmas account tells us that Mary and Joseph endured more of their fair share of trials as they waited for the arrival of Jesus. But they had hope! We read: “In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth” (Lk 1:39-40). Mary responds to the angelic message of being pregnant by going and staying with her relative Elizabeth until just before the birth of Jesus. This was a three to five-day journey.  Given the immense social pressures and stigma that Mary was about to endure as an unwed mother, she sought comfort in Elizabeth, who would believe the divine nature of her conception. We discover that Elizabeth and Mary, filled with hope, celebrate what God was doing.

Joseph refused to reject Mary based on an angelic dream. We read: “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus” (Matt 1:14-25). Joseph refuses to allow the social norms of the day to keep him from being obedient to God’s will. It went against common sense, for we read earlier in the account: “Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly” (Matt 1:19). This would have seemed in Joseph’s day like a merciful thing to do. But, Joseph now filled with hope and being directed by God in a dream of the nature of Mary’s pregnancy, and the Lord’s calling on him chooses to trust in God in the face of public ridicule and private gossip.

Think about all the buzz in town. We can imagine the neighbor’s gossip about the scandalous events of Mary’s pregnancy. But, Mary and Joseph had hope so they prepared and endured it all to be on a much greater mission than any carpenter’s family could imagine. Whenever we’re on mission with God like Joseph and Marry were as they waited for the birth of Jesus, we too filled with hope prepare.

What a wonderful hope we have in Christ that moves us to prepare for God’s working in and through our lives. Our Lord has come and proclaimed that He has a marvelous plan for your life. He has provided a way through Christ to walk with Him and spend eternity with Him in paradise. He desires to fill you with His Spirit to guide you, empower you, fill you with joy, freedom, and peace. God calls each of us to place our faith in Christ for salvation and that our belief in Him will kindle an irresistible joy – that is hope and that this hope will lead you to prepare for what the Lord desires to do in and through you. I ask, “the God of great hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope” (Rom 15:13)!

It is a tremendous blessing to share this wonderful hope in Christ with each of you. Let’s encourage one another to be people of faith and hope. As people of hope, let’s prepare for all the Lord is going to do in and through us. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Wonderful Faithfulness

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There are a couple of clips in the Christmas movie classic: It’s A Wonderful Life that has always moved me. In the first clip, we find George Bailey and a young lady, Mary, walking home from a graduation celebration. They both make a wish, but Mary refuses to share her wish with George. Now fast-forward several years, and we find George and Mary married, and she shares, with her new husband, that their marriage was what she had wished for years earlier. Now our wishes may not always turn out as we desire, but God is always working. As Mary had to wait to see, we as believers in Christ often need to wait as well. The big difference is that God may not make every one of our wishes come true, but He is always true to His promises.

Waiting can be so difficult. I don’t think our culture makes waiting any easier. We live in a time of fast food. We have an abundance of information assessable in the palm of our hands with our smartphones. We can connect and interact with people in record speed through technology. We seem to be able to get almost anything we want when we want it, and if we don’t, we get a bit frustrated. Patients may be a virtue, but it is often absent from a culture so accustomed to getting what we want when we want it.

Yes, Waiting can be so difficult. It can even be more difficult to wait when what we are waiting for is so close to our hearts. Like waiting for the baby to be born that we have dreamed of holding in our arms. Or waiting for a relationship to be mended or a wayward child to come home. Or waiting for God to bring a spiritual breakthrough. Yet, David writes: “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord” (Ps 27:14)!

Waiting is nothing new for God’s people. For centuries God’s people had waited for the coming of the Messiah (the Anointed One) to come and save them. Almost a millennium and a half before the arrival of the Messiah, God began to give His people an enormous amount of specific information about the Messiah and His coming. The prophecies about the Messiah were not a bunch of scattered predictions randomly placed throughout the Old Testament, but they form a unified promise-plan of God, where each promise is interrelated and connected into a grand series comprising one continuous plan of God.

In the Gospel of Matthew, written to Jews to point them to Christ their long-awaited Messiah, we read:

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (Matt 1:18-23).

Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled every single one of the prophecies in the Old Testament. The odds of someone doing that who was not the Messiah are beyond the laws of probability and virtually incalculable. In other words, it is impossible. Here’s the point. God is faithful, His faithfulness is seen in the birth of Jesus, the Messiah.

Since God is faithful, and we are His children, we are also expected to be faithful. Faithfulness is literally a hallmark of the Christian life. When we look at the birth of Jesus, we understand that His birth is an example of God’s faithfulness to us and that Mary and Joseph exemplify true faithfulness to God. Think about it. When the angel Gabriel tells Mary she is going to give birth to the Messiah, she responds: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). God is faithful to provide the Messiah, and Mary is faithful in delivering Him. When Joseph is told of Mary being pregnant, he seeks to divorce her quietly to protect her, but God speaks to him in a dream. Joseph is told that “Mary will bear a son, and he is to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” How did Joseph respond? When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took Mary as his wife (see: Matt 1:24). God is faithful in providing salvation, and Joseph is faithful in marrying Mary. Joseph and Mary were entrusted by God with the responsibility and blessing of overseeing the childhood of God’s own Son and were faithful in doing so.

God’s promises are true but answered in His way and timing. For hundreds of years, God’s people waited for the Messiah’s birth. For nearly 2,000 years, the church has been awaiting the return of Christ. Each and every one of us is waiting for something. But we can have faith. We need to learn to trustingly wait. God is faithful, and since He is faithful, we, His children, are called to be faithful, and such faithfulness often means trustingly waiting. Perhaps, you are struggling with a lack of faith. Remember, honesty is the first step in the right direction. Be encouraged. God will give you all that you need to learn to trust Him and, yes, to trustingly wait.

It is my honor to experience life in Christ with each of you. Let us remind one another of God’s faithfulness. Let us encourage each other to be faithful to Him0, especially as we trustingly wait. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Gratitude

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We discover in the New Testament Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. It is a friendly letter written from Paul to a church he deeply loved. Some have called Philippians Paul’s most upbeat letter mentioning joy and rejoicing sixteen times. This is fascinating, considering that Paul is writing from prison. Paul challenges Christian’s, while he is in chains, to: “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4). The whole of the letter could be summed up that when we live in the joy of the Lord, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7).

Specifically, Paul writes:

“Do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).

Paul writes to prevent the believer from worry because he does not want them to suffer the negative consequences of worrying. Perhaps, he is reflecting on Jesus’ own counsel (see: Matt 6:25-34). The source of worrying comes from doubting God’s ability to help. Think of it this way. When we worry, we perceive a future without God present and working. Instead, Paul counsels us to tell God our needs.

The believer is to pray with an attitude of worship to the Lord. Practically when we begin to worry, we need to find time to worship God. It’s important to be reminded of and affirm the Lord’s greatness. We need to proclaim God’s limitless power and love. God is big enough to deal with our problems, and He cares enough to do so.

Not only do we come to the Lord with an attitude of worship, but we do so openly sharing our needs. If we truly believe God cares and desires for us to present our needs to Him, we will do so with spiritual intensity, praying as Jesus did, “God’s will be done” (Matt 26:39). We can pray such a prayer when we believe God is capable and willing to act lovingly and faultlessly for His glory, our blessing, and the benefit of others.

Not only do we come to the Lord with an attitude of worship, openly sharing our needs, but also with thanksgiving. We are to thank God for past blessings. When we look at how the Lord has worked in the past, with thankfulness, we are empowered by the Spirit to face the future with thankful anticipation. We can pray, believing God is on the scene while walking confidently into God’s preferred future for us.

Such prayer and thankfulness open the floodgates for God’s peace to wash over us. The Lord’s peace will “guard our hearts and our minds.” Paul is borrowing from a military term presenting the picture of a squad of soldiers guarding a town. We are to understand that God’s peace will stand guard over our hearts and minds.

For years I looked to Philippians 4:6-7 to find peace, and one day the word thanksgiving just jumped out at me. I had read and recited it before, but I received this passage with a heightened understanding of the importance of thanksgiving. God’s peace and joy are ignited in the heart of a believer who is quick to recognize God’s workings (past, present, and future) with thankfulness. God’s desire for each of us is to be filled with His joy and peace. This becomes a reality, in part, as we rejoice in the Lord, with thankfulness, for who He is, as well as what He has done and is doing.

