“Pearls of Wisdom”

ImageIn studying scripture and doing homiletics one is encouraged to be succinct. Homiletics is a tool to help you analyze a passage in scripture. It incorporates a succinct outline, succinct divisions and succinct biblical truths. One of the most challenging are chapters like Proverbs 10 because of its many pithy sayings. These provoke us to think about how to practically apply what each says in our daily lives. Look at this chapter as God’s oyster filled with His pearls of wisdom. Just as the diver seeks to find the best pearl in the oyster so we must dig in His Word to find His pearl for each day.

One question that arises is why did the Holy Spirit not arrange this chapter or any of the following chapters so that we could study one topic in full? But, perhaps the answer is found here: “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.” [Is 28:10] Thus we learn best when we take in a bit, meditate upon it and then find that same tidbit further on which brings that same truth to light but given differently. For example:

Prov 10:1 says a wise child makes a father rejoice and Prov 23:15 says if your heart is wise then your heart will be glad. Same principle but written in a different way.

As you read Prov 10, look for the pearls of wisdom that the Holy Spirit will use to instruct you so that you might grow up and in turn instruct others. Let these words sink into your heart with the goal of applying 2Tim 3:16: all scripture is profitable for gaining wisdom in teaching (doctrine–biblical principles), reproof (rebuke), correction (challenging us to walk uprightly) and training in righteousness (that is the way of God) so that we may be capable and equipped for every good work.

 

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“God’s Recipe for Fudge”

ImageHave you ever read a verse of scripture, closed the Book and walked away and said, what did I just read or what does all of this mean to me practically? To illustrate, think of making fudge. You cook it and wait for it to “fudge” but it just remains gooey and seems to be more liquid than fudge. But then all of a sudden it turns into that delicious fudge and you walk away thinking, that is how fudge should be. I see now the patience in waiting for it to ‘fudge.’ That is how reading scripture seems at times. You read it, ponder and meditate upon it; but if you let it sit awhile it turns into “fudge” that you can eat and devour with abandon.

Psalm 39/40 are like that fudge in many ways. Where does one start? What is the lesson we are to glean? More importantly, what is the practical application that one can put into usage right now?

Here’s some ingredients for our ‘fudge’ from Psalm 39/40.

  • a cup of understanding the mortality and brevity of life
  • a cup of seeing life from an eternal perspective
  • a measure of total dependency upon God
  • an overabundance of God’s mercy

Mix together and then you have your fudge: “a reason to sing a new song, praising our God; courage to tell about His justice, His reliability and deliverance before the assembly”

 Is this your recipe for successful Christian living or are you like the psalmist who has to admit that one ingredient causes your ‘fudge’ to not ‘fudge’ “My sins overtake me …my strength fails me.” Just as a wrong ingredient may cause a recipe to fail, so sin causes us to fail to have that new song and the new message of His redemptive work. Peter saw his sin and his strength failed at a critical moment, but when he was restored he had a new song, and courage before the religious leaders.

So how’s your fudge coming along? Have you all the right ingredients? Take time today to ponder these thoughts.

 

 

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“Graduation Day”

ImageThere is a saying we often hear: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” This saying is relevant to the words of Peter because everything but holiness and godliness will be extinguished in the fire of cleansing that God will bring upon this earth. If our focus is on earthly treasures and earthly promotions it will be lost but if our focus is on holiness and godliness then it will stand in eternity.

Do you have a loved one that will graduate soon? As they walk across that stage and we are reunited with them we will bestow upon them our love for their efforts and their accomplished goal. But there is a greater graduation coming when we will graduate from this earthly body to a heavenly body. It is then stand before the Lord to receive not only his praise but also to give an account of what we have accomplished with the talents he had bestowed upon us as we read in chapter 1. He has bestowed upon us everything necessary for life and godliness. At the end we take only those gifts of godliness (ch 1) and holiness (ch 3) to eternity. Until then may we ponder the words written by Don Wrytzen about what we should be thinking and pondering about as we are busy about the Master’s business:

“But just think of stepping on shore-And finding it Heaven!
Of touching a hand-And finding it God’s!
Of breathing new air-And finding it celestial!
Of waking up in glory-And finding it home!”

