Wednesday, April 25, 2012

1 Peter 1-2

1 Peter 1:1-12 – Living Hope

Peter wrote this letter to Christians throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia to encourage them, because they were being persecuted for their faith.  Peter’s name was Simon, but Jesus changed it to Peter in John 1:42.  The name Peter means rock or stone.

We have every intention to do what is right.  Then sometimes life just takes over and we say “Oh, whatever”.  Have you ever felt that way?  Peter knew what it was like to mess up and he failed Jesus miserably.  He thought he had faith until he was tested.  He denied Jesus 3 times.  God knew his heart and completely changed him.  The Christians to whom he was writing were messing up and said, “Oh, whatever” and “Why should I be different?  We as Christians should be different, because we were chosen.  There is always a redemptive purpose in every mistake we make.  We don’t know what today will bring, but we know to whom we belong.

Peter describes Christians as God’s elect, strangers in the world and having been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God through the sanctifying work of the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by His blood. – (1 Peter 1-2).  Elect means chosen to be given new life.  Verse 2 shows us the Blessed Trinity – The Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Peter praised God and all He has done through our Lord Jesus Christ. – (1 Peter 1:3).  Lord means He has complete authority.  Jesus is His human name and means God who saves.  Christ means Messiah meaning the one whom God has anointed.  Peter reminds the suffering Christians why they should praise God.  “In his mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you.”(1 Peter 1:3-4).  Suffering should be expected.  It’s God’s way of purifying and validating our faith. 

The living hope of Jesus Christ can transform our response to life today.

Where is your focus when you are suffering?
How much do events of today impact your hope?
How is your faith in Jesus Christ resulted in glorious joy?
How confident are you that your salvation is secure?

1 Peter 1:13-2:3 – Living Holy

What is God’s purpose for His children?  He wants us to be holy, because He is holy.  He wants us to be self-controlled and to prepare our minds for action.  He wants us to set our hope fully on grace given to us.  He wants us to be obedient and do not conform to the evil desires we had when we lived in ignorance. – (1 Peter 1:13-16).  Holy means to be good, pure, set apart, spiritually whole or sound.  Holy means to belong to God alone.  The Holy Spirit makes us holy.  Does that sound like you?  This doesn’t mean Christians will never sin, but with God’s help we must try to avoid it in our lives.

Peter refers to Jesus as the Lamb without blemish or defect.  (1 Peter 1:19).  In the Old Testament God commanded a sin offering for the peoples’ sins.  They were to sacrifice a lamb without blemish or defect to atone for their sins, but this sacrifice was only temporary.  They had to keep doing it over and over because they kept sinning.  Jesus was perfect with no sin.  He was our sacrificial lamb who died on the cross once and for all for all the sins of mankind.   If we believe this and trust and obey Him, we are a new person in Christ.  We are born-again, which means we died in our sins and our old ways of life.  We are born-again in the Spirit through Jesus.  We are now living as a new person made possible through the saving blood of Jesus.

As believers live a life of holiness others will encounter God’s pure sincere love and goodness.

How are you prepared for a life of goodness?
How are you under indoctrination of the world?
How will you describe the way you love people?  Is it conditional or like Jesus?

1 Peter 2:4-25 – Living Example

Peter says we are like living stones.  What does that mean?  Jesus is the cornerstone or the foundation like that in a building.  The cornerstone is the first stone put into place.  He is also the capstone, which is the last stone put into place.  He is the beginning and the end.  God builds a house with people.  We are being built into a spiritual house (the church) to be a holy priesthood.  We are living stones and are to be like Jesus. – (1 Peter 2:4-6).

Jesus is the stone that makes man stumble or reject Him, because they disobey the message He brings.  People continue to stumble over Christ today by refusing to believe the Bible.  They think it is not relevant today.  They don’t believe what Jesus says.  They think He is not the only way to the Father.  They think He was a good man and teacher, but not the Christ.  They think they know the truth and refuse to find out for themselves who He really is.  He does not desire people to stumble.  We do that ourselves.  We are not chosen because we are perfect, or from a certain family, or have wealth.  We are chosen because He loves us.

