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“A Lion’s Heart” by Fred Smith

 

Dear God, I read Fred Smith’s wonderful blog post this morning and I thought I’d spend some time with you about it. With all due respect to Fred and his copyright on this material, I’d like to copy and paste parts of his blog that struck me and then talk with you about them. 

It wasn’t a simple disagreement but a showdown that resulted in both men, once fast friends, turning away from each other for the balance of their lives.

The opening sentence had me. Assuming this would be a Bible story, I knew the reference immediately. How sad to have a relationship defined this way 2,000 years later. And I’m certain Paul must have regretted this break between them after Barnabas was dead. How horrible. I’m sure both of them would look back and think that they took this moment much too seriously. And maybe Paul was right and Mark needed tough love. And maybe Barnabas was right and he needed mercy and instruction. Maybe they were both right and maybe they were both wrong. But Satan loves to divide us from each other. Hopefully, you were able to take this break and spread your gospel wider because of it. 

Speaking of Satan dividing us, while I was making my breakfast this morning, I felt different feelings of residual anger towards different people in my life. After a couple of minutes it was almost as if the Holy Spirit would whisper to me that Satan was attacking me and trying to cause divisions, so I would give mercy and move on. Then it would happen again with someone else. I would just be standing alone in the kitchen and start to feel anger towards someone for things done to me years ago. Pitiful. But it’s a good plan of attack on Satan’s part. bitterness feeds those selfish parts of our hearts and tears us apart from each other and you. Thank you for helping me to be aware of what was happening to me. I am sorry to you that I still apparently carry so much bitterness around with me. 

As a young man John Mark was surrounded by the apostles and leaders of the movement coming to his home. His mother, Mary, was wealthy and influential. With access to relationships and rare advantages a young man could not have had more exposure to courage, miracles, heroic figures and the first days of the greatest events in the history of the world.

Still, Mark was weak and afraid. He ran naked from Gethsemane. He quit Paul and Barnabas when conditions were difficult. He disappointed the ones who took a risk on him.

Did Mark have too many advantages? Was he not tough enough because he had been raised in privilege? I was watching one of the episodes in the 10-part series about the Chicago Bulls called The Last Dance. There was a story about two Bulls players on the 1992 Olympic Dream Team who decided they had a score to settle with a player on the Croatia team because their general manager was negotiating to give him more money than one of their current key players. This player hadn’t done anything to them personally, but they decided to teach their GM a lesson by humiliating this kid. And in the first game they did, but one of the people they interviewed made a comment about the Croatian kid’s resilience. He said that the NBA players didn’t understand what a kid from Croatia had overcome in the 80s and early 90s. He was tougher than that and he came back in the second game, played well, and earned their respect. 

John Mark was going to have to suffer some setbacks if he was going to be ready to really serve with the new church. I’m sure this rift between Paul and Barnabas was used by you to help prepare him for future work.

It would be logical to predict he would fade away and self-destruct as a child of privilege who failed to launch.

But we would be wrong for after the decade had passed Paul says to Timothy, “Be sure to bring Mark with you because he will be so helpful to my ministry. Everyone else has deserted me.”

Mark spent over 10 years developing into someone who would be useful to those around him. He recorded Peter’s memories of Jesus and gave us a powerful gospel that we still read today. And he ministered to Paul at the end of his life. 

Ten years. It’s important for us to not be so impatient. It’s important for me to not be so impatient. I’ve said it many times before, but we tend to measure time in days, weeks, and months, and you measure it in years, decades and centuries. As a parent, as a son, as a husband, and a parishioner, and as a friend, it is important for me to give you (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) the time you need to do your work in all of us, including me.

What happened? In those silent 10 years, Mark had attached himself to the sole person in his life – Simon Peter – who could relate completely to one who had deserted and failed his friends while betraying others. In Peter, he finds a father, a fellow sinner and a friend.

Peter doesn’t lead Mark and the rest of us through how powerful he is. Instead, he leads us and teaches us through his flaws and failures. In the same way, I can’t teach people through the stuff I do well. Oh sure, I can pass on some advice, but my real impact comes when I share my weaknesses and failings. In this case, I don’t think Mark would have benefitted as much from sitting at John’s feet for 10 years–or even Paul’s. No, I’m sure he learned resilience, repentance, and rebounding from regret through your grace from Peter.

