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

How Does It Feel to Walk With Jesus?

John Kenneth MacKenzie (25 August 1850 – 1 April 1888) was an English medical missionary to China. I’m sure he encountered many difficulties that could have discouraged him. Yet, in this quote, I can see that walking with Jesus kept his attitude positive.

“My position has come to this, Am I living near my Savior?; then I am as happy as the day is long, and as light-hearted as a child. It may be that I have plenty of annoyances, but they don’t trouble me when His presence is with me. Am I downcast and worried?: then I am away from God.”

Strangers in a Strange Land

I’ve started a lectio divina reading of 1 Peter. If that’s unfamiliar to you, it means reading a chapter or a short portion of the Scripture daily in a slow, meditative way, letting yourself see what phrase or verse stands out. Maybe because the theme this month deals with walking and traveling, what stood out for me in the first chapter is this:

“… live your life as strangers here in reverent fear.” 1 Peter 1:17 (NIV)

In the English Standard version, it’s stated this way:

“Conduct yourself with fear throughout the time of your exile.” 1 Peter 1:17(ESV)

What does it mean to live as a stranger or an exile?

The first thing that comes to my mind is, as a stranger, you aren’t too attached to the things around you. You don’t want to accumulate too much, because you won’t be here forever. Who wants a bunch of junk you just have to pack up and move, or leave behind? That is certainly a scriptural theme, as we are told in Matthew:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-24

That brings another thought to mind: as strangers we are always yearning to get home. We’re not entirely comfortable in this place — maybe we don’t speak the same language, or wear the same clothes, or eat the same food. We just don’t blend in. In fact, as Christians, we don’t want to blend in. We need to remember who we are and to whom we belong (that’s the reverent fear part).

So today, after my reading, I’m asking myself:

*How important to me are my “things”? After all, they are only temporary.

*Can the people I meet everyday tell I am a Christian? Or do I look and behave exact like everyone else? If so, I’m fooling myself about the depth of my faith.

*Am I looking forward to “the life of the world to come’? Or am I really devoted to the here and now?

*Am I “afraid” of the right things? Do I have a reverent fear of God and a desire to be holy, or am I really just afraid to die?

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

I can walk with Jesus or walk with the world. I can’t do both.

For more about conforming to the world see these posts:

Pilgrim or Tourist?

Am I Habituating?

Do You Have a Saintly Worldview?

Nothing by Natalee Creech –Book Review

In this book, attractively illustrated by Joseph Cowman, children learn about the depth of God’s love. Whether we are traveling in a train, boarding an airplane, flying into outer space, rafting down a raging river or diving under the ocean in a submarine, the love of God follows us. God does not abandon us when we say or do things that we regret. His love is permanent and unending. NOTHING can separate us from God’s Love!

Nothing: Nothing Can Separate You From God’s Love!

Youngsters will love the colorful pictures and winsome rhymes. The words are energetic and seem to bounce off the page! The message is biblical and easy to understand. It brings the verse below to life in a way that young children can grasp. This would make a great addition to any toddler’s library!

“Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.” Romans 8:38-39

For more books for children see:

When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner

GraceFull by Dorena Williamson — Book Review

The Gift That I Can Give For Little Ones by Kathie Lee Gifford–Book Review

God is Love

“Some of us believe that God is all mighty, and may do all; and that He is all wisdom, and can do all; but that He is all love, and will do all, there we fail.”

This was written by Mother Juliana, also known as Julian of Norwich (1343 – after 1416), She was an English anchoress (someone who withdraws from society in order to live a completely prayer-oriented life) during the Middle Ages. She wrote the best known surviving book in the English language written by a mystic, Revelations of Divine Love. The book is the first written in English by a known woman author.

Julian is right is saying it is easier to believe that God is all powerful, and all knowing than to believe that He loves us at all times. Whenever bad things happen, it’s easy to doubt or to question the love of God. At those times, this verse is comforting:

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

We may not understand, but we can trust. God is love.

For more about the love of God see:

Hesed–God’s Love in Action

Martin Luther on God’s Love (Agape)

Love Through God Goggles

Dedicated — An Important Word

I just finished a book entitled, “Dedicated–The Case for Commitment in an age of Infinite Browsing.” Pete Davis, the young man who authored it, believes we’re surrounded by a culture that discourages us from dedicating ourselves to anyone or anything — there are so many options that we’re paralyzed by FOMO (fear of missing out). If we marry too quickly, we might miss out on our real soulmate; if we stay at the same company for many years, we won’t advance as quickly; if we devote ourselves to a certain craft or area of study, we’ll cut off other options.

Although this is not a book about religion, he does mention that the word “dedicate” has two meanings:

  1. To make something holy
  2. To stick with something for a long time

Christianity encourages us to both kinds of dedication. Life wth God has been compared to a marriage, a garden, or a building — all things that take time and effort. According to the Bible, we are to commit our entire lives to Christ.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” Romans 12:1-2

When we dedicate ourselves in this way, our lives become holy.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”. 1 Peter 2:9

Dedication has great value. As Mr. Davis says:

“The Counterculture of Commitment is made up of people who are tilling the soil, planting seeds, and growing small forests–and in doing so they are generating hope. Their commitments don’t just transform society–they transform the committers themselves.”

So don’t put it off. dedicate yourself today to the One who gives us a living hope — your life will be changed, and so will our world.

