The Church as Family…

Read 1 Peter 5:12-14
“…Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” (v 14b)

Some Thoughts…

   Every time I read a final greeting in an epistle, I am struck by the personal nature of it.  It is as if we moved from  some public speech where everyone was on the same page to an “inside” conversation between family and friends, and that is what I see here in the closing words of 1 Peter.

   I see the real life relationship of the early Church expressed in the cooperation of Peter and Silas who was known to be closely related to Paul’s ministry, yet here it is revealed in a dear friend and helper to Peter also.  Silas probably helped Peter write his letter and delivered it.  Silas was a cultured Roman citizen who was a world traveler and Peter was a common fisherman transformed by Jesus.  Both men were made new by Christ.  And then there is John Mark, Peter’s “son” in the ministry, who is said to have collaborated with Peter in the writings of the Gospel of Mark.  Mark also had ties to Paul. He started with Paul on is his first missionary journey but abandoned him before it was over, and yet Mark is still someone who was useful to Paul in the end.

  So here we have these men sharing in the struggles to make the TRUE GOSPEL of GRACE known (v 12b); real people in a real world facing real opposition.  But there is more; there is this description of a lady in Babylon. Now Babylon had become ruins by the time Peter writes this, so what did he mean?  It almost seems like code; a word picture of the Church living in a strange land in captivity. Maybe Peter was referring to Rome and the persecution of Christians, or maybe he was making a reference to our “resident alien” status as believers (2:11).  Whatever the specifics may mean, it seems clear that it was understood that all who were “in Christ” understood.  And Peter reminds them to stand fast in the truth of all he has been telling them and not give way to false ideas of God.

   And then he ends his letter with two tender images.  One is an image of family-love; embracing each other with a kiss.  And the other is a state of mind; clinging to God’s peace that will not pass away – a peace that only God can give and the world cannot take away (John 14:23).  These were Real people, this is the real and true Gospel of grace, and we are a real family of folks given over completely to Christ…that is the insider’s view of the early church and must be the full expression of it still today.

A Prayer…

Father, may I be useful to build Your church as a family of “resident aliens” loving You and loving each other as family, full of grace and peace as we await YOUR RETURN. You are our Lord, Savior and Judge – Jesus Christ.  Amen.

What is God doing?

“To Him be the power for ever and ever.  Amen.” (v 11)

Some Thoughts…

   The God we seek to know in this sometimes harsh journey of life is the God of grace!  He gives us more than we need and all that we have we do not deserve…And why does he do it?  Because He knows the difficulties of this life and the trials we must endure, so He gives us more grace to empower us to live lives that point a watching world to the God who loves us all (see Romans 8:29-30; I Peter 1:1-2,7).  But He doesn’t leave us alone in our struggles.  He is there through it all recreating us into the image of Jesus (see Romans 8:29).  God is also increasing our faith to look to the unseen and see those temporary trials as short-term in comparison to what is to come (see 2 Corinthians 4:16-18)…

   We can find an attitude of confident hope in our God who is working in our lives right in the middle of our struggle.  Peter uses four verbs to describe what God is doing in us as we stand firm in the faith:

1) He restores us– The word means to “put in order” or to “make right.”  God is in the process right now of making you and me new; complete and lacking nothing.  A process that will be completed at the end of our days in this flesh-bound existence.

2) He makes us strong – The idea here is that God gives us the strength of a lion, power that, for the most part, is calm and quiet until it springs into action at just the right moment – We have all the power we need to defeat the work of that other “roaring lion” who tries to devour us and the grace to walk in calm strength through the jungle of this fallen world.

3) God gives us a firm footing – As we resolve to stand in the faith that helps us grow in confidence and strength, we find our feet have found a firm, fixed position. We can be like a mountain goat frolicking over the uneven terrain of the rocky mountainside with careless ease.

4) God places us on a firm foundation – God’s foundation built on Jesus Christ is immovable, and if I will choose to surrender to His ways and stand my ground on His truth and promises, then I find that God has placed my life on a steadfast Rock that cannot be overwhelmed with life’s trials and storms (see Matthew 7:24-27; Colossians 1:23; Ephesians 3:17).  