What did Mark discover as he wrote the Gospel? He discovered himself and a Jesus that changed his life. Peter’s flaws were the same as his and Peter’s Christ became his. In “The Jesus I Never Knew,” Philip Yancey writes, “Jesus, I found, bore little resemblance to the Mr. Rogers figure I had met in Sunday School. He was the undomesticated Lion of Judah.”

I think Mark also learned some humility from Peter. I’ve always noticed that the stories we get where Peter is the most humiliated in front of Jesus are told to us in Mark. Peter doesn’t pull any punches when telling Mark his own story, and, in return, Mark communicates to us a unique version of Jesus. Lest I sound judgmental about the other gospels, I’ll say that we get the worst stories about John from his gospel as well. But in this case, it’s the example that Peter is setting for Mark that I think is important. 

Sent by Peter to Egypt as the first bishop of the Coptic church, Mark – the former coward, deserter and weakling – is horribly martyred by being dragged for two days behind a horse until his skin is torn off his body.

So that’s how it ends? A horrible death for someone who left us so much in Mark’s Gospel? A comfort to Paul in prison? Well, not exactly. There is also the legacy of transformation and courage. So much so that we get this:

Many years later it is said that the founders of the city of Venice in Italy, wanted a saint’s relics, so they stole his head and took it back to Venice. There it becomes the precious relic of one of the most famous cathedrals in the world – St. Mark’s. The deserter becomes the patron saint of Venice.

But here is what I love. Something he would have never believed and we could have not predicted when we first met him. The early church gave him the symbol of the winged lion, and it is the flag of Venice still today. It is a symbol of power, authority and strength. The Lion holds the scroll because he is the author of the earliest gospel and the inscription reads, “Peace to thee, Mark, my evangelist.” Peace and courage – not fear and running away. It is the same boy who fled and then became a lion – just like the Lion of Judah in his gospel.

Father, help me to see people for more than their failings. Help me to see them with your eyes. And help me to see myself for more than just my own failings. Help me to be patient and faithful as I strive to simply worship and serve you. 

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Matthew 17:1-13

Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus. Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials —one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus. As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Then his disciples asked him, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes? ” Jesus replied, “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, but he wasn’t recognized, and they chose to abuse him. And in the same way they will also make the Son of Man suffer.” Then the disciples realized he was talking about John the Baptist.
Matthew 17:1-13

Dear God, I want to look at this story today from Peter’s, James’s and John’s perspective. Well, mainly Peter’s since he is the one who talks so we know a little more of what is going on with him. That, and the fact that the New Testament reading for this weekend is Peter using this Tory to make his point.

I’ve talked before with you about how I think this experience was your way of encouraging, affirming, and even comforting Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. But, frankly, he didn’t have to have these three disciples with him. But maybe they needed to be there. In fact, who’s to say that Jesus didn’t have several experiences like this that weren’t recorded because no one was there?

I would say that one of the things Peter got was a revelation that this was all for real. He had just seen Moses and Elijah, for crying out loud! What a testimony this was to them in a time when they might have started to doubt!

You can tell they are trying to process what they just saw as they walk down because they are trying to make sense of having just seen Elijah (they just saw Elijah!) and how it might fit into the prophecy about him coming back before the Messiah comes.

Of course, Peter uses this experience later in his epistle to underscore that this is all very real. You are real. Jesus was/is real. The message he was preaching is real. This one little event had a huge impact on him.

Father, you do things that encourage me all of the time. Sometimes I notice and sometimes I miss them. Please help me to notice you in every moment. Help me to be grateful for every single thing you do for me. And, really, thank you for even caring about me at all, not to mention loving me so much.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2020 in Matthew

 

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Passion Week – The Resurrection of Christ: John 20:1-10

The above image is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. It is titled “Christ Risen” and was created by Edward Knippers.

John 20:1-10 [ESV]
And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’s head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Dear God, I’m so grateful this morning. I’ve spent the week trying to sink into the depths of this Passion. Sure, I didn’t really go all the way. I had work. I had other things that took my attention. But I can say that this is likely the most thoughtful I’ve ever been about Holy Week. And here we are.