Until our graduation, may we follow Peter’s advice: “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ so that we may give honor both now and on that eternal day” to the one who paid the price of our salvation. So Beloved, what are you and I busy doing that we will send on ahead to heaven? Are you focusing on gathering that which is temporal or gathering that which is eternal?

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The “ouchies”…

ImageHave you ever noticed how little children when hurt always call their hurt an “ouchy.” In this second letter Peter uses this time to share an “ouchy” so that we may be on target and discerning.

Peter began his follow up letter to the ones he has come to love as only an apostle can with these thoughts: Your faith is precious! God has divinely bestowed precious promises upon his beloved children of whom we are. But, God also expects us to make every effort to add to our faith which includes exercising it just an athlete would do. If we fail to do that it is as if we are walking around with blinders on and acting as if we are blind; meaning spiritually blind. We fail to heed what 2Tim 3:16 says: “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”

Now our precious Apostle Peter stops as if in mid-sentence and with hasty warnings relays to us what may lay ahead if we fail to be discerning as Heb 5:14 tells us: But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice to discern both good and evil. Peter is saying watch for the warning signs just our beloved Paul told the Ephesian elders: I know that after I am gone fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. [Act 20:29]. As we read this chapter we can see that Peter’s heart is rushing full force ahead and he warns us of these wolves, these false teachers and if he were to ignore that warning it would be as if he were heartless and without love for the flock. Dr. Piper says it this way: “There are no commands, no admonitions, no imperatives in chapter 2; just pure, terrifying description of what will happen to those who fall prey to the false teachers in the church… 2 Peter 2 is aimed at keeping me from being a heartless pastor. It aims to keep me from playing games in this pulpit. It aims to keep my sermons from dissolving into pep-talks about the power of positive thinking. It aims to make me earnest about my calling and angry about false teaching and grieved over the destruction of the ungodly.”

Beloved, today remove your blinders, dig into the Word and allow the Holy Spirit to speak and teach you just as Jesus promised. “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you. “[Joh 14:26]. To fail to warn, admonish and call you to do this would be as if one who knew the cure for a disease and refused to share it. This is our “OUCH” chapter. May we read it and pray for our pastors, our Sunday School teachers; those in ministry and especially ourselves as well for we too disciple others.

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Our Want-to’s and Prayer

ImagePeter continues his dialog about suffering to the persecuted believers. His focus herein reflects on the inner man because that is where our attitudes are shaped by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The failure of Peter to stay awake in a crucial moment in time led the Master to ask: “Couldn’t you stay awake with me for one hour? Stay awake and pray.” The Master asks us as well for He well knows our bent; our “want to” often gets distracted and gets lost in our worldly attitudes.

The world would have us define attitude by experience but the scripture defines it as that which is a product of the power of the Holy Spirit. When we allow Him to take control he will change us from the inside out and bestow upon us the attitude of sober mindedness resulting in the behavior of self-control. This is all for the distinguished purpose of prayer. “Prayer is the most noble and necessary ministry that God entrusts to His children, but it is also the most neglected ministry” [Dr. Constable]

If Peter could come and sit with us he would tell us that because we are in the end times we must be diligent, watchful, and serious about this business of prayer. Souls are being tossed and devoured by the enemy Satan. Rather start, end and make it a daily moment by moment practice: “Lord, in the morning you will hear me; in the morning I will present my case to you.”[Ps 5] Anna “worshiped with fasting and prayer night and day.” Paul: Pray without ceasing. [Th 5:17],

Beloved we must be armed and prepared to fight against this deadly d of distraction which seeks to disarm the believer and the posture of prayer and the attitude of loving service to others. No matter what time of day, what activity we are doing it should be bathed in prayer, love, and offering hospitality and service to others which the author of Hebrews also noted: Do not neglect hospitality, because through it some have entertained angels without knowing it. [Heb 13:2].