   And that is why He deserves all the glory and power forever – because it is God who does it all, I simply stand and walk where He tells me, and no matter the hardships that life has for me I find the attitude of Christ giving me a confidence to live well and love those around me.

A Prayer…

  Father, please give me eyes of faith to see the unseen and trust You to restore me and make me strong, firm and steadfast for your glory!  Amen.  

Resistance is NOT futile, it is Vital!

“…Resist him, standing firm in the faith…” (v9a)

Some Thoughts…

   Peter has already told us to keep our heads in these last days (see 4:7) reminding us to keep a clear, alert, and sober minds so that we can pray (that is to stay connected to God through life’s trials)… And now the apostle gives us some sober thoughts to think as we attempt to live with clear minds and alert hearts full of faith in a faithless world.

1) There is a powerful and formidable enemy.

   Peter gives three word pictures to help us understand the enemy of our souls.  “Enemy” literally means “the adversary” like an opponent in a lawsuit.  “The devil” can be translated “slanderer” or “accuser” (He is referred to as “the accuser of the brethren in Revelation 12:10.  And, there is the “roaring lion” imagery which may conjure up thoughts of the Roman coliseum and the massacre of Christians being fed to the lions.  

2) Our enemy is crafty with an end-game of destruction!

  But the real key to understand the way Satan works in the phrase “prowls around”. He does it “by stealth” looking for the perfect moment to take us off guard” (Swindoll).  And his objective is to devour us or “to drink us up.”  Satan doesn’t need to possess us to devour us.  He just needs to distract us from God’s grace and get us focused on God’s wrath with false accusations, and penetrating condemnation of our weaknesses… Once he has done that he can swallow us whole in our guilt and doubts to the point that we forget what we once believed as true.

3) Resistance is NOT futile, it is vital!

   That is why our defense is not an offensive attack against him.  No, it is the same as Jesus’ defense in the wilderness we hold on to the truth of God’s word. We simply stand and resist him – “the Greek word translated “resist” means “to withstand, to be firm against someone else’s onset” rather  than “to strive against that one.”  (Kenneth S. Wuest)  Our focus is not on the enemy, but on the Word of God and our unyielding faith that it is true and God’s plan and promises are trustworthy ( also see James 4:7).

   “The danger to the Christian is that he fails to resist, that he will not watch and pray, that he will not put on the full armor of God and take the sword of the Sprit.”  (Clowney p. 215)  Yet, if we will, God promises that Satan will leave just like he did with Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11).   But He will keep being on the prowl awaiting the next opportunity to attack and accuse!  We must stay ready, alert, and sober!

2) We are not alone in our faith struggles. 

   Many have walked the path we are on and felt the sting of accusation and battle to hold on to simple faith; we are not alone!  No room for “poor little me” pity-parties – we are in this together; a whole Kingdom of priests!  And there are many who endure much worse than we have… We must never forget that there are many “undergoing the same kind of suffering”.  So I can stand by faith on the One who is calling us all home.

This is what I must have:  A sober attitude of self-control and wide awake alertness that resists Satan and that chooses to stand by faith realizing I do not fight or stand alone.

A Prayer…

Father, help me stand today and resist the tricks of our adversary in Your strength and power as You give me the faith I need for the tasks ahead…Amen.

Protrait of Humility

“All of you clothe yourself with humility toward one another…” (v 5b)

Some Thoughts…

   So, what does a humble attitude look like?

1)     It is willing to consistently submit to authority that God has placed on one’s life.  The phrase “be subject to” is a Greek phrase that carries the meaning of an ongoing way of life.  So, as a humble follower of Christ, I submit to parents, bosses, government officials, teachers, pastors, or anyone in a position of authority over me, refusing a rebellious attitude and simply doing as I am told, not for show or to get points with others, but as a way of living my life in the presence of God who has placed the authority there.  (This is a common theme in Peter’s letter and key to our Christian witness – see 2:15; 2:18; 3:11, 3:7;3:15; 3:22; 5:15.)