As Christians we have privileges.  We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God and we have received God’s mercy.  We are aliens and strangers in the world, but we can still live without conforming to the world’s standards.  We can abstain from sinful desires, live good lives so others will see our good deeds and glorify God when He returns.  The Holy Spirit lives in us.  We are children of God and should live differently from the world. – (1 Peter 2:9-12).  People look at Christians and see how we behave.  Be careful people are watching you.

All authority comes from God. – (Romans 13:1-2).  We are to submit for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men.  We complain about the government and others in authority just like they did then.  We should remember God put them in their positions and we are to respect them and leave their judgments to God. – (1 Peter 2:13-25).  How are we able to do that?  We can do this by being conscious of God and knowing we are doing what He commands.  Then this is commendable before God. – (1 Peter 2:18-21). 

Jesus was our example of how to suffer unjustly.  When He was arrested and beaten, He did not retaliate or make threats or even complain.  He entrusted Himself to God who judges justly. – (1 Peter 2:23).  We are to persevere in unjust suffering as Christ did.

Believers are called to live as examples of the attitude, character and commitment of Christ by entrusting ourselves to God.

Do you complain about the government?
How do non-believers describe you?
What attitude or character of Christ do others see in you?
What do you need to do to entrust yourself to God?
Do you have faith and courage to do that in everything in your life?

As believers we are chosen for hope and empowered for holiness so others will have a glimpse of the Savior.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

James 3-5

James tells it like it really is and sometimes it’s hard for us to hear.  He gives more practical advice on how Christians should act - things like fighting, anger, quarreling, showing favoritism, controlling the tongue, boasting, patience and prayer.  Remember you may be the only Bible someone may read.

James 3 – Words of Wisdom

He warns that many of us should not be teachers.  Why?  Instructing in the Word of God is such a serious responsibility; therefore God will judge teachers more harshly than others.  Teachers are held to a higher standard.  Others look up to teachers as they are in positions of influence and authority.  They are molding minds.  God has given us an instrument called the tongue and is to be used in the service of teaching, but we should be cautious.  Without preparation teaching is like the blind leading the blind. – (James 3:1-2). 

We should realize that the smallest objects have great power.  He used the examples of the bit in the horse’s mouth which guides and controls the horse, a small rudder steers a large ship and a small spark starts a forest fire.  The tongue is small, but has great power and can do harmful things.  We should be careful what we say.  Words have a lot of power.  One little word of discouragement to someone can stay with a person the rest of their lives.  When people are called dumb, stupid, lazy, hopeless, etc, they never forget.  Experts say it takes two positive words to offset one negative.  We always remember the negative words, but most likely we will forget the positive words.  Before speaking ask yourself, “Does it give a blessing?” or “Is it going to better the other person?”  So James says to watch our tongues. – (James 3:3-10).  How can we do that?  Recognize we need to watch what we say and then ask God to help us control our tongues and of course think before we speak.

Some of the sins of the tongue are:  coarse jesting, gossip, lying, slander, swearing, ungraceful speech, unkind words.  “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”(Matthew 12:37).  Instead use the tongue to comfort, encourage, warn, worship and pray.

There are two kinds of wisdom – earthly and heavenly.  Earthly wisdom harbors bitter envy, selfish ambition, is boastful, denies the truth and is not from heaven.  It shows itself in inconsiderate actions, arrogance, selfishness and bitterness.  It is unspiritual and from the devil.  Heavenly wisdom is pure, peace-loving, considerate, gentle, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, sincere and comes from heaven. – (James 13-18).  Wisdom is not only knowledge, but application.  When we hear words of wisdom, it reshapes our thinking and focus.  God’s wisdom is totally pure, because He is holy.  Man’s wisdom is competitive and leads to strife and can make a person hard and stubborn.  Take time to evaluate those places when you have been stubborn.  His wisdom is impartial and brings strength and is sincere.  Man’s wisdom is insincere and fake.