It is my privilege to rejoice in the Lord with each of you. Let us encourage one another to pray with an attitude of worship, openly sharing our needs with thanksgiving. Genuine prayer with thanksgiving lead to peace and joy filling and flowing from our lives. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Joyful Endurance

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First Peter, a letter written by the Apostle Paul nearly 2,000 years ago, was written to churches not very different from our very own. The churches Peter wrote were facing persecution. As followers of Christ, we are called to live out our faith in a world that often does not understand us and sometimes is quite antagonistic. Every believer who is walking with Jesus faces a certain amount of persecution. We may face it at school or at our workplace. We may face it as we meet with others in our neighborhoods and out in our community. We may even face it in our very homes.

We live in a world that is not our home, but desperately needs God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. Therefore, Peter does not want us to be surprised by opposition but see it as an opportunity to live out our faith showing the difference life in Christ makes. There was persecution of the church during the time of Peter, and there is in our time as well. In fact, Open Doors USA reports that each month throughout the world: “322 Christians are killed for their faith; 214 churches and church properties are destroyed; 722 forms of violence are committed against Christians (such as beatings, abductions, rapes, arrests, and forced marriage).” These stats are staggering. The Good News is that God is still in control.

Peter ends his letter, where he began, encouraging believers to endure suffering with Christlike faith. The believer is to be identified in Christ and represent Christ in all circumstances. There is no greater apologetic to the world than for the believer to display the love of God while sharing His message of hope and salvation. Therefore, Peter teaches how the Christian can have joyful endurance by standing firm by the power of Christ in all circumstances and at all times.

Peter explains in 1 Peter 4:12-19 that believers need to be aware that trials will come and that they are used by God to purify our faith. Interestingly, it is Peter who writes these words. On one occasion Peter told Jesus to avoid the suffering of the cross (see: Mark 8:32-33). Think about it. Once, it seemed strange to Peter that Jesus should think of suffering. Now Peter thinks it odd that He could have imagined anything else. How then does a Christian who believes God is faithful and absolutely trustworthy handle trials and persecution with joyful endurance? Believers experience joyful endurance in all circumstances by understanding trials refines us while committing themselves to trust God.

Peter in 1 Peter 5:6-7 describes what this practically looks like in the life of a believer. Peter explains that joyful endurance in all circumstances for the believes comes as they humble themselves, are alert, resist the enemy, and submit to Christ, trusting He is able to meet their needs. In truth, believers experiencing joyful endurance, living in hope in a world not their home, will have the peace of Christ rule in their lives.

Peter encourages believers to place their hope in Christ at all times in all circumstances. Christians are going to experience trials, persecution, and attacks from the enemy, but they can stand firm in Christ. As the believer trusts in the Lord, He will give him everything needed to walk with Him in joyful endurance.

It is my privilege to walk with Christ with each of you. I pray that we will walk with joyful endurance in the living hope we have in Christ. What a blessing to have such hope in a world not our home. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Servant Leadership

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First Peter is written to the early church that has been scattered throughout the Roman Empire. The church is growing and experiencing persecution of various kinds. Peter encourages them that God is still in control and that suffering for the sake of Christ is noble and good. Life may have its difficulties, but God is always good, and for Christians, there’s a much better day ahead in paradise. Christians live with a living hope in a world, not our home and we do so asking and participating in “God’s kingdom coming and His will being done on earth as it is in heaven.”

In First Peter 4:7-11 and 5:1-5, Peter describes what it means to follow and lead in humility by following the example of Jesus Christ. What we are talking about here is servant leadership. This leads us to a crucial question. What does servant leadership look like? Peter begins, in verse 7, declaring that Christ is going to return and we need to be ready. The believer needs to be prayerful. In fact, if we really believe that we live in the last days, it is all the more appropriate that we give ourselves to prayer.

