1 PETER – PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD IN TESTING TIMES

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Image source: PeaceForTheStorm

 

My mother drummed “no fighting with other kids” into my ears growing up. So, I passed through elementary and high school avoiding conflicts of all kinds as much as I could. In my late teens, a couple of hard knocks I experienced, made me conclude that I needed to be super-aggressive to achieve my life goals.

In reaction to testing times, I swung from a “peace first” person to a “war against everyone” person. The super-aggressive person may win lots of prizes, but this comes at a very high cost of hurting too many people – family, friends, colleagues – and losing out on enjoying the warmth of love, kindness, and heavenly approval.

Peter counsels against this swing from “niceness” to “meanness” in testing times. In the book of First Peter Chapter 1 he informs the suffering Christians that their suffering is a test of their sincerity and commitment to the faith; in Chapter 2 he shows them that God is at work in their lives even in testing times – he elevates their thinking by showing them how they fit into God’s masterplan for the world.

At the end of Chapter 2 and continuing into Chapter 3, Peter counsels the Christians to put their best foot forward in all their relationships, that is to be exemplary in their behavior first towards political leaders and workplace leaders who are making life difficult for them; then be exemplary in their marriages – hard times can place incredible stress on marriages and make couples mean to one another.

1 Peter 3:8-9 then says (New Living Translation): “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.”

Peter ends Chapter 3 by showing how Jesus handled the incredible suffering he passed through to save us; Jesus is tenderhearted; Jesus did not lose focus, even in death he went and preached to spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:19); and at the end Jesus now has absolute power including power over those who made him suffer.

As hardship and stress threaten to overwhelm us in this COVID-19 season, let’s draw strength from First Peter that God is with us even in this season; Christians are a chosen people in God’s hands (1 Peter 2:4-12); let’s not be mean-spirited in testing times – but remain sympathetic, tenderhearted, humble, and kind.

Lord, often the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, help us to put our best foot forward one day at a time, in these testing times, Amen!  

 

1 PETER – ELEVATED THINKING IN TESTING TIMES

1 Peter 2
Image source: SmyrnaInternationalChurch

 

My daughter in elementary school, fourth grade, loves basketball. I would often go with her to the court and help her practice her shooting. When she is tired and bored, I motivate her by telling her stories of great male and female basketball players, and how much they trained and persevered on their way to greatness.

To enable my daughter overcome the pain of practice, I elevate her thinking by showing her a bigger picture of what it takes to be a great basketball player. Apostle Peter is doing something similar in the book of First Peter.

Peter is writing to suffering Christians who feel like outcasts in society. In Chapter 1, he tells them that our faith is tested to examine if it is sincere. Testing hurts but it helps us stay focused and to support one another in sincere love. In testing times we should draw closer to God through Bible study so we can grow in faith.

Peter elevates their thinking by stating in 1 Peter 2:5-7 (Living Bible):  And now you have become living building-stones for God’s use in building his house… you are his holy priests; so come to him – you who are acceptable to him because of Jesus Christ – and offer to God those things that please him. As the Scriptures express it, “See, I am sending Christ to be the carefully chosen, precious Cornerstone of my church, and I will never disappoint those who trust in him.”  

If the suffering Christians felt abandoned, Peter elevates their thinking, by saying no, you are not abandoned – “you have become living building-stones for God’s use in building his house… you who are acceptable to him because of Jesus Christ… and [God] will never disappoint those who trust in [Jesus].”  

In testing times, we should remember that God is building a “house”, also referred to as a “kingdom”, and in other parts of the Bible as a “nation”; and we are the members of that house or citizens of that kingdom. Our present life with its joys and testings, is a school of godliness to prepare us for the kingdom.

Lord, in testing times, show us the big picture, show us the end result, show us the glory, to inspire us to overcome, Amen! 

1 PETER – UPLIFTING ANSWERS IN TESTING TIMES

1 Peter 1
Image source: ShareFaith

In the past month, a childhood friend lost the father, a colleague lost the mother, I lost two mothers in my extended family, received news of family members who were ill and worried if they would make it, and also received news of family in financial distress worsened by the global coronavirus pandemic.

It has been challenging and nerve wracking processing all of this; some days its been downright depressing and overwhelming. My response when overwhelmed is to pray and study the Bible for wisdom and strength. In such moments, many turn to the book of Job and to the Psalms; recently I have drawn strength from 1 Peter.

The book of 1 Peter is written: “To God’s chosen people who live as refugees scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1 Good News Translation). These were Christians under painful persecution; some fled from Rome and were refugees in Turkey. These lost family, jobs, and homes; life was overwhelming, and they urgently needed answers.

Thus Peter starts his letter to them by stating in 1 Peter 1:3-7 (shortened) (Good News Translation): “Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus… he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death… Be glad about this, even though it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials you suffer. Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine…”

Who is testing their faith? The book of Job in the Bible shows us that Satan is the agent that seeks to test our faith. In the midst of testing, we have this assurance from David in Psalm 23:4 – “Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, LORD, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.”

