1 & 2 Peter – Reflections

However, set your hope on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus reveals Himself in this.”

On Day 2 of the Peter study this is the promise God gave me…that Jesus would reveal Himself in a negative and seemingly hopeless situation.  Bruce needs two doctors who will manage his care.  Today Jesus showed up in providing the first doctor.  Not only the doctor himself- who was gracious and understanding and willing to listen but also in the doctor’s staff.  They were supportive, kind and ready to serve.

Bruce and I left pretty stress free.  I gave Bruce a “10” for picking the doctor. And then we acknowledged the whole thing was an answer to prayer.

Thank you seems so small, Lord.  We will remember and tell of your deliverance!

Day 15 – 2 Peter 3:14-18

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

“…be found…at peace.”  That is really what I long for. Certainly for the world, for Baltimore, for parents opting their children out, for seekers of equality on every front and for all those striving to change things for the better – in their struggles I wish them peace.

One would think peace might be a reward of retirement.  You know, when you step away from the daily responsibilities of one’s 9-5, and you get to not be concerned about the details because there are those left behind who will carry on.

That is until you visit.  Someone you know lets you in but everyone else has a security clearance; the free coffee meant to offer hospitality is now a vending machine and no one lingers; organic elbow-rubbing and iron sharpening has proudly been phased out in favor of efficient and repeatable processed packaging.  While your heart breaks – your peace goes out the window.  In fact my reaction is to want to throw something through the window!

This happened to me yesterday.  Unexpectedly I was called to visit.  I have worked hard to extricate myself from the old job.  I know the venture is changing.  I retired because I could not “peacefully” contribute at that level.  I guess I’m having a very difficult time extricating myself from the dream.  I am always surprised when it’s missing. (There’s a lot I could learn from Bob on how to do this.)

I think Peter might be saying, since you’re waiting for these (the day of God, the new heaven and new earth where righteousness dwells), retirement is not an option.  Diligence is a working word and my job description includes tending to peace within my own soul.  I’m thinking the textbook on learning this is found in grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

“Lord, thank you that yesterday I did not have a rock handy – that was your grace. Thank you that my husband is a gracious listener… even to angry words. Thank you that You have given me meaningful work even though it may now look differently from before. Today, teach me about having peace within and how that will bring You glory. Amen”

Day 14 – 2 Peter 3:1-13

…we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells

I can say without a doubt, I am looking forward to living where righteousness dwells.

Living on planet earth seems to become a more “unrighteousness” place every day.  Our decades and centuries of sin are piled so high and stacked so deep there is no way to undo the hurt and hatred and injustice except a complete “do over”.  That is exactly what God is promising us.

Still He lingers.  He lingers because of the truth we hardly want to visualize – some will perish.  He can hardly stand the thought.  Neither can I.

So, today, I have a renewed commitment to pray.

May 7, 2015 is the National Day of Prayer.  The theme could not be more compelling: “Lord, Hear Our Cry”.    Actually today is the National Day of Repentance.  It marks the 152nd anniversary of Lincoln’s Day of ‘Humiliation, Prayer and Fasting’.

The last time I saw or heard that our leaders really stopped to beg for God’s mercy was right after September 11.  There were no party-lines then; no concern that someone might be offended.

Today, the team behind Australia’s National Day of Prayer has called for the world to Pray and Fast for 7 days for the USA  (April 30-May 6). Humbled that another country is asking the world to pray for us?  Indeed I am. But more than humbled, I am convicted of how “off and on” my prayer is – for my nation or for my people.

Father, forgive me. Forgive me for resting in the security of my place in the Kingdom and not standing in the gap for those for whom You are lingering. Forgive me and forgive us as a nation for coming to You only in desperate times and not honoring You with praise and honor solely because You are worthy. Lord, in your great mercy, make a way for righteousness on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today, our daily bread – our sustenance for today – salvation, a job, a healthcare need, a lawn service, safety for a parent, grace for a friend. Father because You have said you will care for us, I ask these things in the name of Jesus. Amen

Day 13 – 2 Peter 2:1-22

…there will be false teachers among you… denying the Master who bought them

…the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials,

There have always been false teachers – there will always be false teachers.  God knows about them.  He has been dealing strongly with same for a long while and has plans in place for every new crop that turns up.