Then, Peter, in verses 8-9, teaches that Christians need to love like Jesus. Christian love means that we treat others the way God treats us. For instance, God forgives us, and we need to forgive one another. Where love abounds forgiveness flourishes. Peter writes that Christian love is, among other things, forgiving. Christian love also displays hospitality. Christian love involves faithfulness, commitment, and an act of the will. It is distinguished from the other types of love by its lofty moral nature and strong character. Paul describes Christian love beautifully in First Corinthians 13.

Peter addresses our service to one another. He teaches that every Christian receives a spiritual gift from God and that every gift is important. These gifts are given to those in the church to fulfill God’s mission to know Him and make Him known. Even the smallest gift or part is important in Christ’s body, His church. I heard the story of a man rebuilding an engine for his lawnmower. When he finished, he had one small part left over. He carefully started the engine, and it ran like new. He proceeded to mow his lawn. After he was finished, he went to turn the mower off, and it wouldn’t stop! Here’s the point: Even the smallest piece is an important part of Christ’s church. These gifts are graces given to us by God. The simple truth is that the grace of God is wasted when it only comes to us and not moved on from us to others. In our service to others, God receives the glory. After all, God is the only one that is all-powerful and deserving of ultimate glory.

The first five verses of First Peter chapter five continues the theme of servant leadership by addressing church leaders. Church leaders or under-shepherds should be living patterns or models of the “Chief Shepherd,” Jesus Christ. The church leader must be a person who walks with God and who is growing in Him. This is true for each and every believer. Peter makes this point by encouraging the Christ-follower to “clothe” themselves with humility. What does the clothing of humility look like? Humility is willing to perform the lowest and littlest service for Jesus’ sake. Humility is conscious of our inability to do anything with eternal value apart from God. Humility is willing to serve without recognition. Humility is not self-deprecating, but self-forgetting, being truly others-centered instead of self-centered. The 19th-century British preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once said: “If you are willing to be nothing, God will make something of you.”

To sum up Peter’s teaching on servant leadership and to answer what servant leadership looks like I would say: “Servant leadership looks like a believer who is serious about their relationship with God, prayerful, and selflessly sharing God’s love with others in tangible ways.” We live in a world filled with trials and hardships, yet, as believers, we have a living hope in Jesus Christ and the promise of an eternal inheritance. What the church needs today, as it did in Peter’s day, are those who are willing to take the position of a servant…the church needs servant leaders.

It’s a privilege to journey with Christ, along with each of you. Let us encourage one another to follow the Lord’s example and be servant leaders. We all have a part to play as part of Christ’s body, His church. Let us surrender ourselves to Him, experiencing His love, as we allow Him to use us to share His love with others. Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be the glory)!

Divine Pathway

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In First Peter, we discover a letter written to a suffering church. It is a suffering church, but, as believers, they have hope in a world not their own. The question Peter seeks to answer is: How are believers to navigate life in a world that often feels out of control? The answer: We trek the divine pathways. We walk according to God’s ordained will for us that ultimately leads to eternity with Him.

We discover in 1 Peter 3:18 one of the shortest and simplest yet profound statements in the Bible of the meaning of what the finished work of Christ on the cross has accomplished. To paraphrase: “Because Christ has suffered once and for all for my sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might present us to God, being, in fact, put to death bodily on the cross, yet alive in His spirit, by His own divine power and the power of the Holy Spirit He offers eternal life to all who believe in Him for salvation.” Jesus has dealt with the problem of humanities broken relationship with God in three ways: (1) Jesus made the perfect offering for sin. (2) Jesus endured death due to the unrighteousness (sin) of humanity paying the penalty of sin. (3) Jesus thereby removed the barrier caused by sin and opened the way back to God.

Peter continues in 1 Peter 3:19-22 with a long comparison, which has caused more controversy than any other passage in his letter. As complex as the passage is, the main points are quite clear.

•  Christians need to expect opposition.

•  Christians need to serve God by faith.

•  Christians need to be encouraged because we are identified with Christ’s victory.

•  Christians need to trust in Jesus Christ as the only Savior and share this truth with the world around us who need to hear the Gospel.

Simply stated: Believers walk divine pathways when they identify more closely to Christ.