Have you spent time in prayer today? Are you being changed from the inside out? How can we pray for you?

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Witnessing 101….

ImageWe have been walking with Peter and learning from him on what it means to be called, chosen, elected. Along with this status trials come into our life that we may proclaim the power of the name of Jesus to unbelievers. Now for the piece’ de resistance: Peter says learn from me on how to interact with unbelievers. “When I followed Jesus into the courtyard my wayward tongue and my lack of defense caused me to sin as I denied the Lord himself.” Peter gives three commands so that we do not have to follow in his sinful footsteps or do another lap around the wilderness. If there is one thing Peter learned it was this: never look back except to use your failures as wisdom training to those who are carrying the torch now. It is as if Peter is looking us in the eye and saying this is what I wish I had done and what I want you to do:

  1. Set apart/sanctify the Lord in your hearts. Allow Jesus to live and rule in your heart domain. I was boastful, proud and slept rather than being in a mode of prayer. Thus, when temptation came I flunked the test.
  2. Be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. I am telling you to be prepared when you are “asked.” There are times to evangelize but I am focusing in on you who are being persecuted. I learned after standing before the religious council that those who will be your persecutors want to ask questions. They hope to dethrone Jesus in our hearts. But, if you are prepared their power diminishes and God gets the glory.
  3. Be courteous and respectful. When you are persecuted always remember that if they should ever come to believe you may stand next to them in eternity so treat them with dignity as Christ did. Keep a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you. Their questions may one day lead to their eternal decision for Christ.

In the book of Acts we see the fruit of his lesson. He addressed his listeners with respect, gave his defense using scripture and trusted his defense to the Lord whom he had promised that he would love to the death.

Beloved, where are you in your walk of faith? Today if unbelievers should ask why you live, behave and respond as you do what would be your answer?

 

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Forever is a Huge Word…It Means Forever and Ever and Ever…

ImagePeter has spent an entire chapter grabbing our attention as to who we are in Christ. We who have chosen Christ are now the chosen of Him. He who was called to be our sacrifice now calls us to feed, shepherd, and tend His flock. He who was elected to stand in our place now places upon us the mark of election that we may know without a shadow of doubt that we are His forever and ever and ever. We are sealed and engraved, impressed deeply on the nail pierced palms.

Therefore, as living stones and as His elected ones we have the mighty position as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own for the task set before us: to go and proclaim the virtues of the one who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. We are now aligned perfectly with our Cornerstone. And it all began because of His great mercy poured out upon us.

To be adequately prepared for our task Peter says that this is an honor only bestowed upon those who have believe in the Cornerstone. The mandate is clear: be holy as He is holy. Our first duty is to be fed from the Living Water and the Bread of Life so that we may grow and offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Do you have an appetite for the Bread of Life? Do you seek to be refreshed with the Living Water? Today prayerfully ask God to give you a hunger and a thirst for His Word that is pure, refreshing and life giving and only offered to those who are the chosen, called, and elected living stones.

 

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“Chosen ..Elected…Called”

ImageThe one who has been fully restored now passes on the torch to us with words of wisdom. As Christ told him “when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old…” Peter is now in advanced age as he writes and seeks to pass on to us the vital words of wisdom he learned on that seashore experience that we too might carry the torch to the world.

