Ps 41: Treat Others as ….you fill in the blank

ImageIn times of distress, challenges, trials, we are faced with two kinds of friends: the true friend that comes alongside and the false friend that uses opportunities to feign friendship while with you but stabs you later behind your back. So how do you respond to those who are unscrupulous–even treacherous? Listen to the Word of God (remembering what we said yesterday from 2Tim 3:16…all scripture is divinely inspired for four reasons: teach us doctrine, reprove/rebuke, correct us, train us in righteousness). We could add Heb 5:14 here as well: “But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice to discern both good and evil.”

In Ps 41, King David gives us 4 basic principles to learn when our ability, our endurance is being tested.

  1. When we consider/treat the poor with respect, God takes note
  2. The Lord is the ONLY true deliverer in times of troublesome predicaments
  3. When we confess our sin, God is ready to forgive and provide mercy to us (also 1John 1:9)
  4. Now for the challenge! Vs 10 has been read and interpreted/misinterpreted many ways, one of which is to return evil for evil. But, is this really what King David meant? To help us, let’s look at his life to see if that was his response when others were evil minded or planned evil as this psalm reveals (ex. Vs 5 “when will he finally die and be forgotten or Vs 7 all who hate me whisper insults about me to one another). In no other place do we see that King David, much like Joseph, returned evil for evil. He instead, like Joseph, lived by these words:

1Pe 3:9 Do not return evil for evil or insult for insult, but instead bless others because you were called to inherit a blessing. Rom 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 Now the clincher question is why should we do that? Pro 25:22 for you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you. Rom 12:20 Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head.

 What does that phrase “heap coals of fire upon his head” refer to? This idiom means that our actions represent pangs of conscience which are more readily affected by our kindness than our violence.

May I and you be so discerning that we can see the lurking lions in the road that we are able to note them and be alert to their intentions. Perhaps a walk around them might be good…or should we feed them with kindness? A thought to consider.

2Peter 2: Beware of the Millstone–False Teacher!

When I began teaching in a Christian Day School I chose as my “life” verse for these precious children the verse about stumbling blocks and millstones. (Luke 17) Strange verse? Why would I choose that as I began teaching? As I looked into the eyes of these little ones I was reminded that one day I will encounter the face of God and account for my teaching His Word. A stumbling block is an idiom that speaks of a behavior or attitude that causes another one to fall into sin. (OUCH!)

In today’s reading there are not only lions in the road and lions in the street but there are lions in the church who are the stumbling blocks for the believers. Peter was charged with feeding the lambs, shepherding the sheep, and feeding the sheep. That same charge is given to us and thus it is vital that we become discerners of the Word (Heb 5:14)  lest we fall victim to the lions and ravening wolves who are the stumbling blocks, the tares among the wheat.

Who are these lions? Who are these wolves? Who are these stumbling blocks? Who are these tares? Peter takes an entire chapter to reveal to us: who they are, what they look and act like, their message, and lastly their demise.

Who they are: He bluntly tells us that they are false teachers and note they are among us! 

What they look like: They walk and talk with us, they fellowship with us, and boldly teach among us.

What is their message: They are infiltrators and charlatans. In the next chapter Peter will reveal more but for now it is that they are scoffers. They say that the time for Jesus to return is a long way off. They are like the teachers in Ephesus who taught that the resurrection of the believers has already happened. They deny Jesus as Lord and Master. Image

What is the result of their teaching: They undermine the faith of the believers. They reject authority of the scriptures and they defile the flesh (Jude 8) But, Peter says that although we need to be discerning, we can trust in this one principle: God has his eye on them and He has his eye on the faithful. He will bring the stumbling blocks to judgment in His appointed time. Until then know this: God knows how to rescue the godly from this trial just as He did Lot. Paul reiterates this when he says: 1Co 10:13 No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Today, it is important that you and I become Bereans who  eagerly received the message, and examined the scriptures carefully every day to see if these things were so.

How’s the Climb? 2Peter 1

ImageAs a little child I often remember that the sweetest treats were often on the highest shelves in the cupboard. If I wanted to taste them I had to climb and climb I did! Can you relate? Today think of this chapter as the sweetest treat of ‘agape love’ on the highest shelf. Get out your ladder and join Peter in seeking that sweet treat and climb to the top shelf where the sweet treat is just waiting for you!  

