Tuesday, September 28, 2010

2 Peter 1 - Diligent Growth

by Katrina

LINK: 2 Peter 1
About 2-3 years after writing his first letter, Peter wrote this second letter encouraging the believers.

In the first half of this chapter, Peter exhorts believers to be diligent in their growth. God has provided salvation, but the believer has a responsibility to practice godliness.

The second half of the chapter is a reminder of the validity of the gospel message they (we) received as well as the validity of all scripture available up to that point.

So what are these steps of growth Peter talks about?

faith = > moral excellence => knowledge => self-control => perseverance => godliness => brotherly kindness => love

None of these is a one-time activity or accomplishment. They aren't things that we must conquer sequentially. Faith is the starting point. While keeping the faith, we add moral excellence to our lives. While keeping faith and moral excellence, we add knowledge. We continue in faith, moral excellence, and knowledge and add self-control. And so on. These are things we can come back to on a daily basis. We should occasionally evaluate ourselves on our progress in all of these areas of life. This is a very tall order, and will take an entire lifetime of work. No one will reach perfection in this life, but everyone can be growing throughout this life.

And what is the result of this kind of growth? Peter says that if we have these qualities and they are increasing in our lives, then we are neither useless nor unfruitful. In other words, God will use us! We will bear fruit for Him. How's that for exciting!!!

On the other hand, if we lack these qualities, we are blind or short-sighted. We won't see God's work. We won't reap the benefit of having been purified from our sins, because we'll still be living in those sins.

I think it is definitely worth all the effort it takes to grow in order to be useful to God and produce fruit for Him!!

Lord, help us to be diligent in our growth, seeking to have more faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love in our lives. Thus may we be used by You and produce fruit for You until Jesus returns. Amen.

Monday, September 27, 2010

1 Peter 5 - Final exhortations

by Katrina

LINK: 1 Peter 5

Peter wraps up his letter with an exhortation for the leaders of the church to shepherd the flock of God well and for the flock to humbly submit to their leadership. Then he closes with a few last general instructions to all, reminding them that any suffering is only temporary while their salvation is eternal, and sends greetings to them.

Do I have a submissive attitude toward the leaders of the church?

Do I clothe myself with humility in my attitude toward others?

Do I turn my concerns over to God, or do I waste my energy worrying about them?

Am I alert to the attacks of the devil? And do I resist him?

Am I building my faith, investing time and energy into it, so I can stand firm against opposition?

Lord, you say you will perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish me. May you continue to do your work in me, amen.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

1 Peter 4 - Attitude Matters

by Becky

LINK: 1 Peter 4

Continuing the theme at the end of 1 Peter 3, this chapter gives instructions to Christians, using Jesus as an example, on how to live in a world that is often hostile.


The Lord Jesus came and lived and died and rose again for us. This has practical bearing on me (and you, if you have trusted in Him). He died not only a physical death, but He died to His own human desires and will. Instead of living the way those around Him lived, He lived for the will of the Father. Those of us who have trusted in His death and resurrection for wholeness, for forgiveness, for life. are to "arm ourselves with the same way of thinking"(v 1) - that we are done living for our own desires and passions, and that we now have a new passion - to live for God. Instead of living for myself, I live "by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. ... (1 Peter 4:11 ESV)

Having this mindset changes the way we view life, the way we live life.

Matthew Henry put it this way: " ... True Christians make the will of God, not their own lust or desires, the rule of their lives and actions. And true conversion makes a marvelous change in the heart and life. It alters the mind, judgment, affections, and conversation."

Whatever we do, we are to have the attitude of Jesus, that we live and exist for God's glory, not our own. That's how we can offer hospitality without grumbling and love others even when they sin against us. Our actions for others, our lives in this world are motivated by a desire to live for God's pleasure. As He forgave us, we forgive others. As He loves us, so we are to love others. He gave us our gifts for His glory, not our own.

Living in that mindset will help us when we do suffer for doing right, when we face trials because we follow Jesus. We shouldn't be surprised at suffering! Jesus suffered, and we are His. The end of the chapter points out, though, that there is a difference between suffering for doing what is right and suffering for doing what is wrong. This chapter speaks about our attitude when we suffer while doing what pleases the LORD, not when we suffer for our own wrongdoing.

"Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good." (1 Peter 4:19 ESV)


What is my reason for doing good? Is it so that I will look good and be liked? Or is it because I love God and want to give Him pleasure?

When I suffer, when trials come and life gets tough, do I pout because I'm not getting my way? Do I blame God and quit living for Him? Do I give up doing what is good or do I trust myself to my faithful Creator and keep on keeping on - continue trying to please Him?

These are the questions I'm asking myself after reading this passage. What are you asking yourself? Is this Word of God affecting how we live?