How can we gain more heavenly wisdom?  God gives heavenly wisdom by the study of His Word.  The book of Proverbs is a good book on wisdom.  We can ask God for more heavenly wisdom.  And don’t try to please everyone, only please God.

How has your tongue been tattling on your heart?
What kind of wisdom do you have?
Have you ask God for heavenly wisdom?
What sources do you turn to for wisdom?  Where does the Bible fall on that list?
Where is disorder in your life?  Can you trace it back to worldly wisdom?
Do you see the wisdom of God as an option or an obligation?

Applying God’s wisdom by His Spirit will change how we talk and think.

James 4 – Submission

We are to have self-control.  When we believe, we put on a new nature.  Our old nature is not transferred instantly, but is a process.  The cause of all quarrels is inside our hearts and comes from our own desires.  Are you frustrated with someone, but deeply mad at God?  Pride is a great sin. “God opposes the proud, but give grace to the humble.” (James 4:6). 

The world hates God and hates us for following Him.  If you choose to be a friend of the world, you become an enemy of God.  As believers we are in a relationship with the Lord.  Being friends with the world is an adulterous relationship.  We are to rid ourselves of worldly thinking.  We are to submit to God and resist the devil.  “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”(James 4:8).  True submission is outward and inward.  You can go to Bible study and church, but you also need confession. 

When was the last time you brought a sin to God?
What kind of worldly thinking do you have? 
Are you depending on God or on yourself?

The world openly criticizes people.   People are criticized for their appearance or if they don’t meet the right standards.  They compare one person to another or to themselves.  People want others to measure up to their own standards.  Scripture says only God can judge and only He knows the heart.  Christians are to speak the truth in love.

As we humbly surrender our desires and plans to the Lord, He will lead us by grace into His perfect will.

James 5 – Patient Endurance

There are 4 crimes of the rich man mentioned in James 5:1-6:  hoarding wealth, failing to pay workmen (theft), living in self-indulgence, condemning and murdering innocent men.  Are these actions the actions of Christians?  We are not supposed to judge, but they don’t act like Christians are supposed to act.  Remember James was writing to all Christians so he is reminding them how to act.  None of us are perfect and will never be until we reach heaven.  That’s why we need scripture and the Holy Spirit to convict us and guides us.  Wealth in itself is not sinful.  It’s one’s attitude toward it and how you use it.  God always knows how we are being treated and how we treat others.

Jesus is coming so patient and stand firm.  We are not to grumble against each other or we will be judged.  Be an example of patience when faced with suffering.  We are also not to swear. – (James 5:7-12). 

There are many lessons in James about prayer.  You are to pray when in trouble, call the elders of the church to pray over you when you are sick.  A prayer offered in faith will make you well.  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so you may be healed.  The prayer of the righteous man is powerful and effective. – (James 5:13-18).  I think this is talking about spiritual weakness or a sick soul and spiritual healing not physical; however it isn’t limited to physical healing.

We as Christians have the privilege to bring those back who have wandered from the faith.  If we turn a sinner from the error of his ways, it will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. – (James 5:19-20).  There are times when a Christian has been deceived by immoral friends or false teachers.  Maybe he has strayed from the truth in worship, doctrine or morals.  This could happen to any Christian.  We can have an impact on him by turning him back to God.  Then the person sees his sins and is restored.  He is forgiven by God.  These verses show God’s heart.  He will come after us when we wander away, because He loves us so much.

Prayer is a privilege and at great cost, the life of Jesus Christ and with that comes a great power.  What will change your heart?  Prayer.

Humbly surrendering to the Lord in prayer provides us with strength, hope and love for others.