Once a fisherman now turned evangelist, preacher, writer, believer extraordinaire, Peter writes to remind us of several things to never forget. The first and foremost thing is that we have been blessed with precious and magnificent promises which lead us into deeper spiritual truths. To accomplish this Peter says we must “add to,” we must climb. He begins with faith and reminds us to climb to the ultimate rung on the ladder of ever increasing agape love. Peter’s “add to’s” are similar to the Fruit of the Spirit but in practical means. Whereas Paul ends his list with self-control, Peter inserts that gift in the middle of his list.

Why are these so important? If we have these qualities and they are increasing, developing, growing, we will be useful and fruit bearers and we will not stumble. That is, we will not be on the menu as an appetizer or main dish for the lion’s lunch as we said earlier this week.  Without them, we are short sighted and like a blind man groping to find our way. Thus not only are they important to our walk but we must employ what our teachers have told us over and over:  Practice makes perfect.  

So, I ask you, how is the climb going? Which rung are you on today? Go for it friend! Climb to the highest rung so you can experience the magnificent promises that God has in store for you.

Oh Woe is Me!

ImageLife is just too darn hard at times says the psalmist, especially when we know we have sinned and are feeling the consequences of that on a moment by moment basis. It is then that we feel the rebuke by God and by man. Our body and our mind is just sick of the consequences and it just wants relief. Sound familiar? We too at times gripe and complain and other times we put on the pouty face and withdraw from life.

How do you handle life when it throws you a one two punch or when you have knowingly sinned? Read carefully through Psalm 38 which only has 22 verses. Pick out some ways to turn around your “pity party.” First vs 16: pray for deliverance, vs 18 confess any wrongdoing you may have brought into this; vs 21 plead with God to not abandon you; vs 22 confess that it is the Lord alone who is your deliverer. And lastly: Cry out to God: Hurry up and help me O Lord out of this mess I have created.

As men we often fall prey to the prowling lion, our enemy the devil,  either willingly or unwillingly. It is at times like that we need to read this psalm with its wealth of wisdom on how to handle troubles. Paul in the NT gives us more wise counsel. Remember this—you do not need to walk this road alone but instead as Colossians says:  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God.

That my friend is the wonderful body of Christ at work. Will I, will  you …allow the Body to meet our needs today?

Are you on the lion’s menu for today?

ImageWatch out that you are not on the menu!

Peter’s words are timely and well “chosen” for the chosen of the flock of God. Not only are Peter’s words and counsel timely for pastors but for us as well as members of that flock because our enemy, like a lion, the king of the jungle, prowls about seeking whom he can devour. Who is this lion, the enemy that Peter refers to? He is none other than the devil himself. He appears majestic but really he is masquerading as a lion just as he masquerades as an angel of light. But as a lion, his instincts are to kill and destroy and that is why we must beware lest we become his lunch served to him on a golden platter. What is it about the lion that we need to know and then apply?

A lion is an opportunist, not looking for the fattest but who is on the outside of the flock or often the weakest, and most vulnerable, because he looks for those who have drifted from the center and the flock’s protective covering.  Ironically,  if there is an entire herd, he can be 2 feet away and will not strike. Lesson: therefore stay connected to the flock for that is where we as believers find our protection. Eying his prey he creeps close to the ground so as to be unnoticed and when he has his prey in view he strikes!

His roar comes like thunder claps before the lightning as he, the only cat to do so, stoops close to the ground before he roars and thus his sound is carried across for many yards thus causing fear and intimidation.  His hunting time is night where the cover of darkness offers him safety and surprise. His den is well hidden lest he be found by the hunter. To conceal his den, he weaves his way from the hunting ground back to its safety where he can lie hidden—sometimes up to 20 hrs a day. If there is a kill,  he devours all of the prey leaving nothing  behind.

As believers we must know who our enemy is and how and why he seeks to kill and destroy. First without care we are vulnerable and the opportunist Is just waiting for us to let down our guard. Two applications: Be strong in the Lord. Do not abandon meeting together as some are in the habit of doing but encourage one another.

