Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Love, Love Love

1 Peter 4:8 (NLT)
Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.

- Peter, in agreement with Paul, affirms the primacy of love.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Blessed Relationships

1 Peter 3:1 (NLT)
In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. ...

- The key words in this admonition are "in the same way." He's just been discussing the importance of doing good and living what is right, even if it causes suffering as a result of doing good.

Just as we are to live this way before our authority figures in the surrounding state, so too we are called to do so within other reltionships as well. As the understanding of marriage in that culture and time ordained that a wife was the property of the husband, there was an authoritative relationship that existed. It would be a mistake to directly transpose this to our culture and society today. Peter is writing guidelines for living rightly before God in that time and place. He is not writing a 21st century marriage guideline for us.

1 Peter 3:7 (NLT)
...Treat your wife with understanding ... she is your equal partner in God's gift of new life. "

-Summing up both admonitions, I think it is safe to say that husbands and wives in our culture are called to be cooperative and understanding towards one another within the unique dynamics of our own relationships. The owner-property mindset is not valid, but Peter's reminder that we are equal partner's in God's gift of life certainly is.

There are gender differences that affect how we each need to be cared for, and we also have individual needs and abilities. Understanding this and seeking the goodness of God in our marriages is always appropriate in any age and relationship.

1 Peter 3:8-9 (NLT)
... Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. [9] 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, ...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Who Rules?

1 Peter 2:13 (NLT)
For the Lord's sake, respect all human authority-whether the king as head of state,...

1 Peter 2:18...
You who are slaves must accept the authority of your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you-not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel.

- These verses certainly rule out armed insurrection as viable activities for Christians. In the old testament, even Moses was required by God to obtain Pharoah's permission to leave Egypt. It's safe to say that God does not support civil war.

So then, are we just expected to knuckle under when our rulers are cruel and unjust? And if our government sends us to war must we go?

[19] For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment.

- I think part of the answer to our dilemma is found in verse 19. Peter says, "when you do what you know is right..."

We always respect the authority over us but we don't do what the authority tells us to do if it is wrong. Paul wrote elsewhere, "follow me as I follow Christ." In other words, if I am not following Christ, don't follow me.

Even as we respect a king's authority, we also expect that ruler to follow God as his or her leader. That is who we all ultimately follow. If the ruler violates that trust we are required to follow our conscience, and continue doing the good God requires of us. But we may have to endure punishment for disobeying our human authorities. I think of Daniel continuing to pray openly, which led to his being thrown into the lion's den.

[21] For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.

- Likewise Jesus continued his mission, knowing that it led ultimately to crucifixion. He did not let anyone turn him away from that fate and he did not condone violent revolution, though his followers, in their confusion, tried both tactics.

1 Peter 2:24-25 (NLT)
He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.

- We are called to "live for what is right..." hopefully under an authority that has the same goal. If not, so be it. That does not turn us from our mission, even if we suffer cosequences for doing good.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

1 Peter 2:2-3 (NLT)
Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, [3] now that you have had a taste of the Lord's kindness.

- After the premise set in the first chapter, that all our sustenance is from God and all our hope is in God, it is easy to picture ourselves as babies totally dependant upon God and hungry for his spiritual food.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Priceless Inheritance

1 Peter 1:4 (NLT)
... we have a priceless inheritance-an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.

- Paul wrote about how we can look forward to a spiritual body that we are becoming. Here Peter refers to an inheritance that is pure and undefiled, beyond change and decay. Sounds good. Sounds really good!

1 Peter 1:6 (NLT)
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.
(23) For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pray on...

James 5:14-15 (NLT)
Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. [15] Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.

- This is one of the many verses in the bible that can cause a lot of confusion and pain, for who hasn't prayed and been prayed over, but without healing? Then to make matters worse, some misguided soul will notice the word faith in that admonition, and blame the sick person for not having enough faith. Or someone will heap even more burden onto the sick person by fixating on the part about sin and charge them with something like, "you must have some sin in your life you have not yet repented of..."

This attitude that our illnesses are exclusively the result of sin or lack of faith is refuted by many other scriptures and by our overall experience of life. Often while reading the bible we should simply be prepared to admit that our comprehension is lacking. Perhaps the original context of this passage, if we knew it, would clarify things. Perhaps there is an error in the translation that clouds our understanding.

Whatever the case, there are times to just put our confusion to the side and accept that we don't understand. Should we then keep praying for healing and calling for anointing and help in our need? By all means. Sometimes things are happening that we will never "get" in this life, but that's okay.

It's all just part of the wonder.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Only a Heartbeat Away

James 5:7-8 (NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord's return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. [8] You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

- This is perhaps the most encouraging news of all. Despite self-declared prophets who set dates (this Saturday is apparently The Big Day...), we are encouraged to live in the hope that Christ will reign over all eventually.

Sometimes I think we have wildly different views of what that will "look like," but ultimately, believers are never further from the reality of God's prescence than our next heartbeat.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mark Twain moments...

James 5:2-3 (NLT)
Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. [3] Your gold and silver have become worthless. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This treasure you have accumulated will stand as evidence against you on the day of judgment.

- I think it was Mark Twain who said something like: "It's not the parts of the bible that I don't understand that scare me. It's the parts I do understand."

Jame's warning to people whose wealth is being hoarded up rather than put to use helping others and treating them fairly, is pretty clear.

I notice that the admonition is not against someone becoming successful, but rather against anyone who hides their fortune away where it becomes like food left to rot or fine clothing that becomes moth-eaten from lack of use.

James 5:5 (NLT)
You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter.

