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Wonders from the Word – 2 Peter 3:3 – You Are What You Do

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

“Scoffers will come in the last days to scoff (2 Pet.3:3).” Scoffers will scoff and mockers will mock. People are named after what they do. A carpenter does carpentry. Teachers teach. Lawyers practice law. Years ago last names were based upon occupations. My last name, “Hall,” comes from “servant of the hall.” That’s not a glamorous job but is better than my other relatives. They were horse thieves. Janet’s maiden name was Bates, which is why I locked the door when getting a shower!

Our names are akin to onomatopoeias, words that sound like their actions: murmurers murmur; mumblers mumble.

This connection should make us more diligent to ensure the names the Holy Spirit has given us also describes what we do. Christians are “little Christs,” in that we follow Christ in word and example. Disciples study and imitate the life of Christ since disciple means “student.” Believers truly and wholly trust taking their mustard seed faith and letting it grow to the point where they stop trusting in themselves. Brothers and sisters are more important to each other than friends of the world.

This could even be applied to nicknames. Cephas was renamed Peter (a rock). Joseph became Barnabas (son of encouragement). What nickname would you receive?

So take seriously your God-given names. They are supposed to show you are what you do.

Wonders from the Word – Our Serving God (John 13)

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

The washing of feet mirrors the crucifixion in so many ways most notably Jesus is the last person who should be washing feet. He is the master, and yet He serves. Also, Jesus even washes the feet of Judas (13:18), for whom He also died. And, if Jesus did not wash their feet, they could have no part with Him (13:8). Plus, they did not understand what Jesus was really doing (13:7); and they would not understand the cross. Both actions though, they would understand afterwards. Here are some more similarities:

  • Jesus lays aside His robe (Jn.13:4);
    • Jesus’ robe is taken away from Him (Jn.19:27).
  • Jesus pours water to wash their feet (Jn.13:5);
    • Jesus’ side is pierced and out comes water and blood (Jn.19:34).
  • Jesus washes the feet of the apostles (Jn.13:5);
    • Jesus’ feet were nailed to the cross (Lk.24:39).
  • Jesus is denied by Peter to allow Him to wash his feet (Jn.13:8).
    • Jesus is denied by Peter that he know Him (Lk.22:54-62).

As a chronological contrast, the washing happens before the betrayal while the crucifixion happens afterwards. In explaining the washing, Jesus prophesies His betrayal and says, “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He” (Jn.13:19). The ability to prophesy is a divine action. The word “He” is not in the Greek and so serves as another “I AM” statement. The crucifixion and resurrection is the ultimate I AM act. Our God serves in His life, in our lives, and in His death.

Praying through the Bible #165 – Job 30:20-31 – A Prayer of Felt Betrayal

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

Silence. A silent stare. A turned back. Aggression. Resignation. Contempt. Confusion. Disappointment. Restlessness.  Disease. Ignored. Cast out. Which of these hurts the most? The answer might depend upon the definition and direction of hurt.

Job is praying. Again. “Again” is painful knowing that if he had been answered the first, second, third, fourth, or fifth time, Job could accept, if not be satisfied. Why doesn’t God just say something!? Jesus prayed thrice, accepting the silence as no. Paul prayed three times, receiving a verbal answer, “my grace is sufficient for you;” so he too ceased praying. Job keeps praying, and keeps getting no answer. Notice the progression:

  • Silence – “I cry out to You for help, but You do not answer me” (Job 30.20a).
  • A Silent Stare – “when I stand up, You merely look at me” (30.20b).
  • A turned back – “You have turned against me with cruelty” (30.21a).
  • Aggression – “You harass me with Your strong hand. You lift me up on the wind and make me ride it; You scatter me in the storm” (21b-22).
  • Resignation – “Yes, I know that You will lead me to death — the place appointed for all who live” (30.23).
  • Contempt – “Yet no one would stretch out his hand against a ruined man when he cries out to him for help because of his distress” (30.24).
  • Confusion – “Have I not wept for those who have fallen on hard times? Has my soul not grieved for the needy?” (30.25).
  • Disappointment – “But when I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, darkness came” (30.26).
  • Restlessness – “I am churning within and cannot rest; days of suffering confront me” (30.27).
  • Disease – “I walk about blackened, but not by the sun;” “My skin blackens and flakes off, and my bones burn with fever” (30.28,30).
  • Ignored – “I stood in the assembly and cried out for help” (30.28).
  • Cast out – “I have become a brother to jackals and a companion of ostriches” (30.29).
  • Depression – “My lyre is used for mourning and my flute for the sound of weeping” (30.30).