In these overwhelming worrying times, our faith will be tested severely; the purpose is to prove if our faith is genuine, sincere, and true; notwithstanding how dark the test might seem, do not be afraid, the LORD is with you, call on him!

Lord, let your light shine on us even in testing times, Amen!   

THE RESURRECTION – THE GREAT GIFT TO HUMANITY

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He is Risen –  the empty tomb (Image source: EnduringWord)

 

Life is such a beautiful thing, I want to live forever! What about you? Are you satisfied to live to be 70, 80, 90, a 100 years? Is this truly enough? Would you have done all you could do in this life? I don’t think so, I don’t believe so; but then death spares no one, rich or poor, we succumbed to its grip, and this terrifies everyone.

Thankfully, on resurrection Sunday, 2000 years ago, Jesus shredded death. On that day, after being dead for 3 days and 3 nights, Jesus rose from the dead, with a body that can no longer die – an incredibly awesome moment in history!!!

Matthew 28:5-6 (NIV) testifies to that moment: The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay…” 

Furthermore John 11:25 (NIV) readsJesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” – all who follow Jesus have been promised a bodily resurrection to live forever, I want this!

CS Lewis, the great writer, in his book ‘Mere Christianity’ says: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic… or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman…”

Either you believe that Jesus uniquely resurrected from the dead, and will do this for you, or you view Jesus as a madman and the greatest fraud in history. I want to live forever, and the only man who has defeated death has promised me eternal life. I accept this great gift to humanity, graciously – what about you?

Lord Jesus, thank you for the great gift of resurrection, Amen!    

 

 

PSALM 91 – A PRAYER OF MOSES FOR PROTECTION

Moses Burning Bush
Image source: ShareFaith

 

When Moses first informed his in-laws that he is going to Egypt, to challenge Pharaoh and free Israel from slavery, some of them would have thought Moses was insane, crazy, mad. Egypt was a super-power in the world, Pharaoh had a great army feared by other countries, and Moses did not have sword, bullet, gun, or army.

What did Moses base his mission impossible on? Exodus Chapter 3 shows that Moses met God at the burning bush; God promised to be with him on this mission impossible; and Moses went on the strength of his belief that God will keep his promise. God spoke, Moses believed God’s word and acted on it in complete trust.

Years later, after freeing Israel and many face to face meetings with God, Moses wrote Psalm 91 as a testimony to God’s power to protect his children. Psalm 91 encourages, strengthens, and comfort; the Psalm speaks clearly and boldly – God protects his own from seen, unseen, natural, or supernatural dangers.

Psalm 91:14-16 (Good News Translation) states: God says, “I will save those who love me and will protect those who acknowledge me as Lord. When they call to me, I will answer them; when they are in trouble, I will be with them. I will rescue them and honor them. I will reward them with long life; I will save them.”

This is the word of God as recorded by Moses, a trusted source who spoke with God face to face. God says, “I will save those who love me… who acknowledge me as Lord. When they call… I will answer… when in trouble… I will rescue…”

It is either I believe this word, and stand upon them when I pray in times of trouble, or I ignore them and let trouble do with me as it pleases. Christians have no other source of power, our prayers are as strong as the word of God we know.

O Lord, coronavirus is a death plague, your children everywhere are calling on you for protection, answer us, rescue us, in Jesus name, Amen!

A PRAYER FOR PEACE TO YOU IN A SEASON OF TROUBLE

Peace
Image source: PreceptMinistries

 

The Coronavirus continues to cause pain all over the world. Fear and panic is everywhere; adding to the fear of being infected by the virus is the fear that is now being generated by the many conspiracy theories that are out there. These are rumors and accusations with no reliable and valid evidence to back them up.

One of such rumor, is that a group of world leaders are responsible; yet another is that this is the work of the anti-Christ; these rumors do nothing positive for us; they just end up causing fear. How are we to find peace in such troubled times?

Jesus said to is followers in John 16:33 (God’s Word Translation): “I’ve told you this so that my peace will be with you. In the world you’ll have trouble. But cheer up! I have overcome the world.” 

How can you have peace and trouble all at once? To be at peace as an individual does not mean there is no trouble, it means you are able to stay calm in the midst of trouble. In John 16, Jesus is asking his followers to stay calm, cheer up, because he has divine power to work things out to yield a good outcome on their behalf.

Apostle Paul states it like this in Romans 8:28 (God’s Word Translation): “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God – those whom he has called according to his plan.” Therefore, as we practice safe hygiene at this time, let’s more importantly draw nearer to God in faith, prayer, and fasting.

As the Lord commanded Aaron to pray for Israel (Numbers 6:22-27), so I pray with you that: “the Lord will bless you and watch over you. The Lord will smile on you and be kind to you. The Lord will look on you with favor and give you peace.”

Amen! Amen!! Amen!!!

 

COVID 19 – NOT THE END OF THE ROAD!

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Image source: TheAntidoteToAnxiety

 

The great Christian writer CS Lewis, who wrote the bestselling ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ series, penned the following: “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

If we agree with CS Lewis, a follow-up question would be: what could be the message that God is so determined to pass on to us, to cause him to allow pain in our world? Consider the two inescapable pain points common to all – pain at birth and pain at death. What lessons do they hold from a Biblical perspective?