Identifying with Jesus is crucial if we are to walk the divine pathways God has called us to walk. Only through identifying with Christ can we realize we are never alone, for Christ is with us in every circumstance of life into which we invite Him. Christ opened the door by His finished work on the cross, and as we identify with Him, we are empowered to walk with Him victoriously as His witness to those who have yet to believe.

Then, in 1 Peter 4:1-6, Peter writes of the importance of having a Christlike attitude, a militant attitude, towards sin if we are to walk the divine pathways. Living like Christ at all times, especially in times of hardship and suffering, requires that the believer maintain a Christlike attitude. They are to live for the present in God’s will. They do this knowing that they will live for eternity in Christ’s presence. Peter challenges believers to arm themselves with the same courageous attitude Christ had in His suffering when He conquered the destructive consequences of sin. We are called in this earthly life to overcome sinful desires and allow the Spirit to make us more and more like Christ resulting in holiness of heart and life – Christlike living.

This is why a believers interaction with those yet to believe is important to them since we are massagers of the truth of the salvation they need in Christ. When we, as believers, are attacked for merely being Christlike, we are to embrace it as an opportunity to be a witness of the Lord to them. The last earthly effect of sin is physical death. But, here is the believer’s great assurance. Those who have received the Gospel in their lifetime, but die, although they will be “judged” as all people will, but because they believed, God will give them eternal life. The divine pathway God sets us on leads to glory, eternity with the Lord.

Therefore, we walk divine pathways not just by identifying more closely to Christ, but when we testify to God’s workings in us. We are empowered to live such a life when we surrender to God, allowing His Spirit to lead and empower us. If we want to walk the divine pathways God has set for us, we need to continually preach the good news of our salvation and destiny in Christ to ourselves! We need to rehearse it every day! And we need to be in community with other believers who will speak this same Good News to us on a regular basis.

Imagine what it would look like to walk divine pathways with our Lord. We would celebrate as we identify more closely with Him and courageously testify to others of His marvelous workings in us. We would share in Christ victory while sharing the Good News with others that such a life is possible. We would genuinely trust Christ in all circumstances. We would believe in what He has done for us on the cross. We would rely on the resurrection power that is working in and through us. We would trust in our future destiny with Him for eternity. Now that is a divine pathway.

It is a privilege trekking with each of you in Christ. Let’s commit together to walk God’s divine pathways for each of us. As we identify more closely with Him and testify to His workings in us, this will be a genuine reality in our life. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Shameless Suffering

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Persecution is certainly not new to God’s people. Throughout human history, God’s people have faced the brunt of all kinds of heinous acts. Peter, in 1 Peter, writes to prepare believers for times of suffering. He answers the question: How is the believer to face persecution as shameless sufferers?

We discover in 1 Peter 3:13-14 that Peter challenges believers to always answer evil with good. Now, Peter lived in the real world, and he knew that evil exists and people hurt people. Therefore, he encourages the Christ-follower to not give up on doing good. Jesus taught us not to fear human persecutors, who can’t rob you of your salvation, but have reverence and trust in God who determines our human destinies based on our response to Christ (see: Matt 10:28). As believers, God will care for us, especially when we suffer unjustly. Though the adversary, through physical suffering or material hardship, would distress those who desire to do good, no real harm can come to those who belong to Christ. For even if suffering should occur, Christians are eternally blessed and therefore should not be frightened. How does a believer face persecution as shameless sufferers? A believer does not fear threats of persecutions. The believer is to allow their faith to overcome fear enabling them to continue to do good.

Then, in 1 Peter 3:15-16, Peter writes that the Christian, instead of being afraid, is to honor Christ. In other words, a believer believes God is with them. As Christ-followers, we are to acknowledge God, as the very center of life, there is one Lord, who is Jesus Christ. Now, we can allow other things to invade the center of our heart, where the Lord alone is to sit. We can either have Christ as Lord or we can wrongly permit other things to take His place and lord over us. We can bow to our own selfish desires, the opinion of others, worldly wisdom, the pressure of circumstances, and the list goes on and on. However, the believer is to acknowledge Jesus Christ and Him alone as Lord and Savior.