For more posts on changing the world see:

The Lutheran Ladies Changing Their Environment

Changing Your Environment–Joan’s Story, part 2

Changing Your Environment — Joan’s Story, Part 1

Take Heart; it is I

In my prayerful reading of the book of Mark, it seems that Jesus is speaking directly to me over and over.  Most recently, in chapter 6, the disciples are terrified when they saw Him walking past them on the sea.  They thought it was a ghost!  Jesus immediately sets them straight — “Take heart;  it is I.”  Then He adds, “Do not be afraid.”

I realize how often I need to hear those words.  Christ is at work in the world, but I don’t always recognize Him.  I see chaos, problems, uncertainty, and like the disciples, I am frightened.  What I fail to remember is that Jesus is with me and He is in control. As Psalm 23 puts it:

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”  Psalm 23:4

And in the book of Romans, the apostle Paul says:

” If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

The King of the universe is on my side, not acting as a giant gum ball machine, to fulfill my every craving, but working everything (even the bad, scary things) out for my good. (Romans 8:28).  He will never abandon me, any more than a mother would abandon her nursing child (Isaiah 49:50). I don’t have to be anxious because He is our rock and our fortress (Psalm 18:2).

No matter what is going on, I can rest in His peace and His presence, as He tells me:

“Take heart;  it is I.”

For more on the gospel of Mark see:

Go Home

We Never Saw Anything Like This!

Pay Attention to What You Hear

 

 

What is Evil?

I just finished a book about evil by Julia Shaw.  It’s not written from a Christian point of view, so there were things I agreed with and things I didn’t.  For example, yes, any of us could be capable of evil in the right circumstances;  no, I don’t think that calling certain actions or people evil is just being lazy, or that we should never do it.

This got me to thinking about how the word “evil” should be defined.  My big Bible dictionary simply says evil is “that which brings distress.”  I found that disappointing.  According to Merriam-Webster, evil is “deeply immoral and malevolent.”  Hmmm … more satisfying, but not completely correct.

To me evil = sin.  It is disobeying God’s law. Evil began with a being, although not a human — Satan.  It spread to us when Adam and Eve deliberately ignored God’s command, and now is part of the world.

“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” 1 John 5:19

It’s also become part of our human nature, as the apostle Paul says,

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. ” Romans 7:19

As the author of the book  says, evil is more prevalent than we like to think.  Sometimes we try to distance ourselves from it — for example, we may say slavery is evil, yet purchase consumer goods produced in another country by slaves.  If we don’t see it, it doesn’t count.  Sometimes we try to assign evil tendencies only to certain truly repugnant crimes — serial murder or pedophilia,for example.  We may excuse an evil act because “everybody does it.”  None of this cuts any ice with God.  The Bible tells us that:

“… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Romans 3:21

We’re all sinners.  we’re all lawbreakers;  we’ve all done evil things and had evil thoughts.  All we can do is plead for mercy and say along with Paul:

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” 1 Corinthians 15:56-57

For more posts on sin see:

God’s Victory Over Our Sin

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Sin

Choosing to Sin

 

 

 

 

Spend Yourself

I’ve heard it said that if you want to find out what is really important to a person, take a look at their checkbook.  How do they spend their money?  This is certainly an indicator.  Are you a shop ’til you drop sort of person?  Or do your regular expeditures reflect an attitude of love toward God and your neighbor?

Surrendering to God, however, requires more that writing checks to the church and other worthy causes.  Financial generosity may be your gift, but we are asked to be generous with our time and talents as well.  Read through this verse from the book of Romans:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12;1

We are to spend not only our money, but our very selves on God.  This is an acceptable way to worship Him — not with some money dropped in the collection plate, not just for one day a week, but every day, with everything we have and are. Wow!  That’s a difficult commitment to make.  I can hear your thoughts (along with mine) clicking …. uh… but what about my job?  My husband?  The kids?  All of my daily chores?  How do I even begin to spend my life on God?

The answer of course is in the Bible:

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

As you go about your daily activities, remember God.  Give thanks for your job, your children, your husband and friends, because God has given them to you.  Serve them sacrificially as if you were serving Christ.  Pray as you go about your day.  Ask for help.  Ask for guidance.  Show the love of Jesus to others.  Regard your work as a holy vocation, given to you by God.  Martin Luther once said:

” “God is milking the cows through the vocation of the milkmaid.”

So when it comes to the things of God, don’t just give your money.  Spend yourself.  Surrender.

Whose Slave Are You?

Many people don’t like the idea of being a slave or a servant, even if God is their master.  They may not say it, but they have their own agenda.  God is okay if He stays in His own space — preferably Sunday mornings. They will serve Him one day a week, but the rest of the time they’re on our own.  Face it, we all behave this way sometimes.  However, the bible tells us that God demands our full surrender:

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”  Matt. 6:24a

My husband and I recently watched a film called The Irishman.  It is the true story of Frank Sheeran, who became a hit man for the mob.  He became so inured to this life, that by the end, he killed a man who had been his good friend (Jimmy Hoffa).  When he was old and in a nursing home, he confessed to a priest, who asked him how he felt about the crimes he had committed.  “I don’t feel anything,”  he said.  His heart had become hard.  He was a slave, not to God, but to sin.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

“We know that our old self was crucified with him (Jesus) in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” Romans 6:6

When we surrender our lives to God, we free ourselves from a slavery that leads only to death.

“But now that you have been set free from sin and become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans :22-23

So chose which course you want to take — the one that leads to death, or the one that promises life?  Whose slave do you want to be?