Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong! Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:13-18
Dear God, I was listening to the Bible in a Year Podcast from Ascension Press this morning and Fr. Mike was talking about the passage in Luke 12:49-53 where Jesus talked about coming to set the world on fire and he would end up separating father from son and mother from daughter. It’s a tough thing to hear. It’s a tough thing that I’ve experienced. It’s a heaviness I carry with me every moment.
So what am I to do? Love you with all my heart, mind, and strength, and love my neighbors like myself. Follow Peter’s instructions here. Live a life buried in yours and let the chips fall where they may. But do it humbly. Do it compassionately. Do it lovingly.
Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, my God—three in one—I pray that you help me be exactly who you need me to be today. Whisper in my ear.
10 This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. 11 They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward.
12 They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.
1 Peter 1:10-12
Dear God, my wife and I were talking about Abraham and some of the other “founding fathers” from Genesis this morning. We remarked how flawed they were and I was thinking about how they were just trying to figure a lot of things out and facing difficult circumstances I cannot imagine. The truth is, I stand on the shoulders of millennia of people who did a lot of hard work before me. And my part is to wake up and do my part so that the next generation can stand on my shoulders.
I wonder if part of my fear with society right now is that we are about to take two steps backward because things seem to be devolving so quickly. As the American (or Western) church, we have lost our first love. We have made nationalism and our country our idol instead of you. It was the kind of thing that the prophets to whom Peter is referring in this passage noticed in their time. They could see their society devolving and would come out and allow you to prophecy through them. You would tell them that bad things were about to happen. And it wasn’t so they could necessarily avoid it because there had to be a refining fire to get rid of the dross. But you did let them know that you were with them and would be with them through the regression. In the meantime, you wanted everyone who called on your name to simply be faithful to you.
Father, help me to be faithful to you. I have some significant decisions to make today. Help me to be faithful and wise. Help me to touch the lives you need me to touch. Forgive me for the idols I worship. Forgive me for taking my eyes off of you as my one true God. I am sorry for putting my faith in other things. I am grateful for you.
Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. So he went and preached to the spirits in prison— those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood. And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers accept his authority. 1 Peter 3:18-22
Dear God, this whole bit about heaven, afterlife, mercy for our sins, sacrifice, etc. can be difficult to understand.
I was talking to someone recently who is hostile, not towards you, but towards the construct of Christianity as he perceives it. He felt a lot of condemnation as a boy. Some of it came from his parents and the standards they set for him. Some of it came from church. But when it comes down to it, he is angry at Christianity and this theology not because he doesn’t want to be good, but because he didn’t understand that it did NOT require him to be good enough. He must have missed the verses where Paul said that he was frustrated because of how his natural body drove him to do the things he didn’t want to do (Roman’s 7). He missed Jesus’s words about the weary and heavy laden coming to him for rest (Matthew 11). Some of it was bad theology being taught, some of it was probably blind spots from his parents, and some was Satan claiming to be you speaking to him and whispering condemnation in his ear.
Father, help me to know what your true intentions for us are and to then offer your true nature to this man. Help me to offer you to others as well. And help me to truly know this for myself.
But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be in dread, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and respect;
1 Peter 3:14-15
Dear God, I was having lunch with someone last week and the subject of persecution of Christians in America came up. When he complained about it, I was able to push back a little and challenge the idea that we are really persecuted. I think we call the wrong what is happening “persecution,” when reality is that we are losing our influence because our sheer numbers are declining, and, therefore, people are not as apt to go along with our opinions and do things there way. As Christians in American society, we have been in the dominant position for so long that we have a visceral reaction to the society doing things differently that we do.
So, if, on a scale of 1-10 we call this a persecution at a stage 1 or 2, what should be our response? It seems that our temptation is to try to grasp onto that power and influence and not lose it. We make it our idol and start to ignore relationship with you. We start to look to you as more our philosophy and as something to defend. Then we look to political leaders who tell us they will defend us/you. And we start to buy into the idea that you are a God that needs defended. Peter tells us here what we are defending. We aren’t defending you to society. We aren’t trying to claim societal power and influence in your name. He tells us we need to be prepared to defend the hope that is in us. We need to be ready to explain it, share it, and then let the chips fall where they may. And when we do this, we need to do it with gentleness and respect.