We must be vigilant and prepared lest we become his lunch for today or tomorrow knowing that he will not just nibble but devour us until there is nothing but bones for the sun to dry. Don’t be open for him to target you. Be in the Word lest you become his appetizer! Ever not learn from past mistakes? Peter says be of sober mind lest we become not only his lunch but also his dessert.

His roar is intended to intimidate but God did not give you a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control; be aware of this lest you freeze in place where he can pounce and destroy.

As a believer we must resist the “lion,” be strong in our faith and the mask he is wearing will drop and he will be exposed. Once exposed, he will flee from you.

Scripture: 1Peter 5



“The Chosen are Blessed Because…”

Peter began his letter to those of the Diaspora with these words “you are chosen” and we have continued to follow that thread through his letter. Today we see one more detail about being chosen and that is that the chosen are blessed because the Spirit of glory, who is the Spirit of God rests upon us. When Jesus ascended to heaven he told His followers to wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit. When it came it came in full force and changed Peter from one who denied to one who proclaimed. Today we all, who are followers of Jesus Christ, are also changed because of the Holy Spirit of God who indwells us.

Therefore, because we are so blessed there are several imperatives one must heed: be self-controlled (that is the last gift of the Fruit of the Spirit); and sober minded which just means allow your mind to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, show hospitality – note without complaining! Whatever gift the Holy Spirit has given to you, use that gift to honor others and build up the body of Christ. The imperatives are given that we may bring honor and glory to the Father.

Also as anointed followers we will experience trials and we should not be alarmed nor dismayed but instead rejoice that we have been chosen to demonstrate our faith in these trials always trusting in God while we walk through them. Know this fact God will not allow any trial to overtake you but He will also provide a way of escape for you. He is looking for that joy as we experienced the trials.

It is exciting to know that we are chosen by God to suffer for Him, that as chosen by God, we are endowed with the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Take time to praise God for this neat thought.

“The Lifestyle of the Chosen”

ImageThere was at one time a TV show with a great following that was called “The Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous” which revealed much regarding the way  of life of these people both publicly as well as privately. This may have seemed like a new idea to the show’s directors but in reality Peter recorded this show in the first century! It was called “The Lifestyle of the Chosen.” Peter opened our eyes to see what true believers were to look like to a darkened world. He begins in the home and shows how wives and husbands should appear and moves on to those beyond the home which is all of us.

Wives: it is your outward chaste respectful behavior seen by all, and in particular unbelieving husbands, that will turn their heart to the Lord.

Husbands: It is your honoring of your wife that will open the doors of heaven to your prayers.

To wives, husbands and the rest of us: It is our lifestyle of harmony, sympathy, brotherly kindness, kindheartedness, humility, forgiveness and blessing that will be noted by unbelievers.

Why the imperatives? The key is found in vs 15: “set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess… that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you.” In addition it brings back to the principle found in the first chapter: Be ye holy as I am holy. That is the imperative that will win others to Him.

Today, observe how you are living and responding to unbelievers with whom you have contact. If they should ask why you live, behave and respond as you do what would be your answer?

1Peter 2 “Chosen to Be a Living Stone”

ImageIn ancient times a stone was chosen to be the cornerstone, the first stone placed upon which the remaining stones would thus be aligned. It was chosen for its strength, size and solidity and was placed with great ceremony and often accompanied by a sacrifice. Today we also continue this practice but mark stones with dates and names of influential people’s names. Thus the picture of the cornerstone used by Isaiah and now Peter take on a precious meaning when we realize that both used this imagery to speak of Christ. God has placed His chosen stone, the cornerstone in His Beloved Son. His promise is that anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.

As believers in Christ we are now aligned perfectly with our Cornerstone. Our status as part of the foundation gives us great honor and thus Peter reminds us that because of that we are to be holy as He is holy. We are to abstain from fleshly lusts, have excellent conduct within and without the church. We are to submit to every authority over us (see Rom 13 for more on this ) and we are to honor all people, and love those who are brothers and sisters in the faith.

The purpose is made clear: this is why we are called, chosen. We are God’s representative here on earth in the church. Therefore when we abstain from fellowship our stone is missing, when we sin we cause our stone to reflect decay, when we walk and talk as the world we bring harm upon the building’ s alignment. As you worship today reflect upon this great truth: you are chosen by God to be a living stone…and as Paul said “a living sacrifice.” The application then is to go forth and be a living stone!


