1 Peter 2 Profile of a True Believer

Nathanael is spoken of only twice in the gospel of John. Yet in this brief sketch, we learn much about this disciple. He is from Cana of Galilee and he thinks those of Nazareth are not worthy of his time. Yet something peeked his interest when Philip tells him he has found the “one Moses wrote about in the law and the prophets also wrote about.”  He scoffed at hearing this man was from Nazareth “can anything good come out of Nazareth?” But, Philip was persistent; “come and see” or come check him out for yourself. Imagine Nathanael’s surprise when he met this one of whom Moses wrote. Imagine hearing Jesus say: “Look, a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit!

Jesus had peered into the soul of Nathanael. He saw, like the woman at the well, a longing for something that only the Messiah of whom Moses wrote could fill. He saw Nathanael, like Jacob wrestling and seeking a blessing. The trial he was experiencing would transform his character forever. He looked beneath the veneer to his heart and saw the hunger that only He could fill. Do you have that same hunger? Matthew wrote: Blessed is he who hungers and thirsts for righteousness and he will be satisfied (Matt 5:6)

In writing to the scattered believers Peter could have been thinking of Nathanael as an example of one who lived, walked and talked the true believer’s life. He had purified his soul by obeying the truth. He was an example of what Peter said for these believers to do: put aside all malice, which are intentional thoughts to seek injury of another. Put away all deceit; be pure in thought, word, and deed. Put away all hypocrisy. Don’t live behind a false mask but be true to others that they may see God’s work in you and give Him glory. Put away all envy; be content with who you are, where you are and what you have. Put away all slander. Let your yea be yea and your nay be nay.

In other words be as Nathanael. Let Jesus transform your character so you are a true believer in attitude and behavior.

1 Peter 1  “Great Joy!”

Only through Christ can you know great joy. It can be yours because as believers in Christ you have been rebirthed into a living hope through Christ’s resurrection. When you were rebirthed you placed a stake in the ground much like a cemetery marker which marked the death of a loved one. You buried your old life and stepped forth into your new life.  You once lived by the world’s standards but you put them to death.  You are now sanctified and justified by the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of the Living God.

In the Greek, the word joy [ag-al-lee-ah’-o] has the idea of intense spiritual joy that bubbles up to the surface. You now see life through an eternal lens. Unlike the world’s religions that place their hope and their eternal destiny in a balance scale of good and bad works, yours was determined when Jesus Christ paid your certificate of debt on the cross. Your eternal destiny has been determined by faith alone, by grace alone. You can know that your Redeemer lives. He is not in a tomb where the flesh decays and the bones turn to dust. Your Redeemer revealed himself to the early apostles and more than 500 after his resurrection. You can know and trust that God keeps the feet of the godly ones and your steps are established by the Lord. Nothing comes your way but what has been filtered through the fingertips of the Almighty. You can have great joy because your reward is in heaven not here on the earth. The Almighty has already clothed you in robes of righteousness.  Therefore like Isaiah you can say “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; I will be overjoyed because of my God. For he clothes me in garments of deliverance; he puts on me a robe symbolizing vindication.” (Isa 61:10)

Do you have great joy this day?

1Peter—Planning Ahead…

As earthly people we lay up or store away our earthly goods for a rainy day or for the next generation. Proverbs teaches us that a benevolent person leaves an inheritance for their grandchildren for they are our crown. Using this analogy Peter reminds the believers who are temporarily residing abroad and are suffering that God the Father even before the foundation of the world planned for their future. It included an inheritance that has four qualities. Unlike an earthly inheritance that fluctuates with the market value of this earth, the heavenly inheritance is far more valuable for it is

  1. Imperishable…that is it will never deteriorate or lose value
  2. Undefiled…that is it is pure and without spot or wrinkle
  3. Unfading…it keeps its beauty forever
  4. And lastly, it is reserved in heaven awaiting our arrival there upon our death.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for choosing. Know this, Beloved, if you are a believer in Christ you have been chosen, and set apart by the Holy Spirit for our Savior Jesus Christ who was “buried, and raised on the third day according to the scriptures.”  Because you are His child He so loved that He gave and planned.

God planned for your future; have you planned for your heavenly future?

 

 

 

Flashback to a courtyard and our beloved disciple Peter. Do you ever wonder where he was at the end of the gospel of Mark–emotionally, spiritually, physically? Was he pondering what may lie ahead?