Which hurts the most is, none of the above. The deepest hurt is perceiving all these are caused by someone loved and trusted for no cause. Betrayal might be the most painful experience a human can endure. Sadly, God suffers it daily. Don’t betray God falsely thinking He has betrayed you.

Prayer Challenge: As with Job, there is much we don’t understand. So pray that understanding will not be your consolation; but rather God will be glorified.

Peter, Paul, and not Mary #1 – Not Paying Back Evil for Evil

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Paul says, “Do not repay anyone for evil” (Rom.12:17). Peter says, “not paying back evil for evil” (1 Peter 3:9). Peter goes on to say, “or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing.” When people call us names, insult, or criticize; throw them off by saying something nice about them. Not only will they look bad before others by your good words heaping fiery coals on their heads (Rom.12:20); more importantly by your actions you might lead them to salvation. Remember, before you accepted Jesus’ call, while you were still sinning with your mouth against God, Jesus died for you and your sins to bring you a blessing.

Praying through the Bible #164 – Job 21 – A Prayer from the Wicked

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

“Why do bad things happen to good people;” is the inverse of “Why do good things happen to bad people?” Most of the rich are unbelievers. Many shadowed by “bad luck” are believers. How do we reconcile this reality with a good God?

Something strange happens in Job’s second response to Zophar. He repeats the prayer of the wicked as being true to reality and contrary to the theology of his friends: (14) Yet they say to God: “Leave us alone! We don’t want to know Your ways. (15) Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him, and what will we gain by pleading with Him?” (Job 21.14-15).

This prayer is reminiscent of Pharaoh responding to Moses: “Who is Yahweh that I should obey Him” (Ex.5.2)? God sent 10 plagues on Pharaoh; but truth is, often the righteous are the plagued in this life. The emphasis for us in the wicked man’s prayer is the last part: “what will we gain by pleading with Him?” Right before this prayer Job recounted the wicked man’s good life (21.7-13). Job’s life was the opposite. This presents a dilemma. Was Job wicked or righteous before when blessed? What did Job’s righteousness gain him? No longer is he powerful and influential; he has lost his children, lives in fear, lost his animals, and feels no joy. The problem for Job, his three friends, and all the rest, is this two-sided reality is dueling against what they believe. The good suffer; the evil prosper. Job’s friends have continually allowed platitudes of “reality” to form their theology:

Job 20.5 the joy of the wicked has been brief and the happiness of the godless has lasted only a moment?

By their theology, do you think Job’s friends were wealthy? But their view of righteousness and reality contradicts what is seen in others. Where did their warped views come from? Here’s another surprise, the Bible. Both in the old and new covenants God promises we shall reap what we sow (Hos. 8.7; Gal.6.7). So what do we do when our reality rebukes our understanding of scripture? Some change the scriptures; too often, and too easily. Their feelings rewrite what is written. Such makes our experience the arbiter of truth instead of God. Instead, what we must do is alter our view of reality until it is in sync with God’s. The full answer is not found in Job. Reality is, reality is more than just this world. To see more clearly, God revealed three realities that balance the scales in this life, between the blessings of the wicked and the suffering of the righteous. They are the crucifixion, resurrection, and eternal judgment. True reality, full reality, is not found in what is seen and temporary; but in who is incarnated. Jesus is our reality.

Prayer Challenge: Pray not to be blinded by the world’s thinking that this world is the beginning and end. Jesus suffered and died, so that we might live eternally.

Praying through the Bible #163 – Job 16-17 – A Prayer About His Children Dying

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

Was Satan right about Job? Satan’s challenge is this: Would Job be more adversely affected by the ravaging loss of his health (Job 1.22), than the loss of his children (1.11)? Hearing Job talk, it isn’t until the second round of speeches that this godly man even mentions his children: “Surely He has now exhausted me” and then prays, “You have devastated my entire family” (16.11). Was Satan right all along? Can a father – can I – care more about himself than his family?

Knowing history, and seeing it lived out with Deadbeat Dads and the selfishness of abortion, no doubt such is possible. Knowing Job, no doubt Satan was wrong. What might appear true when people are suffering is not always the whole truth. The culprit here in my opinion is not selfishness. The culprit is time coupled with the pain of the present versus the pain of the past. Plus, to Job, his children are better off than he is. Job wishes God to would to him as he thinks God has done to his children. Kill him. Living is the enemy, death is his friend. Once more Job reveals suffering’s emotional and physical effects: “My eyes have grown dim from grief, and my whole body has become but a shadow” (17.7).