Chosen to Shine!

chosen by godWhen Jesus took Peter, James and John to the mountain they were enthralled with the transfiguration. Upon returning to the valley below they met the challenges of the enemy’s camp. That is life for us today as well. We have mountain top experiences only to return to the valley where we meet the “deadly d’s” of the enemy. It is in times like this when we face trials and challenges that we need the book of 1Peter where we learn what to remember so that we can remain firm.

First and foremost Peter reminds his audience, which is you and me and those of long ago, that we are chosen by God Himself. When Moses wrote Deuteronomy he too reminded the Israelites that they were chosen. “He has chosen you to be his people, prized above all others on the face of the earth…it is because of his love for you and his faithfulness” Therefore, beloved, Precious Ones, remember this fact: God has chosen you, “I have inscribed your name on my palms;” [Is 49:15]. Not only has God chosen you but it was accomplished in eternity past so that you might be His Light to the world. Therefore, it behooves all of us to remember this fact and live accordingly to the standard of holiness to reflect his gracious gift. Yes, as Peter reminds us we will have trials and challenges but in those we are to show our proven character of holiness which will bring praise and glory to Jesus upon His return.

Therefore, Peter and James together tell us to “count it all joy” when we fall into these trials. Each is given to perfect us and to mature us.

Today ponder the thought that you were chosen by God! Live like it! Shine like lights in the



The Secret Disciple


Have you ever wondered what a secret disciple looks, thinks, and acts like? Meet such a man and his friend who “because of the fear of the Jews” had a choice: will they remain a secret disciple or one that will stand out from the shadows and reveal their heart and beliefs.

Put yourself into the place of this man, a member of the elite of the elite, schooled in the Torah, a wealthy landowner but an outsider in Jerusalem,  one who  was earnestly looking for the kingdom of God. Yet for all of that he was a secret disciple due to his fear of the leaders in the Sanhedrin (see John 12: 42-43) and in particular Caiaphas. In the heat of the moment he and his friend refused to consent to the death sentence that Caiaphas had sought. This was his first but not the last time he will stand for his convictions because it was just not the right thing to do. Why? Because in his heart he just “knew” that he “knew” that this man was indeed the Son of God. Perhaps it was when Jesus was asked that very question that his heart was quickened.  As he sat and listened to the false witnesses he cringed and in his heart he rebelled but the 68 others who joined Caiaphas were stronger than the voice of himself and his friend. But…

After the crucifixion this man gathered courage and boldly went to the Roman Governor and begged that he might have the body of this Jesus. The Romans had a rule that these that were crucified were to be left to the birds, no family burials, no burials in the pauper’s grave. Perhaps Pilate saw in the eyes of this man a heart that he had not seen in the eyes of the other religious leaders. He saw compassion and because he had been manipulated by Caiaphas and the others he chose to see a way to humiliate them as they had done to him. Thus Pilate, seeking corroboration from the Centurion on duty, was once again amazed that death had come so quickly and gave the order to release the body to this disciple. And where were the followers of this Messiah? They, unlike this man, were fearfully secluded themselves. They the public followers now became the secret followers. They did not go and seek the body of Jesus so that the words of the prophet Isaiah may be fulfilled: 53:9 “They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb,”

And so this secret disciple and his friend purchased linen and 75 pounds of spices and wrapped the body and lovingly placed it in the tomb. You won’t read about his deed in the Jerusalem Times and in fact Caiaphas was probably so incensed at this that he put aside his Sabbath rules and sought that this the tomb be sealed with the Roman seal. We never hear of this man or his friend from this point on but their legacy remains strong and firm. Who are these men we read about in Mark 15 and 16?  Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

What can we learn from this? We will find secret disciples in the most unlikely places, God can and will use them to fulfill His will and scripture that the others may be without excuse when they meet God. Sometimes they are those who are surrounded by mystery as Joseph of Arimathea was. Check a map. Where is Arimathea? Not to be found. Sometimes they, like us, progress one step at a time to come to the point that there is no turning back. Joseph and Nicodemus lived out the verse of being unashamed when the right time came. Secret disciples often have much to lose yet they choose to step out of the shadows into the light for others to see their heart. Their legacy shows that even in the worst of times they are the ones that will rise up and call evil evil not by words but by actions.