2)     The humble make a conscious effort to lift others above personal interest.  Peter tells us to “clothe” ourselves – likely to put on the servant’s apron (conjuring up the memory and image of Jesus washing feet at the last supper)…it takes an act of the will to choose to set aside the garments of self-gain and pick up the rags of serving others, and we serve with words of encouragement and a demeanor that leaves others feeling lifted up and important.  We serve by doing what most refuse to do because it is dirty, inconvenient, or difficult… We make a daily decision to take up our cross and follow our Servant-Shepherd wherever He may lead – No room for false ideas of an over-inflated ego – it is definitely “not about me.”

3)     “Christian humility is a realism that recognizes God’s grace”(Clowney, p. 209).  As cited here in this passage, God gives grace to the humble, not the proud.  (see also Proverbs 3:34-35; James 4:6ff and Luke 18:9-14)  Because of our realization of the bankrupt condition of our souls, we can see that no one deserves anything but God’s wrath.  Yet God willingly gives grace to anyone who would stop fighting His will and resisting His love…and so true humility is born in the heart of a realist who see the world as fallen and broken and in need of love and grace.  So, we choose to lay down our lives instead of conquering.  We chose passive resistance and mercy over aggressive domination and dictatorship.  We choose to live by the very grace we have faith in to save us…and in recognizing that gentle grace of God, we never forget His power and wrath, and we do all we can to help folks encounter grace so they don’t have to face His wrath.

4)     The reason we don’t feel the need for self-defense is because we trust God to “lift us up” and bring justice “in due time.”  We “cast all our burdens on Him” – literally we throw them off or “hand it over” – we lay the burden of justice for our personal lives on Him to restore us and correct wrongs and to fight for our rights as we fight for the rights of others.  And our faith reminds us that the “due time” may be the end of time (see 1:5,2:12).  God will take care of it all…I must be humble enough to trust His wisdom and plan and timing.

A Prayer…

   Father, help me live like a humble servant, never backing down from a chance to help another human being.  Amen.

The Attitude the Trumps Trials

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.” (v 10)

Some Thoughts…

   As Peter comes to the end of his letter, he again returns to the thoughts of our temporary sufferings as followers of Jesus.  As I read these verses I find three Christ-centered attitudes that can carry us through the hard spots and the injustices of life.  Here they are as I see them:

1) A humble attitude of servant-hearted-submissiveness that serves others while all the while trusting God to take care of unmet needs and injustices beyond our control (v 5-7). “Christian humility is realism that recognizes grace.”  (Clowney – p 209)  (I Corinthians 4:7; Matthew 23:12; Luke1:52;  Luke 18:9)

2) A sober attitude of self-control and wide awake alertness that resists the intimidating powers of evil that Satan springs on us; an attitude that chooses to stand by faith in stark contrast to the social norm, realizing God is who we put trust in. And in our sobriety of living we realize we are not alone; there are many faithful brothers and sisters – we are defiantly not alone in the fight!  (v8-9);  (James 4:6-10)

3) A confident attitude of hopefulness in the God who restores us; who makes us whole again; who makes us strong in our weakness who makes our feet firm and steadfast while we are “blessed” to endure “suffering for a little while.” (v 10-11); (Ephesians 3:16-19)

A Prayer…

Father, let my attitude be the same as my Savior, Jesus.

A Pastor’s Heart…

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – “(v 2a)

Some Thoughts…

   Peter gives us his humble example of leadership as he encourages Church leaders to lead like Jesus.  He doesn’t elevate himself above those who care for God’s people, but instead he comes along-side us as a “fellow elder” (v 1), one who has experienced the leading and shepherding of Jesus and followed His call. And so the great apostle calls those who will lead to an “other-worldly” way of leading.

