Sunday, March 22, 2015

Not my true home

1 Peter 2:11-25

The first thing we saw when we walked in was the fireplace flanked on each side with beautiful wooden bookcases. It was love at first sight and we bought it. Almost 30 years later this remains my favorite place in our house. Al and I love to sit in front of the fireplace in cozy Queen Ann chairs, a cup of tea on the nearby table and a good book in our laps.

As much as we love our house and have tried to make it comfortable for us and welcoming to family and friends, Peter reminds us, this is not our true home.

I love how The Message says it: Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Even better is the ERV: Dear friends, you are like visitors and strangers in this world. So I beg you to keep your lives free from the evil things you want to do, those desires that fight against your true selves.

When we forget that this is not our home, we feel angry when things aren’t fair. When government officials overtax us or the local municipality over-regulates us we grow indignant. By getting caught up in where we live, in trying to make it pleasant for our family, we get distracted from our primary goal as followers of Christ: His Kingdom come. We complain, blame, and sometime cheat, because after all, this is OUR home so we should be able to do as we please.

Peter tells us: For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials He has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you.

I think this is easier to do when we remember we are just passing through; it’s not our home anyway. We must respect authority for Christ’s sake, not for the person who is making the laws.

Recently we moved our office and my boss encouraged me to make my mark on the barren dusty desk that greeted me on my first day. So I placed my beloved family photos around and settled in. But don’t be deceived, Peter reminds me, it is not the man in the corner office who I am serving. I am serving Jesus. Like my home, I can get too involved in my work, becoming possessive about it, forcing my ways on others because “my way is better.” I can feel entitled to slander my boss or gossip about co-workers because, after all, this is my job, they are messing up my work and therefore they deserve it.

Even when the boss and co-workers act foolishly or our clients treat us badly, we do not have to act in kind. No matter what the other person does, our response is our responsibility. We can still submit to authority, be respectful and kind even when the other person does not deserve it. Like Jesus we can trust God to work things together for good.

It is not about the person in authority at all! It is all about me and Jesus. I serve, submit and do right for Jesus, because I trust Him. It has nothing to do with what others are doing.

Father, help me take the time to pause and pray before I react, gathering wisdom and strength from You. Allow me to see the other person’s perspective. Free me to serve because You are worthy, You can be trusted and You love me. And I will give You all the glory.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

the price of reconciliation

1 Peter 2:1-10

So then, stop doing anything to hurt others. Don’t lie anymore, and stop trying to fool people. Don’t be jealous or say bad things about others.

Sounds simple right? Don’t say bad things about other people. It would be easy -- if I just put duct-tape over my mouth.

Now they are together and they smile.
Later they will talk behind each other's backs.
I find women are drawn to disparage other people. It is natural for us. We bond by talking about relationships. We share our feelings. We empathize and encourage each other. We work things in our hearts and minds by talking. We need to be honest and share about our relationships. We’re just being honest. Right?

Wrong. It’s sin. It is bad to say bad things about others, even if it’s true.

We are called to be living stones, with Christ as a cornerstone. God desires to use us to build a spiritual house. If our words break down relationships with one another, how’s that going to work out?

We are called to be priests, leading others who are far from God towards reconciling with Him. How’s that going to work out when we cannot even reconcile with each other?

Why do we find ourselves having conflicts with our husbands and then talking about that with our girl friend? When our teens disappoint us, why do we call our sister? When the boss irritates us, why do we complain to a co-worker? Is it because we want to resolve the conflict? Hardly. It’s because we want sympathy. We want someone to comfort us and tell us the other person is wrong and we are right. Or is it only me?

Peter tells us “you were saved from that way of living. You were bought, but not with things that ruin like gold or silver. You were bought with the precious blood of Christ’s death.” (1 Peter 1:18-19) Our reconciliation with others is also bought at a price. We pay it with humility and sacrifice. Maybe we need to forgive. Maybe we must muster the courage to confront the person who has hurt us. Whatever the price we have to pay, Jesus paid a higher price.

What do we do when we find ourselves with a friend who is talking badly about others?
  • We can say something positive 
  • We can change the subject
  • We can walk away
  • If it is a sister in Christ, we can gently correct and redirect her to the person with whom she needs to reconcile.
To indulge in the conversation and offer only sympathy and reassure them they are right may derail reconciliation and ruin relationships.  Besides, let's face it, what we say about others says more about us than them.

Beloved, it is easy to see this now as I sit alone at my keyboard. Remind me again when I am hurt, disappointed, or frustrated. Remind me You have paid the price for me. Give me the strength to turn away from sins of the tongue. I can’t do it myself obviously! I need Your help. When I am in conflict please give me the courage to talk to the right person and the humility to be kind. I will give You all the glory.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

What do you think about Jesus?

Peter was a fisherman when he met Jesus. At first, Peter was merely curious about Jesus, but after He provided a miraculous catch of fish, Peter became a follower. Peter followed Jesus and watched Him heal the sick, lame and blind. He experienced Jesus feeding thousands with a lunch for one. He was there when Jesus cast out demons and walked on water. Peter watched as Jesus brought dead people back to life. Finally, he witnessed Jesus’ resurrection and return to heaven. 

But Peter also ate with Jesus and slept beside Him. He saw Jesus sweat, sigh, laugh, cry, and bleed. Peter felt the grasp of His hand, saw the smile of His face. Peter knew who Jesus was.

Scholars think Peter was a teen when he encountered Jesus. A natural leader, Peter became a prominent advocate for the church. Towards the end of his life, Peter wrote letters and told us who he learned Jesus is and therefore who we are as His followers. 

…It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him…(1 Peter 1:18-21)

God created us like Himself, with free will. His intent was to have a loving relationship with us. We were born free to choose to love God, or not. However, choosing not to love God leads us away from God and ultimately away from each other too. Knowing we would stray like a rebellious teen, God always had a plan. Jesus was God’s plan, from the very beginning, even before He created the world.

That is so amazing to me. It is difficult to wrap my mind around how an awesome and infinite God would love us that much. He knew the pain and the price He would have to pay to create me and then save me, yet He created me anyway. 

He created you anyway too.

It is easy to buy into the fuzzy image of Jesus we see in movies and photos. Jesus is portrayed as a mild-mannered Clark Kent, long hair and long robe with children on His lap. Yes, that is Jesus: loving, gentle, kind. But like Superman, the mild exterior is covered a great strength and purpose. Beyond the Babe in the manger is God who existed before time. Word and pictures fail to describe Him in all His grandeur. 

Who is Jesus? Peter, who walked with Him, will tell us more. It is important that we know.

Father, Your love is so amazing, so beyond what we can comprehend. Help me see You more clearly. Allow me to be astonished by You today!