Don’t Forget!

I’ve come to the last chapter of 2 Peter in my lectio divina study. What stands out for me in this reading is near the beginning and it’s very simple:

“... you should remember…” 2 Peter 3:2

Peter is telling his readers to remember the predictions of the prophets of the Old Testament, as well as the commandments of Jesus they have learned through His apostles. We should remember those things as well, and continuing to read and study the Scriptures will help us to do that. As we grow older, we each have individual memories to cherish as well– memories of the different churches we have attended, each one with a special history and beauty; memories of Sunday School lessons and teachers; pastors who have encouraged us; brothers and sisters in the faith who have helped us bear our burdens and mature as believers. These people and places make up our personal “cloud of witnesses.” When I remember them, I’m comforted and consoled. Looking back at my own life, as well as the Scriptures, I can clearly see how God has been at work, and is still at work. I’m part of His story and so are you. He’s not done yet!

For more about remembering see:

Remembering What We Are

Remember the Gospel

Remembering the Important Things

2 Peter Chapter 2 — What Stands Out?

Chapter 2 of Second Peter is all about false teachers and prophets that will lead us away from Christ. Here’s what really stood out for me:

“They have hearts trained in greed.” 2 Peter:2:14

Unfortunately, I think we Americans have hearts trained in greed. We’re taught from the time we are young to strive to succeed in ways that allow us to have more We admire people who make lots of money and can afford to buy whatever they desire. Our entire economy depends upon us continuing to pile up good and services we don’t really need, while in other places people are starving. Worse yet, the things we want made available to us cheaply, are often supplied through the labor of human beings who are enslaved or exploited. We don’t really care, because we don’t see it. It doesn’t happen in our country.

This mindset extends to the church as well. We like bigger congregations that can offer more programs. We choose a place of worship for the beauty of the building, the quality of the music and the public speaking ability of the pastor. We want a church that will “meet our needs” instead of a community where we are needed.

This has been a bit of a rant and I wish I could end with a workable solution. I can’t. I’m greedy and so are you. We’re trained to be greedy, and we can’t fix ourselves. We can’t change the society in which we live. We can try to be moderate and generous and aware of our shortcomings, but it won’t ever be enough. We need the help and mercy of God. We need a savior.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘I tell all of you with certainty, it will be hard for a rich person to get into the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into the kingdom of God.’

‘When the disciples heard this, they were completely astonished. “Who, then, can be saved?’ they asked.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, ‘For humans this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.'” Matthew 19:23-38

For more about the problem of selfishness see:

The Great Pope, Self

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges–Book Review

Who Do You Serve?

Trust God’s Process

I’ve started reading the book of 2 Peter as part of my discipline of study. I’m doing this is a slow, meditative way, reading each chapter more than once and looking for what stands out, then pondering what it means to me.

Often a short sentence or even a phrase stands out, but this time it’s several verses:

“…. 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.” 2 Peter 1:5-7

It tells me that my sanctification is a process, and it requires some effort on my part. I have no choice about my conversion — that’s a work of God. But I can and should “make every effort” to grow more like Jesus.

I’m not sure if the qualities listed are meant as a progression, but if they are, it doesn’t surprise me that the end result is love. After all, didn’t Jesus say that the law can be distilled down into the statement that we should love God and love our neighbor as ourselves? This won’t happen all at once; we first have to develop knowledge and understanding, then self-control and determination, and finally we will arrive at the place where we truly feel brotherly affection and love for others.

Like me, you may not be there yet, but we can walk the road. Keep going. Trust the process.

For more about trust see these posts:

Grow Through Surrender and Trust

Trusting Your Leader

Trust the Process

He Cares For You

I’ve come to the end of my lectio divina study of 1 Peter, and here’s what stands out to me in Chapter 5:

He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

It led me to think about all the different ways the Bible says God cares for me. He cares for me as deeply as I care for my spouse:

“And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice and in mercy.” Hosea 2:19

He cares for me as a loving parent cares for a child:

“Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would never forget you.” Isaiah 49:15

He cares for me as much as I care for my best friend:

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father, I have made known to you.” John 15:15

He cares for me with a love that is truly sacrificial:

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

It’s hard to comprehend the depth of God’s love for me — me, a poor sinful being. It’s impossible to comprehend that kind of love. All I can do is be grateful.