How does a believer who believes God is with them behave? They make sure Christ controls their heart. When Jesus Christ is Lord of our lives, each crisis becomes an opportunity for witness.  A crisis creates the opportunity for witness when a believer behaves with faith and hope because those who have yet to receive Christ as Savior will then sit up and take notice. As Christ controls their heart, they are ready to answer those who question their faith. Not only that, but we are to do this with a good conscience. A good conscience comes from living and responding in love. Time and time again, throughout the ages, God has used the good conduct of Christians under persecution to make persecutors ashamed and draw them to Himself.

Lastly, Peter writes: “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:17). None of us want to suffer. But if we must, may it be for “doing good” and not for “doing evil.” Shameless suffering is when we are persecuted for “doing good.”

It is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. Those who suffer for good receive a blessing. Those who suffer due to evil get what they deserve.

Again, none of us wants to suffer, but when we do, for Christ’s sake, we don’t have to fear. We know God is with us. As we place our trust in Christ and He controls our hearts, we can use suffering as an opportunity to share the reason for our hope with those yet to believe and do so in a way that displays love for others and respect for God. We can do all of this by the power of the Spirit. Even further, we can do this with confidence in the eternal blessings awaiting those who believe.

It is such an honor serving Christ with each of you. Life is not always easy, but God is always faithful. Let’s heed Peter’s teaching and, even in the face of suffering, continue to walk with Christ doing good. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Family Matters

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We live in a world, not our home, but one where we live as ambassadors of Christ desiring our Lord’s Kingdom to come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We desire this for the world, however, when we bring this hope into the scope of our personal lives, we begin to consider the relationships with have with others. Peter, in the third chapter of his first letter, describes how a husband and wife are to relate to one another, as well as how all believers are to relate to others. Peter desires for the church’s witness for Christ to be effective. He begins by teaching on the sacred relationship of marriage.

In 1 Peter 3:1-2, Peter begins by writing to Christian wives. The teaching about the relationship between a wife and her husband was especially relevant to the first-century married woman who had started to follow Jesus. Christian wives with unsaved husbands were prominent in the early church. She would ask questions such as “Should I leave my husband?” or “Should I change my behavior towards him?” or “Should I assume a superior position to him because I am in Jesus?” Peter decides to answer these questions by addressing: “How will you see your husband saved?”

There can be significant conflict when one spouse is a believer, and the other is not. This has always been the case. It carried great weight in the first century where it was unthinkable for a wife to adopt a different religion than her husband. Christian women who came to Jesus before their husband needed instruction. Peter writes that their husbands “may be won,” gained, or acquired for the Kingdom, not by continual complaining or faultfinding, but by the way, they, as wives, behave. He, in 1 Peter 3:3-4, challenges wives to focus on their inward beauty, even pulling examples from women of faith from times past (see: 1 Peter 2:5-6). Godly love is powerfully attractive. The simple truth is that those who refuse to hear the Gospel will find it difficult to look away when it is being lived. So Peter instructs wives to love and respect their husbands.

Peter then turns his attention to husbands. In 1 Peter 3:7, we discover that a husband is to live with his wife in a manner that recognizes the loving, selfless nature of the marriage relationship. Scripture teaches that men and women complement one another as a married couple. Therefore, a husband is not to be demeaning or domineering, but have a special place of respect in his heart for his wife. Peter even warns that discord hinders our prayers. In other words, failure to live as godly husbands has spiritual consequences. The simple truth is that husbands, like their wives, are to love and respect their wives.

Peter then leaves the field of married couples and concludes with a summary of the attitudes Christians, as the family of God, should demonstrate to others, in both their actions and reactions. In 1 Peter 3:8-12, Peter instructs believers to “have a unity of mind.” The problem is that most of us are willing to “have unity of mind,” as long as that “unity” is with our own mind! Our mind needs to be conformed into Christlike thinking. A “unity of mind” speaks of unity in Christ desiring His will in all things. When we look at the example and teachings of Christ, we discover a selfless servant who even loved his enemies. For a believer to follow in His footsteps takes having faith that God cares for and rewards those who trust in Him. God’s call for the believer is to live under a general principle of love and respect for others.