Father, I have been convicted lately that I am just not good at this. I am better at talking to others about the virtual cycling program I use than I am about you. Even the words I use are words I should be using for you. Words like “changed my life,” “I do it almost every day,” and “best thing I ever did.” How backwards is that. So help me to share my story of joy and peace in you more bluntly and proudly because you are the hope in me. But help me to do it with gentleness and respect. And do it all for your glory.
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. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
1 Peter 2:9-10
Dear God, I guess it’s hard for an American to recognize that we are not your chosen people. We are not Jewish/Israelites. We are Gentiles. In biblical history, we would bear more resemblance with one of the nations that made a treaty with Israel than we would with Israel.
But this passage is one of the reasons Christians feel this way. You had/have mercy on us. Because of Jesus, we were not a people, but now we are the people of God. We have received your mercy. “Mercy.” What a great word! What a beautiful word and beautiful sentiment. You offer us mercy. You welcome us into your family. We can now consider ourselves your special possession. You called us out of darkness into your wonderful light, and we can declare our praises to you. It’s how we are able to read the Old Testament and find our identity in the Israelites more than the Philistines.
I went back and listened to Andy Stanley’s “Not In It To Win It” sermon again tonight. I think it’s the fourth time I’ve heard it. I wanted an inoculation before tomorrow’s election. I needed a booster shot of biblical, Godly wisdom and I think this sermon has it. One of the things he said is that it wasn’t the Democratic or Republican Parties that shaped Western civilization over the last several hundred years. It was Christianity. So we need to not find our identity in a political party that is motivated by winning and exercising power, but by simply loving others. He said that the church is at its worst and looks like the world when it is defending its own rights and at its best and most Christlike when it is defending the rights of others.
Father, as I sit here quietly in bed and prepare to go to sleep for the night, my prayer for tomorrow’s election is that you will allow it to be mercifully decisive. I pray that we will know one way or another who won the presidential race by night’s end. I pray for graciousness on the parts of the winners and the losers. I pray that you will somehow use all of this to bring us, bring me, to repentance. I don’t know what you are doing in the grand scheme of things, but I know that this world is older than I can imagine and history will continue to unfold in ways I cannot imagine. But you know it all–past, present, and future–and you are in control. That’s all I need to know.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 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. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:8-11
Dear God, I was having my weekly phone call with a friend yesterday morning and I told him I had been pretty inconsistent with you this week. I have not been “alert and sober of mind.” I haven’t been “stand[ing] firm in the faith.” I kind of took you for granted this week. Frankly, I spent a lot more time thinking about college football than I spent thinking about you. Why? No good answer. I guess the truth is, I found it more interesting.
I am simply nothing without you. When will I really get that through my head? Without you there is no peace. There is no joy. Without you I am a selfish, fearful, needy, insecure, foolish man. But with you I can truly love others because you love me so much. With you I can see above the cares of this world and be at peace in you. You’re amazing. You are GOD!! Why did I find college football more interesting than you this week? Frankly, probably because it plays to my vanities and resentments. Hmm. I’ve never thought of that before. That’s a thought to ponder (as I watch my team play this afternoon).
Father, in this moment, I want to be alert and sober of mind. I want to stand firm in my faith. I know I cannot live up to that. I know that I will follow selfish desires and let them consume me at some point. Help me to see that those moments are fewer and farther between as you work on me and I learn to stay alert and stand firm.
For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. As the Scriptures say, “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.” And that word is the Good News that was preached to you.
1 Peter 1:23-25
Dear God, I wonder what Peter meant by your “word.” It obviously wasn’t the New Testament. It might have been what we call the Old Testament, but that doesn’t feel likely. I think calling what we consider to be the Bible “God’s Word” is a more recent phenomenon. So what did Peter mean here?
Well, John called Jesus your “Word.” It was a unique way for you to enter the world, and Jesus’s actual words are not only your “Word,” but his actions would be too. His entire life is you speaking to us through the generations. Of course, now we consider what these first apostles and disciples wrote and left for us as the New Testament to be you speaking to us, along with what they knew as your scripture. But again, I don’t necessarily think this is what Peter is talking about here. I think Peter’s usage of this term is pretty basic–Jesus came, Jesus died, and Jesus rose again so that we might be rightly related to you.