May you be glorified, Lord, as we live in and through Jesus. Help us to live for your pleasure, not our own. Please strengthen us to continue to do keep doing what is good even as we entrust ourselves to you, our faithful Creator.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

1 Peter 1 - A Great Salvation Outweighs Persecution

by Katrina

LINK: 1 Peter 1

Peter wrote this epistle around A.D. 63 from Rome to Gentile believers scattered around Asia. At that time in the Roman Empire, Christians lived with suffering and trials because of their faith.  Peter wrote this letter before the Empire-wide persecution broke out under Nero in A.D. 64, so he isn't referring to the persecution brought about by the ban on Christianity. Nevertheless, believers were harassed, slandered, accused of starting riots, and ostracized by their pagan neighbors.

This first chapter is a call to holy living among the pagans and the persecution of the surrounding culture. Peter reminds his readers of the value of their salvation and contrasts it with the suffering they endure. The value of salvation greatly overshadows the expense of suffering for their faith.

Peter sets before them the example of the prophets. Those men understood that the salvation God spoke of through them would not come about during their lifetimes. Yet they believed God and obeyed Him, trusting Him to do as He promised in His own time.

Likewise, Peter's readers (as well as readers today) had received salvation, but they still awaited the complete salvation that will come when Christ returns. So, Peter encouraged them (and us) to be obedient to God in all behavior.

Carefully read this chapter and make a list of all the information about our salvation. I'll help you get started.

  • I am chosen by God for salvation (vs 1)
  • the Holy Spirit sanctifies (purifies, makes holy) me (vs 2)
  • the purpose of my salvation is for me to obey Jesus Christ (vs 2)
  • I am sprinkled with the blood of Jesus (vs 2)
  • salvation brings me a living hope (vs 3)
  • I am getting an imperishable inheritance (vs 4)

Father, as we see the greatness of the salvation that You have given us freely, we are amazed! Your provision of salvation is more valuable than anything else we can even imagine. It far outweighs whatever sufferings or persecution we may encounter because of our faith in You. Help us to remember that when we face persecution. And may we grow in our understanding of the greatness of our salvation in Jesus. Amen.

Monday, September 20, 2010

James 5 - God's patience, mercy, and compassion

by Katrina

LINK: James 5

James begins this chapter with very strong condemnation for the wealthy who oppress the poor. This passage is very much reminiscent of the Old Testament prophets who spoke against the rich Israelites who oppressed the poor. It is wrong to use one's wealth selfishly and even worse to use it to take advantage of those who are poor and harm them.

Those who are oppressed or persecuted are instructed to be patient. James gives three examples of patience.
  1. The farmer must wait patiently for his crop to yield fruit. He plants and waters and tends his fields, but must wait months for the harvest.
  2. The prophets of God spoke God's word to people who refused to listen. They were often ridiculed, mistreated, abused, and even put to death for the messages they brought. Yet they endured and waited for God to fulfill His word
  3. Job endured a great deal of suffering before the Lord brought blessings back to him. In the end God showed great compassion on Job and gave him even more than he had lost.
There's one verse (12) instructing us to say what we mean and mean what we say. Our words should always be honest such that others don't ever question the validity of what we say. If everyone knows we always speak the truth, there is no reason to punctuate what we say with oaths of validity.

The last section deals with those believers who are sick because of sin in their lives. If they will repent and confess their sins, the leaders of the church can pray with them and they will be healed. The sinner will be restored. The church leaders are involved here, because Christians are not to be isolated islands. Our lives have to be intertwined to be effective and to accomplish the ministry God gives us to do. (more on this in the reflection section)

We see the character of God here as being full of compassion and merciful. He waits and waits for sinners to repent, giving plenty of opportunity to them. He sends His message as well as blessings to people everywhere. None of us deserve His mercy or His compassion. We only deserve His wrath! But He is holding back His wrath to give plenty of opportunity for repentance.

We also see the ministry we should have among other believers of keeping each other from straying. We tend to hide our weaknesses from each other in the church. It would be better to have a friend or two to confide in. If we share our weaknesses with each other, we could be praying for each other in those specific areas. This kind of prayer and accountability encourages great growth.

Do you think of God as compassionate and merciful? This is something I think our culture tells us otherwise. Many people think of God as sitting up in heaven judging everyone all the time. He isn't being a judge right now. He is holding back His wrath and giving opportunity for repentance. One day His patience will end, and there will be judgment and no more opportunity for repentance. Then God's wrath will be poured out. But for now, God is being patient and compassionate by waiting and holding back His wrath.

As believers we should be working with God's patience and sharing His compassion and mercy with others. This is practical in being compassionate and helping those in need, but it's also done by communicating God's message of salvation to others.

We should also be talking among other believers about the truths in God's word. We need to hold each other accountable, share our weaknesses as well as our victories with each other, and pray for each other. Let's really pray for one another that we don't fall into sin and stray away from the faith.