How are you praying today for someone in trouble?
Who is in your path that is drowning?  Will you say, “I’m here to help’?
Are you known as a person of prayer?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

James 1-2

I.  James 1:1-18 – Faith revealed in trials

Who was James?  There are several people in scripture called James.  This James was the step-brother of Jesus.  He grew up with Jesus, but didn’t believe He was the Messiah until after Jesus’ resurrection.  James became a leader of the church and served God.  He addressed this letter to Christians everywhere.  He wrote to teach Christians how to act like Christians.   We are to consider it pure joy when we are faced with trials and temptations, because we know the results.  We know He is at work in our lives.  As Christians we endure exploitation and slander, because we are followers of Jesus.

Faith is proven real when we are tested.  How we live our lives shows our faith.  We think life should be fair, but hardships and trials come to everyone.  Trials come because of our own choices or the choices of others and because we live in a fallen world.  Trials can show the glory of God.  We are to consider it pure joy when we have trials.  That doesn’t mean we should celebrate when we have a sickness, but we should be joyful because of what we know.  God is developing in us perseverance, endurance and maturity.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposes.”(Romans 8:28).  How does He use a trial to develop us? – moment by moment.  Running doesn’t eliminate the trial.  The only way is to go through it.

Is it sinful to doubt?  We are all human and we have doubts from time to time.  We can doubt what someone says and disagree with them.  Sometimes doubt can lead us to more study, knowledge and maturity.  The doubt that is a sin is when we don’t trust God and His promises.  We should ask for wisdom with confidence and believe and not doubt.  How much confidence do you have in God’s wisdom and goodness?  We should surrender our will to God in trials.  Our belief is what keeps us stable.  When we doubt, we begin to get tossed around mentally and emotionally.

God’s purpose in all trials is to develop spiritual maturity.

II.   James 1:19-2:13 – Faith revealed by obedience to God’s Word.

James 1:19-11 contrasts the rich man with the man who has nothing.  I think this is speaking of salvation in contrast to having wealth and being unsaved.  The poor man may not have earthly riches, but he has something greater than he could ever imagine.  He is an heir of God.  One who has Christ has all the spiritual blessings of Heaven for eternity.  The rich man (if unsaved), has only his worldly riches to hold to.  So if rich or poor, we are equal.  God does not look at our bank account.  He does not show favoritism.  The rich are not any higher, because of their riches.  It’s all going to fade away anyway.  If we are Christians, we all have the wealth of salvation, which is eternal value.  Worldly things are not eternal and will fade away.

No one is exempt to temptation.  Even Jesus was tempted.  God never tempts.  Temptation can lead to sin. There is temptation everywhere you look.  We live in a sexually immoral world.  Sex is portrayed everywhere – TV, movies, magazines, etc.  Couples are living together as if that was the way it was supposed to be.  Babies are being born and then couples get married.  When we give in to temptation, we let Satan get a foothold and then we have sin in our lives.  America is giving in to Satan with our selfish and lustful desires and one day we as a nation will be sorry for His judgment is coming.  For the wages of sin is death...”(Romans 6:23). 

How useful is your faith in temptation?  Trials reveal our true attitude toward God.  Where are you on the surrender scale?

How can we avoid falling into sin?  We can stay away from places and situations where we might be tempted.  Send a message to Hollywood by not watching those “R” rated movies.  Stay in His Word and fix your eyes on Jesus.  We can use the full Armor of God. – (Eph. 6:10-18). 

James lists several ways a Christian should behave in James 1:19-27.  We should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.  We should get rid of all moral filth and evil and humbly accept His Word planted in us.  We should watch our tongues.  (Our tongues will get us into trouble every time.)  We should look after orphans and widows and keep ourselves from being polluted by the world.  Who are the orphans and widows and how do we help them?  They are the less fortunate and are all around us.  We can visit the sick and elderly, send them encouraging cards, mow there yard, run errands for them, take them to their appointments, etc.  We can donate and/or give our time to organizations like Salvation Army, the Red Cross, food and clothing banks, etc.  There are many ways.  Just look around and you will find them.