After the courtyard experience where he had denied Jesus three times just as prophesied and had left weeping bitterly, Peter returned to the only safe haven he knew in the city of Jerusalem.  John tells us that they were hidden behind closed doors for fear of the Jews. Perhaps they were wondering if they too would be crucified if others found them knowing that their very accents betrayed them. As they sat and mourned the loss of the one they had followed for three years their thoughts did not return to the words of Jesus: “when I am raised, I will meet you in Galilee” but rather their thoughts replayed and rehearsed the past few days and the questions of why, when, how and more. Peter of all would be wondering if ever he could forgive himself and could or would God forgive him? We too have times when we fall and wonder and at these times where we can turn.

We know that John tells us that after Jesus’ resurrection Peter was fully restored…

but Peter is not there yet.

Like many of us who have faced sin, Peter had to walk the road of misery, mourning, wondering and questioning. But, later he will write what truly happened in his personal letter to those who are suffering. He knows the path and he knows how to encourage. Listen to his words and be encouraged if you too have like Peter experienced a time of falling away:

“His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Today, if you are walking with Peter through the agony of dismay, discouragement, despondency for having fallen in some way; take heart, when you repent there is hope. Where there is hope there is joy! Where there is joy there is peace and God’s protection. It is then that Psalm 37 rings forth with words of comfort and peace:

Trust in the Lord, Delight yourself in the Lord, Commit your way to the Lord; Rest in the Lord. This is our journey back to God.

Judges 13 God’s Birth Announcement

God loves a laugh just like we do and sometimes he shows us just how slow we are to capture the truth of His message and how He uses others to give us a “wake-up call.”  Take baby announcements which often tickle our funny bones and this is just one of those stories. In Judges 13 we see how God uses His baby announcement to show a man how slow he is to grasp God’s wonderful message.

Follow the author of the book of Judges to a Danite named Manoah who lives in the town of Zorah. It is here we find Manoah in the house while the wife, which is only referred to as the “woman,” is out in the field working.  We wonder why? What is Manoah doing while his wife is in the field? The “woman,” we will call “Mrs.” Manoah, is abruptly interrupted by a “man of God.”  He tells her that she will have a child. Quickly, “Mrs” Manoah rushes in to tell the husband. His response: he prays for God to send him again so they would know how to raise this child. Great response! So far so good.  And so it happens that the “man of God” miraculously appears again and where do we find Mr. Manoah? In the house again! And where is “Mrs”. Manoah–out in the field!  The “man of God” waits patiently for the missus to get the mister, and then they have a discussion which in reality is word for word what God had already told her! This is our “rolling eyes” scenario. We wonder, is Manoah slow to get it or is he just like Zechariah of Luke 1 who needed more confirmation when he too heard that his barren wife would have a child?

After some time and an offering, the “man of God” leaves. It is then that all of a sudden Mr. Manoah has a “crisis of belief—”

“We will certainly die because we have seen a supernatural being.”

In light of all that has happened, “Mrs.” Manoah gathers up her skirts, looks him straight in the eye and essentially says:

“Look if the Lord wanted to kill us  don’t you think he would have done it then?”  That is sort of what we would say today is a “duh.” Our hats are off to “Mrs.” Manoah for understanding.

Can you relate to Manoah? I can. Perhaps we all need to be asking: Am I “really, really”paying attention to what God is saying OR am I like Manoah and  Zechariah and just want more confirmation?

 

Did you know that God has His warriors hiding around you and that perhaps you are one of them? Meet Gideon the valiant warrior of fleeces, lapping water and pitchers and torches fame hiding in a winepress to thresh his family’s wheat harvest because of fear.  Yet the angel of the Lord appeared to him and called him God’s valiant warrior. Somehow that description does not fit the description of a warrior does it? Warriors are supposed to stand tall, face the enemy and be victorious. So what gives here?

Gideon is just the kind of person God is looking for to tackle the most fearsome project so that the “one who boasts, boasts in the Lord” [1Cor 1] and He gets the glory—not man. Paul told the Corinthians: “God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong.”

Yet, our valiant warrior needed more confirmation, not once but twice. Like the Jews who demand supernatural signs or the Greeks who ask for wisdom, Gideon needed supernatural confirmation that God was calling him to defeat the Midianites. End of story, God patiently led Gideon to cast off his former view of himself and rise to the occasion whereby he and 300 men succeeded where the nation had failed.

Challenge for us: If God can part the Red Sea can He not anoint you for the task designed just for you in eternity past? Listen for His voice and be ready to say “Speak Lord for thy servant is listening.” [1Sam 3]

 

Joshua 24/Judges 1 “Birthdays and Legacies”

Happy Birthday in heaven! Today, on April Fools Day, would have been the birthday of a very special woman of God, my Mother. She is celebrating her 101st birthday sitting at the feet of Jesus and Joshua is celebrating this day with her along with many other saints. What a joyous celebration it must be! Did you ever wonder if there are birthday cakes in heaven? If so they must be a sight to behold!