When I woke up this morning and made my breakfast, I played four songs. “Sunday’s on the Way” by Carman, “He’s Alive” by Don Francisco, “Easter Song” by Keith Green, and then “Gotta Tell Somebody” by Don Francisco. The first three were about Easter and Jesus’s resurrection in one way or another while the fourth was about a grateful father who just had to tell somebody what Jesus did for him. It was fun and worshipful. You are alive! And you have done great things for me.

Father do I “gotta tell somebody?” Have I counted my blessings and shared your greatness and mercy with others? Do I live with the joy that you are alive? Help me to do better. Live through me. Love through me. Let you kingdom come and your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Peter & John — 2 Peter 3:11-18

2 Peter 3:11-18 NIV
[11] Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives [12] as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. [13] But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. [14] So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. [15] Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. [16] He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. [17] Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. [18] But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Dear God, the reference to Paul here caught me off guard. I had forgotten that was there. I wonder what Peter and Paul thought of each other. I get the feeling that Paul was a little more cerebral than Peter was, and that kind of comes through in Peter’s comment in verse 16: “His letters contain some things which are hard to understand.” I wonder if Peter on one level appreciated Pauls depth and insights, and on the other hand thought he might overthink things a little.

As for the thesis of this chapter, it seems to be to be careful of false teachers and keep yourself pure. It reminds me of something I heard the Christian singer, Rich Mullins, say back in the 90s: “The world’s going to go the way the world’s going to go. So keep yourself pure and love everyone you can.”

Last weekend, I was praying through something and the word I got from you was that the answer was love, love, love, and love. This situation is tricky and it would be easy to get in my trench and just try to both defend myself and shell the other side. But what if, instead, I just showed love that is selfless and ultimately blameless? Isn’t that part of what you are calling me to do? Isn’t that basically what Peter is saying here?

Father, help me to worship you well and to let that flow through me. I visited with a friend yesterday who is struggling. I kind of presented your Gospel to her, but I felt very inadequate to do it. I don’t know if I was effective or not. But please use what I said for your glory in her life. Please give her the freedom, the peace, the hope, and the joy that you have for her through repentance and relationship. Show me the role I have to play in her life, and raise up a good woman who can also be your person for her.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2019 in 2 Peter, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — 2 Peter 3:1-13

2 Peter 3:1-13 NIV
[1] Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. [2] I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. [3] Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. [4] They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” [5] But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. [6] By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. [7] By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. [8] But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. [9] The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. [10] But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. [11] Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives [12] as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. [13] But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

Dear God, I was thinking recently about the accumulation of wealth and striving for retirement. In fact, a friend and I were talking yesterday about when enough will be enough. He is wanting to go into nonprofit work, but feels like he has to first get his kids all of the way through college and then have his retirement planned before he can do that. He was looking at being a minimum of 15 years away from that.

As for me, when I first took the job I currently have at a nonprofit I was in my mid-30s and in no way expected it to be my last job. I figured I would get my daughter (she was six at the time) through high school so she wouldn’t have to move and then move on. Well, my daughter stopped going to school in our town almost five years ago and here I am still at this job. I told the friend yesterday that a few years ago I actually started to get my head into a space where this could actually be my last job. I’ve been there 13 years now. I know that if you are willing I have at least 20 more years of being able to work productively. Will I really look back and say that I worked for this nonprofit for over 30 years?

The questions that start to come to me out of this thought are interesting. The first is, how am I going to start accumulating more for retirement? Nonprofits, by nature, don’t pay at a level that will allow me to stick a lot away into an IRA. Should I take a second job driving for wine tours on weekends to prepare for that day?

Then there is achievement. When I was fresh out of college I had dreams of doing great things. “Great” was undefined, but I am pretty sure working for a nonprofit in a rural community wouldn’t have registered in my top 10 at the time.

Spiritually, I had a dream to influence hundreds or thousands of people (or tens of thousands or millions) towards believing in and pursuing you. My first job out of college was working for a Christian music publisher. At that point, I thought I would end up in Nashville and eventually run the label and distribution company. I remember privately working on projects that would build Bible studies out of musical albums. Even some of the writing I have done over the years might have caught on and influenced a lot of people. But that hasn’t really happened.