We should not discriminate.  Don’t shun those who are different from you or those appearances don’t live up to what you think they should.  God shows no favoritism.  “But if you show favoritism, you sin …”(James 2:9).  We are all equal.  “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (James 2:8, Matthew 22:39, Leviticus 19:18).  None of us are perfect.  We are human and we all break the 10 Commandments.  There’s nothing we can do on our own to make up for it.  But Jesus did.  He died on the cross and paid for our sins, which make us perfect in God’s eyes.

Have you shared this with an unsaved person?

Authentic faith responds to obedience to God’s Word and produces genuine love for others.

How eager are you to hearing from God?
Do you study the Word out of habit or hunger?  Do you accept it as authoritive living?
Are you living as a hypocrite?
How has God placed in your heart the love for others?  Has it changed you?
Who is on your mind that is lonely and thirsty for love?

III.  James 2:14-26 – Faith revealed by deeds.

James 2:14-17 describes faith.   Faith without action is not saving faith.  Real faith produces action and changes your heart.  Faith without works is dead.  Our works is the proof of our faith.  We have to do more than just believe.  Even the demons believe in Jesus.  We have to put our belief and faith into action like that of Abraham and Rahab.  They believed, had faith and followed with actions.  That’s true faith.  Works don’t save us.  Every believer knows God and that He died on the cross, but if we don’t fully surrender, we are lost and destined to Hell.

James tells us there are three elements of true or saving faith.
1.  The first element of faith is to believe – to embrace the basic teachings of Christ.
2.  Then faith involves our response to what God has done.  Not only did Jesus die on the cross for all, but that He died for me.
3.   Finally, faith involves trust or commitment.
Put all these elements together and faith means that you receive Jesus as your personal Savor and Lord and are committed to following Him.  Does this describe your life?

Authentic saving faith transforms our hearts to love and to serve like Christ.

How do people know you have committed your life to Jesus?
How are you displaying love to others?
Will your faith prove authentic love?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Holy Week

My BSF class is taking a spring break for a week.  I will miss the fellowship with my sisters, but this week however is a special week in history called Holy Week.  This week changed the world. 

Our Savior, Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem knowing He would die for us.  What a sacrifice that was.  He went willing obeying God’s will because He loves us so much.  He died on the cross on what we call Good Friday.  God said the penalty for sin is death.  This paid our debt to God giving all who believe in Him, eternal life in Christ Jesus.  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”(Romans 5:8).  Then three days later He came back to life.  We call this the resurrection.  That was the first Easter.  Scriptures on His death, crucifixion, burial and resurrection are found in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19.

The world looks at Easter with egg hunts, brunches, baskets for the children.  We buy Easter flowers and Easter dresses.  More people attend church on Easter than any other Sunday.  This is the Sunday you need to invite someone to church.  If they are not a Christian or a church goer, this is the Sunday they will probably say yes to your invitation.  Maybe they are just waiting for someone to invite them. 

Do we really stop and think how wonderful this day really is?  Without the resurrection we would just have another man-made dead religion.  Think on the meaning of this special week and attempt to say in His presence.  Satan will do everything he can to distract you from its real meaning.  Don’t let the world trap you with meaningless things. 

Jesus was despised and rejected.  We turned our backs on Him.  He was hated and we didn’t care.  Yet He still carried our weaknesses and sin.  Don’t crucify Him again.  Satan’s strategy has always been to distort the truth and separate us from God.  Don’t fall for it!  God’s redemption is simple.  He loves us and died for us.  All we have to do is repent, believe and trust Him; follow His example and be baptized; worship Him; honor Him and the devil will lose all his power over you. 

After He paid for the sin of the world, God’s righteous judgment was satisfied.  He arose victorious.  Death had no hold on Him.  Now, He offers everyone eternal life and perfect peace with God when they are willing to repent and believe in Him.  Have you done that yet?

If you are a Christian, death has no hold on you.  Jesus is coming again to take you to be with Him in glory forever.  On Easter morning shout Hallelujah!  He is risen!  He is risen indeed!

Jesus said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne. “(Revelation 3: 20-21)

Jesus changed the world.  Let Him change your life!