October 6, 2017: Day 47 – II Peter 3

There are a number of fascinating things in this Scripture.  Not the least of which makes me think of this song.

You find in this song, at the very end, the verse: the earth will soon dissolve like snow.  It has to come from this chapter in II Peter.  Now, whether it is good theology or not, I love the song.  If you look at vs.11 it seems that this just might happen.  Especially since we also believe that there will be a new heaven and a new earth.  

So, what we are really talking about is judgment day.  We are talking about the day that Jesus will be coming back again.  Peter tells his people to not fret and not worry because it seems like Jesus is taking his own sweet time to come back and save us while all around us our loved ones are dying at the hands of the Romans.  He tells his people in vs.8 that a thousand years to us is but one day to the Lord.  That is a great consolation for those of us who are waiting with baited breath for Jesus to come back again.  It just encourages us to live each day as if he were coming back today.  What a way to live.

But he also speaks about what Paul wrote.  Now this is stunning.  Here is someone in the New Testament writing about what someone else wrote in the New Testament.  That is really mind-blowing to me.  So, of course Peter and Paul knew each other.  Peter was considered the head of the early church and Paul was considered the greatest evangelist of the early church.  Peter here totally supports Paul and says that what he writes is true, even if it is a bit confusing at times.  That is nice to hear.  And so we finish with II Peter.

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October 5, 2017: Day 46 – II Peter 2

So here Peter saves his harshest words for those who at one time walked in the faith and now have turned their back on Jesus.  It seems that he is pointing out specifically people who have turned their back on the Word in order to gain physical pleasures.  As you read through this chapter I hope you hear the strong emotions that ought to be coming through.  Let’s set the context a little bit.  Peter was living in an era where if you believed in Jesus and admitted it, then your life was at stake.  He had personally witnessed a number of disciples and apostles martyred because of their faith.  He himself will be martyred.  As tradition has it he will be hung upside down on a cross because he did not feel worthy enough to be hung on a cross in the same way that his Savior was hung.  Here is a painting by my favor artist to depict Peter’s martyrdom.

Caravaggio-Crucifixion_of_Peter_half

So, I think we can understand why Peter felt so strongly about this.  He does not mince words and here we have the most clear description of hell that we find pretty much anywhere in Scripture.  

For today there is an equal anger in my heart for those who would claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ and yet lift up causes that simply go antithetical to Jesus’ message of love and mercy.  Yes, we have the judgment of God and it is clear that it is coming, but no where in Scripture do we read about that judgment coming at our hands.  It is God who judges and only God who can decide and declare who is guilty.  It is a harsh chapter but one we should read with an eye to identifying those times that we say we represent Jesus but we really in fact just represent ourselves.

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October 4, 2017: Day 45 – II Peter 1

This is one of those Scriptures that is sneaky important.  If you look at vss.19-21 you will see that this Scripture is one of those that people use to stress the authority of Scripture.  I am one of those people.  I do believe that the Bible is much more than just a history book.  I do believe that the Bible was written with much more authority than any other book which we have.  I do believe that the Bible is inspired by God and contains inerrant truths.  When you look at vs.20 most of us interpret it as stating that we are not free to come up with an interpretation of Scripture that does not reflect the character of God nor the historical witness of God’s Word.  That is crucially important.  

If you go back to vs.16 and you read that “we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”, he is speaking about being an eye witness to what Jesus was able to do.  Remember, this is II Peter, so it is the second letter written by Peter, the disciple that many call primary.  We read in vs.17 of the account that Peter had with James and John when he climbed the mountain and Jesus was transfigured.  For the transfiguration Scriptures you can read them at: Matthew 17:1–8Mark 9:2–8Luke 9:28–36 .

Peter is speaking from the viewpoint of an eyewitness who not only believes that Jesus is the Messiah, but he also experienced the living, dead, and resurrected Jesus.  One of my favorite scenes of Jesus and Peter is found when Peter is rehabilitated in John 21:15-19 where Jesus takes Peter and his betrayal and turns it around into a beautiful time of reconciliation and healing.  That is the perspective from which it is written.

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October 3, 2017: Day 44 – I Peter 5

We find this Scripture also in James 4:10, but Peter gives us a chance to hear about how God will lift us up.  

In this Scripture we read in Peter’s final exhortation that we need to beware because Satan is like a roaring lion.  We are called to be alert and disciplined and to resist him.  We are assured that even though we may be suffering a little while there will come a time when we will be restored and established once again.  It is a strong encouragement to a people who needed to hear that they would be lifted up in a time of much confusion and persecution.

He then ends the letter with greetings including one to the church in Babylon.  What does he mean Babylon?  It is generally thought, and I agree, that he is referring to Rome.  This thought will come in handy in Revelation because we often see a reference to Babylon which we know probably means Rome.  He tells us to greet each other with a kiss.  What a nice thought.  

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October 2, 2017: Day 43 – I Peter 4

The strength of this passage for us today can be found in vs.7a.  The first part of vs.7 reminds us of this guy below.  