I believe all of us desire to be loved and respected. Love and respect do not mean that we agree or approve of another’s actions. It doesn’t mean we choose to follow directives that go against God’s known will for us in His Word – the Bible. Love and respect mean seeing others as being image-bearers of God. Selflessly desiring God’s best for them and being aware of the impact of our witness. Imagine what it would look like to trust God, allowing Him to be our foundation and security. Imagine the impact not just on our lives, but on the lives of those around us as we, by the Spirit’s power and leading, love, and respect others. The question we need to answer is this, as ambassadors of Christ will we, by the Spirit’s power and leading, love, and respect others?

It is a privilege following Christ with each of you. It is not easy loving and respecting others, especially when they don’t love and respect us. However, when we allow the Spirit to make us more like Christ and trust in God’s goodness, we are unleashed to be supernatural witnesses for the Lord that not only blesses us but benefits others. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Christlike Living

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God has called believers out of this world to be His ambassadors to the homes, neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces where we live. We live in a world that is not our home, but where we have hope in Christ, and it is His hope we are called to share with the world around us. The simple truth is that the hope of Christ is witnessed through the lives of those growing to become more and more like Jesus (see: 2 Cor 3:16-8).

Peter, in the second chapter of his first epistle, verses 11-25, explains how a believer is to engage in Christlike living. In verses 11-12, he states that Christlike living involves dealing rightly with sin  (lack of living in alignment with God’s will for us). Peter urges the believer to fight against the lusts of the flesh (sinful nature or inclination). This battle continues as long as we live in the flesh (human body this side of paradise). Paul writes of this battle: “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16). The only way to conquer the flesh is to yield to the Spirit. As believers, we are to walk in alignment with God’s Word by the power of the Spirit. As a believer walks this way, they grow in greater likeness to Christ and in their witness to others.

Peter continues in verses 13-17, drawing our attention to the reality that Christlike living involves honoring God by living respectably towards human institutions. Human institutions are social establishments such as home and state. God has established these institutions for people (see: Rom 13:1-7). For the Lord’s sake, believers are to honor them. In other words, to dishonor these institutions dishonors God. As Christians, we ought to be good citizens, submitting to government, when their laws do not violate God’s laws. Why? Because Peter knew that our conduct is a way to defend the Gospel. Those who have never read the Bible will read our lives. What does such Christlike living look like amidst human institutions? We are to honor everyone, being concerned for the welfare of all people. We are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to fear God, revere Him, respect Him, stand in awe of Him, and love Him. We are to give our ultimate loyalty to God but respect civil rulers. Such a life shows love for our Lord and allows our witness to shine throughout our society.

Then, Peter writes in verses 18-20 that Christlike living involves choosing to respond in all circumstances in a way that points to Jesus. Peter uses as an example among the most disadvantaged in his contemporary society, household servants. This passage has been a difficult one for some to explore mainly because it does not denounce such servitude, but we must look at it in context. The whole of Scripture does not condone servitude or slavery. In fact, it was those who understood scriptural teaching who fought to abolish slavery in England and here in the United States. In Peters day, household servants often had more economic and social mobility than free agricultural workers or peasants, although most of them did not have much. A large portion of the early church was made up of household servants. How does such a passage apply to us today? This passage could be seen about employee/employer relationships today. However, keep in mind, unlike the freedom many, if not all of us have to leave a bad place of employment, these servants only had a choice of how they would react. Peter challenges believers to be respectful to those over them and to endure for Christ’s sake, even in suffering. Suffering is not a blessing in and of itself, but, if one’s duty to God is involved (see: Acts 4:20), then on can meet it with a joyful heart (see: Matt 5:10-12). Such a life advances our walk with the Lord and witness to others.