Joshua was 110 when he passed from this earth and he was buried in his allotted territory in Timnath Serah in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. How fitting to see the details of his burial for such a faithful servant of God. It had been over 40 years since the Israelite children left Egypt. Only Joshua and Caleb from that generation would see the Promised Land and now Caleb alone is the only remaining Egyptian Slave left. Both left amazing legacies for the Israelites to recall.

Also in the same way when Mother died, she was the only one left of her generation. Amazingly there was no brother, brother/sister in laws, cousins, spouse, and not one of her close-knit friends. Like Mother, Caleb would be the last of the last. Caleb alone was left to conquer the land allotted to him and then he fades from the scene in Judges chapter 1.

Mother and Joshua were leaders in different centuries but they served faithfully seeking the Lord’s favor not their own. Caleb and Joshua were faithful servants and their lives speak volumes of following God with a whole heart. Joshua left this legacy–the Israelites worshiped the Lord throughout his life.

 Challenge: What will be our legacy when our time comes?

Are you Presumptuous or Prudent? The story in Joshua chapter 22 is a lesson in how to avert a disaster by
applying the principle of prudence rather than presumption.

The time has come; the Promised Land has been conquered. So, Joshua hosts a retirement ceremony for the 2 ½ tribes who had asked for land east of the Jordan and had faithfully served the other tribes to conquer the Promised Land. It was time to return home to their families left behind. Joshua offers his accolades and then a challenge.

Be careful to obey Moses’ commands, love God and serve Him with all your heart.

Their “gold watch” was the bounty earned from conquering the enemies. As they begin to near home and arrived at Geliloth, they stop to erect an impressive altar. BUT, it did not take long for the other tribes to get wind of this and the entire Israelite community jumped to the conclusion they were returning to idolatry! They gathered at Shiloh and were ready to go to war against those they had just sent on their way!

To their credit, the hot-heads did not rule but cooler heads wisely and prudently decided it was better to see what was really going on. They sent a delegation with Phinehas as the head to get to the bottom of this altar. As the delegation listened to the heart of these men they came to the conclusion that this was a basic misunderstanding; the altar was a memorial to the rest of the nation that they belonged to the federation lest they say “you don’t belong to us because you are on the other side of the Jordan.”

There is a lesson here for us. A war was averted because some prudent men sought to “get the facts” before setting out to war. Wise counsel is to pray and get the facts so we do not sin presumptuously lest we rip apart what cannot be mended.

 

Joshua 18 “Almost Persuaded

The seven tribes left without a land allotment were “almost persuaded” but lacked the gumption to fight for what God had already promised. They had become complacent, tired, and comfortable where they were. Wisely, Joshua challenged them ‘How long do you intend to put off occupying the land?’ The sign of complacency is accepting the status quo and that is where these men found themselves. They had fought alongside Joshua to subdue the land but had never taken ownership. They had become satisfied with a partial victory and that is where many of us find ourselves as well.

Jesus said “GO” and make disciples but we are satisfied to let the Discipleship team at church do it or the Pastor or the missionary on the field. We have lost our drive to step out of our comfort zone and as a result many are heading into a Christ-less eternity. The signs of a partial victory are there. We put our tithe in the offering plate but we hold on to our pocketbooks for other projects fearing what may lay ahead for ourselves. We forget that God has gone before us and has showered his blessings upon us before. If God has been faithful, why are we not? The most glaring sign is that we love the world and the things in this world. Christ spoke to the church at Ephesus reminding them that they had ‘lost their first love.’

Could this be where we are?

How long will we stand on the sidelines?

There is a lost world waiting to hear the message of the gospel.

 

What do rakes and shovels have to do with the kingdom of God or towels and basins? Jesus served the disciples by washing their feet. Walking by the seashore he saw the farmers working in their fields with rakes and shovels.  All of these are the tools of servanthood. What might they say if they could talk? Do they ever have an identity crisis? Does the rake say instead of being a rake I want to be a shovel? Does the towel say I don’t want to do that job today? This is ludicrous we say, yet the Corinthians were doing just that and in doing so they were dividing the church.  Paul wanted them to see that whether a rake or a shovel or a towel or a basin—each is important. We are Christ’s body and each of us is a member of it. God has placed all precious and different gifts in his church that Christ would be seen.

How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as a rake or a shovel in the Garden of God? Or are you a towel to minister to the needs of others or carry the water in the basin to be used in some act of service? No matter who we are we have been delivered from the domain of Satan’s kingdom and transferred to the kingdom of the King of Kings so that we may minister to others.