End is near

But having said that, keep in mind that we are nearer to the end today than we were just yesterday.  The events that have been happening in our world have really accentuated the sense that we just might be very close to the end.  We are very close, and I can tell you that the believers in Peter’s days were feeling the pressure of the end in a way that we cannot even imagine.

This is why he mentions in vs.12 this “fiery ordeal” that his readers are going through.  The “fiery ordeal” is the Roman government not taking prayer out of school, but rather taking the mother and the father of children and murdering them because they were believers.  The “fiery ordeal” that they were experiencing was not removing the 10 Commandments from a courthouse but rather watching their children be forcibly conscripted into the military with you as a parent not having a say.  The ordeal that the Christians of the first century experienced absolutely made them feel like, or at least certainly made them hope that, the end was near.  

So how do we act and react as the end approaches?  Look at vs.19 where Peter tells us that as we suffer we must entrust ourselves to God’s will and continue to do good while we lay our lives over to God so that His desires would be realized.  This is crucial to understanding how we live our lives in the 21st century.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul, and do good.  

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October 1, 2017: Day 42 – I Peter 3

There are two topics that we need to address:  from verses 1-8 we hear some words about wives, and in vss.18-19 we find verses which are beneficial to us when we talk about the Apostles’ Creed.  Let’s look at the verses that Peter, who was married and had a mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-15), wrote in regards to wives.  So it is crucial to understand that the very highest apostle, Peter, who was placed as the head of the church, was married.  There are denominations that do not allow their clergy to marry, and yet Peter, the primary Apostle, was married.  One would not be incorrect to say that this is somewhat ambivalent at best and hypocritical at worst.  

We find a command for wives to be obedient unto their husbands.  I think I have posted this article before, but I want to do it again because it is so important and it is so good.  

A Suitable Helper (in Hebrew)

So where does this lead us to in regards to these verses and this chapter in I Peter?  These verses speak about a woman staying in a relationship with an unbelieving husband for the purpose of leading them to the Lord.  This concept is fraught with difficulties, especially when we are dealing with ministry with teens.  I always tell teens that when you date, you never know if this is the person that God has chosen for your life, but if the person is an unbeliever, then you already know that this is not someone that God has in mind for you, so why even bother?

These verses also give guidance on how women should dress and what they should do.  So, here is my statement and my question.  We live in a grey world.  There are some who say that they follow the words of Scripture 100% and if the Bible says it then it must be right and it is what I am going to do.  Yes, I agree, I’m with you on that.  But if you are a woman and you say this…do you braid your hair?  Do you wear any type of gold jewelry?  I don’t mean this just for women, but for men as well, for other things that the Bible says.  How have we justified not to follow the commands of Scripture that these verses give us and yet say that there are other commands which we absolutely must follow?  It is grey, isn’t it?  We choose to follow certain Scriptures simply because they make more sense to us in our time and in our context.  It is not because we believe the Bible more than someone else.  We believe those things in the Bible that make the most sense to us more than others.  Those who choose to follow these verses of the Bible and demand that their wives submit, choose to do it because it benefits them.

They don’t focus on Galatians 3:28.  They don’t focus on Judges 4.  There are other verses which focus on the parallel worth and mutuality of women, but I’m guessing that those who focus on I Peter 3 tend not to spend too much time on these other verses.  But we don’t really get to pick and choose, do we?  Then how are we to decide what we really believe and what Scripture actually teaches us?  Much of it is based upon the leading of the Holy Spirit and the consistency of Scripture teaching us the same message over and over again.  It isn’t easy.

The second item is that which we find in vss.18-19.  It is here where we find the basis for the phrase in the Apostles’ Creed: He descended into hell.  We do believe that when Jesus died he descended into hell to preach to those who did not know that the Messiah had arrived and that he is the Messiah.  It is a sign of God’s amazing grace that he came and was able to do just that.  

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September 30, 2017: Day 41 – I Peter 2

Well, that sure was a long break.  Sorry for the interruption there.  Here we find ourselves in I Peter 2.  I encourage you to read Psalm 34:8 which is lifted up directly here in vs.3.  Taste and see that the Lord is good.  What a great image, to be able to actually taste and see that the Lord is good.  

As you read through this chapter there is one recurring thought that keeps coming up for me.  It is unsettling and it doesn’t provide comfort, this thought, but rather it makes me wonder how do I apply this as a person who is supposed to interpret Scripture?  The issue at hand is found in the build up to vs.23.  If one were to take this Scripture out of context we would find ourselves encouraging women who are in abusive relationships to stay.  We would find ourselves telling young people to just take what people give to you even if it is harmful to them physically or emotionally.  That is not consistent with the messages of Scripture that we have seen throughout.  