For more about God’s love see:

Hesed–God’s Love in Action

Martin Luther on God’s Love (Agape)

Resting In His Love

1 Peter Chapter 3–What Stands Out?

This must be a favorite chapter of mine, because a number of phrases stand out and I have written about them before. For example, “a gentle and quiet spirit” 1 Peter 3:4 (A Gentle and Quiet Spirit), “with gentleness and respect” 1 Peter 3:16 (With Gentleness and Respect) and “seek peace and pursue it” 1 Peter 3:11 (Pursue Peace). Peter is chock-full of good advice! This time, I’ll pick something different — “the hidden person of the heart.” In any number of places, Scripture tells us that God does not judge us because of the way we look, or even our behavior, but by the true motivation and intentions in our heart. When God chose David, He told Samuel:

” The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

And Jesus rebuked the Pharisees saying,

““Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” Matthew 23:27

What does this tell me? First of all, God sees everything. I may fool those around me by a lot of good deeds or holy-seeming behavior, but I can’t fool Him. Secondly, that I need to cultivate that “hidden person” deep inside. Changing what I do is important, but changing how I think is critical. In fact, if I change the way I think, I probably won’t have to worry so much about what I do!

This isn’t easy. When my reunion group friend and I review our behavior, we often admit that we’re more likely to be guilty of doing good things with a poor attitude than doing bad things. What’s the answer? I find it in prayer– praying to love those people who annoy me; praying to accept my duty with a cheerful heart; praying to give others the benefit of the doubt … just praying continually. I can change my behavior, but only God can change my heart.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” Romans 12:2

For more about transformation see:

Rebirth and Transformation

This Is Your Brain on Faith

Learning to Count It All Joy

James Chapter 5–What Stands Out

Well, I’ve made it to the final chapter of James in my lectio divina study. Here’s what stands out to me:

You have lived on the earth in luxury and self-indulgence.” James 5:5a

When I compare my life, and the things I own, to others around me, I like to imagine my lifestyle is modest. However, the truth of the matter is:

*My husband and I own two cars

*We have a nice condo in a quiet neighborhood

*We buy pretty much whatever we want at the grocery store

*We have a tidy sum set away in our retirement accounts

*We go on vacations and other trips a couple of times a year

*We go out to eat several times a month

*We have a closet full of clothing

To most of the world, somebody like me, somebody with a pretty “average” life in the United States is living in the lap of luxury. Most people in the world live in poverty. 85% of the world live on less than $30 per day, two-thirds live on less than $10 per day, and every tenth person lives on less than $1.90 per day. In each of these statistics price differences between countries are taken into account to adjust for the purchasing power in each country. In addition, many of the consumer goods we enjoy (things like clothing, electronics and even chocolate) depend upon the work of people who are either enslaved or forced to work in horrible conditions.

I feel guilty and I should. However, I’m not sure what to do about it, or how to change things .I can only rely on the forgiveness of God and His mercy.

 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.””

 Those who heard this asked, ‘Who then can be saved?

 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18:25-17

For more on the book of James see:

Luther and the Book of James

James Chapter 3–What Stands Out?

James Chapter 1 — What Stands Out?

What Will Tomorrow Bring?

I’ve been making my way through the book of James, reading in a slow, meditative way. I’m up to Chapter four and what stand out is this:

“… you do not know what tomorrow will bring.” James 4:14

If you’re anything like me, you spend quite a bit of time worrying about the future. Big things like — Will I stay healthy? Do I have enough savings put aside? Small things like — What will I make for dinner? Do I have time to fit my exercise minutes into this busy day? Planning is good, but I can get carried away, becoming tense and anxious about things that I can’t control or things that really aren’t that significant in the long run. It distracts me from the present, and from the thing or things God wants me to notice right now.