   As one who has been called to serve God’s Church, I find this passage to be of personal interest. But before I dive into my calling, I’m stopped by an overwhelming truth…God has trusted me enough to stand in the gap between the “Chief Shepherd” and His flock – Jesus has placed me in a position to look after His people – not all of them, just those entrusted (v 3) to me, just God’s flock that is under “my care” (v 2).  What a privilege and a responsibility …God saw fit to use me this way, and unlike Peter, I don’t feel qualified to even be called a “fellow elder”.  (Elder in the Greek here in this passage is “presbyteros” – from which we get our word, “presbytery”, a term used to recognize Pastors in the early church (See 1 Corinthians 4:1).  So, how is a pastor to lead?

   The answer to that question takes us to the fields of Palestine; A Pastor leads like a shepherd would lead his flock; he is always looking for safe pastures, rescuing strays from snares, feeding them, spending hours and hours with his flock…living among his appointed herd as one worth following in order to have a sustainable life…So how does one do that?  Well, Peter gives us three contrasting ideas that help pastors understand their role in the Kingdom:

1)     Willingness not obligatory: A pastor must have a willing heart that is not forced to serve God and His people.  We don’t serve because we have to, but because we want to. Sense the days of Isaiah, God has calling for willing servants; ones that would respond like the great prophet, “Here am I, send me!”  A pastor must serve out of love not compulsion.

2)     An eager servant not a greedy opportunist: A pastor must approach his duties with an eagerness to serve those God has called him to care for with little regard for himself – not with some underlying motivation for personal gain, public accolades, or monetary prosperity. God is looking for willing servants who is not greater than his Master and would echo the words of John the Baptizer when he said, “He must increase and I must decrease.” A pastor must be willing to make sacrifices to serve those God has called him to shepherd.

3)     A model of Christ-likeness never a dictator: A shepherding pastor must always strive to set the example of faithful living in Christ (see 1 Corinthians 4:12-16). God forbid that we would ever appear like some kind of “do as I say, not as I do” dictator…God calls us to a holy life so that when others look our way, they can see Jesus – at least a faint representation that will point their faith to the ONE TRUE CHIEF SHEPHERD, Who is coming again soon…I’m called to care for folk until Jesus returns, so that is what I must do.

“They are not the pastor’s people, but God’s people.”  (Swindoll)

A Prayer…

Father, make me a faithful servant, living full of your Spirit so that I can have the endurance I need to have the watchful care and diligence of any good shepherd that cares for his flock…I recognize they belong to You…and You have trusted me with Your most important possession.  So help me be consistent and true to Your Word as I feed and shepherd Your sheep until You return.  Amen.

my life on trial…

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.   But rejoice…  (v12-13a)


Some Thoughts…

   Ok, I’ll admit it… I am surprised even shocked at any difficulty that comes my way.  I’m not overjoyed and my thoughts do not stay very calm.  I do find it strange when my tranquil world is disrupted with trials and difficulties.  Even as I’ve been studying this passage our house flooded, and we have been faced with some financial trials…and I panicked…I prayed, but I panicked – highly stressed, lack of sleep…not rejoicing. But with a few weeks of calm now and a week meditating on this passage I think I’m processing life a little better.

   I see my trials bringing about the formation of Jesus’ character in my personality and temperament.  I really feel a change!  Small as it may be, I’m being reminded to be like Jesus as a “participant in the sufferings of Christ.”  Don’t get me wrong.  I still struggle to see that my personal life has any participation in the grand work of God’s Kingdom or suffering process of Christ, but I’m getting a clearer picture…

   I’m seeing that life’s hard times have reason and rhyme behind them.  I see trials as God‘s tools to continue the purification process that He began at the moment of my salvation.  “Judgment begins first with the family of God” (v17), God judges my character and chips away at my stubborn sin. And when the world judges my motives and actions, if I respond with Christ-centeredness, some will find God’s grace.  And when my accuser judges me, doing all he can to stop the flow of the “Spirit of glory and of God” (v13) that rest on me, he will come up empty in his accusations because of the work of Jesus in my life.  So, I can see how our painful trials are mysteriously putting our lives as followers of Jesus as first in line on the docket of the Heavenly Judiciary so that some in the watching world around us may turn to Christ and “obey the gospel of God” (v17).