Father, I leave all of that hubris and ego at the foot of your cross. I leave the fear of scarcity and the lethargy of desiring retirement and comfort at the foot of your cross. I leave the preoccupation of my future (which is completely unknown to all but you) at the foot of the cross. All I have is today as I await your return. I have the work you have put in front of me to do today. That includes how you want me to love my family, reach out to others, and then do the paid and unpaid tasks that you have put in front of me to do. Help me to do it all with your peace, your strength, and for your glory and not mine.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2019 in 2 Peter, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — 2 Peter 2:10b-22

2 Peter 2:10b-22 NIV
[10b] Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; [11] yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from the Lord. [12] But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish. [13] They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. [14] With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! [15] They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness. [16] But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—an animal without speech—who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. [17] These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. [18] For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. [19] They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” [20] If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. [21] It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. [22] Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

Dear God, I think my temptation here is to think about what others do and how they might teach heresy and not take this passage and ask myself if any of it applies to me. Are the things that I promote in error in any way? Do I water down your truth? Do I find the right balance between your mercy and your righteousness?

Here’s an example. A couple of weeks ago I was talking with someone I really like, but I only see him every couple of years. When I saw him he told me that since I had seen him he had been divorced because of his wife’s unwillingness to deal with her addictions and infidelity on her part. He then told me that he is dating someone else and, in the course of the conversation I deduced that they are living together. I just listened and didn’t make note of it either way, but it made me a little uncomfortable. He works in a Christian setting and a lot of people will look to him as an example. Is there a problem with what he and his girlfriend are doing? Should I have said something?

There are countless other examples, and I’m sure there are things that I do on a daily basis that grieve you—some of which I’m aware and some that I’m not. Life is complicated. Each moment can be complicated. Sometimes my foolish selfishness takes over and I take my will back from you.

Father, before I go after the speck in my neighbor’s eye, help me to deal with and remove the plank in my own. Be glorified through me so that others might be drawn to you and that your kingdom will come and your will will be done.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2019 in 2 Peter, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — 2 Peter 2:1-10a

2 Peter 2:1-10a NIV
[1] But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. [2] Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. [3] In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. [4] For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; [5] if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; [6] if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; [7] and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless [8] (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— [9] if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. [10] This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority.

Dear God, we get so bent on taking out the heretics ourselves, or delivering justice through revenge, that we lose sight of what Peter is calling us to in the previous chapter. We need to live in truth.

My wife has shared a rule about good writing with me. She says that a good writer will “show, not tell.” They won’t tell me how a character feels. They will show me. In the same way, I shouldn’t have to tell someone what kind of a person I am. I should show them. If someone is lying about me, but there is no evidence to back it up then the lie will eventually fall apart. The same is true for you. If someone like a prosperity gospel preacher is saying a bunch of lies about how you feel about wealth, poverty, etc, then my job is to live your truth, not just say it. If I am angry about the new abortion law in New York, my job is to do more than complain about it. My job is to do what I can to help the people who are there, on the ground, helping others.

Father, make me about more than my words. Help me to be a man of action too like Nehemiah was motivated to help rebuild Jerusalem, help me to follow your heart and desires for my life so that I might be an example of you living through a life, be your ambassador to those around me, and be part of your kingdom coming and your will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2019 in 2 Peter, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — 2 Peter 1:3-11

2 Peter 1:3-11 NIV
[3] His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. [4] Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. [5] For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; [6] and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; [7] and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. [8] For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. [9] But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. [10] Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, [11] and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Dear God, the progressive list that Peter gives in verses 5-7 seems like something I should have memorized by now, kind of like the fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5. Let me see if I can break it down into a more digestible format.

  1. Faith: We start with our faith in you.
  2. Faith + Goodness: I don’t know that Peter thought this ordering was inflexible, but I’m a little surprised Goodness is the first batter up after Faith. I might have thought Self-Discipline or something like that. But he chose Goodness.
  3. Goodness + Knowledge: If you’re going to have Faith and Goodness, but then you don’t start educating yourself about God through scripture and prayer then you will be left empty. A baby Christian who never grows.
  4. Knowledge + Self Control: So then if you are going to have Faith, Goodness, and Knowledge, you will need to be able to control yourself as well. That means in denying yourself of your vices, your carnal nature such as temper and self-righteousness. It also means self-discipline to pursue Knowledge.
  5. Self Control + Perseverance: Perseverance is what it becomes about. When I was first a Christian at the age of nine, I was like a lot of nine-year-olds in my lack of understanding of time and fatigue. All nine-year-olds think they can just sprint a mile and not give up. When I was nine, I had Faith, and I added Goodness, but then I didn’t add the other things and my faith failed over and over again. It wasn’t until I added Knowledge, Self Control, and Perseverance to the equation that my life changed.
  6. Perseverance + Godliness: Godliness is added over time only after Perseverance has exposed me to you long enough. I am more godly than I was yesterday and I will hopefully more godly tomorrow than I am today.
  7. Godliness + Mutual Affection: Ah, community. Community is the bonfire that keeps our coal going. I was talking with a friend this morning about how you built us for community. Within that community, we need to have empathetic affection for the others around us.
  8. Mutual Affection + Love: And if we are going to have that Mutual Affection, it is nothing if we don’t have your Love. Again, I don’t know that this list is necessarily in order. I would think that Love might have come earlier in the list, but this is Peter’s list, not mine.