Father, thank you for this word…your word. Thank you that Jesus did this so that I might be rightly related to you. I’m a Gentile and I have no claim to be yours except that you chose to claim me. I am sorry for taking that for granted as much as I do.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
1 Peter 4:12-19
Dear God, we are so soft. I am so soft. Even as I type this right now, I’m sitting on the balcony of a nice condominium watching the waves of the ocean roll in. The sun is rising. The sound is constant and relentless. In fact, the sound is something I can simply do nothing about but just give into it and make it a part of my life. I’m going somewhere with this, I promise.
I’ve decided to start each day of this week of vacation listening to a sermon. I’ve been a little too much in my own head lately with scripture and I need to hear some pastoral teaching. I think it’s good to have a balance. I need that personal time in scripture so that the Holy Spirit can speak to me directly, but I also need to have someone else speak your words to me.
This morning, I decided to give a pastor I know of from Nebraska a try. I found this message on suffering from September 27, and it as good. He set the context for Peter’s words in this passage. Christians were being brutally persecuted and murdered at this point. He indicated that Peter was only two years away from being crucified upside down when he wrote these words. Suffering for this audience was at a 10. It just didn’t get any worse than their experience. So what’s my problem?
I was in Walmart two days ago talking with a woman I know and she and I were talking about the current restrictions with the pandemic (which, at this point, are pretty limited–I think we are just down to wearing masks and limited capacity at some places and public gatherings). Our temptation was to complain and I finally said, “We are so soft.” I’ve said this several times over the last seven months, but the “Greatest Generation” didn’t become that way because of the Roaring 20s. They became that way because of how they responded to the 30s and the 40s. Well, this isn’t nearly as bad as that was, but we can use this to make us stronger. You can use this to make us stronger, more sensitive to our neighbors in need, and more dependent upon you. You can use this to renew our churches and our prayer lives.
Father, first, thank you. Thank you for how you’ve provided for my wife and me and for the work I do. This has really been an amazing year, and I can testify to your provision and kindness. Help me to remain faithful to you in it and not take your kindness for granted. You are an amazing God. Thank you also for this vacation. My wife and I are very tired, but we are tired for different reasons. But we need this. We need you. So thank you for this week. Help us to get what we need. Second, I pledge to you that I will do my absolute best to follow you, worship you, and give myself and any accolades that I receive to you. I will decrease so that you can increase. I will accept my lot in life. Please use it all. Use me, my suffering (if that’s what I want to call it)–better said, use any pain that comes my way to mold me into the man you need me to be and bring you glory. And bring revival to your church through all of this, and that starts with repentance. Revive us again!
Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.
1 Peter 3:18
Dear God, my head is kind of in football season right now. Maybe that’s why, when I read this verse this morning, my first thought was that this is kind of getting back to fundamentals. Blocking and tackling. Jesus never sinned. He was martyred so we could be brought home to you. Everything builds off of that. There’s more that we add to it, but without it we have nowhere to start. Without it, I’m not here right now typing this prayer to you.
Father, help me to always remember this gift from you and not take it for granted. Help me to remember this picture of your love for me and all of us. And thank you. Thank you for the peace, joy, and hope you give me.
It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.
1 Peter 2:15-16
Dear God, is this maybe Peter’s contribution to the fictional conversation I talked about last week between James (brother of Jesus) and Paul? Works vs. grace? Peter comes along as says (my paraphrase), “Yes, you are free, but you belong to God, so do what’s right! James, you are correct when you say faith without works is worthless. Paul, I agree that there is now no condemnation and we are set free by grace. You’re both right.”
I feel like I need to apologize to you for last night. I had an opportunity to address about a hundred people about the work they do to help others as volunteers and I didn’t prepare enough for it. I was up there talking and I had asked you what I should say, but I didn’t really sit down to listen to your answer. I didn’t dig in. And what I said was probably “fine,” but I don’t think it gave you the glory you deserve. I don’t think it moved the needle in nudging anyone closer to you through relationship with you and the service you have called them to. I should have talked about your offer for grace and your subsequent call for works. You’ve laid it out here for me over the last couple of weeks through these prayers and I missed it. I’m sorry.
Father, help me to continue to grind. Help me to grind in my relationship with you, in my marriage, in my work, and in my other relationships and activities. Help me to embrace the grace you give me while remembering the duty I have to you because of it. And thank you for everything.