  So, maybe now I won’t see the hardships of life as “strange” occurrences any more…maybe I will smile and even be filled with a little excitement about what God is doing with my pain…maybe with this reality of God’s Kingdom purpose being played out in small doses in my life, I will be able to do what Peter says at the end of this passage and trust God    commit my whole self into the hands of my “faithful Creator and continue to do good” (v 19).  After all, He is The Creator.  He made it all.  He knows all the ends and outs of my existence because He made it all…AND He is faithful – He will keep His promises, He will honor those who honor Him…He will not allow hell or high water to snatch me or any of His children out of His hands.

A Prayer…


   Give me your perspective in the midst of the storm.  Give me wisdom to steer clear of self-centered thinking that causes me to suffer for my own poor choices, and keep me in the center of Your battle for souls.  And if that means that life’s inconsistencies brings trial for a time, help me to trust You completely…I need You Lord…I see that clearly.  Amen.

Living to Radiate God’s Glory

“…so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever amen. “(v 11b)

Some Thoughts…

   Our joyful hope is expressed, not in mindless ecstasy, but in alert wisdom that seizes opportunities to serve the Lord.” (Edmund Clowney, p. 63 – see also Ephesians5:15-18).  With the realization of the imminent possibility of every breath being our last, it changes how we live.  And Peter gives us a good framework by which we can live full lives in the face of “the end of all things.”

1) It begins with a sober and practical mind-set in constant connection with Christ.  
  “be clear-minded and self-controlled so you can pray” – a clear-minded person is one who thinks simply and practically – like the old wise farmer who steadily gets the job done.  The word “self-controlled” is a direct contrast to the drunkenness (mindless ecstasy) lived out by those mentioned above – it means to be sober; to live with the understanding that it could all be over before the sun sets.  It is refusing to let the inconsistencies of life drive you into a panic and irrationalities.  Instead, being in Christ we pray with a sober and practical grip on life, not too rash in our reaction to cultural shifts, just steady and sober with a prayerful heart that stays alert to God’s activity.  But this is not a cold, calculated, and emotionally void existence in addition to sobriety, we are called to love. 

2) It builds momentum as we stretch ourselves out to love those around us. 
  “Love each other deeply.” – Above everything else, we are to love like Jesus – sacrificing personal gain and pleasure for the needs and welfare of others.  Peter tells us to “love deeply” – Literally, it says to be stretched or extended in love. Another way to say it is “keep love a constant” – And why?  The reason is to keep us in step with God’s heart of mercy as love covers over all kinds of sins.  We can find unity where there was division and patience where there was strife and intolerance. We are called to love like Jesus…and when we do, we find that we serve like Christ. (See Philippians2:1-11).

3) It moves even faster and in-vigorously as we serve each other in our giftedness.
   “Offer hospitality” – this is a gift of the spirit that we can give to folks with joy, refusing to fester over thoughts like “why won’t people do this for me?” or “they don’t deserve this!”  Instead, out of a heart of love, we serve. We open our lives up to others. We say things and do things that can only come from God, not from our own strength but from the resources of God’s mercy and powerful grace.

4) It explodes in God’s glory!
 “…so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”  So, the whole reason for living this way is not for personal happiness, it’s not for bonus points in heaven…No! It is for God to be glorified! And when God’s glory is revealed, He becomes real to those who experience His glory.  We choose to live this way because we know the end is near when God’s all-consuming glory will be completely revealed and we want as many as possible to be ready for that day.

A Prayer…

Father, make me an instrument of Your peace.  Amen.

The End Is Near!

“The end of all things is near… (I Peter 4:7a)

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you…” (I Corinthians 15:58)

Some Thoughts…

   Living life with “the end” clearly in view changes how I live; I’m able to face life’s trials with faith, freedom, and calm sense that everything will be ok.  But living life absent minded of “the end” leaves me stuck in the mundane, and I’m left feeling hopeless and powerless to effect change in my life or anybody else’s. The reason for such a contrast in mindset is found in the meaning of the word “near” – it literally means “it has come,” “to be at hand,”  “it has come near,” – the time for everything to change is here! 