Instead, James goes on to say, we our plans must leave things in the hands of God. We should say:

If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:15

Many things happened during the past year that we couldn’t have predicted– a world wide pandemic? Church services on Zoom or Youtube? Virtual classrooms? Not to mention sickness and death suddenly becoming a real possibility. Who would have guessed? How could we have been prepared? It’s been stressful, and many are still anxious and depressed.

The only way for me (and you) to have peace is to put our trust in the One who made heaven and earth and holds our lives in His hands. Whatever the future holds, He’s with us.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

For more about trusting God see these posts:

When Things are Unclear–Trust God

Trusting Your Leader

Grow Through Surrender and Trust

James Chapter 3–What Stands Out?

In my lectio divina reading of James, I’m up to chapter 3. Here’s what stands out to me:

“The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” James 3:6b

James already warned us that we should be slow to anger (James Chapter 1 — What Stands Out?) and now he is telling us what may happen if we don’t think before we speak. I’m particularly struck by the phrase “setting on fire the entire course of life.” A cruel word cannot be called back, and it can burn bridges for life. Family members have become estranged, friendships have ended, divorces have been set in motion, all because of unwise words spoken in anger.

Hateful words are destructive. They do not come from God. In many places the Bible tells us to encourage, not discourage. Relationships will be more pleasant, conflict will be avoided, and life will be happier, if we watch our words. It’s a no-brainer, but one we all seem to find hard to observe.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

It shouldn’t be that hard. Listen to James and use your kind words! It will make your life better.

For more on the book of James see:

Luther and the Book of James

James Chapter 1 — What Stands Out?

James Chapter 2 — What Stands Out

Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” James 2:20-22

The phrase that stood out for me in my lectio divina reading of the second chapter of James was: “his faith was made complete by what he did.” When we come to belief in Christ, it’s the beginning of a process — the process of sanctification. In many places in the New Testament, we are told that our faith will transform us. For example:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

Our faith is not a simple philosophical assent — it’s meant to take over our way of thinking, and also our way of behaving. Here’s a comparison for you. A while back, I took a “Prevent Diabetes” class at the local Senior Center. One of the participants came to every class. She learned about counting calories, portion control and exercise. She believed what she was taught — but she never put what she learned into practice. At the end of the year, she had made no progress toward her goal of lowering her blood sugar count. Simply sitting in class week after week didn’t get her the results she wanted. She didn’t really get with the program.

God has a program too, and it’s very simple:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.(and) … ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Mark 12:30-31

The emotion of love is not complete until we follow it up with loving deeds. So, make sure your faith and actions work together. You’ll be pleased with the results, and so will your Father in heaven.

James Chapter 1 — What Stands Out?

After reading the first chapter of James through slowly several times, here’s what stood out for me:

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.” James 1:19–20

I am particularly struck by the idea that we are to be “slow to anger” because this doesn’t seem to be the case these days. Everyone’s angry about something –we’re angry about politics– often the other side is not just wrong, they’re enemies; we’re angry about how others people should respond to virus — should we continue to wear masks, should the vaccine be required, and so on; we’re angry at people of other races and other Christian denominations. Social media makes it easy to respond in anger quickly, and yet be safely distanced from the repercussions. We can fire off nasty tweets and encourage others to join in, without facing a real person. The verse above warns against this.

God Himself is described in a number of places as being “slow to anger” and as His children, we should imitate Him, not the world. Here’s what else the Bible has to say about being slow to anger:

“Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” Proverbs 14:29

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”Proverbs 19:11

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Proverbs 16:32

“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” Psalm 37:8

It sounds like a no-brainer. Even if you don’t want to take the Bible as your guide, scientific studies show that anger can lead to heart disease and strokes, it lowers your immune system, impairs your cognitive skills and affects mental health.

So, before you get angry, stop and think. Anger is destructive in so many ways. Take it slow.

For more on the subject of anger see:

Do Unto Others, part 2

Are You Angry?

What Should I Do When I am Angry?