Jesus had three tasks for Peter and they are the same three tasks for us as well: Feed “MY” Sheep, Shepherd “MY” Sheep, Tend “MY” flock. This task encompasses and challenges our “Do you love ME?” question. To fulfill these words, Peter reminds us that we are anointed, “chosen, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father by being set apart by the Spirit for obedience and for sprinkling with Jesus Christ’s blood.” It has come with a price and that price is the blood of Christ that was shed on the cross. Just as Jesus faced the trial we too will face trials but each one will “show the proven character of our faith, which is much more valuable than gold – gold that is tested by fire…”

Even though we do not, like Peter, see the risen Christ face to face, yet we believe and because of that we love him. We love him for he bore our sins on that cross and paid our ransom fee for entrance into the Most Holy Place and thus we rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy. This is the Christian walk of faith which leads to our attaining the goal of our faith – the salvation of our souls.

One last piece of wisdom from Peter: “like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all of your conduct,”

Beloved, you are special this day because of the price Christ paid for your salvation. You were “chosen before the foundation of the world, that you would be holy and blameless before Him” [Eph 1:4]. He has inscribed your name upon His nail pierced palms so that you might carry the torch of His love to His flock. Do you love ME rings forth in our ears. Will you as the chosen, elected, called, step up the task that He has prepared for you?

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John 21 “Full Restoration…”

ImageHave you ever kept yourself busy so you don’t have to think? You find busy activities to occupy your mind so that your wayward actions do not creep in and occupy your thoughts. This is the tool of the enemy so that you are hindered from service but the Master comes to us that we may learn that although we may err, the truth is clear and undeniable: Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. [Rom 8:34]

We resonate with Peter because like him we too are impulsive, overreacting, deniers of Christ, bitterly repentant yet not fully restored. Does this describe you? The evil one, Satan, would have you rehearse, repent, rehearse, repent on and on but the Master comes in our busyness that we may be fully once and for all know that not only are our sins forgiven but know the truth of Psa 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. That is what the Master has come to do in John 21 and through the eyes of John we not only experience this for the sake of Peter but for the sake of us in the 21st century.

Jesus had told Peter, “”Simon, Simon, behold, Satanhas demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” And now Jesus will help Peter see the fulfillment of those words and as we begin the letters he wrote later we too will be strengthened and learn. But, first Jesus will test our love quotient:

“Do you love me more than these?” Jesus asked about agape love (all giving, unselfish love) to which Peter replied, I love you (using phileo—friend love). If you say yes, my task for you is to tend my lambs; the wee ones who need nurturing. Be willing to serve the newly saved, the babies of the faith.

A second time Jesus asked Peter: “Do you love Me?” and when Peter affirms, Jesus says: “Shepherd my sheep.” Be the shepherd that I was, tenderly teaching, loving, guiding, warning, and holding them to your side, be willing to die for them.

A third time Jesus asked: “Do you love Me?” As Peter heard this same question his soul was grieved but Jesus will not let Peter remain there for Jesus seeks total restoration and a renewed focus. Affirming his love, Jesus tenderly says “Tend my sheep.” Sheep are those who tend to wander and Peter could relate. Sheep need feeding, watering, watching, protecting. That is what it means to tend these who seek to find the greener grass. Hold them close Peter. Use your crook to draw them back.

Jesus was challenging Peter and he is challenging you and me: Do we love Jesus more than life itself? If our answer is yes as Simon Peter’s was; He has a task for us: “God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. “ [2Co 5:18] Go forth Beloved, and tend the lambs, shepherd the sheep, tend the sheep. It is a full time occupation—for the fully and completely restored. How great is your love?

Photo: Courtesy of SpiritFM

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My Hope When I Fall…..

ImageMark ended his gospel message with hope but there was one disciple who still was lingering and wondering; Peter. Where is he emotionally, spiritually, physically at this time as he considers the possibilities of what may lie ahead? He recoiled at the memory of his courtyard experience where he had denied Jesus three times just as prophesied and had left weeping bitterly. From that point he returned to the only safe haven he knew; with his beloved friends, the disciples who had followed Jesus. 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. It is then that we have this promise from Psalm 37:

24 When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

Did Peter recall these words? We know that John tells us that after Jesus’ resurrection Peter was fully restored…but we are not there yet. Peter yet has 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 the rest of 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.

 

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