“Time heals all wounds,” but before healing can happen time worsens all pains. The initial shock numbs us. Being numb all we can hold onto is our faith. The pain does not allow us to think. Time allows reflection. It is not insignificant that Job’s friends sat in silence for seven days with Job. They too were numb. Then they spoke, harshly; because they had time to contemplate, to let the pain set in. Then Job responds equally harsh, because he too had time to wonder. Experience teaches that some pains are too deep to talk about until the pain can’t be kept hidden any longer. Was this true for Job?

Then there is the reality that we might not want to admit which is present ongoing pain can preoccupy our minds and emotions so that we speak more of it than a deeper past pain. That doesn’t prove anything about past loss. While there is nothing worse than losing a child, the event itself is a puncture in time, even if the effects are ongoing.

In the past I have wondered if Satan was right about Job. First, we should not think his emotional suffering is only from his physical ailments. It is not our place to judge. Second, continual present suffering can overwhelm past pain. Third, there is truth to “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” People can only take so much before breaking; even if the last hurt is less than the first. Fourth, if I had shared my judgment with Job, I would have been as useless and offensive as his friends: “(2) …You are all miserable comforters. (3) Is there no end to your empty words? What provokes you that you continue testifying?” (16.2-3).

Prayer Challenge: Pray not to judge how others handle their pain. Judging is too easy, and too easily wrong.

Praying through the Bible #162 – Job 13-15 – A Prayer About Resurrection

Friday, February 6th, 2015

My relative was schizophrenic. Those who suffer, endure mentally twisted hallucinations and delusions forming false realities. Making this practical, pain can make us experience what I’ll call “sane schizophrenia,” producing unearthly realities. Pain can produce an irrationality of hope superseding human experience. This pained induced thinking then enables us to expand beyond man’s reality, to think like God; helping our mind grasp the unimaginable in the “sane” world. Pain can create hope.

“Schizophrenia” literally means “split mind.” And while a split personality is a misnomer, pain can also produce a seemingly split mind in anyone, including believers. The result is differing voices speak in our heads trying to drown out the others. We can find ourselves thinking blasphemous thoughts one moment while praising God the next. Pain can construct confusion.

Job prays, “Only grant these two things to me, God, so that I will not have to hide from Your presence” (13.20). The two things are: 1) Remove Your hand from me; 2) Do not let Your terror frighten me (13.21). Job wants to confront God in a way more personal and effective than prayer. Let’s focus on Job’s hope, lack of hope, and confused hope.

Here is the reality of man: “(1) Man born of woman is short of days and full of trouble. (2) He blossoms like a flower, then withers; he flees like a shadow and does not last” (14.1-2). Here is the reality of nature: “(7) There is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its shoots will not die. (8) If its roots grow old in the ground and its stump starts to die in the soil, (9) the smell of water makes it thrive and produce twigs like a sapling” (14.7-9). Here is the confusion from pain: “(10) But a man dies and fades away; he breathes his last — where is he? (11) As water disappears from the sea and a river becomes parched and dry, (12) so man lies down never to rise again. They will not wake up until the heavens are no more; they will not stir from their sleep” (14.10-12). Here is the irrationality of hope: “When a man dies, will he come back to life? If so, I would wait all the days of my struggle until my relief comes” (14.14). Through struggle, without any empirical experience, pain contemplates a resurrection. Through creation, Job hopes that if trees have hope after death, can man?

Then another voice from the divergent mind of Job speaks: “as water wears away stones and torrents wash away the soil from the land, so You destroy a man’s hope” (4.19). Does the same God who gives hope through nature take hope away in death? Does the God who creates resurrection within nature plan to include us? This is the “sane schizophrenia” we all live and die with hoping to live again.

Prayer Challenge: Scripture challenges us to be of one mind with one another; Job shows us the struggle of being of one mind with ourselves. Pray for clarity amidst pain looking for resurrection.

Praying through the Bible #161 – Job 9-10 – A Prayer Putting God on Trial

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Sitting in a court room, the accused is dressed to look respectable; looking respectable looks innocent. The defendant tries to look calm. Each is faking serenity while someone else is deciding their future. Sitting there, they appear to be in total control, while the reality is control is totally out of the grasp. Job feels on trial. Job refuses to fake anything (Job 9.27-28). While admitting the Judges’ all-everything powers, he doubts the Judge’s goodness. Job wants to put the Judge on trial (9.1).

A judge not filled with goodness is not fit to judge. Job says of God, “He destroys both the blameless and the wicked. When disaster brings sudden death, He mocks the despair of the innocent. The earth is handed over to the wicked; He blindfolds its judges. If it isn’t He, then who is it?” (9.22-24). Unable to explain, unwilling to accept, knowing he himself is innocent, there is no one left to blame but God. Messianic in his thoughts, Job wishes for an intermediate; wishing for someone who could “lay his hand on both of us” (9.33). His reality is “I am on my own” (9.35).