   No more self-centered living.  Christ has come.  He has defeated death and won the victory over sin, the grave, and the law of do’s and don’ts. And we have a new lease on life. With every breath we come one step closer to the Day when Jesus returns and make everything NEW!  The end of all things as we know it is near!

  This changes everything!  Jesus announced the coming of the Kingdom with the same word when He said “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” The Kingdom of God has come NOW… It is here!  (See Matthew 3:2;Mark 1:15; Luke 10:9; Hebrews 10:25).  I can live every second that I have left on this earth fully serving Christ, fully loving without expectation of reciprocation from those I love because it is not in vain! (v58).  I can live my life standing firm against the attacks of the enemy, the world, and my own psych because I know that the end is near – it is here. It’s now, but not yet fully realized… So we live by faith knowing what we see in small glimpses will one day be all we see.

 One Day it will be competed, but one thing is for sure, it has begun – The Kingdom of God is near and not yet, so we can live the life God calls us to live with confidence!  What a promise!  What a hidden reality to hold on to!  What a change that brings in me when by faith I accept it as very real and close by; So close I can touch it!  The end of all things is “near”!

A Prayer…

Father, You are here.  Jesus, you are my very present help in time of need…Holy Spirit, you are my counselor; the ONE called to walk along-side me to guide and correct me. Correct my vision of reality today.  Help me live under the reality that “the end is near” and the Kingdom of God has come!  For Your glory, God!  Amen

“And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”
(Romans 13:11)

Caught in the Flood or Moving to the Shore

“They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation…” (v 4a)

Some Thoughts…

   The contrast of “normal” living and Christ-centered living is glaring… We live in a world of judgmental separation.  This side demonizes the other side for all the problems in the world, and we all say that if we could just see things from the same perspective (that being our own perspective), then everything would be better.  It’s that way in politics and in relational affiliations… And many times, it’s that way in how the lost see the saved (or worse how the saved see the lost).

  “They think it strange…” that we don’t do what they do or talk like they talk…. A lost person can look at a believer’s conduct or refusal to participate in something and see it as self-righteous judgment and in turn pass judgment on the believer for living or acting in a certain manner (and sadly, a Christian can do the same… and we often do).  But Peter here reminds us ALL of something of utmost importance; WE ALL WILL BE JUDGED!  But not by each other; both the living (those in Christ) and the dead (those without Christ) will all be judged. That is, in a nutshell, what Peter is saying in this passage. That is the reason we proclaim and live out the Gospel; so that those who are so judged by the powers-that-be in the social make-up of this life will find freedom, forgiveness, and full life in Christ now and in the next life.

   But I’m stuck on that very first phrase in verse 4.  The “flood of dissipation”seems to be the point of conflict between followers of Jesus and those who think it strange how we live…What is it?  The Greek word for “flood” can be translated “excessiveness”, and the Greek word for “dissipation” means “riotous, wasteful, or prodigal…” so the word picture is a life style that is a waste – using up all available resources for personal gain and pleasure.  Jumping in with both feet into an excessive indulgence that never really satisfies…sounds fun, looks like a great way to enjoy life – grabbing all the gusto, taking the bull by the horns…but something happens when the music stops and the party dies down.  In the quiet, we can hear the wind of empty loneliness, feel the pain of regret, and sense a longing for something or someone to offer us more.

   So for me I’m wondering:

       Is there a contrast in me? – Am I swimming in the flood of wasteful, riot-like rebellion to God, or am I on the solid ground of God’s ways?

       Do they think it strange? – does my life evoke thoughts of “why does he do that?”  “Why won’t he do this?”

       Do they realize who it is we all must give account to?  Is my “floodless” life speaking good news into lives that will listen and begin real life in the Sprit?  Do my honest words cause some who refuse to believe to ridicule me or am I just a non-entity to them.


Am I wet with wasteful living or am I making the most of every Gospel-moment I have left on planet earth?

A Prayer…

Father, as I attempt to stand on the solid ground of Christ and His goodness, give me the equipment to rescue those who realize they are drowning in the flood of wasteful lives.  Amen.