What should my response be to these covert and overt operators?

  1. Recognize that it is God who is dealing with them – not me.
  2. Know that God will rescue the godly from trials like this.
  3. Notice the characteristics of these false guides so as to identify them:
    1. They deny “the master who bought them” – meaning they do not acknowledge Christ’s work on the cross; do not give God his rightful place.
    2. They entice by sensual passions
    3. They are trained in greed
    4. They are bold and willful
    5. They revel in their deceptions and blaspheme about matters of which they are ignorant.

The best defense is always a good offense.

  1. The more I know of “the Truth” the more likely I will spot the error.
  2. The Holy Spirit will lead me into all truth.
  3. Do these voices claim Jesus is Lord? I have found this test invaluable both for outward voices and the sometime voice in my thoughts.
  4. Self-promotion and big promises of personal fulfillment are almost always signs of greed and promote “personal fame” over making Jesus famous.

I am reminded of the parable of the wheat and the tares. The Enemy has sown tares among the wheat but they will be allowed to grow until the harvest.  When the harvest comes, the tares will be bundled and burned while the wheat will be gathered into God’s barn.  Jesus leaves the tares because in removing them some wheat may be damaged.

I wonder if any false teachers, in the waiting, might end up changing sides.  May it be so.

Day 12 – 2 Peter 1:16-21

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness… 2 Peter 1:3

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

Sometimes this Jesus thing is just too incredible to really believe.  I know, maybe I’m not supposed to say that out loud – but it is a story beyond all reason.  There are times I can go from the stirring up of holy passion to complete darkness in 0 to 60 seconds.

Contrary to the “lie” the Chief of Darkness is selling, Peter reminds me this is a “true story.”  He and a few of his closest buddies did not make this stuff up.  They didn’t fake and then bury the breadcrumbs that would lead me down some rabbit trail – as a cruel prank.

When I read his words out loud – like he might be talking to me over coffee – I can hear his passion.  “WE WERE EYEWITNESSES.  We heard the voice…we were on the holy mountain and then WE HEARD THE VOICE! 

Do not get tripped up.  The LIGHT has come…fully charged.

Some days the Light might seem like a lonely candle in a very big darkness but pay attention – dawn is coming.  And Jesus, the Morning Star, is going to rise… and his divine power is going to overtake the darkness… for all time.

You can believe it!”

Day 11 – 2 Peter 1:1-15

I have always loved this part of 2 Peter ever since I studied it as my very first Precept inductive study a very long time ago. I love the list, the progression, the promise of never falling.  I love that regardless of how long I have known these things I still need reminders – I need to be and truly am, stirred up by remembering them.

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

I am a person who measures and evaluates by nature so I think that’s why “equal standing” jumped out to me this morning.

Peter is telling me that “to those who obtained a faith”, that faith is one of equal standing.  Why? because our standing depends on the righteousness of God, not anything we have mustered.  This has become a powerful thought to me this morning.

We who believe come from everywhere – every social standing, every class, every race, every education, and every upbringing. We are rich, poor, wise, stupid, young, old, male, female, straight, gay, confused, certain, clergy, laity, – every ilk, from servant to apostle.  And yet on the playing field of faith we stand EQUAL in the grace of God and Jesus our Savior.

While recognizing my own equal-ness should encourage me, I cannot fail to recognize the equal-ness of everyone else.  None of us – not one – stands on our own merits.  And when I am apt to measure and evaluate others against myself the calculation should always be EQUAL. If it isn’t, then I’ve messed up somewhere.  Repent and recalculate.