“I am disgusted with my life” (10.1). This isn’t said reflecting back on past mistakes, missed opportunities, or regrets. This is said about the here and now, viewing life only from the viewpoint of his disease. For those who suffer, whether temporary or life-long afflictions; please do not fall into the trap of Job. He sees only his pain because he has become nothing more than his disease. His life is meaningless so he blames God.

Unlike many, Job doesn’t allow evil in this world to make him hide behind the arrogance of atheism. Job still acknowledges God; but He has become a stranger that Job doesn’t understand. The problem becomes when we decide we know more than God: “Is it good for You to oppress, to reject the work of Your hands, and favor the plans of the wicked?…You look for my wrongdoing and search for my sins, even though You know that I am not wicked and that there is no one who can deliver from Your hand” (10.3,6).

Even in the midst of his agony, even in his confusion about God’s goodness, Job is still in awe of God’s past power and love: “You clothed me with skin and flesh, and wove me together with bones and tendons. You gave me life and faithful love, and Your care has guarded my life” (10.11-12).

What Job’s accusations and praise have in common is that both are based only upon the obvious; what can be seen. What can’t be seen is the real battle over mankind between the forces of good and evil. So Job puts God on trial: “You produce new witnesses against me and multiply Your anger toward me. Hardships assault me, wave after wave” (10.17). As before Job despairs of life. If he had never been born, he would have never been put on trial.

Prayer Challenge: Look beyond the obvious; God is not to be judged by us.

Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:6 – Notice the Difference?

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

I am a sinner; I am not a sinner. I am unworthy; I am worthy. My works are unrighteous; my works are righteous. What’s the difference? Notice the Messianic prophecy, “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah” (Micah 5:2). Now notice the Messianic fulfillment, “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah” (Mt.2:6). The difference is whether Jesus has come in my life.

1 Peter and Acts – Is “Obedience to the Truth” (1 Peter 1:22) Baptism?

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Some believe “obedience to the truth” (1 Peter 1:22) refers to baptism. Although the word “baptism” is not mentioned in 1:22, why might such be true? One reason is the connections between this passage and 1 Peter 3. A second reason is it is also believed most of 1 Peter is a baptismal sermon. And third is the many connections between 1 Peter 1 and Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2:

  • Peter is the author of both the speech and the book (1:1; Acts 2:14).
  • Peter is speaking to those of the Diaspora in both (1:2; Acts 2:5,9-11).
  • The foreknowledge of God is prioritized in both (1:2; Acts 2:23).
  • Hope is important (1:3,13,21; Acts 2:26).
  • We are born again (anagennaō) and Jesus’ resurrection is a birth (odin) (1:3,23;  Acts 2:24).
  • The resurrection of Jesus is prominent (1:3,21; Acts 2:24,31,32).
  • Inheritance imperishable, uncorrupted, seed imperishable;  and His flesh did not decay (1:4,23; Acts 2:31)
  • Salvation is a topic in both (1:5; Acts 2:21, 40,47).
  • Prophecies and prophets are mentioned speaking of these times (1:10; Acts 2:16).
  • The Holy Spirit is prominent in the texts (1:2,11,12; Acts 2:4,17,18,38).
  • The Holy Spirit is mentioned as being sent from Heaven (1:12; Acts 2:33).
  • We are “children of obedience” who “obey the truth” and they “accepted his message” (1:14,22; Acts 2:41).
  • We are called to be holy, our Father is holy, and Jesus is “the holy One” (1:15-16; Acts 2:27).
  • Jesus death is the source of salvation (1:19,21; Acts 2:23,36).
  • Epikaleō/call/address(1:20; Acts 2:21).
  • Jesus was chosen before the foundation of the world (1:20; Acts 2:23).
  • These are the end times (1:20; Acts 2:17).
  • The gospel was preached (1:25; Peter’s sermon called “the first gospel sermon”).
  • Nature is used as an illustration (1:24; Acts 2:19-20).

Now having made those connections, let’s make the ones specifically in 1:22:

  • “Obedience to the truth” (1:22); “What must we do?” “Repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:37-38)
  • “Having purified yourselves” (1:22); “for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38,40 – we can also compare “this wicked generation” to the wicked generation of Noah in 1 Peter 3).
  • “For sincere love of the brothers, love one another earnestly from a pure heart (1:22); “Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need” (Acts 2:44-45).

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