Lastly, Peter in verses 21-25 explains that Christlike living involves following in Christ’s steps. Peter, who was an eyewitness to the Lord’s suffering uses our Lord’s torture and salvific act of dying on the cross for our sins to exemplify the Lord’s commitment to selflessly endure suffering for God’s glory and our benefit. Further, Peter encourages us by reminding believers that we have been spiritually healed by Christ. Christ heals our sin in that He by one suffering put away sin forever (see: Isa 53:5). The encouragement to believers who suffer is that a person may bring harm to your body, but through Christ’s suffering sacrifice, no one can harm your soul. Through Christ’s example and salvific act, believers can be assured of their salvation, grow in their walk with Him, as well as, in our witness for Him.

The world Peter lived in was not much different from our own. For sure, we live in an age with a greater understanding of the universe and where technology is far advanced from the world in which Peter lived. But, the spiritual and cultural challenges to those desiring to live Christlike lives are the same. We still live in a world, not our home, where our hope is found in Christ. We still are challenged to take a stand against sin in our lives, to honor those in authority over us, and seek to follow the example of Jesus in all circumstances – to follow in His steps. This kind of conduct stands as a true witness to others to belief, silence the tongue of accusers, and bring approval from God.

It is such a joy serving the Lord with each of you. Imagine the power in our lives as we grow in Christlikeness as well as the exponential witness we will have for Christ. Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone)!

Missional Church

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You do not need me to tell you that as believers, we live in a world that is not our home, but desperately needs God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. In response to this reality, Peter writes in First Peter on how then a believer ought to live. Peter describes how God’s sanctifying work in the life of a believer produces Christlike love for others. This love is not to be expected from those who don’t know Christ, because it can only be produced in a life filled with the Spirit of God and empowered by Him. In the most genuine sense, a person must be in fellowship with Christ to live like Christ. Peter explains that our living like Christ is rooted in the fact that we have been called by God and to live on mission with Him.

Peter writes, in First Peter 2:4-5, that God has actually called us to walk in fellowship with Him. Peter presents us with an image of Christ being the foundation of a cathedral and believers being the bricks stacked upon Him in its construction. He also draws from the Old Testament priesthood and sacrifices to pronounce that every believer today is a priest, unto the Lord, who is to present Him with spiritual sacrifices. When we offer God our lives and offer Him our love as well as love others, He accepts it as an offering with joy.

Peter continues, in First Peter 2:6-8, to describe how a believer who lives in fellowship with God treasures Christ. If we are being built into a cathedral or spiritual house, we can be confident of what God is making, because Christ is not just its foundation, but the chief cornerstone. Therefore those who believe in Christ for their salvation and sanctification (becoming more like Christ) will never regret it. In contrast, those who reject Christ have no firm foundation on which to build their life. They will pay the penalty of their choice. In fact, Peter explains that they will stumble and continue to stumble over the Truth that is Christ. The simple truth for the believer is that God wants to do more in and through us then they could ever imagine.

Then, in First Peter 2:9-10, Peter explains that those who walk in fellowship with God, not only cherish Christ but live on mission with Him. We have been created to live on mission with God. We are His precious possession because we belong to Him, and He loves us and calls us to partner with Him to share His love and message with others. God desires the whole world to live in right relationship with Him. He desires you and me, our families, neighbors, co-workers, and schoolmates to enter into a saving relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. His divine plan is for His followers to partner with Him in life and mission. In other words, all believers are called to be everyday missionaries.

Everyday missionaries are those who practice a life on mission where God has placed them. Everyday missionaries understand the prayer “God’s Kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven” to mean, “God’s Kingdom come in my home…in my neighborhood…in my workplace…in my school…as it is in heaven.” When we choose to join God on His mission as His church, we allow him to use our ordinary life to do extraordinary things.

No doubt, we live in a world where we battle culture, our own weaknesses, and our enemy the devil. It is often against the current that we walk with God. But, it is a possible walk because believers are led and empowered by God’s Spirit. We can see “God’s Kingdom come and His will be done” as we

…Answer God’s calling of us to walk in fellowship.

…Treasure Christ.

…Live on mission with God.

 Imagine how such a walk with Christ would impact you and me, our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and yes, our region for God’s glory.

I am so honored to be on mission with God along with each of you. We can press on in confidence, no matter the circumstance, because we know that our foundation in Christ is rock solid and He cherishes us. Therefore, let’s live on mission with Him so the world will know the love and saving work of our God. Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone)!