- Given that we all live like royalty in Canada and the US, while most of the world labors and suffers under our current economic system, Jame's statements always give me a "Mark Twain" moment.

- I wonder -

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Leave No Good Thing Undone...

James 4:17 (NLT)
Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

- Sin is usually thought of as "bad" we should avoid, but here James says rather it is "good" that we should constantly seek, but don't.

When you think about it, this is a much higher and more positive approach.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Who Are You?

James 4:7-8 (NLT)
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. [8] Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

- These passages remind me of Paul's admonitions to differentiate between being in the world, but not of the world. Our identity must be found in God alone.

I think there is a danger that we might take a wrong meaning here if not careful. Jesus himself is referred to as a friend of sinners (where is that?). So this warning by James should not be read in a way that makes us aloof and uncaring to our friends and neighbors.

In fact, if our identity is in Christ people should generally find something attractive about us. Something welcoming that says, "You are beloved, and significant to God and therefore to me."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Heart of Peace

James 4:1 (NLT)
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don't they come from the evil desires at war within you?

- "World Peace" begins as peace in human hearts. It sounds like such a simple thing.

Here's a song lyric I like that touches on our need and only true hope for inner peace:

"Walking on water was the easier part
Taking darkness out of every heart
Into His own this is alone
Keeping vigil."


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Are We Buying It?

James 3:17 (NLT)
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.

- This kind of wisdom is rarely seen or heard from in our current media-saturated, sound-bite, sensationalized, "news"-soaked public forum.

Surely this is our own fault. The media we so often love to vilify, might be pandering to our baser instincts but ultimately, they are just giving us what sells.

Maybe it's up to us to work a little harder and raise the bar on what we buy into?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Say Again?

James 3:2 (NLT)
... For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

- Somewhere else in the bible, it is written that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Here James is making a similar point. What we say (and do) are reflections of our inner being.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Breathing Life into Faith

James 2:17 (NLT)
So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

- it is always true that merely knowing something and claiming to "believe it" is completely useless if this belief doesn't translate into action.

For example, If a pilot says he is a safe operator, but does not follow through by "grounding" his plane when a defect is found during his pre-flight inspection, then his faith in safety does nothing to actually make our flight safer.

James 2:19 (NLT)
You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.

- James uses a shocking example to illustrate his point. Demons "believe in God" but of course they do not live according to that belief, or acknowledge God's authority. (and isn't it sadly ironic that the demons at least have the good sense to tremble in their knowledge of God while many humans do not.)

James 2:26 (NLT)
Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

- This is a great expression of how good deeds are the breath of life for faith!

(Does anyone else ever have these experiences of reading a bible passage many times before, but suddenly discovering an idea as if it was not there before!? So strange...)

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Golden Rule

James 2:8-9 (NLT)
Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: "Love your neighbor as yourself." [9] But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.

- Which is more challenging? To not give favor to a rich person based on their wealth, power and influence, or to give favor to someone who lacks all these, and maybe even needs a bath?

To see past all these trappings and recognize a fellow human being as worthy simply because they, like all of us, are children of God, is a high calling. I recall that Jesus was pretty good at this, eating happily with the rich and famous one day, and then dining just as comfortably with the outcasts the next.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


James 1:22 (NLT)
But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

- There are so many gems of wisdom in this first chapter, and each paragraph is worth an in depth study.

But finally if we don't put what we learn into practice, letting it change our inner being, then it's worthless.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Eyes on the prize...

James 1:2 (NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.

- Now that's a lifelong challenge!

Somewhere we're told that "for the joy set before him" Jesus endured death on the cross. Now when I stop and think about Jesus' struggles during his prayers in Gethsamane, I think we can let ourselves off the hook if we don't go skipping, jumping and rejoicing through our own trials and tribulations. Often the best we can do is soldier on, but if we can at least "keep our eyes on the prize" - that is, that opportunity for future joy, this can help get us through.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Scattered Abroad

James 1:1 (NLT)
... I am writing to the "twelve tribes"- Jewish believers scattered abroad. ...

James is using an expression that represents the descendants of Jacob who became the biblical nation of Israel. This article (linked below) discusses the origins of the biblical nation of Israel:


(This name has also been appropriated by a cult originating in Tennessee. As fundamentalist, messianic Christians, they seem to have taken the New Testament language about the spiritual extension of Israel's role through Christians and applied it in a rather literal way. Nothing new in that... Sigh)

Monday, May 2, 2011

DeAnn suggested James as the next book to read through together - which works great for me. Here goes:

James 1:1 (NLT)
This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. ...

- Wikki encyclopedia has a detailed article suggesting various authors of this book:

Regardless of the specific purpose and identity of the author the book is regarded today as New Testament wisdom literature.

I believe wisdom literature comprises some of the most important and over-looked parts of our bible. I cringe at how sometimes a friend will make important decicions based upon a scripture taken out of context, while completely ignoring these sections.

Wisdom literature requires us to be mindful of how this genre works. That is, it lays down, often poetically or with very specific examples, the larger principles over-arching our lives. It reminds us of how things tend to unfold in the big picture, rather than addressing the specific details of a specific situation. As the fine print on the tv ads say: "Your experience may differ."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

No Ego Trip

2 Corinthians 13:7,9 (NLT)
... I hope we won't need to demonstrate our authority when we arrive. Do the right thing before we come-even if that makes it look like we have failed to demonstrate our authority. ... [9] We are glad to seem weak if it helps show that you are actually strong.

- Paul's willingness to look weak, for their sake, is instructive. No ego problems with Paul.

2 Corinthians 13:14 (NLT)
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

- Amen!