God, we thank You that You are a patient God, showing mercy to us by waiting for us to repent. Thank you for giving me that opportunity to know of Your message of salvation. Help me to share that with others so they may know of Your mercy and compassion. May I be open enough with fellow believers to admit what I struggle with and be held accountable to them. Teach us to pray for one another, sincerely lifting our weaknesses to You and receiving Your strength. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

James 4 - The Attitudes of Faith (or Not)

by Becky

LINK: James 4


Remember that there were no chapter and verse markings in the original epistle. Chapter 4 continues to flesh out the thoughts of Chapter 3 where the characteristics of the wisdom from God are listed, contrasted with the characteristics of earthly wisdom. Scroll down to Carol's post yesterday for a list that shows the contrasts.

James 4 would feel right at home in the book of Proverbs, because like Proverbs it is a collection of proverbs or aphorisms (concise, pithy statements of truth). It begins with a diatribe, a kind of rhetorical question/answer form, directed toward those believers who damage the community by their self-centered ambition. This diatribe uses war as a metaphor, pointing out the devastation that bickering prompted by selfish desires can cause in a church.


This chapter counsels humility and dependence on the LORD. We are to live counter culturally in our attitudes.

What are some specific ways, according to this chapter, that we are to live counter culturally? What should our attitudes be? Make a list.

The last verse of this chapter is one we would do well to remember. We often think of sin as doing what we shouldn't. But we are told here, "... Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it." (New Living Translation)

So sin is not simply doing wrong things, sin is also the failure to do what we should. If that doesn't keep us humble, I don't know what will. No wonder we need Jesus' death!


Help me to live humbly before you in faith, LORD, realizing how very much I need you. I am so limited; I don't even know what tomorrow holds. I want to know you, to live for you and not for myself. Thank you for your promise of grace.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

James 1:1-18 - Trials and Temptations

by Katrina

The book of James is part of the collection called "The General Epistles," which includes James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, and Jude. These letters were written to Christians in general, rather than to those in a particular location.

Two men named James have been proposed as having enough authority to have been the author of this book -- (1) the apostle James, the brother of John, son of Zebedee, and (2) James the half-brother of Jesus. It is very unlikely that the son of Zebedee wrote this epistle before he was martyred in A.D. 44. The letter is thought to have been written sometime between 45 and 49. On the other hand, James, the half-brother of Jesus became the leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18). The language used in this book is also similar in style to James' speech at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). So, James the half-brother of Jesus is generally accepted as the author of this book.

James wrote concerning practical aspects of the Christian life and conduct. There are some theological statements in this book, but much more instruction is given in ethical behavior. James is concerned that his readers apply what they know and not just listen to God's word. Some key subjects James discusses are: a proper response to trials and temptations, the problem of partiality toward the wealthy, the relationship between faith and works, the use of the tongue, worldliness, and the importance of prayer.

LINK: James 1:1-18

Everyone encounters difficulties in this life. We all face various trials and temptations. The thing that makes one person stand out from the others is the response to those trials. James instructs believers to welcome trials in life. They are the training ground for our faith. When we respond properly, we grow toward maturity.

So, what is the proper response to trials?
  • ask God for wisdom in handling the trial - He promises to give it
  • don't waffle in our faith in God, but stand firm - God does not promise anything to the "waffler." We must believe Him (remember Hebrews 11:6 - "And Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.")
  • keep our focus on the eternal rather than the temporal - Riches and the men who chase them will pass away, but the man who stays strong in his faith will be rewarded by God.
James makes a distinction between trials and temptations. Trials are the difficult things of life. Temptation is the lure to sin. God never tempts us to sin. Most of the time, our own human heart is the source of temptation. When we encounter temptation to sin, it is imperative that we not entertain the temptation. When we entertain it, we allow it to carry us with it. The next step is to do whatever it is, and the sin is done.

In contrast, God is the giver of all good things. He never changes or hides in the dark shadows (where sin lurks). Quite the contrary - He is the source of light.

God's purpose in the early church was for these believers to be the "first fruits" followed by many generations of believers.

What challenge are you facing right now in your life? Have you asked God for wisdom in how to handle it? Have you searched His Word for answers? Have you sought wise godly counsel? God always wants us to grow through trials. Talk to Him about it. Be solid in your faith, believing that God wants the best for you and will help you grow through your current situation. Keep your focus on God and what He's doing, rather than seeking material solutions. And don't give in to temptations to sin as a way of escape from your difficulties. Our goal should not be to escape, but to endure and grow.

Father, thank you for assuring us that you are a loving father to us and that you want us to grow through the difficulties of this life. Sometimes that is very difficult for us to grasp! Help us to focus on You and to rely on You for help in our trials. Let us endure and grow, making our faith stronger in the end. In the name of Jesus, amen.