“Lord, forgive me for my often terrible math. When I might ask as Peter did, ‘Lord, what about this man?’ remind me – gently if possible – where my energies are to be spent:

…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”

Day 10 – 1 Peter 5:1-14

[Note: Wow.  Ten days and 1 Peter is over? I’ve hardly had time to chew much less swallow. I need a week to write down the – what? Concepts? No, too illusive.  Maybe I’ll just call them “ideas”.  There are some “ideas” still swirling.  Maybe 2 Peter will just add on and I can do it all together – later.  I visualize a week at the beach with my Bible and laptop and room service…]

So I exhort the elders among you…shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,1 not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

Bob’s an elder so I’ve been thinking about this particular “job” in the Bible a lot lately.  In fact, and I’ll just say it here, after a 5 minute – literally 5 minutes – word search, I find the word elder more often than I find the word pastor.  Just makes me wonder how we (the formalize church we) got to where we are about that.  I’m sure there is an article I could read that explains the history but I think I’d rather see what the Scripture tells.

So this is Peter, himself an elder, exhorting the other elders within the churches.  Now, to my view, the whole letter has been about suffering and submission.  The submission part is a strategy, maybe a mindset, for living while on this earth.  It was modeled for us by Jesus and we are to follow the model.  I almost feel like the submission strategy specifics are guidelines to help the church as a whole to endure and to spare them some “you brought this on yourself” problems.

Part of the strategy of submission involves what elders are to do:

  • Shepherd the flock of God that is among you
  • Exercise oversight
  • Do it willingly, as God would have you
  • Not for gain or to be domineering
  • Be an example to the flock

If I was an elder what would this mean to me in practice – like “real life”?  And, how would living up to this calling benefit the church?  This is at least a weekend private retreat worth of stuff to consider but here are some first thoughts:

Elders tend to a local church.  The people God has placed among them. I surmise this is so they know their people.

Shepherd the flock.  There is a clue about this when it says, “…when the Chief Shepherd appears”.  If God is a shepherd then one could assume He knows something about it and one should and could look to Him for the how to.

Shepherding is a command and not passive.   Poimaínō*– means properly, to shepherd, caring for (protecting) the flock – in other words to guard and guide according to God’s direction.

To shepherd willingly is to appreciate the calling, purpose and need for this job to be fulfilled. Willingness comes from a heart of love and desire to serve God’s people because God has asked you to.

Not for gain or power is the abuse of shepherding.   The first rule of shepherding is “this is not about you.”

Be an example to the flock.  Follow Jesus in your own life for sure but for the flock to notice you have to be out there among them. Being an example is probably not as passive as one would think.  We are told to consider our conduct because “people are watching” but the other side is also true.  If your goal is to be an example you must be where people can watch your life.  That means you have to go out and live the Jesus life with them, as them.

What benefit might the flock receive? Examples of genuine, self-sacrificing love; gentleness; caring; how not to abuse power; community/family; how to live out a calling; humility.

There is more to be said about this first letter of Peter’s and what he has shared but he closes with this:

I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring
that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.
…Greet one another with the kiss of love.

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*4165 /poimaínō (“shepherding, pastoring”) is distinct from “feeding” (1006 /bóskō). 4165 (poimaínō) focuses on “tending” (“shepherding“) (WS, 274), which includes guarding, guiding, and folding the flock and is only provided (ultimately) by Jesus Christ – the Shepherd, who calls under-shepherds (such as elder-overseers) to guard and guide His people by His direction (1 Pet 5:1-5).  http://biblehub.com/greek/4165.htm

Day 9 – 1 Peter 4:12-19

beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Paul said he longed to share the sufferings of Christ – me, not so much.  Too honest? Sorry.

But Peter says, “don’t be surprised.”  I mean we live in a broken down dilapidated house of a world and suffering rains down like chunks of plaster from the ceiling. It is all we can do to duck and weave and bob.  Christian or not, no one escapes.