Jesus absolutely was led to the slaughter as a lamb.  I think of those innocent lives which were just recently taken in Las Vegas.  I can’t see a God who says just accept it as an event and move on.  In the end God will win out.  But what about now?  How do we deal with the death, the loss, the questions that surround an event like this?  I absolutely agree that we are witnesses to the greater community so we must act in a way that those who do not believe would be able to say with conviction that they are curious as to what we believe.  But to accept and put our head down in the face of abuse is simply not our way.  But it was the way of Jesus.  

Peter, the apostle that we know from Scripture, calls us stones, living stones.  This is significant because his name, Peter, means rock, or stone.  He calls Jesus the cornerstone, the one upon whom all things are built.  

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September 29, 2017: Day 40 – I Peter 1

The background to this book of the Bible is that it was written by the Apostle Peter.  Now Peter is a super interesting figure.  You know, Peter, the disciple who was the spokesperson of the disciples and the one that Jesus relied upon to teach others and the one who was the leader of the early church.  Peter is a huge figure in the church and especially in the early church and in the modern day church as well.  This is Peter below as depicted over history.

Peter

Throughout history Peter has been depicted as holding the keys to the kingdom of God.  This is because of Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:18-19 where Jesus calls Peter, Peter and says that upon this rock (Peter) he would build his church and that he would hold the keys to the kingdom.  Throughout church history there has been a tradition of apostolic succession where men have been given the ability to be ordained into clergy roles and women not so much.  Presbyterians believe in the priesthood of all believers which means not only does every person have a viable and important call, but we also believe that men and women can be called into the ministry.  It may not seem important, but it is.

So Peter wrote this letter while he was in Rome (he calls it Babylon much like the author of Revelation calls Rome Babylon) and probably was writing to the early church in Rome.  That makes sense since he was a leader of the entire Christian Church which found its center in Jerusalem.  Remember that Peter was also a very flawed figure.  He was the one to whom Jesus said: Get behind me Satan.  Not a stellar moment in Peter’s life.

Now on to the first chapter of this letter.  It is obvious that this letter is written by someone who understood and probably had undergone intense suffering.  I want to focus on how he speaks about our faith which has been refined through our trials.  I am currently in Pittsburgh at the Presbyterian Russian Mission Network.  I know, that is a mouthful, but it is a gathering of Presbyterian Churches that have a connection to Russia in some form or fashion.  We heard about the 100 anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution which is this year.  Funny how no one is celebrating that.  It was in this revolution that hundreds, no thousands of Orthodox priests were martyred because of their faith.  The goal of the Bolsheviks was to eliminate the church entirely.  That didn’t happen.  Not by a long shot.

The church is able to be refined through persecution.  The mainline church, of which the Presbyterian church is one, has not really faced persecution in our society.  In fact, it has had a favored status in our history, and I believe the denomination is paying a price as a result of that.  We do not know what it means to face persecution.  If we did, then our faith could be refined in such a way that our future would be one where we would know with certainty what we believed and our faith would be strengthened.  I do not wish for persecution, but we do need something that makes our faith real and refined. I believe that James gave us the answer in the last book that we looked at.  Our faith can be refined by the works that we do.  What we do in the community allows us to be real in our faith.

Look at vs. 13 and you see Peter say the same thing: Prepare your minds for action.

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September 28, 2017: Day 39 – James 5

We already spoke about cursing and the waste of time that really is.  James in vs.12 tells us that our yes should be yes and our no should be no.  This speaks directly to a need that many of us feel to add to our statements words which might provide emphasis, when in reality they just provide a lack of class.  Remember that.

Do you believe in healing?  The Scriptures that we have in front of us certainly do.  We see Jesus heal people in a whole variety of ways.  We see him not make any effort and a person just touches the hem of his robe and she is healed.  We see Jesus use the method of spitting on mud and rubbing it on a person’s eyes and the man is healed.  Here we see another method which is where Jesus’ brother calls upon the elders to gather together and to pray over those who are sick.  We read the prayer of faith will save the sick.  It is a wonderful vision of what the church should really look like with the elders of the church reaching out and going to people’s homes and healing.  

There is also a strong verse found in vs.20 that whoever brings back someone to the faith who were wandering away shall be called blessed.  Actually, we read that it will cover a multitude of sins.  There is some great motivation there.

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September 27, 2017: Day 38 – James 4

Let’s start at vs.4 where we hear that if we are too closely aligned with the world then we become an enemy of God.  There really is no middle ground here from James.  He sounds a lot like his big brother Jesus who tells us that unless we are willing to leave that which is most precious to us, but is of this earth, then we are not worthy of the kingdom of God.  Go ahead and look at Matthew 10:37 and cringe.  Does Jesus really mean we have to be willing to give up even our own families?  Both James and Jesus are identifying that our relationship to the almighty God has to be our primary focus and nothing, no not even our family, can get in the way of that.

The verse that sums this up most concisely is vs. 8 where we read that if we get near to God then God will get near to us.  I had forgotten about this verse.  This is so true.  When we draw near to God, God will draw near to us.  Now, it is not as if God draws away from us, but when we move away from God then he will always draw us back, but we will feel that God is further away from us than we want Him to be.  All of this is of our own doing.  

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