Father, help me to be complete in all of these things and then help me to be a light that guides others to this same completeness. Help me to not miss any of these components. Probably the hardest one is perseverance. Help me to press on. Help me finish this race well. Help me to be your man in every area where you have me serving.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2019 in 2 Peter, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — 2 Peter 1:1-2

2 Peter 1:1-2 NIV
[1] Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: [2] Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Dear God, I just finished 1 Peter yesterday talking about how he was wishing them peace, and now I see that he leads off this letter wishing them grace and peace. I know that the idea of unearned grace is unique to Christianity. I wonder how much the offering of peace is unique to it as well.

While I was talking about peace yesterday, I started thinking about the songs and hymns that I could think of that reference peace. Two came to mind instantly. The first is called “The Peace That Passes Understanding” (written by Claire Cloninger and Wayne Watson and performed by Wayne Watson). Here are the lyrics.

“The Peace That Passes Understanding”

Seasons of my soul
They come and go
But as they slip away
I know something else remains
That will not change

Places in my heart
Are torn apart
But in my brokenness, I find
That something stays behind
That will not change

The peace that passes understanding
Is a blessing that will never fade away
The peace that passes understanding
Is here to stay
The peace that passes understanding
Never passes away

Lord, in times of old
My heart had known
With quiet words of your tender love
And your gentle touch
That changes me

Even through the storm
I’m safe and I’m warm
Lord, You have comforted me
With grace in Your hiding place
I am at peace
Peace comes like the dawn
Peace that the world
Can’t understand
You take my hand and I stand
The waters may fall

The peace that passes understanding
Is a blessing that will never fade away
The peace that passes understanding
Is here to stay
The peace that passes understanding
Never passes away
Oh oh, oh oh

The peace that passes understanding
Is a blessing that will never fade away
The peace that passes understanding
Is here to stay
The peace that passes understanding
Never passes away

The other song is a hymn I’ve journaled about before, “It Is Well With My Soul,” written by Horatio Spafford after the tragic loss of his children at sea. Here are the lyrics. They start with “peace.”

“It Is Well With My Soul”

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

Father, storms will come. I will be pressed, but I can have peace in you. And even if I am ultimately crushed and my earthly life ends, I will be with you and it will be well with my soul. Thank you for offering this to all of us through your son.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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Peter & John — 1 Peter 5:12-14

1 Peter 5:12-14 NIV
[12] With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. [13] She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. [14] Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Dear God, I don’t know how much there is to say about these final greetings, but it’s just nice that his last words in this letter are to encourage love and pray for peace.

Peace. Of the “Fruits of the Spirit” from Galatians 5:22, it’s the one I use most to evaluate how I’m doing with you. I can fake a lot of things including love, joy, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness and self control. I can will myself to exhibit all of those things. What I cannot will myself to do is experience peace.

Not that everyone is that way. My wife and I have talked about this, and for her it’s not peace. It’s another one that experiences more of when she is close to you. So I’m not pretending like this should be true for everyone.

A young friend who is a new believer and has really been through some emotionally trying things said recently that he is concerned about a lot of his friend from high school. They aren’t doing well. They seem stressed and depressed. And these are college students who, outside of worrying about their grades, shouldn’t have a lot of stress in their lives. But what I never go a chance to tell this young person is that I was worried in the same way about him just a few months ago. He has a peace about him that he has only recently begun to exhibit.

Father, please bring me peace and then make me an instrument of your peace. Help me to tap into you so that you will flow into me and then through me to others.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2019 in 1 Peter, Peter and John

 

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