Pain at birth was put in place in Genesis 3:16, as a shadow of God’s own pain in creating humanity – a bitter sweet experience. Pain at death shadows God’s pain when his children Adam and Eve hid from him in Genesis 3:8. Our pain is a window into God’s own pain resulting from the choices of our first parents in Genesis 3.

God’s antidote or medicine for this poison is stated in John 11:25 (God’s Word Translation): Jesus said to her, “I am the one who brings people back to life, and I am life itself. Those who believe in me will live even if they die…”   

COVID-19 and other painful human tragedies, are windows into God’s own pain at the loss of perfect union with humanity; thankfully, Jesus is the antidote that heals all pain; faith in Jesus, ensures that COVID-19 is not the end of the road!

Lord Jesus, watch over us, in these anxious times, Amen!!!   

WHO IS TO BLAME FOR COVID 19 – A FAITH PERSPECTIVE

COVID 19 Message
Image source: UnlockingtheBible

 

The Corona virus is a global menace right now; when this latest virus attack on humanity is over, it would have sadly hurt many families, businesses, and governments. Perhaps, like me, you are wondering why humanity have to pass through such terrifying experiences. Perhaps, you are asking who is to blame for this?

John 9:1-3 (NLT) states: As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man… blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him…”

This event happened in Jerusalem; reading the entire John 9, it is shown that Jesus heals the blind man, this greatly amazed the local community, but very deeply angers the Jewish leaders, determined to stop Jesus. This helps us understand Jesus explanation that the man was born blind to serve God’s greater purpose.

The theme of some types of suffering and pain (not all), serves God’s greater purpose starts in Genesis Chapter 3. Adam and Eve chose to live independently from their creator, consequently God declares that part of the price for that choice, is pain during childbirth, and the painful struggle to work and put food on the table.

God the creator allows all humanity, white and black, rich and poor, to experience some suffering and pain, as this is one way to get us all to reflect about life, death, and eternity. Yes, God speaks to us through the many beautiful and joyful things on earth, and yes, God also speaks through some of our painful experiences.

As COVID-19 make us prioritize our physical health over all else, may it make us think a little more deeply about the gift of life, the bridge of death, the glory of eternity, and the persistent purposeful call of God to us to walk with him.

Lord, be merciful to us in your loving kindness, Amen!       

COLOSSIANS – HOW TO LIVE HEAVENLY LIVES

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Image source: NewLifeFirstBaptistChurch

 

As a kid, when we would go out with my dad, I was always amazed at how he knew the right roads to use to get to our destination. When there is plenty of traffic, he knew alternative routes to get to our destination. As an adult, I now know that he acquired this driving expertise through learning as he drove in the city over many years.

As Christians, how do we live heavenly lives on earth? Its first by continuous learning about what it means to live a heavenly life, and secondly by living it out one day at a time. What exactly is this heavenly life on earth; what does it involve?

Apostle Paul gives us a starting point in Colossians; in Chapters 1 and 2, he teaches that we should have the mindset of Jesus. As we learn about Jesus in the Bible, we will get to know his mindset. In Chapters 3 and 4, Paul teaches us how we can live heavenly lives in society, in our families, and even in our work relationships.

Apostle Paul says in Colossians 3:12-15 (NLT): “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”

Heavenly living is not about material luxury and pleasures, its about living a life that is merciful, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forgiving, loving, peaceful, and thankful. Yes, this type of life can be challenging given how rough and tough life can be. A heavenly life is not about things we own, its about having a Jesus-like character.

Lord, give us greater understanding about the heavenly life and the grace to live it out everywhere we go, one day at a time, in Jesus name, Amen!  

 

COLOSSIANS – HOW TO BUILD DEEP STRONG FAITH

Colossae
Image source: BoundaryHomesteadBlog

 

We live in a world where we will meet people who are spoilers; people who make simple things difficult; people who intentionally give us bad advice; people who pretend to be friends but stab us in the back; and who sow confusion into our lives. Spoilers are a dangerous distraction, and we have to watch out for them.

The church in the city of Colossae in Turkey, the Colossian church, was a small Church with  nice people. The church was started by a Colossian named Epaphras – a caring loving gentleman. The peace of this church was broken when spoilers joined them; instead of teaching about Jesus, some of the spoilers were teaching the people to follow  Jewish culture, while other spoilers were teaching magical mysticism.

Epaphras took this problem to Apostle Paul in Rome, Italy; in response Paul wrote this beautiful amazing letter to the Colossians. Whenever I read the New Living Translation (NLT) version of Colossians (freely available on the internet), I am blown away by the power and majesty of Jesus explained in Chapters 1 and 2.

Paul says in Colossians 2:6-8 (NLT): And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.

Paul is counselling the Colossians against listening to spoilers when he says:Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding [mystical] nonsense“. What matters is to “let your roots grow down into Jesus” and “let your lives be built on Jesus” so that “your faith will grow strong”.

Lord, help us to see the power and majesty of Jesus Christ, so that our faith will grow deep and strong, Amen!