Fiery trials are to test you.  (And no, actually thank God, there is not a #optout because I would take it.)  I recall mentioning God has a purpose in suffering.  Trials are meant to purify and strengthen us.

For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
…we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance
Psalm 66

And there is to be rejoicing – I know it’s the long view and maybe not easy to see now.  Maybe we are still in the first 6 laps around Jericho but there will be a 7th lap.  He will bring us through and out and rejoicing when His glory is revealed.

Lord, I am counting on you revealing your glory and until you do, in each individual situation, help me to keep believing.

Day 8 – 1 Peter 4:1-11

Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking…

People, “all this following Christ” is going to be a battle.  Every day you are going to be challenged to live for the will of God or live for the flesh.  Peter is apt to point out two arenas where the battle will rage.

Out there –

The scattered church was just that, scattered, – taken out of their seemingly safe enclave of friendly neighborhoods and shot gunned all over Turkey.  They are living among the gentiles who have no inclination to follow God.

How do you keep on track in such places? Think like Jesus.   The world around you is going to set one example and it is going to be surprised when you don’t join them.  That surprise is not benign but will lead to them to make fun of you, malign you and maybe hate your guts.  Remember your calling to live in the spirit.  I love Jen Hatmaker:

“People may hate us because of Jesus, but let’s never give them a reason to hate Jesus because of us.”

In here –

Oh you thought inside was safe? Ha!

Here is how to live in the family – within the community of believers: self-controlled, sober-minded – above all, loving one another earnestly, use your gifts to build each other up.  I’m sorry, but this can be more of a battle than avoiding the gentiles. The answer is the same – arm yourselves for this work too.

It is not our nature to welcome suffering.  Not having one’s own way, not being the center of attention, not seeing beyond one’s own hurt feelings – this is suffering too.  This is laying down one’s life too.

Remember – the end of all things is at hand.  Time is short here, eternity awaits, all struggling and suffering will cease.  But for now, think like Jesus:

…in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ (and through me). To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Day 7 – 1 Peter 3:8-22

“Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”     Taken from Psalm 34:12-16a

This is a quote from Psalm 34 and it speaks to the kind of outward conduct that Peter has been promoting.  This is what “doing good” looks like; this is what “submitting” looks like. When I flipped over to read the entire Psalm I made a happy discovery.  This Psalm is about addressing fear.

Almost every commentary will tell you 1 Peter is about suffering.  It is going to happen.  Jesus suffered. You are going to suffer. You are even called to suffer.  Suffering is not some random thing without purpose.  God plans to use suffering.

I don’t’ have time to take the broad view is so this is not the entire story on suffering,  but Peter has been talking  about two kinds.  There is the suffering that comes from doing bad stuff.  This is like “well, what did you expect – if you throw rocks, someone is going to throw them back.”   And then there is the suffering you may “suffer” because you were doing the right stuff – the God ordained stuff – you were “doing good.”

Oh yeah –I was going to talk about fear.  Well, here’s the deal.  We are afraid of suffering – that’s what I think.  That being the case, we might decide it would be better to avoid things that might draw it upon us.  We might think harsh and deceitful words will protect us, as might evil gain.  And peace-seeking is just inviting a sucker punch.

But, let’s face it – we don’t want to be in the position where the face of the Lord is against us. So how am I going to overcome the fear?  David invites us to learn from his testimony: Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” Ps. 34:11

I could summarize but let me just put Ps 34 right here for my future reference.

Psalm 34 (NASB)

1 I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boast in the Lord; The humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces will never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him And saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them.

O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! O fear the Lord, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want. 10 The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing. 11 Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. 12 Who is the man who desires life And loves length of days that he may see good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit. 14 Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous And His ears are open to their cry. 16 The face of the Lord is against evildoers, To cut off the memory of them from the earth. 17 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears And delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all. 20 He keeps all his bones, Not one of them is broken. 21 Evil shall slay the wicked, And those who hate the righteous will be condemned. 22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.